Posts Tagged ‘epublishing’

Two crucial skills for the writing life.

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

Each day, we are bombarded by the tasks we must do, by the things we want to accomplish, and by the demands of tasks and people upon our time. There is only so much time, and so often too many things to do. We necessarily must master the skill of multitasking, of doing more than one thing at a time: answering the phone and emails, scheduling meetings and signings, managing children and pets, managing a household, making time for love, tracking our books and our word count.

Writing & publishing have become a multi-skill career, especially for writers, where we must write, have a business plan, set goals, design covers, write a blog, maintain a website, and market our books. Some of us do all of these things, some of us out-source some of it. And most of us do have other demands placed on our time, like family, friends, favorite past-times, other jobs.

And all of this demands that we multitask, and that is necessary. It’s almost a survival skill.

Lost in all of this multitasking, all of this busyness, is the equally crucial skill of … focus. Being able to focus fully, for long periods, is very important. Lost too is perhaps our best work, our richest and most engaging writing, and our real potential as writers. Without focus, our work suffers, our creativity isn’t as great or as deep. The constant interruptions and distractions mean we not only do not get as much done of what is really important for our dreams (writing, for example), but what we do during those crucial hours isn’t of the quality that we could want.

What can we do to more fully apply that skill of mental focus to our work, our writing. On my blog post about writer’s block (filed under Writer’s Life), I recommend using a timer and freeing up the mind from other things that might intrude. It’s kind of like beginning to practice meditation, where other thoughts and distractions must be kept to a minimum, and where mental discipline must be continually exercised. Once you’ve decided that it is more important that you become more deeply focused when you write, then you will probably think of other ways to accomplish this.

Here are some tips on focusing from that previous blogpost:

1) Before ending the day’s writing time, write a few lines of the next scene or a few ideas for that scene, so that it’s easier to pick up at the next session.

2) As you sit there, take the first 10 to 15 minutes to read a section of a book on craft or articles on craft, to switch your mind from the daily grind to writing and craft.

3) Set up your writing time so that all you have to think about is writing. Since you have other pressing things to do in your day, perhaps schedule your day on the evening before, so that when you begin to write, all of those other things are settled, done, and you’re not thinking about all the other things you have to do that day. Instead you’re thinking about and focused on writing. (see No. 5 & 6)

4) Write in a Journal before you begin your writing time, to dump all the things that are bothering you or distracting you. Assign a maximum time for this (5 minutes), otherwise it could take over much of your writing time.

5) Set a timer for the length of time you want to write and then think of nothing else during that time–that is the time you have for writing–until the timer goes off. This allows you to fully focus on your writing, and to set everything else aside for that hour or for whatever time you’ve allocated.

6) When you sit down to write, if other things occur to you that must be done or that are competing with focusing on writing, then quickly create a list of those things you need to do or think about. And then put it aside, so that they’re all written down and will be less likely to distract you.

7) Plan–an outline or variation of one, but at least a general idea of where you’re going with the novel, whether it’s a general statement, a synopsis with the main plot points, or an outline.

And a quote on the subject:  “…when you are completely open, when on all levels you are in complete communication, completely integrated, then there is joy and you begin to create … creativeness is a sense of total self-forgetfulness, when there is no turmoil, when one is wholly unaware of the movement of thought.” — Krishnamurti.

How do you see yourself applying & balancing these skills in your life?



Marketing for authors…and readers

Saturday, January 19th, 2013

Marketing means ensuring your own “discoverability.” Or how readers on the internet can find you, can learn about you and your books, and maybe receive some free books or books at sale prices. It provides connection.

There are a number of sites that provide this, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads.

But there are some others that do this and they could be worth your time to check out.

The first is (@Bublishme on Twitter). The site offers something for both readers and writers. There is an easily navigated author’s page, with the author’s picture, cover, synopsis, blurb(s), excerpt, link to the author’s website, and a buy link. This is great for both writers and readers, as readers can sign up and access the genres they love to read and enjoy new authors and books.

The second is Story Cartel ( This is a new site. Currently there are over 1,900 readers, who get notifications about free books and other cool stuff.  There is an author signup and dashboard. Readers sign up with name & email address. They notify readers when there are new book giveaways, and if  the book sounds interesting, then readers can sign up to review it. After reading and posting a review on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads or their blog, readers can submit the link to that review(s) and then get entered into raffles for more free stuff (such as gift cards from Amazon or B&N).

The third is BookBlast ( (note: it’s not .com, which is another website) ). It’s a Digital Media Revolutions site. Advertising for authors is free right now, in exchange for sharing their service with readers. When you plan to have a book on sale for less than $3, you can contact them for inclusion in their email blasts to readers. And readers can sign up to receive free and best-selling books at sale prices. Sign-up is easy.

The fourth is Criminal Element, a community website from Macmillan that features content for fans of crime fiction, mysteries, and thrillers, with excerpts, blurbs and blog highlights. Authors like John Connolly, Karen Robards and Joseph Finder have been featured in the past. Categories at Criminal Element are: Detective and police procedurals, traditional mysteries and cozy mysteries, thrillers and noir, historical mysteries and Westerns, and true crime and nonfiction. Readers can sign up to receive current info on their favorite genre and authors, enter book giveaways, and participate in book discussions on the site’s community forum.

The fifth one is Omnimystery Books ( They provide current information about everything about mysteries: books, authors, characters, movies, T.V series, and so on. Their emails contain links to free books on kindle, to books for less than $2.99, and so on. Authors can sign up for promotions, book reviews, guest blogging. and so on.  They also offer contests and author events.

Other sites to check out are First Glance Books,, and Heroes and Heartbreakers.

What’s on your reading list? Are there other sites that you enjoy that I haven’t mentioned here?






How is your Publishing sonar? Or Size matters?

Saturday, November 24th, 2012

Publishing and the future. Change is, of course the key word here. We’ve been seeing change, but not much of a response from the big 6 publishers.

Now some of the big publishers are merging or considering a merger–Random House & Penguin and possibly now Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins. One wonders if this is the best direction for them to go, but it certainly makes sense to want to combine resources to survive.  I enjoyed the November 3rd article on, the “Quick, Tie the Rafts Together” by Devin Coldewey (the link is here: ) where he discusses the Random House/Penguin merger.

But with so many authors self-publishing and thus becoming entities that are both more nimble and faster in the new market–publishing in 2 months, thru ebooks, rather than in 2 years, thru print–I have to question this trend with publishers to want to go bigger. Normally, in the past, this would be the way to go in any industry that faces such change–to find ways to strengthen your company and maybe diversify a little.

It’s great that they’re finally really perceiving the need for change. As best-selling author and Cool Gus Publishing’s copublisher Bob Mayer said, back in April 2011 (and actually before that), the big publishers response to the epublishing trend was basically to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic–mostly they have been just protecting their turf (see his Write It Forward blog post, “I Don’t Know; I’m Guessing; I Know–the future of publishing for authors”). And in the industry itself, the rearranging has been in the percentage of books that are Indie vs Traditionally published, ebook vs print. Personally I like the combination–ebooks & print–and see the necessity for a combination of them in our society, but that’s another story.

I’ll take the analogy of the Titanic just a little further. The Titanic itself was so huge that it could not be turned in time to avoid that collision with the iceberg. And it didn’t help that it was also going too fast for the dangerous terrain.

So, while it’s good that these publishing houses are no longer just rearranging the deck chairs, are they becoming like the big ship itself? That is, a ship that’s too big to navigate through today’s uncertain waters, where the normal sonar may not register the shifting undercurrents and icebergs of change..or at least signal that a change of course could be needed quickly to avoid a disaster. And about the number of lifeboats…

As an aside, our government is facing the same issue. In the form of the Fiscal Cliff. Can we change course in time to avoid disaster? Congress seems to have its head in the sand.

On one final note, in the movie TITANIC directed by James Cameron, in the scene where most of the major characters are gathered around a table discussing the building of the huge ship, the heroine makes the comment about Freud’s theory on the male preoccupation with size. (In the context, it was funny.)

But it’s also interesting to note that one of the causes of the Titanic disaster was that the ship’s rudder…was built too small. A little irony.

In this case, maybe smaller would be better. The raft…


Interior Book Design — Ebooks

Sunday, September 30th, 2012

I love ebooks. I buy them, borrow them. For my Kindle Fire.

But as a publishing professional, who has some training in interior book design and a love of books, I’ve noticed that ebooks don’t usually have a lot of interior design elements. I’d love to see the art of bookmaking restored, in epublishing. And maybe it will be. I’ve noticed a gradual change from the first ebooks, toward a certain standard, geared toward making the reading experience better, and for navigating through a book. Not that I wouldn’t buy an ebook that is basic in style or presentation. It’s not the wrapping but the substance that counts. It’s the writing, and writing a great book–writing great books–that gets reader to return to an author’s novels again and again.

And of course, there is always the cost consideration–costs for cover design, for formatting, and so on. And now add interior design?

But there is a part of me that would like to see a bit of a renaissance of the art of bookmaking, applied to ebooks. Certainly, there are parts of interior design that aren’t really needed in ebooks. Page numbers, or folios,  for example.

Interior design can add a little style, flavor, beauty and personality to books. An aesthetic appeal. There are typographical ornaments called Dingbats, and Drop caps. Running heads and running feet, chapters openings with design elements, front matter, back matter and epigraphs–all of these things are part of the art of bookmaking.

And certainly, ebooks have their own special interior attributes: links, dictionaries, and so on. I can’t complain–I’m still really appreciating them.

Epublishing is still changing, growing. Cover design still has its place. Maybe interior design will gradually emerge in ebooks too.


Your eBook Public Library

Friday, June 1st, 2012

If you haven’t tried the ebooks at your local library, it’s a marvelous option. And you don’t have to have a Kindle or a Nook to take advantage of it. Keep reading…

Here’s a trip through one online ebook system at a local library.

First, you don’t have to log in to scan the books they offer.

The link to the ebooks is on the Home page and once you log in–of course, you do have to have a library card–then the first page you will see offers the following  list of options.

My Cart
Lending Period
My Bookshelf
My Holds
Wish List
Rated Titles: titles you have rated and allows you to change ratings.

The basic rules are that you can check out 5 ebooks at a time, and have 5 ebook holds at a time. Any number of ebooks may be added to the Wish List–as you might assume. Ebooks may be checked out for 21 days, and when due, they just disappear from your device or computer. When ebooks placed on hold become available, the system emails you and then you have 5 days to check them out.  The formats available are Kindle and ePub & epub/PDF, and from 1 to 6 of each title is available for check out–for each title, the screen shows how many copies are available and how many total library copies there are. If you don’t have a Nook or a Kindle for reading ebooks, there is  also Adobe Digital Editions for use on your PC, as well as Apps for reading on Mobile devices–all available for download, right there.

Beginning on the browsing pages, there are several windows: fiction, nonfiction and teen/kids sections. There are also sections to browse, such as:

New ebook Additions
Most Popular
Suggested Titles
Recently Returned
All Subjects
All ebooks 

For the almost 3,000 titles of fiction, the categories are Classical Literature, Historical Fiction, Literature, Mystery & Suspense, Romance, Sci Fi & Fantasy, and View All Fiction. 

The categories for the approximately 1,000 nonfiction titles are Bio & Autobio, Cooking & Food, Health & Wellness, History, Humor, Family & Relationships, Religion & Spirituality, Self-Improvement, and Travel.  For Kids, there are about 250 titles; for teens, about 100 titles.

Once you have your titles in My Cart, you have 30 minutes to check them out. Checking them out requires that you log in to your Amazon account, where they will be available for download to your account and then to your ereading device.  The books you have checked out will then be listed in the My BookShelf of your ebook library account.

Some of the fiction authors available on the system include:

Lisa Jackson, James Patterson, Janet Evanovitch, Heather Graham, Karen Robards, George R.R. Martin, Danielle Steel, Terry Brooks, Nicholas Sparks, John Grisham, Anne Perry, Nora Roberts, Alexander McCall Smith, Tami Hoag, Barbara Freethy, Rita Mae Brown, Toni Morrison, John Case, James Lee Burke, Ted Dexter, Tess Gerritson, Lisa Unger, Suzanne Brockmann, Robert Crais, Lee Child, Iris Johansen, Linda Howard, and Michael Connelly, Jonathan Kellerman, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, D.H. Lawrence, Agatha Christie, Susan Mallery,  Fern Michaels, and so on….

So, what’s on your wish list?

National Writers Union – benefits for writers

Saturday, April 21st, 2012

This organization of writers is an activist group For writers, working together to share information, to speak out collectively, to improve the working and economic lives of all writers, in all genres. I am a member.

Some of the benefits of NWU membership:

1.) Organizing and Advocacy. With 16 chapters nationwide, they advocate for writers through legislative action for things like: copyright, unfair publisher practices, rights to free expression (both here in the U.S. and elsewhere).

2.) Member education. This includes the Grievance & Contract Division, but also events and trainings held nationwide, and Publications and resources online.  Some of the publications that are available to members are:

  • Freelance Writers Guide;
  • Copyright: A Guide for Freelancers;
  • Guide to Book Contracts;
  • Authors Network: making book promotion tours easier with 100 hosts and a list of reading venues and reviewers;
  • On the Road: A guide to book promotion & touring that was written by NWU members, with tips on pitching to the media, organizing local tour, and so on.
  • Standard Contracts & Guides (for Journalists);
  • Tips for Better Work-For-Hire Contracts;
  • And so on.

3.) Grievance Resolution & Contract Advice. Is the publisher refusing to pay you? Delaying the publication of timely work? Misreporting your royalties?  Or,  perhaps you don’t know how to negotiate — the NWU nationwide network of contract advisors assists members by reviewing contracts of all genres.  Contact the GCD at for FREE assistance.

4.) A Community of Writers.

5.) Journalism, Book and BizTech Division Activities & Resources.

6.) Union Plus. Go to directly to see how this program can save you money.

7.) Health Insurance.

8.) Press passes.

To read about NWU recent initiatives and advocacy on behalf of writers or to join, visit You can join online or download an application form.

The New Year of Writing

Saturday, January 21st, 2012

It’s the New Year, a time for resolutions, a time for renewal, and a time for renewed commitment to writing.

Here are some books that have inspired me or helped me:

One of the first books in my writing life that inspired me is Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande. Chapters that may be particularly good are “Interlude: On Taking Advice,” “The Critic at Work on Himself,” and “The Source of Originality.”

Another great book for writing, for setting goals and for achieving successful  as a writer in the publishing world, is Write it Forward: From Writer to Successful Author by Bob Mayer, NY Times best-selling author of over 50 books.  This is an excellent book. It takes you through a unique process of setting goals, a process he adapted to writers and writing from his experiences at West Point and in Special Forces as an A-Team leader, and then as a best-selling author.  He is also one of the top indie published authors in the country, and speaks at workshops and conferences around the world. This process works. His website is:

A more general book about setting goals, but one that is also excellent is Work With Passion in Midlife and Beyond: Reach Your Full Potential & Make the Money You Need by Nancy Anderson. Nancy cofounded two career counseling firms and then established her private practice. She has hosted her own radio show, appeared in numerous television and radio programs, and spoken to civic, business and professional organizations.  Her website is:

One more very good book on creativity is Freeing Your Creativity: a Writer’s Guide by Marshall J. Cook.  Some especially very good chapters for getting yourself motivated are: “What’s Getting in Your Way?” “Creative Procrastination” and “Keeping That Writing Appointment.”

And of course, there’s Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way for artists of all kinds.

Are there books that have helped you as a writer or inspired you?

Words Played in Harmony

Friday, November 11th, 2011

In my 2011 Writer’s Digest’s Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market article (whew, that’s a mouthful), “Which Arc Are We On?”  I compared the composer of music to the writer:

“And like the composer of music, who drafts the right notes, phrases, and movements for an orchestra, the writer creates the words, scenes and arcs to be played in the readers’ mind. There are many arcs in play, at any time in a novel…and they must all work together in harmony.”

In this case, writers are both the composers and the conductors. Writers, like composers, determine what parts are played by which “instruments,” by which elements of fiction–characters, setting, dialogue, opening, theme.  Both music and fiction are made to elicit emotions, and have a beginning, middle and end, themes, movements…

However, the conductor, once those elements are arranged, determines how those phrases, how that composition is interpreted for the audience–as does the writer. The writer, or conductor, determines how the composition unfolds, how it flows, & to some extent, what its voice will be–how dynamic, how loud, soft, passionate, exciting…for the audience.  The conductor brings all the elements together for the final “interpretation,” to be played for the audience, making certain that everything works together for the right effect.

But it is the audience who determines if that composer/conductor has “perfect pitch”–or in this case, the writer. And I see this being played out more and more now with epublishing. It is the readers who determine whether they will buy or read our books, who let us know how “on pitch”–or off key–we are, or if our works / words have that interest, beauty, excitement, passion that draws an audience.

As best-selling author and epublishing expert Bob Mayer has said on his blog, Write It Forward, it is really the writer who determines who will be in their audience, by the quality of their books, and thus,  it is the writer who is the ultimate gatekeeper. The writer must first create a quality product, must learn to compose and create that harmony, learn to master those elements and achieve that perfect pitch, so that readers will want to be in their audience.

And then we have to promote our books, but that is another story… and another kind of “pitch.”  😉

If you would like to add anything to this, please feel free to comment.