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October 2012

What you need to self-publish your book

Now that Self-publishing 06you’ve decided to self-publish, you’ll need to make sure that you have all the materials necessary to get through the process. Unless you’re living off the grid, you probably have everything.

Here’s what you need:
• Computer with an Internet connection
• Finished manuscript
• Time

It’s that simple. If you’ve got a completed novel or nonfiction manuscript that is typed on your computer and so long as you can connect to the World Wide Web you’ll have no problem getting the book self-published. All that’s required is a few hours of your time uploading the book, deciding how to market it, and taking care of some other considerations.

What are those mysterious “other considerations”? Well, they’re not necessary to have resolved before you get started self-publishing, but they are some items to think about. The good news is that the self-publishing website where you upload your manuscript usually can provide all of these items for you. Still, for a variety of reasons you may want to take care of them by using freelancer designers or other companies, rather than settle on what the self-publishing company offers. We’ll cover each item in a future blog entry, but for the moment, these “other considerations” include:
• ISBN – An International Standard Book Number is a 13-digit number that every published book must have. It typically appears on the book cover (usually the back) and the title page.
• Bar code – This is that set of lines that can be scanned to tell your book’s price among other retail information.
• Cover art – You may want to have a designer or illustrator create a special image for your book’s front and back cover, to help set it apart from other self-published books that use templates.
• Picture of yourself – It’s your book, so feel free to put a picture of yourself on the back cover. The photo should be of your head or head and upper shoulders.

Need an editor? Having your book, business document or academic paper proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an economic climate where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. Whether you come from a big city like Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, or a small town like Pineland, Florida, I can provide that second eye.


7Min Self-Publishing copy

When to use an en dash vs. an em dash

Among Question-423604_1280the most common problems I see when proofreading for my clients is confusion over the en dash and the em dash. Oftentimes, the confusion is so great that inconsistent styles are used within a manuscript.

First, some definitions:
• En dash – This dash is longer than a hyphen and often about half the length of an em dash (though modern computers’ font options are differ and usually make this only an approximate), or the length of a capital N. Also called an “n dash,” “n-rule,” or “nut,” the en dash typically is used in a closed set of values, such as, “The score was 21–7.” You usually make an en dash on a computer keyboard by hitting the hyphen key and then a return.
• Em dash – This dash is typically twice the length of an en dash, or the length of a capital M. Also called an “m dash,” “m-rule,” or "mutton," the em dash usually is used to show an idea that is set apart, such as “A character’s passions, desires and fears allow for conflict–and hence your plot–to occur.”

And now comes a whole new set of problems. No one really can agree how the spacing should appear after an em dash. “The Chicago Style of Manual” says no spaces should appear before or after an em dash, as in the above example. Canadian and United Kingdom typography organizations and publishing houses tend to prefer spaces around an en dash.

Confounding this is that software and computer engineers could care less about the issue. Because of this, there’s no key for an em dash on most computers. In addition, typographically the justification of text across a line sometimes makes text appear odd when the em dash connects two words. Spell checks aren’t happy with it, either.

I propose that like “who” and “whom,” the en dash and em dash are increasingly irrelevant and that a simplification of the rules is necessary. Unless an editor or a publisher specifically suggests following a specific format (such as “The Chicago Style of Manual”), I typically edit en dashes in closed sets of values to be a hyphen. When setting ideas apart, I replace the em dash with an en dash, and to make the justified lines more readable, add spaces before or after the em dash.

Call me a heretic, if you must. But most readers (let alone authors) don’t know the difference between an en dash and an em dash. Readers do know, however, when a line is typographically difficult to read. And if your publisher or editor doesn’t like it, she always can change it.

Whichever approach you use, though, always be consistent in its application.

Need an editor? Having your book, business document or academic paper proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an economic climate where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. Whether you come from a big city like Fort Worth, Texas, or a small town like Dewey Beach, Delaware, I can provide that second eye.


Book Ad Template copy

How to avoid copyright infringement

Though Copyright 01 you’ve finished writing your book, it still might not be ready for self-publication, if only for legal reasons.

Legal reasons? “Don’t we live in nation with freedom of the press?” you ask.

We do. Still, there are the legalities and liability of copyright infringement to consider. You don’t want to be sued for inadvertently violating federal laws. If you’ve violated copyright law by improperly using someone else’s work as your own (and ignorance of doing so is not a satisfactory defense), the fines can be stiff and legal expenses high, potentially running well over $100,000.

The basic law is this: If a work is copyrighted, you can reproduce it only if you give the author credit for it (not doing so amounts to plagiarism) and if you receive permission to use the work.

As with all of our laws, though, it’s not quite that simple. Most notably here, there are two exceptions that relieve you from having to receive permission to use another’s work. The first is fair use. Brief excerpts of another’s work may be used if your purpose is scholarship, news reporting, criticism or commentary. There’s no perfect system for determining what equates to fair use, but you probably could quote a sentence or two of a book without asking for permission while quoting the entire chapter would be infringement. The second exception is public domain. Such works include (but are not limited to) the laws passed by governments and in the United States anything printed before 1923. So, you’re free to reprint the entire Constitution of the United States or Washington Irving’s works without needing permission (Though to avoid plagiarizing you’ll need to reference them and not claim them as your own writing.).

If required to obtain permission to use another’s work, get that permission in writing. It provides the strongest protection to you as an author.

To avoid plagiarizing, cite who wrote the words and place those words within quotation marks.

Some common copyright infringement issues that frequently occur in self-published books, and how to meet the fair use standard, include:
• Quoting other books or material – Don’t quote more than 250 words from a book or 10 percent of an article (magazine, newspaper, website), letter or diary. For poetry, limit yourself to two lines.
• Quoting song lyrics – Don’t quote more than two lines.
• Developing a character used in another person’s work – You’ll likely violate trademark law if using a character from another person’s novel, movie or television show done since 1923. Many characters are in the public domain, however. Where it gets dicey is when a public domain character has been used in a modern movie, television show, or radio broadcast. For example, Pinocchio is a public domain character (as are other fairy tale characters such as Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf), but if the Pinocchio you present bears a likeness to the one appearing in the Disney movie, you’re walking a crumbling legal cliffside.

Finally, each nation has its own copyright laws and standards. Since self-publishing allows for easy distribution in foreign countries, you should research those nation’s laws. For example, the King James Bible is in the public domain in the United States but is protected by copyright in the United Kingdom.

For additional information about copyright laws, consider going to the U.S. Copyright Office website  or reading Chapter 4, “Rights and Permissions,” of "The Chicago Manual of Style". If ever in doubt about copyright infringement, always seek legal advice; you should obtain it from someone who specializes in this, however.

Need an editor? Having your book, business document or academic paper proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an economic climate where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. Whether you come from a big city like Denver, Colorado, or a small town like Dewey Beach, Delaware, I can provide that second eye.


7Min Self-Publishing copy

Writing success: Is it talent or hard work?

You’ve 12803228_10153261141600216_2699651120329064085_nwritten story after story, but none of them ever seem to measure up to your favorite authors’ pieces. Meanwhile, the few of your stories that you thought were actually decent won't sell. You’re starting to wonder if you have the natural-born talent to be a writer.

Before you start getting hard on yourself, we should explore your underlying assumption: that some people are born with a natural ability to write.

No one really knows if such a talent is “genetic”. There’s no doubt, however, that some people spend their formative years garnering the experiences and mastering the skills that later will make them good storytellers. So, with a qualitative “yes”, there are people with talent.

But they can squander it. Many become journalists, speech writers or college professors who never pen the Great American Novel despite their love of writing and literature. Others find their family’s needs and the daily grind of their jobs leave them too little time to write.

In any case, there are those with “less” talent who work at making themselves writers - and their writing shines brighter than many who are talented. Remember, George Orwell once was viewed as an average kid with no talent; today, he is considered one of the greatest writers of the 20th century.

So how do you “work” at becoming a “good” writer? Three ways:
• Read - Read a lot. Read the great works and authors of this genre, like Asimov, Bradbury and Heinlein. Read the great works and authors of all time, like Homer, Shakespeare and Hemingway. You can’t be a good writer unless you see how the masters did it.
• Write - Olympic weightlifters trained and practiced every day for years to achieve their success. Likewise, writers have to train and practice to achieve their success. Write every day, even if what you pen isn’t any good. It will get better over time.
• Get feedback - Placing your manuscript in a drawer for no one else to see rarely leads to improvement. Join a writers’ critique group (there are many online), attend writing workshops, hire a manuscript editor (full disclosure here: I offer such a service). See how others react to your work and use their advice to improve.

Need an editor? Having your book, business document or academic paper proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an economic climate where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. Whether you come from a big city like Dallas, Texas, or if you come from a small town like Bantam, Connecticut, I can provide that second eye.

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Summer editing client’s debut novel hits released

The debut PHOTO 140novel by an editing client of mine has gone on sale. Quinten Cody’s “The Everto Addo” tells the story of the Willers family, which travels to isolated Concave Mountain, miles away from the nearest town, to heal the scars from the loss of a close loved one. But never in their darkest nightmares could they have imagined their unsettling encounter with two unusual strangers – one withholding a dreadful secret and the other a voice-filled madman acting on behalf of destiny – would bring forth disaster and reveal the lurking harbinger of doom impending upon our world. Under the watchful eyes of the night, the agonized family and unsuspecting others find themselves thrust into the final act of an ancient pact to decide the fate of eternity. The book is available at Amazon.com.

Need an editor? Having your book, business document or academic paper proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an economic climate where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. Whether you come from a big city like Dallas, Texas, or if you come from a small town like Bantam, Connecticut, I can provide that second eye.


Two papers feature article about editor's poetry

The River PHOTO XFalls (Wis.) Journal and the Pierce County Herald (Ellsworth, Wis.) each ran an article about my latest book, Love Letters to Sophie’s Mom on Thursday. The collection’s 34 poems trace a relationship from the first dance of love at a coffee shop to its tragic demise as mental illness overtakes the narrator’s beloved. During college in the 1980s, I freelanced for the River Falls Journal and later covered Pierce County news while working as a reporter at the Red Wing (Minn.) Republican Eagle and as the editor of the Prescott (Wis.) Journal. Love Letters to Sophie’s Mom is available for sale at Amazon.com.

Need an editor? Having your book, business document or academic paper proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an economic climate where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. Whether you come from a big city like Baltimore, Maryland, or if you come from a small town like Bantam, Connecticut, I can provide that second eye.


How to arrange a public book reading/signing

Just because Marketing 04you’ve published a book, don’t expect to get invitations to do book readings. You’ll have to arrange them yourself. The good news is you’ll find a lot of venues will be willing to have your speak.

The first step in arranging a public appearance is to find those venues. Start close to home, making a list of potential places to speak. Among them are libraries, books stores and coffee shops, particularly non-corporate operations where the latter two is concerned. Scour local newspapers (especially metro Sunday sections or Thursday entertainment sections that promote weekend events) to see what venues host book readings. If writing nonfiction, also think of businesses that sell products related to your book’s topic – for example, if your book is about camping, a sporting goods store is a great potential venue. As compiling your list, get contact information for them, especially the manager’s name, phone number and email.

The next step is to actually pitch yourself to these venues. Begin by emailing a media kit with a pdf of your book to them with a cover letter introducing yourself and asking if they would be interested in hosting a book reading/signing for your writing. After a day or two, phone the manager with your proposal. Explain your proposal and have your book’s ISBN on hand to show that they can order the book from their store for customers. Describe why this signing would beneficial for the business, such as explaining how your book will:
• Resonate with the store’s target customers
• Bring additional customers as you will promote the event in local media giving free advertising to the business
• Increase the likelihood that those visiting for your reading/signing are likely to shop at the store both before and after the event

In addition, include a list of articles and positive reviews about the book, showing the book is of high interest.

As part of the pitch, give potential dates and time that you could do this presentation (make sure this matches the location’s hours of business). Give plenty of lead time so you can promote your book in the local media. The best time for an event is the evening, about 7-8:30 pm on weekdays and Saturday, or during the afternoons of Saturday and Sunday. Avoid readings on any night that there are big football games or sports playoffs, holidays (including Jewish holidays), and other local events that might reduce your attendance. A scheduling side note: Don’t double up times, trying to book yourself at two places in one time slot or schedule yourself in one day at locations that are too far apart to reach; typically, one event a day is plenty, and will be exhausting enough for you.

During your phone call, offer to meet with the manager to further discuss the book and make arrangements. When done with the call or after any personal meeting, follow up with an email to the manager thanking them for their time.

While most venues will be interested, do expect rejection. Don’t fret about it; some stores and libraries have policies against holding such events, and some managers simply have no experience organizing such events. In the case of the latter, call back in six months and see if there is renewed interest; usually there will be a new manager at the store, and that person may be more knowledgeable about the business and willing to do the signing.

Need an editor? Having your book, business document or academic paper proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an economic climate where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. Whether you come from a big city like Chicago, Illinois, or a small town like Yolo, California, I can provide that second eye.


7Min Promoting


Self-publishing vs. mainstream publishing

“After being Self-publishing 02aTurned Down by numerous Publishers, he had decided to write for Posterity.” - George Ade (U.S. dramatist & humorist, 1866 - 1944), “Fables in Slang,” 1899

During these tough economic times, publishing houses are printing fewer books and cutting back on the number of titles they print. In addition, there already are a sparse number of magazines printing short stories, novellas and serials. As a consequence, many good writers who’ve written good books and short tales simply aren’t being published.

These days, a number of beginning and entrepreneurial writers have turned to self-publishing as an alternative way of getting their book “in print.” Though long reviled as a vanity press, more books now are being self-published in both paper and digital forms than mainstream publishers are putting out.

The advantages of self-publishing are numerous:
• You’ll actually get published – You can bypass the literary agent, magazine editor and the publishing house and quickly get to your destination, which is to see your name and book in print. It’s fast, too; within a matter of hours you can have your book up for sale online.
• You can make more money – Your royalties will be higher if you self-publish. In some scenarios, you can earn more than half of the book’s retail sale price by self-publishing whereas mainstream publishers give you less than 10 percent of the earnings. The result is you only need to sell a couple of thousand self-published books as opposed to tens of thousands of mainstream published books to achieve the same profit margin.
• You control the book – Publishing houses and magazines can limit how you promote your book and your ability to reuse material from it. By being your own publisher, you can use the book however you like to promote your business or causes.

Of course, there are some downsides to self-publishing:
• It can get expensive – Self-publishing is less expensive than you think; many authors do it for under $40 a book. But if you need your cover designed, the text proofread and edited, and the book formatted – and if you want be the publisher of your book rather than Amazon.com or Lulu.com (and being your own publisher is a good idea) – the costs can rise into the hundreds if not thousands of dollars.
• You need to market your book – Making sales requires a concerted effort on your part at marketing your book. A website, a blog, tweeting and a Facebook page mark a good start, but it’s probably not enough to sell hundreds of copies of a book, at least not in a matter of a few days or weeks. As many writers simply don’t enjoy marketing, they often give up too early on their promotional efforts. You’ll still have to market your book if you go through a traditional publisher, but arguably the promotional mountain is steeper when you self-publish.
• Some won’t give your book the respectability it deserves – A bias still exists that books printed by mainstream publishers or magazines sold in stores are better written. After all, if you weren’t good enough to work through a major publisher’s vetting process, why should your writing be given a look at by anyone else? Because of this, most newspapers and magazines won’t review self-published books.

Given the existing (though fading) bias toward mainstream publishing – I always recommend that writers first try the traditional route to getting their works in print. Set a time of six months and see if a literary agent, publishing house, or magazine editor is interested in your work. If they are, congratulations!

If not, don’t despair. Instead, self-publish. Indeed, one route to finding a literary agent and publisher is through self-publishing. The magic number appears to be 5,000 … that is, if you can quickly sell 5000 copies of your book, you probably can catch the interest of a literary agent or a publisher.

If you don’t sell 5,000 books, still don’t despair. Instead, get working on that next book. Perhaps that one will catch on – and then readers will discover that masterpiece you’ve previously written.

Need an editor? Having your book, business document or academic paper proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an economic climate where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. Whether you come from a big city like St. Louis, Missouri, or a small town like Yolo, California, I can provide that second eye.


7Min Self-Publishing copy

Which is correct? Among vs. amongst

Both forms 12038979_10152989818575216_1711128424970030199_o of the word are acceptable. “Among” is more common, however, perhaps because “amongst” sounds a bit old-fashioned. For that reason, I invariably change “amongst” to “among when editing – unless the book is a historical novel or a sword and sorcery tale. As a side note, most publishers prefer “among” as it’s shorter and so takes up less space.

Need an editor? Having your book, business document or academic paper proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an economic climate where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. Whether you come from a big city like Los Angeles, California, or a small town like Strawberry, Arkansas, I can provide that second eye.


Book Ad Template copy

Create media kit to promote your book

To effectively Media kitmarket your book, you’ll need a media kit. This is a collection of materials that you send to newspapers, radio and television stations, magazines, bloggers and just about anyone else who might in some way mention your book. Sometimes it’s referred to as a press kit.

A media kit provides reporters, bloggers and reviewers with basic information they need to write about the book and you. In some cases, the media and bloggers will do nothing more than reprint your material. Sometimes they may edit it a little, other times they may write something based on the information you provided. The best response is when your media kit generates enough interest that a reporter or a blogger contacts you for an interview, because it probably means publicity that gets better play in their publication, broadcast or website.

The media kit generally consists of three elements:
• Press release – This is a 1-2 page article that announces the publication of your book or any other newsy event involving it, such as an award it’s received or your planned appearance for a book reading.
• Photographs – You should include at least two pictures – of yourself and of the book cover – that the media or bloggers can reprint. As pictures often grab attention more quickly than a headline, getting photos of your book cover and of you printed or posted is vital.
• Book samples – You’ll want to send a sample chapter, probably as a pdf, so that the media and bloggers can get a better sense of what you’re writing. Sometimes sending a pdf of the entire book is a good idea. Some media – especially book reviewers and daily newspaper reporters – will request an actual copy of the book before they’ll write anything.

A website promoting your book can supplement your media kit by offering text, audio and video interviews of you, additional photographs, and a biography. You’ll almost certainly mention your website on the press release. But to get that initial glance from the press and blogosphere, don’t rely solely on the website to do your work for them. You need to first attract their attention, and the media kit – like a good smile, handshake and hello – is the best way to accomplish that.

Need an editor? Having your book, business document or academic paper proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an economic climate where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. Whether you come from a big city like San Diego, California, or a small town like Strawberry, Arkansas, I can provide that second eye.


7Min Promoting