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    Sunday
    Dec222013

    Your Picks for the Best Books of 2013?

    It’s time that everybody in the world of books weighs in with a Best of 2013 list. You’ve probably seen some of the heavyweights like The New York Times 10 Best Books of 2013 The Washington Post Top Ten Books of the Year Amazon Editors’ Top 20 Picks for Best Books of 2013 NPR Guide to 2013’s Great Reads Or if you want to see what other readers want you can check out Goodreads Choice Awards 2013 which give you reader favorites by category. If you want look at some less well known books you might be interested in Galley Cat’s What Are the Most Overlooked Books of 2013? You can even find very specialized categories of bests like Family History Daily & Top Family History Reads To Inform and Inspire. Now it’s your turn. Leave a comment regarding the books you think belong on the year’s best list.

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    Thursday
    Dec192013

    How to Find Web Pages That Have Gone Missing

    Error 404. The requested URL was not found on this server. Argh! Have you ever found just the online source you are looking for, copied a link into your files, and tried to come back to it later only to find the page missing? Frustrating! It feels like you have run into a brick wall, but, in fact, there are several ways to find web pages as they used to exist.

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    Tuesday
    Dec172013

    Great Book Covers and How They Are Created

    What makes a great book cover? The New York Times Book Review just released its list of the Best Covers of 2013. Take a look at the slideshow of these twelve covers and see what you think. Then think about how those cover come to be . The BBC looked at the question in a video titled Cover to Cover: How Are Book Jackets Designed? which follows Harper Collins Senior Art Director Alice Moore and her team as they create a cover for Nathan Filer’s novel The Shock of the Fall. It's an interesting look inside the design process.

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    Thursday
    Dec122013

    The Value of Sharing Family History with Children

    When your family gathers this holiday season it’s only a matter of time before one of the children says, “Tell me a story.” There is some strong evidence that the child will be fortunate if the story you choose to tell is one drawn from your family’s history. “The single most important thing you can do for your family,” said Bruce Filer in a recent New York Times article The Stories That Bind Us, “may be the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative.” In The Atlantic this month, Elaine Reese, Professor of Psychology at the University of Otago in New Zealand explores why that is true in an article titled, What Kids Learn From Hearing Family Stories.

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    Tuesday
    Dec102013

    Finishing Strong: Take Your Self-Published Book from Good to Great

    “Many self-publishers publish too early,” says Leslie Ramsey of Compulsion Reads, a website that seeks to “…quality standard for the indie book market” by shining a “…spotlight on good self-published books and protect readers from those that are not yet ready for the marketplace.” In a recent post on Writer Unboxed titled Ten Things I Have Learned from Evaluating Self-Published Books for a Year she explained: One of the hardest decisions for an author to make is to decide when their book is “ready” to publish. I think a lot of newer authors lack the experience and patience to give their book that last needed scrub before putting it out on the market. That’s too bad because it means that their books are of a lesser quality than they deserve to be. Taking the time to devote some attention to detail when you think it’s finished can take it to the next level.

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    Sunday
    Dec082013

    Colorizing Photographs for Your Family History Book: Should You Do It?

    Would this classic Depression-era photo, Dorthea Lange’s Migrant Mother look better in color? Go to Flickr to see Asif Naqvi of Living Design’s Migrant Mother Colorized Version Fast Company staff writer Joe Berkowitz highlighted the current interest in coloring historical photos in a recent article See the Whole World in a New Light With Classic Black and White Photos, Now In Living Color . Image specialist Jordan Lloyd told Berkowitz, “I have one goal with colorizing. “I try and make it so realistic that the final image becomes unremarkable…” Some people suggest that’s not what happens when you colorize a historical photo... What do you think? Should historical images be colorized? Are there any rules?

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    Thursday
    Dec052013

    Backstory in Your Novel: That’s on a Need to Know Basis

    At the end of a tough day in the office I love to relax by binge watching TV spy shows on Netflix. I don’t usually choose the gritty realism characteristic of John Le Carre stories. I usually focus on the parts of the spectrum between Mission Impossible and Get Smart. (Alias and Chuck are current favorites.) One of the things I can count on is that in almost every episode someone will say, “That’s on a need to know basis,” and keep our hero from learning a key piece of information. The phrase may have become a cliché, but it’s one that might help you handle the backstory for your novel.

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    Tuesday
    Dec032013

    Using Photos to Tell a Story in a Family History Book

    Family historians love the idea of including photographs in their family history books. They see images of ancestors as completing the sketch of a person which emerges from research in the factual record. Their books will help them preserve the family photo albums, so they focus on identifying the people in the pictures. But many family historians overlook the value of photos as storytelling tools. Think about the elements of a good story. Characterization is at the top of the list. What kind of a person was great-great-grandfather? What motivated your parent’s family to do something? Thoughtful use of photographs can help you get beyond the who, what, when, and where aspects of an ancestor’s story to the why which is often more interesting. See how the choice of photographs might have a big impact on the story you want to tell.

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    Sunday
    Dec012013

    Writing Family History: Finding the Stories Within the Evidence

    Creating a family history book is a two part process. The first is, of course, research to gather as much information as possible about the ancestors who will be included in the book. Unfortunately, no matter how we might try to keep things organized research often takes on a somewhat random quality, running into brick walls here only to uncover unexpected discoveries elsewhere. While the events of an ancestor’s life are arranged on a simple timeline, there is seldom such a clear pattern to the way we learn about it. Step two then is deciding how to impose order on our rather disheveled mass of research when we begin to write about it. Posing two questions will help do it: How do you know what you know? How do the facts which you have gathered relate to other things you know?

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    Friday
    Nov292013

    National Novel Writing Month Is Over. Now It’s Time to Edit!

    It’s the end of National Novel Writing Month. You have a finished (or even almost finished) draft in hand (or on your hard drive). Congratulations! Celebrate your accomplishment. Relax for a couple of days, then take the next step in getting your book ready for publication. If you’re like most of the people who met the NaNoWriMo challenge you’ve produced what Anne Lamott, in her book on writing Bird By Bird, calls a “shitty first draft.” How do you get from here to a version you want to send off to a printer or a literary agent? Think about revision as a three step process.

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    Tuesday
    Nov262013

    Publishing a Book? 10 Tips on How to Sell It

    You have probably seen every marketing, promotional and sales trick in the book in the run up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. As an author, particular a self-publishing author, you may be asking yourself, how can I make my campaign to sell my book stand out in the blizzard of marketing messages? Here are ten great tips from around the web to help you do just that.

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    Sunday
    Nov242013

    John Sargent, CEO of Macmillian Publishing on Making Decisions

    How do you make critical decisions? John Sargent, CEO of Macmillan Publishers, presented his answer in an inspirational TED Talk in New York City last week. He focuses on making critical choices when the outcome is unknowable, as Sargent out it, on “…making decisions that you don’t have historical context and you don’t have information that is useful in making the decision.” Ultimately, says Sargent, you must decide whether you will experience the unknown, or whether risk is too great. He frames the talk with his own decision to join other major publishers in working with Apple to create the iBookstore for ebooks.

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    Wednesday
    Nov202013

    What I Learned from Speaking at a Writer's Conference

    We are happy to host today's guest post by author, creativity coach and commedian Bryan Cohen who is stopping by as part of the blog tour for his new book, 1,000 Creative Writing Prompts, Volume 2: More Ideas for Blogs, Scripts, Stories and More. Welcome Bryan! The invitation came through my freelance writing website. So many emails from that site are spam, it would've been easy to miss. The message came from North Wildwood, New Jersey. I'd never been there, but my upbringing in suburban Philadelphia gave me a vague understanding of the Jersey Shore's geography. Carolyn, the co-leader of the conference, had read through my work and extended an invitation to speak at the North Wildwood Beach Writer's Conference that June.

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    Tuesday
    Nov192013

    There’s More to the Story – AP Stories and Family History

    Many biographers, stuck for a more clever title, have simply called their books The Life and Times of [their subject here]. It’s not terribly creative, but it does convey an important idea for every biographer or family historian to remember: every life comes with a historical context. A person’s life story is shaped by the time and place in which he or she lived. What social, cultural, technological and political forces might have had an impact upon the subject of your research? For family historians exploring those larger forces can seem like a huge endeavor tacked onto canvasing family and vital records to gather the essential facts about a family member. That task just got a lot easier. The Associated Press and Ancestry.com have announced a partnership that will make more than one million stories from the AP newswire available in a searchable database.

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    Sunday
    Nov172013

    Write a Memoir or Family History People Will Want to Read

    If you plan to write about a person’s life – yours in a memoir or a family member’s in a family history – think about your audience before you begin. Why will anyone want to read the life story you have written? Few people are looking for a simple factual account of events, although attention to getting the facts right is essential, as James Frey learned when he fabricated his memoir A Million Little Pieces. Readers are interested in insight and understanding. A memoir or family history may start in individual experience, but it should go beyond the purely personal space to suggest insights and understandings readers can apply to their own lives. Consider the most widely read memoir and family history of the last 50 years: Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes published in 1996 and Alex Haley’s fictionalized 1976 account of his family history Roots.

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