Archive | May, 2011

Interviews — the personal touch

25 May

Hello – Sorry to be so late posting this week, but when I include links to things, I like to make sure the link is working. And tonight, for whatever reason, one of them wasn’t!

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, I was pleased to have experienced two unusual events, slightly related to each other, but not really. I was both interviewer, and interviewee, for two different pieces about writers and writing.

Many of you know I write for CoolCleveland.com and one of my very favorite things to do for them is interviews. I have interviewed a wide variety of Cleveland folks, usually in the arts in some form or other, but not restricted to that. Frequently, it’s an author of a book somehow related to Cleveland, and usually, the book is published by Gray and Company, a publisher devoted to Cleveland. One of their recent books was by (and about) the long-time Cleveland radio personality Larry Morrow. To my great surprise, I discovered that Larry and I grew up about 20 miles from each other in Michigan, listening to a lot of the same radio gigs and so forth. Then we came (separately) to Cleveland and have been here since. We met for a delightful lunch, and here’s the interview:  http://www.coolcleveland.com/blog/2011/05/larry-morrow-a-legend-in-local-radio/

A day after my lunch with Larry (gee, there’s a title if I ever heard one!) a writer friend called to ask if I’d be willing to be interviewed for an article she was doing for a different Cleveland venue. Of course I said yes, and even though some of what I said ended up on the cutting room floor, it’s still a good article that says what it was intended to say. Here’s the link for this one:

http://www.crainscleveland.com/article/20110509/FREE/305099956

I hope you enjoy them both!  Also, please remember:  Are you a writer nearing the end of the writing portion of a book, and wondering how to find an editor/proof-reader? If so, please send me an e-mail, and I’ll be happy to tell you about my editing services.  Also, I need to remind you that the SPAM filter for WordPress is VERY aggressive, and deletes almost every comment without even giving me a chance to see it first. It’s not adjustable, in any way. If you’ve written a comment that doesn’t appear anywhere, please write directly to my e-mail:  bookmechanic@gmail.com which is also the place for other questions. Thanks!

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Writing the Nonfiction Book Proposal…

20 May

(Ooops! I meant to post this a few months ago, but didn’t. Being pinched for time this week, I decided to do it now, and continue the self-pub story next week. Hope that’s okay with all of you!)

Rather than a synopsis, as for fiction books, one writes an outline for a non-fiction book. These are the most common items in such an outline.

  • Overview of book
  • Marketing Plan
  • Promotion of the Book
  • Competing Books
  • About the Author
  • Table of Contents
  • Book Synopsis or Detailed Outline
  • Estimated Word Count (generally not more than 50,000 words, plus photos, etc.)
  • Chapter-by-Chapter Synopses (Chapters Four – Eleven)
  • Sample: Thirty Pages (Chapters One – Three)

Overview: A general description of the book. The book should be in the words of the author (or first-person, if it’s told to a writer.)  If photos and/or charts of any kind would add to the book, will they be available? Are they of good quality?

Marketing Plan: Who or what is the anticipated market for this book? Where will it be sold, other than bookstores. This is an important question; you shouldn’t just fluff it off.

Promotion: This section would include any seminars the author might do, speaking to special interest groups, appearances at schools or studios. Would you be willing and ready to do interviews – print or other media? Would you start a blog, do FaceBook, Twitter, and LinkedIn? These are just some of the sources for doing promo.  Press/news releases should  be sent to all local area papers, TV and radio stations, plus any specialized media, regardless of where they might be located.  Finding review sources: print and on-line.

Competing Books: Generally, publishers want to know that you’ve at least investigated this possibility.

About the Author: Your biography, credentials, etc. Why are you the right  (best) person to write this book? Have you written any articles, taught classes or given seminars on the topic?

Table of Contents: Here’s a usual list of items for a non-fiction book. These items are NOT required, but can vary according to the author’s wishes.

  • Acknowledgements
  • Dedication
  • Foreword  (could double as ‘the purpose of the book’.)
  • Chapter One  (list titles only if you have them–they’re not required.)
  • Chapter Two
  • Chapter Three
  • Chapter Four
  • Chapter Five
  • Chapter Six
  • Chapter Seven
  • Chapter Eight
  • Chapter Nine
  • Chapter Ten
  • Chapter Eleven  (and/or however many chapters you anticipate)

Outline/Synopsis: A detailed description of the book.

Chapter-by-Chapter Outline/Synopses for Chapters Four – Eleven: A one-page synopsis for chapters four through eleven. These provide a quick overview of what will be covered in-depth in the chapters.

Sample: Thirty Pages – (Chapters One – Three): First thirty pages – short chapters.

Okay. Got all that? Good. Now it’s time to put your rump in the chair and get busy — writing!

Are you a writer nearing the end of the writing portion of a book, and wondering how to find an editor/proof-reader? If so, please send me an e-mail, and I’ll be happy to tell you about my editing services.  Also, I need to remind you that the SPAM filter for WordPress is VERY aggressive, and deletes almost every comment without even giving me a chance to see it first. It’s not adjustable, in any way. If you’ve written a comment that doesn’t appear anywhere, please write directly to my e-mail:  bookmechanic@gmail.com which is also the place for other questions. Thanks!

Which way to go?

11 May

You’ve finished your book, read it out loud to yourself or a tape-recorder and then listened to the replay–an absolutely essential step in the process, believe me! And you’ve had it edited and proof-read, so  the next step is publishing.

There are numerous ways to go from here. If you think it is commercially publishable, then you can proceed on your own to find such a publisher, or you can begin the search for an agent. Whichever method you choose, be sure to read their submission requirements carefully, and do exactly as they say. Do not deviate from the way they want submissions to be made. You’ll only hurt yourself in the long run.  Good luck and I hope you succeed! If you do, please come back and tell us all about it!

Perhaps your book is not one that falls readily into a particular niche, or you think it might not appeal to the broad readership required by the commercial publishers. After a good deal of thought, you’ve decided to publish it yourself. Nothing at all wrong with that decision, and don’t let anyone try to tell you otherwise! Sometimes, it just makes a lot more sense to approach it from that angle, and will save you a lot of heartache in the process.

There are two ways to accomplish this. If you’re clever with the computer and its many guises, you might choose to do it all yourself, such as through CreateSpace. I’ve done this several times (for myself and clients) and have been very satisfied with the outcome. Come back next week for more about this method. The biggest feature here is that it’s Print on Demand. Simply put, the book is not printed until it’s paid for. Once money is turned in, the presses roll for one copy or many, depending on the order.

The other way to self-publish is through a full-service publisher.  Several years ago, many of these publishers were referred to as ‘Vanity Press’ and most of them didn’t have a very inviting reputation. No doubt there are still some of them out there, but if you look around, (do your homework first!) you will be able to find a reputable publisher who will do as you wish (and are willing to pay for). This would be instead of trying to talk you into a high-priced, low-quality deal, with which you’d end up with boxes and boxes and boxes of books in your garage or basement. Not a happy situation, at all.

Try to find a publisher who will let you order à la carte – or only those services you actually want or need from them, not just everything they offer.  As a for instance, they might offer design services – this would perhaps be selecting a font for your title, the layout on the page itself,  how  the first page of a chapter is laid out, and on which page does it start, plus numerous other graphic notions. Header/footers, front matter, maybe rear matter, too.  Not to mention – the COVER!!! Will your book be softcover or hardcover with a dust jacket? All or most of these things can be done in a very serviceable fashion by a clever non-artist, although perhaps not quite as well. (I don’t mean to insult my artistic friends, truly!)

Spend a day or two at a large bookstore or library. Find books of the same general type as yours. Look at all of these elements very carefully, and make a note of those that most appeal to you. If you go to a library, you can probably make a photo-copy or several of those things to be considered. Use these for reference when you investigate publishers. By the way, several of these publishers offer a ‘free’ guide to self-publishing. You’ll most likely end up on their mailing list, but if it’s FREE, why not try one or two or six, just to compare?  See what they have to say about the various elements—you can’t really know too much about all this.

If you’re unsure of your abilities, you might ask for an itemization of the suggested/proposed charges: that way you can pick and choose those that are the most important to you.  Then, look for an independent artist and get a quote for the same items. This will be of immense help to you and your decision-making.

Watch the size of the font chosen, plus line spacing and margins. In times past, unscrupulous publishers would use a larger than usual font (but not Large Print!) with almost double spacing and very wide margins all around. This is a nasty trick to require more pages, which will only cost you more money! Printing is priced by the number of pages, so the more pages that can be included in your book, the more it will cost you.  Stick to size 12 or smaller, depending (not all fonts are the same size!) and single spacing. Margins are moveable, but generally speaking, ½ inch on the outer side edge, with ¾ inch inside, and an inch on top and bottom are very serviceable.

Do use an indent at the beginning of each paragraph, and don’t have double spacing between them.  This is the default style for computers, not books, and you want your book to look as much like a ‘real’ book as possible.  As for covers – well! It doesn’t really have to be fancy, but you must be careful if you use an image. It may not be copyrighted, unless you own the copyright, or have been given permission to use it. If this is the case, be sure to mention that on the copyright page.  Unless you are producing it yourself, your publisher may insist on seeing such permissions, and they are within their rights to do so.

A word about choosing fonts: just because you can, don’t! When computers first achieved prominence, it was almost a contest to see who could acquire the most fonts! It became a great temptation (especially among newsletter editors) to show off their collections, with bunches of different fonts all over the page, many of them on the same page. This is really obnoxious to the reader, and you don’t want to turn off your reader. Trust me on that one.

Please do limit yourself to three fonts for the process. Certainly you can use a fancy or cursive font for the title, but not in the text, please! That’s one of your choices. It’s your decision whether to use a non-fancy serif font (such as this one which is Times New Roman) or sans-serif (no little legs – try Arial or Calibri, for instance) font.  Sometimes your title font is used for the Chapter designations throughout, and that’s okay.  Maybe you’ll want to use a symbol to mark a transition between scenes. That’s okay, too, as long as you don’t get too carried away with it.

Traditionally, the book info is in the headers, and sometimes page numbers as well. Or the page numbers might go in the footer. I have seen books with all that info in the footer, and it can be quite striking. It also takes a while to get used to it, but nothing says you can’t be different, if you want to!  After all, it IS your book! No reason you shouldn’t be involved with all of the process.

Please note: NONE of the above applies if you sell your book to a commercial publisher! They will do all this for you, and you will generally have very little to say about any of it.

Please come back next week for part two: publishing your book through CreateSpace and Kindle!

Are you a writer nearing the end of the writing portion of a book, and wondering how to find an editor/proof-reader? If so, please send me an e-mail, and I’ll be happy to tell you about my editing services.  Also, I need to remind you that the SPAM filter for WordPress is VERY aggressive, and deletes almost every comment without even giving me a chance to see it first. It’s not adjustable, in any way. If you’ve written a comment that doesn’t appear anywhere, please write directly to my e-mail:  bookmechanic@gmail.com which is also the place for other questions. Thanks!

Happy Anniversary to/from your favorite Luddite. Me!

4 May

Happy Anniversary! It’s now been just a bit more than a year since I started this blog.  Amazing, isn’t it?

By nature, I’m a cup-half-full kind of person, generally positive about things, but there are times I’m a real curmudgeon. Or maybe I’m a Luddite! Remember them? (No, I don’t suppose you do, really.) Well, they were the folks who, in 1812 (what was in the water that year, anyway?) who protested the mechanization of textile weaving.  To protest, they destroyed a lot of looms. Some few even went so far as to burn down the buildings that contained the looms.

Government called out the Army, but eventually, mechanization won out. That wasn’t the first time for such an event, nor was it the last. But the name stuck. These days, folks who oppose industrialization, automation, computers, or other new technologies such as e-books or smart phones are frequently referred to as Luddites. I guess I sometimes am one, and other times not.

I can’t say I’m very thrilled by e-books, but yet, I am intrigued by them. I still prefer the old-fashioned book-type book, the kind with paper pages. ‘Smart’ anythings leave me entirely cold. In fact, I wish HP or someone would create a ‘stupid’ printer. One that would do what the owner wants it to do, rather than to persist in doing what IT (the printer, that is) wants.  I get SO frustrated with these things!

Last September, I bought a new desk-top computer. It’s a dandy thing, mostly. It was NOT love at first sight. Not by a long shot. First off, the operating system was two or three generations newer than the one I’d been using for the past several years. This, of course, meant that probably half of my trusty software would no longer work. Grrrr.  But yet, for some strange reason, my ten-year-old rollerball (mouse) still works like a charm! (Shhh, whisper that, so it doesn’t hear and immediately go on the fritz.)

The biggest casualty was my beloved HUGE color laser copier/scanner/printer. How I loved that machine! I saved for two years to get it – it was that expensive! Oh, happy day, in October 2006, when I could finally order it and get it installed. Of course, I needed help – it weighed more than 70 pounds! It worked immediately, which is only appropriate, after all, when you count up all those dollars spent on it – more than $600. of them! I’ll have you know, I produced some truly gorgeous things on that machine. I really, really loved it. It never caused a moment’s difficulties, except when it ran out one of its four colors of toner.  What I loved most about it was being able to set the ‘default’ to B&W, even though it was a full-color machine. Also, there was a setting for ‘draft’ to be the default. Imagine that! The manufacturer actually had a built-in setting  to help save the consumer some dollars on replacement toner. They don’t seem to do that anymore. Shame on them!

But – the new OS didn’t want to hear about any of that. So, after several days of back-and-forthing between computer sales person and HP, the decision was rendered. I’d have to get a new printer, or else go back to the old computer. Unfortunately, the old computer didn’t want to do what I wanted (and needed) it to do, so, I gave up and started looking around for the new machine. In the meantime, I could still use the beloved printer by connecting it to the lap-top which was one year older than the new desk-top, and used the same old OS.  I became quite proficient at e-mailing things from one computer to the other, so as to print. As much as I loved that printer, this was truly not an ideal solution, and finally, unhappily, I gave up. A good friend now has custody of it, and promised it would have a long-term happy home with him.  (Happily, I have visitation privileges!)

Next I had to acquire a new printer. Two of them, actually. Now, my BIG multi-purpose printer is a wide-format inkjet copier/scanner/printer. It’s a SMART machine, and I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve wanted to whack it a good one upside it’s head in the 2½ months since it was hooked up. It took two weeks just to convince it that wireless (which it is) was not only a word in its vocabulary, but also a viable option.  Trying to input the info into the machine (not via the computer, which would have been ever so much easier) took the genius and quick fingers of a classical pianist friend, who’s 50 years younger than I am.

Then, I discovered it thinks it’s smarter than I am. Not so. Let me tell you, I’ll be here long after that printer has given up the ghost or gone to that great refuge for unruly printers, whereever it’s currently located. Example: I need to make a photocopy of my driver’s license. That should be easy enough, right? Wrong! The thing keeps spitting out sheets of paper, because none of them are the same size as what I want to copy. Excuse me?  It just so happens that I don’t care about any of that nonsense. I just want a copy of the license in one corner of the page, so I can put other stuff on the page with it.

I think I have discovered that it can be fooled, however! I put the license face down on the glass, cover it with a sheet of white paper, push the button and – voilà! Copy!  Bingo. Stupid machine is not smarter than I am. No way. At least for now. Of course, next week, it’ll come up with yet another new trick that will take me a week or so to be able to out-trick it! And after all, I do have the ultimate solution. It’s called the off switch.

Smart phone?  Umm, not this week, thank you very much!

P. S.  Some months ago, I wrote about book reviewing, which I really (mostly) love to do. Some books are much more fun than others, but still – I truly enjoy it. Last week, the publisher sent out an op-ed piece she’d written and asked us to please forward it to anyone who might be interested. In the hope that might be YOU – here’s the link. http://www.sanfranciscobookreview.com/viewpoints-weekly-columns/if-we-do-not-hang-together-we-shall-surely-hang-separately-thomas-paine/

There are some excellent points in here, and we all need to be reminded occasionally to BUY LOCAL. It filters down and does everyone good, in the long run!

Cheers until next week!

Are you a writer nearing the end of the writing portion of a book, and wondering how to find an editor/proof-reader? If so, please send me an e-mail, and I’ll be happy to tell you about my editing services.  Also, I need to remind you that the SPAM filter for WordPress is VERY aggressive, and deletes almost every comment without even giving me a chance to see it first. It’s not adjustable, in any way. If you’ve written a comment that doesn’t appear anywhere, please write directly to my e-mail:  bookmechanic@gmail.com which is also the place for other questions. Thanks!