authors, book selling, Editing, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing, Writing Contest

What I heard at the San Francisco Writers Conference: 2012 edition

If you follow this blog, you know that over the past few years, I have been a presenter at the San Francisco Writer’s Conference and Author Solutions has been a lead sponsor for both the conference and the Indie Publishing Contest.  Along with being one of the best conferences in the country,  the panels and and speakers have often been almost prophetic in their comments on publishing.  Furthermore, it has been interesting to see the change in attitude toward indie publishing over the past few years. Whereas, just a few years, it was  dismissed as a career killer, now it is promoted and explained as the most sane way for authors to get published.  So what were people talking about this year?

  1. Not that long ago, no one could get published. Today everybody can get published. One of the panelists who I sat with said that she had attended the conference for many years. Not that long ago, one of the keynote speakers looked out at the crowd and told them, “you know none of you will likely ever get published”. While I am sure the speaker thought she was being helpful and truthful, it was actually discouraging and demotivating. Well, the panelist said, she wanted to let everyone know that while that may have been true a few years ago, “today everyone in the audience could be published.”   That is why I have been saying for years, this truly is the best time in history to be an author.

    This year's winner of the Indie Publishing Contest, Azadeh Tabazadeh jumped for joy when her name was announced.

  2. No matter how you publish, make sure you get your manuscript edited.  It is no surprise really, but I think I heard it in every session I attended. Make the investment to get your book edited. And that doesn’t mean have your daughter who is an English major, read the manuscript. It means hire someone with experience in the genre you are writing to read through, comment and correct.  While your first draft may have everything you want to say written down, it can only be made better with editing.
  3. Be sure you think long and hard about your book pricing.  The price of your book should be part of your marketing strategy and so you want to be able to set your price to be competitive in the market place.
  4. Try a 99 cent or free e-book promotion at some point.  Digital readers have made books impulse purchases and so to stimulate demand and take advantage of word of mouth, you should strongly consider running a limited promotion at some point with a very cheap or free ebook. If your book is good, people will tell others and you will see a return on that promotion in the months that follow.
  5. Publishing is still a dream for many people that can now come true.  One of the joys for me personally is being able to present the grand prize for the winner of the Indie Publishing writing contest. This year, when I announced the winner,Azadeh Tabazadeh, who wrote the memoir The Sky Detective,  she stood up, cried tears of joy and said,  “you have made my dreams come true”.  I really look forward to reading her book. It is her story about how she escaped from Iran with her brother and cousin. Look for her book when it comes out. I think it is going to be quite good.
  6. Agents are getting into self publishing. More and more agents are trying to figure out how to add value in the current environment and many of them are now turning to self publishing as way to cultivate talent and build platforms for new authors before they pitch the books to traditional houses.

Once again, it was a great conference and it gave me greater evidence that the Indie Revolution in publishing is in full bloom.

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authors, Editing, helpful hints, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing, writing

Ten mistakes a reader never misses: Imprecise punctuation (Part 6)

It’s not just about what you say but how you say it.  Punctuation defines your voice—your unique way of speaking to your reader. Which punctuation mark should you choose? Which one communicates the sentence to the reader the way you heard it in your head when you wrote it? Which one reflects your personal style and voice? A good editor should  polish your punctuation to reflect your voice. No matter your subject matter or whether your book is scholarly or casual, precise punctuation throughout your book breathes life into your words and whispers in the reader’s ear, “Wow, this author really knows how to communicate exactly what they want to say.”. Good punctuation can bring emphasis to the right word or words and used properly, it can create a rhythm to the writing that takes the reader on a pleasant ride.

So which of these sentences uses the correct punctuation?

It was his best book , written with the greatest care.

It was his best book ; written with the greatest care.

It was his best book : written with the greatest care.

It was his best book — written with the greatest care

It was his best book written with the greatest care.

In different contexts any of these could be preferable. It depends on what you want to say and where you want the emphasis. They all “sound” different if read out loud  Th e comma, colon, and dash are the most likely candidates, but even among them, the choice becomes a matter of the way you express yourself. Your editor should “listen” for your voice in the text  and then adjusts the punctuation to you, your voice, and your story. That’s why having a competent editor look at manuscript can only make it better.

….precise punctuation throughout your book breathes life into your words

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authors, book marketing, book selling, Editing, helpful hints, Publishing, self publishing, writing

Seven guidelines for creating a killer back cover

Authors spend months and even years writing their manuscript, but often give little thought to what may be the three most important paragraphs for selling the book: the back cover copy. Think about it. Before a potential book buyer reads a word of the book, he or she will likely pick up the book, look at the cover and flip it over to read the copy on the back cover. So what can you do to make sure your back cover helps convert browsers to customers? I asked Joel Pierson, head of the editorial department at

Joel Pierson, Director of Editorial Services at Author Solutions shares his guidelines for creating killer back cover text

Author Solutions to share his insights based on seeing thousands of books. Some good. Some bad. Here are the guidelines he provided for creating the best text possible.

the three most important paragraphs for selling the book: the back cover copy

  1. The ideal length for back cover text is 150 to 200 words. Think of this copy as a movie trailer or commercial—provide highlights, tease your audience, but don’t give away the ending!
  2. Do not refer to your book as “the book.” Use the book title, set in italics. Avoid underlining words and using all caps. Do not refer to your audience as “the reader” or “readers.” Write the copy in a manner that incites the reader to take action. For example, instead of “Readers will learn how to improve relationships with their pets,” write, “Learn how to improve your relationships with your pets.” Or “Learn how to improve your relationship with your dog, cat, or even parakeet.”
  3. Break up the copy into paragraphs. One long paragraph is very difficult to read. Bulleted lists help to tell the reader what’s included at a glance. If you include a bulleted list, make sure that you have a lead-in sentence followed by a colon, and that each item in the list has parallel construction.
  4. Avoid clichés such as “a must-read” or “This book will change your life.” The back cover copy is not a book review. Keep the verb tense consistent throughout. If you need examples or ideas, look up books that compare with your title and read the book descriptions online or in your local bookstore.
  5. If you have advance praise (quotes, endorsements), you can include short excerpts with a credit line giving the name and title of the person who gave you the endorsement. It’s best to use endorsements from people or periodicals that relate to your book in some way.
  6. The last paragraph of the copy should compel the reader to take action; it’s the “take-away promise” of the book.
  7. The author biography should be no more than fifty words and should consist of three key elements: (1) A few statements that communicate why you are qualified to write the book. Are you an expert in this field? What unique insights or experience do you have that give your book credibility? For example, “Jane Smith is the founder and president of C-Cat, the leading online magazine for ceramic-cat collectors in the United States.” (2) A statement that moves from the qualifications above to something more personal. For example, “Her collection of ceramic cats now numbers more than 5,000.” This personal information should relate to the book in some way. (3) Where you live and something about your personal life. You don’t need to be specific; your listing can be as general as the state you live in, although the city is also preferred. (Consumers often lean toward buying books by local authors.)
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