Author Solutions, authors, book marketing, book selling, Ebooks, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing, writing

3 key takeaways from the San Francisco Writer’s Conference-2013 edition

sfwcLogoThis past weekend, I attended and spoke at the San Francisco Writer’s Conference. I would contend it is one of the best, if not the best writer’s conference, in the country. The variety of speakers and panels and the keynote speeches are quite good. This past year was no different. Keynotes were delivered by:

  1. Bella Andre, the most recent self-published author who has garnered signifcant sales and press recognition. While her story was inspiring, it was interesting that she referenced how many people she has working for her to make sure her books are edited and formatted. I.t reinforced the need to find service providers who can help you.
  2. Guy Kawasaki, who has authored 12 books. Ten were traditionally published. Two were self published. His keynote was exceptional. I plan to do another blog post on the content he shared. Stay tuned. It will be coming shortly.
  3. R.L Stine, author of the best-selling Goosebumps series focused on where ideas come from and his presentation was hilarious and inspiring.

I believe you can order these presentations on the web site and I would encourage you do so. They are all worth the time. However, as I listened to the various presentations, the questions posed to me in my presentation, The Four Paths to Publishing and the conversations I had with many authors, I heard some common themes.

  1. Self publishing was the talk of the conference–Actually that isn’t that surprising given the events of the past year, but it still is amazing to see how quickly the conversation has changed from avoiding self-publishing to embracing it.
  2. Publishing is not an individual sport–No matter what path an author choses to publish, it still requires help from professional resources. There is an illusion that you can do this all by yourself for free, but the reality is you are going to need to either source help or work with an individual or company that helps you find the resources you need to get your book published.
  3. The quality of the writing in the book is still the most important thing–Over and over again, I heard presenters reinforce no matter what path you chose to use for publishing, the most important thing is the book. It should still be the focus of any author. So continue to work on your craft and the vision you have for your book.
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Author Solutions, AuthorHouse, authors, Editing, helpful hints, self publishing

The best tip I ever received from an editor

editingWe all need to write and read, then edit and rewrite. Stop typing. Walk away. Question whether it is really any good. Get inspired and furiously start typing again. And we all need to self-edit before we ever give our work to an editor, but we almost always do the same thing. We start reading from the beginning. We start with the first sentence and then read from there, but that is not the best way to determine what shape the manuscript is in. The best tip I ever received from an editor is read the  last chapter first when it is time to self-edit. Why? Because our natural tendency is start at the beginning and read from there, which means the first chapter probably gets read and edited the most. The last chapter is the last written and probably the one that is read the least of the whole book.

I know this may not sound that genius, but try it. I think you will find the need to edit will be much more evident in the last chapter than the first and give you a truer measure of what work is needed on the manuscript.

What tips do you have that you can share with authors? Use the comment section to share yours with readers.

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

How to avoid writing badly.

For many years of my career, I was a creative director at an ad agency and one thing I would tell the writers on my team is we do not work for a deli. We are not paid by the pound or volume we write. In fact, many times when they would bring me copy for an ad, I would ask them to go back and  take 30% of the words out of what they wrote and see if it hurt the communication. In almost every case, the communication was improved by using fewer words.  I think authors of books would find the same exercise helpful. Even though books are not bound by the time and page restrictions of advertising, writing with brevity and clarity can actually make the writing more powerful.

The road to not writing badly starts with simplifying and clarifying.- Ben Yagoda

Writing for stories

Learning to write well takes work, but this book can help.

Apparently, I am not the only one who holds that point of view. This weekend, the Wall Street Journal ran a column written by Ben Yagoda, English professor at the University of Delaware. He is the author of How to Not Write Bad: The Most Common Writing Problems and the Best Ways to Avoid Them,” to be published this week.

In the article, he uses an example from his classroom that illustrates the challenges many aspiring writers face today. Here’s excerpt.

My students can’t really handle writing “well.” At this point in their writing lives, that goal is too ambitious. I propose a more modest aim: not writing badly.

Take this sentence, adapted from a restaurant review by a student who was roughly in the middle of the pack in terms of ability: “Walking in the front door of the cafe, the vestiges of domesticity are everywhere regardless of a recent renovation.”

In just 19 words, it provides an impressive selection of current widespread writing woes: dangling modifier (“vestiges” didn’t walk in the front door), poor word choice (“vestiges,” “domesticity,” “regardless”), excessive prepositions (four in all) and an underappreciated but pervasive ill, a weak sentence-subject (“vestiges”).

The fact that someone would write such a sentence in an advanced college class is generally attributed to deficiencies in K-12 education. I don’t doubt that’s a valid criticism, but two other factors are equally important and a bit simpler to address

He goes on to offer some reasons why he thinks writing is a challenge today and one suggestion of what we can do about it. In his words,

Young people don’t read enough edited prose. Malcolm Gladwell has popularized the notion that, in order to become an outstanding practitioner in a discipline, you need to devote to it roughly 10,000 hours of practice. If you’ve done that much reading—not including text messages, emails and status updates—you will probably have absorbed a sufficient sense of punctuation, diction and style so as not to perpetrate a sentence such as the one above.

The second thing is that the author of that sentence tried to write “well.” Trying to create a complex sentence led to the dangling modifier. Trying to use fancy words led to misusing “vestiges,” “domesticity” and “regardless.”

This desire to “write well” is a big reason why so much writing fails to connect with and hold the writer.  Again in his words:

The road to not writing badly starts with simplifying and clarifying. What was the author trying to express? The nub of it was that when you’re in the cafe, you notice a lot of homey stuff, and that this is surprising, or at least interesting enough to mention, because of the recent renovation. So the way to start is just by saying that as precisely as you can. Something like this: “The cafe was remodeled last year, but lots of homey touches are still evident.”

What about your writing? Once you have a draft, do you go back through and see if you can say what you want to say with fewer words or more precise words? It is how to not write bad.

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