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Our Author's Guide

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    Lessons for Authors from the NFL Draft

    The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, which bills itself as the largest book festival in the country, will draw 150,000 people to the University of Southern California campus this weekend. Speakers will include literary superstars Joyce Carol Oates, Margaret Atwood and Jonathan Lethem, but there will be plenty more including Lemony Snicket, Basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Olympic Gold Medalist Brian Boitano, Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli, and Hollywood celebrities Molly Ringwald, Carol Burnett and John Cusack. There will be screenings by the USC Film School and Southern California’s food trucks. On another level the festival is a lot like another event less than a week away the National Football League Draft. The draft is an event at which every NFL team is trying to put together a roster of players that will take it one step closer to the Super Bowl Championship. Most of the folks at the LA Times Festival will be like the millions of football fans who will be entertained by the unfolding action. But there will be a significant number of authors who are just finished with a book or who will be finished soon. They are a lot like the NFL coaches and general managers who are trying to put together a winning team. The difference is that the authors will be trying to put together a team that will help make their book a success. Some will be looking for literary agents to place their book with a traditional publisher. Others plan to self-publish and need editors and book designers to help them create a professional looking product. Most of them will be looking for help with publicity and marketing for their book. As they search for talent for their team, there are some things these authors could learn from the denizens of the NFL draft rooms.

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    Storytelling: Academia Get On Board

    “Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today,” says Robert McKee, USC professor of screenwriting who developed the widely acclaimed Story Seminar. Research is bearing out the truth of his assertion. Annie Murphy Paul in a New York Times article Your Brain on Fiction reported on scientific studies using the latest techniques in brain imaging. Paul says, “Stories, this research is showing, stimulate the brain and even change how we act in life…The brain, it seems, does not make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life; in each case, the same neurological regions are stimulated.” Journalists have recognized the importance of narrative, as an increasing number of reporters have embraced the tools of creative nonfiction, particularly in long form pieces. So have business leaders and politicians. The monograph, however, has remained the dominant form in the academic world. It was well researched, solidly factual, objective, fully documented, and usually dull reading. That may be changing. Dr. Ricardo Azziz, President of Georgia Regents University in Augusta, in a recent Huffington Post article, The Critical Art of Storytelling, explains why.

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    New Surveys on Book Buying & Reading: What’s in Them For Authors?

    Two major reports on the reading and book buying habits of Americans were issued last week. The Association of American Publishers issued its monthly StatShot and the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project published its findings on The Rise of e-Reading. What’s in the numbers for writers?

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    An Invitation to Dropbox

    Do you want to send us your book files? We prefer not to use email, which has file size limits, and it is hard to keep track of different file versions as the book progresses. That's why we appreciate Dropbox: it gives us a way to share a file folder with our client, containing all the files of a book project. Dropbox keeps data on their "cloud" server so that people who share a folder can view, access, and change the shared files. 

    If you have a Dropbox account and already know how to share a folder, send us one. But if you haven't used Dropbox before, we will send you an invitation and get you started. It's easy to set up your free account, and once you have it, you'll appreciate its usefulness, too! Here is how it works:

    1. You'll receive our invitation in an email sent from Dropbox.


    2. The email will contain a link to the folder we've created for you. Click on it.

    3. This will take you to the Dropbox site, where you will create your free user account.

    4. Next, you'll download the Dropbox to your computer. You might choose the web option if you travel a lot, but if you're going to be collaborating on the book project, it's easier to have it right on your computer.

    5. Open and install the program as prompted, just as you do all programs on your computer. When Dropbox opens, you'll see our shared folder (see the icon of two people on the folder?) with your name on it.

    6. Click on the shared folder to open it. It's only an empty folder; your job is to put your book files into it.

    7. It's easy to add your files to the folder. As you see in the image above, you can click on the links to the desktop application or the web uploader - either will work. Or you can simply select and drag them from their current folder to the Dropbox using Windows Explorer (PC) or the Finder (Mac). Or you can use the same methods you use to copy files ordinarily - by selecting, then right clicking to copy, or by using the pull-down menu "copy" command. Copy to make duplicates into our shared folder in the Dropbox, and keep your originals in a different folder.

    Can't find your Dropbox folder? On a PC, it is located in your "My Documents" folder. On a Mac, look in your user folder. I recommend creating a shortcut to easily access Dropbox from your taskbar/menu bar.

    8. That's it! Once your files are in the shared folder, send us an email or call to let us know you're ready to have us take a look at them.

    Like Google search, I can't understand how I ever lived without Dropbox. Now all my files are backed up online, so I'll never lose anything if a computer fails or my house burns down. And all my files are current and synchronized on my various computers, smartphones, and my ipad. You can learn more about Dropbox here:



    Don’t Get in the Way of Your Characters’ Dialogue

    “Readers tend to skip along through novels,” said Elmore Leonard, “but, they won’t skip dialogue.” That’s particularly true if you write crisp, clipped,rhythmic dialogue like Leonard does in his quirky, hardboiled, crime and suspense novels. Let’s look at some advice from the master on some ways to improve the dialogue you write. Leonard acknowledges the influence of jazz on his own writing and says, “Try to get a rhythm” when writing dialogue. Part of maintaining a rhythm is avoiding anything that interrupts it. Let’s at some easy ways to do that.

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    Help With Printer Setup When You Self-Publish a Book

    It’s called publishing, but sometimes you don’t want a publisher. You want to self-publish by putting the book online to be sold, or you want a printer to ship you a box of books. We offer a service that solves both problems, and we call it simply a “Printer Setup.” (Even when we’re setting you up for Amazon sales. They’re a printer, too.) We use our knowledge of the printing and publishing industry to locate the best resources. And we use our technical knowledge about book files to make sure your book is published, trouble-free, and that it looks good in print. In fact, our “Printer Setup” service is a multi-step process, and it depends on your goals for your books. Essentially, it boils down to 1) identifying what you really need, 2) choosing the printer or online distributor that’s right for you, 3) setting up the account 4) preparing your files for the printer, 5) submitting the files and dealing with the printer on your behalf.

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    Why Narrative Family History is Best

    New York Times columnist Bruce Feiler asked himself, “What is the secret sauce that holds a family together? What are the ingredients that make some families effective, resilient, happy?” The answers he discovered appeared in a piece in the Sunday Times titled The Stories That Bind Us. It should be required reading for genealogists and family historians. Feiler consulted Emory University psychologist Marshall Duke who had explored myth and ritual in American families. What he learned was that, “The more children knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned.”

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    Self-Publish a Book: Thoughts on Marketing Considerations

    Today, we welcome award-winning indie sci-fi and paranormal author Roland Allnach. Roland’s short story Creep was a 2010 Pushcart Prize nominee. His book, Remnant was a finalist for the 2011 National Indie Excellence Award, a 2012 Bronze Medalist in the Readers Favorite Awards and received recognition in the 2012 USA Book News Best Book Awards. His anthology Oddities & Entities was also recognized by the 2012 Readers Favorite Awards. We are happy to present Roland’s Thoughts on Marketing Considerations.

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    Self-Publish a Book: How We Choose a Printer

    We deal with printers all the time. Every book we make has a destination: perhaps into the hands of a consumer, or perhaps to a darling grandchild. Our goal is to match our authors with the right printer for their needs. There are many printers offering an array of features, and we’ll examine the options here. As an author, you are concerned about how to get your book into print, within your budget. For commercial books, the goal is to keep costs down. However, if you are printing a book for family and friends, you may want to pay more for higher quality, longer lasting book.

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    Dr. Bill Smith: 13 Ways to Tell Ancestor Stories – Interview and Giveaway

    Today we are happy to welcome Dr. Bill Smith who is stopping by on his blog tour for the new edition of his book The 13 Ways to Tell Ancestor Stories. Dr. Bill has written nine nonfiction books about family history, serves as a Squidoo lens master, contributes to The In-Depth Genealogist as The Heritage Tourist and writes a newspaper column on family history. We’re happy to have had an opportunity to chat with Dr. Bill about his latest project. Here’s our interview with Dr. Bill:

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    Maureen Taylor’s Exciting Documentary Film Revolutionary Voices: A Kickstarter Project

    Maureen Taylor, the internationally known photo identification expert and photo historian whom the Wall Street Journal called The Photo Detective has a wonderful new project. Ten years ago she discovered over 200 photo images of men and woman who were alive during the Revolutionary War and survived into the photographic age. The discovery led to two books, The Last Muster (Kent State University Press, 2009) and The Last Muster: Faces of the Revolution (soon to be released). Now Maureen is partnering with Verissima Productions of Cambridge, Massachusetts to create a documentary film, Revolutionary Voices, to bring the faces and the stories behind them to life. The documentary has an ambitious $225,000 budget. Maureen and her partners are using Kickstarter, a platform to crowd source funding for creative projects, to get financing underway Revolutionary Voices. We had an opportunity to talk with Maureen about the project during the recent Roots Tech 2013 Conference in Salt Lake City.

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    Writing Family History Books: They Can Be Whatever You Imagine

    Imagine what your book will look like when it’s finished. It’s the first step in the author’s journey and in many ways the most important. We’ve just spent three days at RootsTech 2013, a huge conference combining genealogy, family history, storytelling and technology. It seemed that nearly everyone of the thousands in attendance has a story that they want to tell. Of the many who stopped by the Stories To Tell booth to talk came with questions beginning: “Is it okay if I…” or simply “Can I…?” Absolutely! Whatever you can imagine, you can do. Conceiving of a book that is unique is a creative act. That’s what any author should be striving for. There are no rules about what your book must contain or how it must look. Your family’s history is unique and the way you capture it in a book should be unique too.

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    Write a Family History That Engages the Grandchildren

    “One in three children admit they don’t want to listen to their grandparents because they find them ‘boring,’” said The Mail Online reporting on a poll taken by print on demand publisher “42% of parents say children tune out when elders start to speak about the past.” That’s a real challenge for anyone working on a family history book. The vast majority of those authors say they want to write a book to preserve the family history for the grandchildren. How can a family historian make sure she captures the grand children’s interest? One important way is to recognize the difference between researching and recording the family history and telling the family story.

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    The Author's Journey: Tech Tools to Self-Publish a Book

    Writing a book is a creative challenge, but getting it into print is a technological one. As we prepare for RootsTech, the annual conclave in Salt Lake City, which blends genealogical and family history research, storytelling and the latest and greatest technology tools, it seems like a good time to look at the dual challenges of creating a book. The graphic below traces the author’s journey through the creative process and the technological tools that are required to produce a professional quality book

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    RootsTech: Questions on Preserving and Passing on Family Stories

    It’s only a week until a crowd of genealogists, family historians and a wide array of geeks converge on the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City for the RootsTech Conference. Attendees from around the country (and the world) are honing the questions they want to pose to the experts. One question that many participants want answered is, “What’s the best way to preserve family stories and pass them on to future generations?” The answer is multi-faceted.

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