Here’s one for the top-ten of our Frequently Asked Questions: How do I get started writing a book? First, let’s focus on how to get started with a non-fiction book. (Fiction is a question for another blog.) Consider your reason for writing a non-fiction book. It may be that you have extensive, perhaps professional experience, you’ve acquired a lot of knowledge and insight about a subject, and now you want to share it. How should you share it? There are choices. Do you prefer to be an instructor, to offer advice in a how-to book?
We are getting ready for Day 2 of the Miami Book Fair International today. If there was one theme we encountered on the first day of this multi-block street fair in downtown Miami, it was: self-publishing author beware.We met a lot of wonderful authors at our Stories To Tell booth. They were enthusiastic about the books they wanted to create. But, too many of them were smarting from their experiences with subsidy publishers with their previous books. They had purchased publishing packages from companies including Author House, XLibris, iUniverse, Outskirts Press, and Publish America. Their complaints covered a range of issues.Two women, one a professional editor, who co-wrote an award-winning book, complained about the great difficulty they had communicating with the editor assigned to their book. The company had clearly outsourced the project overseas. The editor spoke with a heavy accent and was difficult to understand. The authors requested another editor, but the request went nowhere.Another woman described months of complaints about the interior design of her book. The company said her book was ready, but the text fonts, bold and italics were not what she had written in her manuscript. She had to reject the design and demand that it be corrected several times. Each time the company was resistant.Several authors we spoke with felt they had been misled when they paid for marketing packages. All agreed that the services provided were inadequate. Indeed the authors found that all they got were Amazon listings they could had arranged for themselves at no cost. Each author reported that the publisher's marketing was inadequate and they had to do their own marketing to succeed. Another author told us about the way her publishing company had set the cover price of her book at a level which was too high for her to make a profit. She had requested a change in the price, but was unsuccessful. Now, two years later, she could buy out her contract with the company and republish it herself. To add insult to injury, the company charged her an additional $100 for the use of the cover design which she had already paid for.Other authors told us that they could not get the rights to their books back from the companies. They had simply resigned themselves to moving on to a second book.It’s a shame! A quick web search for self-publishing will return listings for all of these large corporations. Authors, seeing no alternative, sign up for a publishing package which often includes services they don’t need at inflated prices, and it all turns out badly.These sadder, but wiser authors are all enthusiastic about their next books because they intend to truly self-publish. They will maintain all the rights to their book by managing the process themselves, hiring professional editors and book designers to create the book. They expect to take responsibility for their own marketing but they can set the price of the book, and keep all the profits! That's how self publishing should work.
Finding high quality illustrations for your book can be a real challenge. Many of the images on the internet are low resolution which will not work well for book printing. This video, the first on our new Stories To Tell Books YouTube Channel, will show you how to solve the problem. This tutorial takes you through the process of using Google Image Search to locate better, higher resolution images to replace low-quality photos in your collection. Nancy Barnes explains how to locate better, higher resolution duplicates of your images to meet the requirements for commercial book printing. These methods work for all photo searches in Google Images, but they are especially helpful for people who wish to upgrade an existing photo. Learn how to use advanced settings to locate images by size, by type, and for free use, as well as sorting them by usage rights, so that you can publish the photos in your commercial book without violating copyrights.
Veterans Day is the day Americans officially honor the service of our military veterans. What better way is there to honor them than to preserve the stories of their service? That preservation can take a variety of forms. The Library of Congress Veterans History Project at the American Folklife Center is preserving oral history interviews with veterans. (Unfortunately the Library of Congress website is down for maintenance this Veterans Day Weekend. It will be back online on Tuesday, November 13th.) The project website provides specifics on how you can participate and offers guides to the interview process. A quick web search of veterans history” will provide listings for many state and local veterans history projects which support the work being done at the Library of Congress. Books make a great preservation tool.
Patricia Fry, Executive Director of the Small Publishers, Artists, and Writers Network (SPAWN) has a lot of experience in selling books. She has written thirty-five of her own and helped countless other authors sell theirs. In her newly published volume, Talk Up Your Book, Fry advises, “…face-to-face interactions and public appearances are some of the most effective methods for authors to promote their books.” Subtitled How to Sell Your Book Through Public Speaking, Interviews, Signings, Festivals, Conferences, and More, Fry’s book is a nuts and bolts guide for writers who want to do just that
We’re almost a week into National Novel Writing Month. How’s your book coming? Based on the many conversations I have had with ambitious writers who have undertaken the challenge, there are a lot of you out there who have one underway. Good for you! It takes a real commitment to write a novel in 30 days. But with a lot of discipline and even more time banging away at the keyboard you can knock out a draft manuscript this month. I just hope you don’t think you’ll have a book that’s ready to ship off to a literary agent on its way to the best-seller list, or what’s more likely, off to a printer for self-publication.
We’ve been offline for a bit. We really enjoyed attending the Genealogy Event in New York City last weekend, but it put us in town for the arrival of Hurricane Sally. Squarespace, which hosts our website, is in Lower Manhattan. They have backup generators, but they are located in the basement which flooded during the storm. We got a message that everything would be down for a while. Obviously a small inconvenience in light of the magnitude of the damage the East Coast has suffered. We’re glad to be back online. So back to our blog The Genealogy Event was an excellent conference. We met a lot of enthusiastic people who want to create family histories. Today’s post will highlight some of the frequently asked questions from the event.
Nancy and I often present a class titled How to Plan and Organize Your Family History Book at genealogy events around the country. (Well be presenting a new version of the class this Saturday at the Genealogy Event in New York City.) I usually begin by asking the audience, “How many of you have started writing your book?” The majority of the group raises their hands. Then I ask, “How many of you have a plan for your book?” That provokes nervous laughter and far fewer raised hands. That’s a problem! Let’s take a look at some of the decisions that will help you create a family history book you’ll be proud of.
“I just don’t have a lot of family stories,” say far too many genealogists who want to write a family history. I understand. Everyone always wishes they had taken the time to gather family stories when they had a chance. There are plenty of questions you wish you’d asked Grandfather Harry or Great Aunt Sue who was the family busybody and knew everybody’s story. But the opportunity to sit down with them with a notebook and pen or even better a tape recorder has come and gone. But that doesn’t your family history is doomed to be a dutiful recounting of facts recalled from your genealogical research and pages of pedigree charts. You can make your book lively and interesting. All it takes is a little perspective.
You’ve traced your lineage back ten generations. You know who came over on the Mayflower, or crossed the Middle Passage on a slaver, or came steerage to Ellis Island. You have all the details documented to the highest possible level of proof. How do you pass the product of your years of diligent research on to the next generation? Put it in a book!
Don’t you just love it when you get good news? Amazon sent us an email Saturday which opened, “We have good news.” After reading it, I wasn’t convinced. Addressed to “Dear Kindle Customer” the email informed us that as part of the anti-trust settlement between three of the big five publishing houses and the Justice Department last April we would be eligible for a credit for some of our past ebook purchases. You probably got one too. So, should we all say, “Hurray! Justice was done,” and rush to select some new Kindle books to buy with the negligible amount of our credit. Or should we give some serious thought to what it all means?
We spent a great weekend at the Wordstock Literary Festival in Portland, Oregon talking with authors about books. One theme came up in a variety of forms in conversation after conversation: I am finished or nearly finished with a draft of my book and I can’t get good feedback about making the revisions it needs to make it ready for publication. Two people told us they had submitted books to agents only to have them sent back with notes that said, “Needs editing.” A number of authors said they were tired of having family and friends read their manuscript only to have them say, “This is really good!” or “I really like it.” Not helpful! Others belong to writing groups which have rules that all comments on members work be supportive and encouraging, so they can’t get real critiques of what they have written. One gentleman said he had posted his draft on line for people to review. I asked, “So, are you getting good feedback?” The answer was a swift, “No. None!” All of these writers were clearly frustrated. If you’re a writer who wants ideas on how to revise your work you need to understand that most people don’t know how to offer useful suggestions. That doesn’t mean they can’t. It just needs that they need some help from you about how to do it. You need to tell your readers what you want to know. It’s best to give them specific questions you would like answered. Here are a few examples:
We’re getting ready to head for Portland, Oregon for Wordstock literary festival. We’ll be talking with people about writing all weekend. That’s great, but I hope the people we’re talking to are taking advantage of the festival to line up some good reading, because as Stephen King once advised,” If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” So here are some suggestions for you as you plan your reading.
Anyone offering making suggestions to authors about how to sell their books includes the advice to exhibit at trade shows and book festivals. That can be a great idea. Or not. Nancy and I have attended two, the Sonoma County Book Festival and the West Hollywood Book Fair, in the past three weeks and we’re gearing up for Wordstock in Portland, Oregon this weekend and the Miami Book Fair International in November. We really enjoy the events and meet a lot of wonderful people, many of whom eventually become Stories To Tell clients. At the same time we have the opportunity to observe a wide variety of authors who are on hand to sell their books. The results appear to be all across the spectrum. Our advice to authors is simple: If you are going to market your book at events, do it right. Here’s how:
We were at the West Hollywood Book Fair over last Sunday. A young sci fi/fantasy writer we had met earlier in the year at the L.A. Times Festival of Books stopped by. He asked, “How do I find a literary agent?” Good question! There’s so much buzz about the best ways to self-publish that authors seeking a traditional publisher often feel left out. So, Franciscus, here are some suggestions.