Author Solutions, authors, book marketing, book selling, helpful hints, Indie book publishing, self publishing, writing

4 Reasons Why Attending a Writer’s Conference Is a Really Good Idea

GLAWS presentationOver the past few years, I have had the opportunity and privilege to attend and speak at writer’s conferences in the US and abroad. I find it to be one of the more enjoyable activities I perform as part of my duties.  I think if you are in the midst of a manuscript, or trying to understand what it means to be an author today, attending a well-run writer’s conference can be a good investment of time and money.

It can be overwhelming, but worth it.

If you have never been to a conference, or if you are new to the publishing world, or if you have been previously published through a traditional publisher, attending a writer’s conference can prove very helpful for a number of reasons.

You will be inspired and encouraged by like-minded people.

Writing a book can be a lonely process. Many times, it is you and your notepad and keypad, working through the excitement and doubts of finishing a manuscript. While in most cases, you can find support with friends and family, it is not the same as sharing the experience with someone who knows the joys and struggles of writing a book. But at writer’s conferences, you will find people who know exactly what you are going through. They can provide tips and suggestions. In fact I am always amazed at the relationships, connections and even friendships that can be built in a weekend at a conference.

You will learn about all the options you have as an author.

Speaking at GLAWS

Always enjoy the Q&A at conferences. Spoke recently at the West Coast Writer’s conference. 

It is the best time in history, but it is also the most confusing time to be an author because you have more choice and opportunity than ever before. So it is important you have a clear understanding of what options you have and what publishing path is the best one for you to pursue for your book or project. That’s why it is important to check the keynote and breakout sessions for the conference. If they are only focused on one area of publishing, such as agents, I think that is less optimal.  Look for a schedule that includes a variety of perspectives and experiences. I think that is most beneficial.

You will hear tips on how to improve your skill as a writer.

Writing is a craft and it is work. So it is important to learn from those who have experience and success. As with any skill, you can learn from others and they can help you get better at what you do. For example, one of the best tips I ever heard at a writer’s conference was a successful author shared that she took acting classes. Not because she ever wanted to become an actress, but because she thought doing that would help her write better dialogue in her books. I thought that was brilliant when I heard it and showed what type of commitment it takes to improve your skill.

You will develop a better understanding of marketing.

Most first time authors do not always understand what part they will have to play in marketing their book. In fact for many authors, marketing is a mystery. I personally enjoy speaking about marketing to authors so they can better understand what they need to do to build a platform and a following for their book. Good conferences will include a variety of workshops on marketing so look for those in the schedule in the mean time, I have written a whitepaper titled, The 3 Phases of an Effective Book Marketing Campaign that many authors have found helpful.

So which conference should you attend?

Over the years I have had the opportunity to attend and speak at a number of conferences. I am sure there are more than what I have listed and linked to below, but I can say each of these offers writers  a great opportunity to improve their craft, make some great connections and be inspired to get to their goal. If you plan to attend one of these let me know. I have already committed to speak at some of them and look forward to meeting you in person.

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Author Solutions, AuthorHouse, authors, book marketing, book selling, Ebooks, helpful hints, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing

3 critical design ideas to make your book interior look great

If you search, you can find lots of information on how to design a killer book cover. In fact, I have written a number of blog posts on the topic.

Six tips from wicked good book cover designers

How to make your book cover attract readers: A conversation with book designer Adam Hall

While your cover is certainly vital, you do not want to neglect the importance of the interior of your book. As one writer put it, “It’s your cover’s job to flag down readers, but it’s the interior’s job to put on a show.”

So what should you keep in mind as you design the interior pages of your book.

Make it readable

While it is tempting to get “creative” with your type face and try to be different for the sake of “standing out”, the most important thing to remember is your book must be readable. Readability depends on a number of factors.

The Oscilating Brain by Timothy Sheehan M D title page

A clear title page is a good start for any book.

First is the font style used for the body text. There are many good options, including popular fonts such as Garamond, Caslon, Electra, Palatino, Fornier, ITC New Baskerville, Bembo, Futura, Myriad, and Helvetica. The main font used in a printed book is typically a serif font. However, san serif fonts are easier to read on a screen so they may be preferred for e-books. Serif fonts have little ‘serifs’, or feet, at the ends of the letters and san serifs do not.

Another factor in the readability of the text is the font size. A typical novel uses a ten to twelve point font, depending on the font style, genre, book length, and audience. You may choose a larger font if your book is targeted at an older or a very young generation. Line spacing, or ‘leading’ as it’s called in the design world, impacts readability too. Generally books are spaced slightly more than single spacing, about 120–125 percent of the font size. For example, a twelve point font would have a line spacing of about fourteen or fifteen points.

“It’s your cover’s job to flag down readers, but it’s the interior’s job to put on a show.”

A third factor that affects readability is the presence or absence of white space on the page. The margins (the white space that exists between the text block and the edge of the page) vary from book to book. Reducing the margin size condenses the book to fewer pages, but it can also make the book feel more claustrophobic and difficult to read.

I always recommend you start to collect sample pages of books that have very readable designs to use as a guide when designing the interior pages of your book.

Be consistent

Another key element that makes a great book design is consistency. From chapter starts to dashes and ellipses, maintaining a consistent style throughout the book helps the reader flow through the book more easily. Remember the design is not to draw attention to itself, but rather help the reader move through the book. When there are jarring, out-of-left field design elements introduced on the pages of the book, it can actually interrupt the reader’s enjoyment of the story.

Follow industry standards

Creating a professional book layout takes more than simply throwing a title page and some page numbers on your manuscript. There is an order to things that tell readers this is a professionally designed book. Even more important there are certain standards that readers, book buyers, retailers, and librarians expect in a professional book.

Chapter start

An interesting opening page can draw readers into the story.

The inside of your book is divided into three main sections: the front matter, text, and back matter. Front matter introduces your book to your readers. Appearing before the main text, front matter is comprised of pages that include information about the book, about you, and about the publisher. Next is the text, which is the main narrative that makes up the meat of the book. The back matter falls after the main text and includes any supportive material to the text, such as the glossary and index. Let’s look at each of these individually.

Front matter

The front matter is found before the main text of the book and may include the following sections. Your book should at minimum include a copyright page and title page.

Half title page: The half title page is the first page of your book and contains only your title. This page does not include a byline or subtitle.

Series title page: Use the second page of your book to list any of your previously published books by title. It is customary to list the books chronologically from first to most recently published. Listing the title only is standard, but in nonfiction works, you may also list the subtitle if you feel it is essential. A common way to begin this page is, “Also by [author’s name]…” For authors who do not have previously published works, this page may be left blank or feature a frontispiece, which is a decorative illustration that is opposite the title page.

Title page: The title page is the part of your book that displays your full book title, subtitle, author, and any co-writer or translator. The publisher’s logo is featured on this page as well.

Copyright page: The copyright page contains the copyright notice, which consists of the year of publication and the name of the copyright owner. Depending on your publishing path, the copyright owner may be the author, an organization or corporation, or your publisher. This page also lists the book’s ISBN, and if applicable, the book’s publishing history, permissions, and disclaimers.

Table of contents: A table of contents lists the chapters, pertinent front and back matter, and the corresponding page on which these sections can be found. Typically, only nonfiction books require a table of contents. Additionally, all e-books must include a table of contents regardless of the genre.

List of illustrations: If your book includes several key illustrations that provide information or enhance the text in some way, you may need an illustrations page. However, if the illustrations are simply for comic relief or visual aid, the listing may not be necessary.

List of tables: Similar to the illustration listing, this page provides you with the opportunity to list any important tables and the page on which they can be found.

Foreword: The foreword contains a statement about the book and is written by someone other than the author who is an expert or is widely known in the field of the book’s topic. It is most commonly found in nonfiction works.

Preface: The preface usually describes why you wrote the book, your research methods and perhaps some acknowledgments if they have not been included in a separate section. It may also establish your qualifications and expertise as an authority in the field in which you’re writing. Again, a preface is far more common in nonfiction titles.

Acknowledgments (if not part of the preface): An acknowledgments page includes your notes of appreciation to people who provided you with support or help during the writing process or in your writing career in general. This section may also include any credits for illustrations or excerpts if not included on the copyright page. If the information is lengthy, you may choose to put the section in the back of the book, as the first section in the back matter.

Creating a professional book layout takes more than simply throwing a title page and some page numbers on your manuscript.

Body Text

Within the pages of books, you commonly find elements such as page numbers, running heads, and chapter-start pages. Here are some of the standards related to these standard design elements.

Page numbers

Unless you are publishing a very short children’s book, it’s essential to include page numbers. E-books do not require page number since the idea of a “page” isn’t static from one e-reader to the next device. Page numbers are most commonly found at the top of the page on the outer right or left corner, but can also be found at the bottom of a page.

Running heads

Many nonfiction books include running heads, which is the text at the top of pages that identifies the author, the book title, the section, or the chapter. Novels rarely use running heads unless there is some helpful purpose to the reader. There is some leeway in how the running heads are used, so there are many combinations of what the running head features. Some examples are: part title, chapter title; chapter number, chapter title; and chapter title, subhead.

Chapter starts and subheadings

The treatment of your chapter starts is a chance for your book design to be more expressive. While the font of your main text should be highly legible as its top priority, the chapter starts can be a bit more creative. It is common to see chapters that start on a new page from where the previous chapter left off, and the chapter starts one-third to halfway down the page.

Nonfiction books also use subheadings to further divide chapters. While the chapter starts can be more stylized, the subheads should be rather straightforward, although they can play a complementary role to the font used in the main text. 

Back Matter

The back matter of your book includes sections that support the main text but are outside of the main narrative.

Appendix or Addendum: An appendix includes any data that clarifies the text for the reader but would have disrupted the flow of the main text had it been included. It could also include information that was gathered too late to be included in the main body of the text. Some items included in the appendix could be a list of references, tables, reports, background research, and sources, if not extensive enough to be included in a separate section.

Notes: The endnotes section allows you to amplify or document certain passages throughout the main text. Endnotes are typically divided by chapter.

Glossary: A glossary comprises alphabetically arranged words and their definitions. Many nonfiction books include a glossary if terminology is used that is not generally known to the average reader.

Bibliography or reference list: The bibliography section, typically used in works of nonfiction, lists the sources for works used in the book. For samples and guidelines on proper layout, refer to the Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition.

Index: The index is an alphabetically ordered list of words and terms used for referencing your text. Indexes are important pieces to a nonfiction book.

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Author Solutions, authors, book selling, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing

Postcards from Cuba: My impressions from the Havana Book Fair.

If you have followed me on Twitter or Facebook, you know I had the honor and opportunity to attend and participate in the first US Publishing Mission to Cuba, which was sponsored by Publishers Weekly and was conducted in cooperation with The Havana Book Fair and the Instituto Cubano del Libro.

The Cuban media called this an historic event and in many ways it was. Here are some of my impressions from my time there of both the publishing business and Havana itself.

Cubans really love books. No, I mean they really love books.

Havana Book crowds

Crowds at The Havana Book Fair were quite large. 

I read a statistic that Cuba is nearly 100% literate and one million people attend the Havana Book Fair. Judging by the lines and crowds, I would say those numbers are probably accurate. The Book Fair was held at The Fort, which overlooks the city. Stands were packed with Cubans looking to buy books. Many of them were remainders imported from other countries so the prices were quite low relative to standard retail pricing in the US, but there were bags of books being sold.

The demand for English language books is going to increase dramatically.

Fidel bookSpanish is the native language, but English is a high priority, especially for the younger Cubans. So the demand for English language books is going to increase. I had two young men, who were university students who served as my translators at the fair. Both had been regular attendees at the fair and over the years had purchased a number of English language books including dictionaries. Both are working on a thesis for graduation that focuses on English language. One is doing a project on The New York Times and the other on the book, Pilgrim’s Progress. Very different projects, but both focused on English language.

There is definite interest in self-publishing.

4 Paths

Attendees at the self-publishing panel scooped up copies of The 4 Paths to Publishing

One of the opportunities I had while attending the Havana Book Fair was serving on a panel about self-publishing. The room was filled with a variety of people including publishers, authors and students. Mark Coker from Smashwords was also on the panel, which was helpful because it provided a clear contrast between a DIY self service platform like Smashwords and supported self-publishing. I had versions of the 4 Paths to Publishing in both English and Spanish available and every copy was taken. As usual, that whitepaper provided a helpful framework for authors to understand their options for publishing today.

 Self-publishing has some barriers to overcome before it grows.

It seems the government may be softening its stance on publishing which could open the door for self-published authors, but the biggest barrier appears to be payment methods and currency. Right now there are no banking relationships that would easily facilitate payment by or to authors by US based companies.  In addition, there is no infrastructure for credit card processing. Both will likely be available in due time and that will facilitate the growth of self publishing.

A few personal observations about life in Havana.

Life in Havana is very interesting and tough in many ways.

  • There are lots of old cars as you may have heard.Cuba Car
  • Most of the buildings, including apartments have not been maintained on the outside, which leads me to believe they are pretty rugged on the inside.
  • Airline travel is interesting. Lines at US airports are extremely long because virtually everyone traveling to Cuba is taking a pile of consumer goods, including televisions, baby strollers and coffee makers. Departure is not as long, but still plan for a couple of hours for your exit.
  • The bus and taxi system works to some degree, but you need to know how it works, because there is not any easily visible public information.
  • While there are public restrooms, none of them have soap, paper towels or even toilet paper, which obviously leads to some sanitation challenges.
  • Cubans generally love life and the arts. Music, dance, reading and art are a natural part of everyday life.
  • Amazing reunions are likely happening every day. I suspect many people are returning to Cuba having left many years ago and are now reuniting with family they have not seen for decades. I am pretty sure on my flight there was an older man who was coming back to Cuba for the first time since he had left as a boy. When he cleared customs, there was a man his age waiting for him with a group of people. When their eyes met, they immediately began to weep and then hugged each other with the force of missed years. I don’t know if it was his brother or cousin or friend, but no matter who it was, the reunion was sweet to behold.
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Author Solutions, authors, book selling, iuniverse, Publishing, self publishing

From book to screen in 8 years: Still Alice movie released this weekend

For those of you follow this blog, you will know I have periodically mentioned the book Still Alice written by Lisa Genova. It was originally self published with iUniverse and then went on to be a best seller in multiple countries for Simon and Schuster. This weekend, it is being released as a major motion picture.  It is a compelling story and I hear there is Oscar buzz for Julianne Moore’s performance. In fact, this past weekend, she won the Golden Globe for best actress.

I really enjoyed the book and am looking forward to seeing the movie. Also, I wanted to bring this to your attention because I think it is a great example of  how long it can take for a book to be made into a movie. Still Alice was first released in 2007. Eight years later the movie comes out. Still worth the wait.  Enjoy.

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authors, book selling, Publishing, self publishing

Science says reading print books provides a number of pretty interesting benefits

Recently, someone forwarded me a link to an article, titled Science Has Great News for People Who Read Actual Books, on a site called Mic.com, which I had seen before.

In this fascinating  article, Rachel Grate cites a number of recent studies that report the benefits of reading a paper book that e-readers don’t provide. She draws from a number of different studies that all seem to point to the same conclusion. Reading paper books help us in ways we may not have been aware.

I tried to find a way to summarize her work and just hit the highlights, but I found that task difficult. Her content and writing style are excellent. So rather than short change you, I have decided to provide the text of the article below. Or if you prefer, you can read the original article and the comments by clicking here.

Credit: New Dork Review of Books

Credit: New Dork Review of Books

From Mic.com and written by Rachel Grate

It’s no secret that reading is good for you. Just six minutes of reading is enough to reduce stress by 68%, and numerous studies have shown that reading keeps your brain functioning effectively as you age. One study even found that elderly individuals who read regularly are 2.5 times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s than their peers. But not all forms of reading are created equal.

The debate between paper books and e-readers has been vicious since the first Kindle came out in 2007. Most arguments have been about the sentimental versus the practical, between people who prefer how paper pages feel in their hands and people who argue for the practicality of e-readers. But now science has weighed in, and the studies are on the side of paper books.

Reading in print helps with comprehension. 

A 2014 study found that readers of a short mystery story on a Kindle were significantly worse at remembering the order of events than those who read the same story in paperback. Lead researcher Anne Mangen of Norway’s Stavanger University concluded that “the haptic and tactile feedback of a Kindle does not provide the same support for mental reconstruction of a story as a print pocket book does.”

Our brains were not designed for reading, but have adapted and created new circuits to understand letters and texts. The brain reads by constructing a mental representation of the text based on the placement of the page in the book and the word on the page.

The tactile experience of a book aids this process, from the thickness of the pages in your hands as you progress through the story to the placement of a word on the page. Mangen hypothesizes that the difference for Kindle readers “might have something to do with the fact that the fixity of a text on paper, and this very gradual unfolding of paper as you progress through a story is some kind of sensory offload, supporting the visual sense of progress when you’re reading.”

While e-readers try to recreate the sensation of turning pages and pagination, the screen is limited to one ephemeral virtual page. Surveys about the use of e-readers suggest that this affects a reader’s serendipity and sense of control. The inability to flip back to previous pages or control the text physically, either through making written notes or bending pages, limits one’s sensory experience and thus reduces long-term memory of the text.

Credit: Motivationgrid.com

Credit: Motivationgrid.com

Reading long sentences without links is a skill you need — but can lose if you don’t practice. 

Reading long, literary sentences sans links and distractions is actually a serious skill that you lose if you don’t use it. Before the Internet, the brain read in a linear fashion, taking advantage of sensory details to remember where key information was in the book by layout.

As we increasingly read on screens, our reading habits have adapted to skim text rather than really absorb the meaning. A 2006 study found that people read on screens in an “F” pattern, reading the entire top line but then only scanning through the text along the left side of the page. This sort of nonlinear reading reduces comprehension and actually makes it more difficult to focus the next time you sit down with a longer piece of text.

Tufts University neuroscientist Maryanne Wolf worries that “the superficial way we read during the day is affecting us when we have to read with more in-depth processing.” Individuals are increasingly finding it difficult to sit down and immerse themselves in a novel. As a result, some researchers and literature-lovers have started a “slow reading” movement, as a way to counteract their difficulty making it through a book.

Reading in a slow, focused, undistracted way is good for your brain.

Slow-reading advocates recommend at least 30 to 45 minutes of daily reading away from the distractions of modern technology. By doing so, the brain can reengage with linear reading. The benefits of making slow reading a regular habit are numerous, reducing stress and improving your ability to concentrate.

Credit: telegraph.co.uk

Credit: telegraph.co.uk

Regular reading also increases empathy, especially when reading a print book. One study discovered that individuals who read an upsetting short story on an iPad were less empathetic and experienced less transportation and immersion than those who read on paper.

Reading an old-fashioned novel is also linked to improving sleep. When many of us spend our days in front of screens, it can be hard to signal to our body that it’s time to sleep. By reading a paper book about an hour before bed, your brain enters a new zone, distinct from that enacted by reading on an e-reader.

Three-quarters of Americans 18 and older report reading at least one book in the past year, a number which has fallen, and e-books currently make up between 15 to 20% of all book sales. In this increasingly Twitter- and TV-centric world, it’s the regular readers, the ones who take a break from technology to pick up a paper book, who have a serious advantage on the rest of us.

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

My 2nd most popular post: The 7 key elements of a great book cover

One of the great things about analytics on a blog is they tell you what people are reading most and what search terms they use to find your blog.  My post popular blog post by far is The 5 Essential Elements of Every Good Story. However, the second most popular post is the one I am reposting below, The 7 key elements of a great book cover. Hopefully you will find this helpful and you don’t even have to search for it.

Along with an eye-catching design, this cover employs a great subhead to help the reader know the benefit of reading this book.

Along with an eye-catching design, this cover employs a great subhead to help the reader know the benefit of reading this book.

The 7 key elements of a great book cover

Do first impressions matter? Of course, they do. For your book, your cover will make the first impression on readers. It is your three-second introduction to the reading public. When readers are browsing the bookstore shelf or the internet,  your book cover needs to grab their attention, but also make a promise as to what readers will find on the pages inside.  So here are seven elements of cover design you should  give thought and attention to as you get ready to publish.

  1. Your title. Place yourself in the reader’s shoes when making your final decision for your book’s title. Will your title make sense to the reader? Is it easy to remember? When choosing your title make sure it conveys your message and fits the design you have in mind. As a writer, try not to get too caught up in creating a clever title, when a straightforward title will do. Creativity can sometimes interfere with clarity.
  2. The subtitle. If needed, elaborate on your book’s subject with a subtitle. A good subtitle provides additional information through a descriptive line which compliments your title. Include any searchable keywords that are not in your title  in your subtitle if appropriate.
  3. Cover design and layout. Your title should be legible at a glance and you should avoid small or faint text as well as busy backgrounds. Select a font or two for your text, staying away from decorative fonts that are hard to read. Choose a strong image that helps people remember your book and integrates with your title. A single image usually impacts more than multiple images. Remember your image should not overwhelm your title, so beware of overpowering your words with pictures. Above all, make sure all text is easy to read.
  4. Back cover or panel copy. This should be a short summary of your book that gives readers a preview or teaser for what to expect when they read it. It should not be about why your wrote the book or a table of contents. It should work like an ad to draw in potential readers.
  5. In this soon-to-be released book, the cover draws the reader in and hints as to the story of the book.

    In this soon-to-be released book, the cover draws the reader in and hints as to the story of the book.

    Endorsements and reviews. Endorsements and reviews help add to the credibility of your book. So if you have endorsements from influential people or reviews, think about including them on your back cover or jacket flap if you have a hard cover edition. If you have an endorsement from a well-known personality you may want to consider putting a mention on your front cover.

  6. The spine. Make it simple, easy to read, and viewable sideways. In most cases, you do not want to include your subtitle due to space limitations.
  7. Your author bio. Briefly state who you are and your most recent accomplishments. Try to keep your author description around three sentences and establish your credentials if you are writing a non-fiction book and your personality if you are writing a fiction book. Readers love to know things about the author. It helps them connect with the book in a different way. Use your author bio to help readers feel like they know something about you.

You have likely spent months and maybe even years working on your manuscript. Make sure you take the time to give your cover the attention it deserves. After all it is the first impression most readers will have of your book.

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Author Solutions, authors, book marketing, book selling, self publishing

Being blind since birth hasn’t stopped Craig McFarlane for doing anything including publishing a book.

         There can be many obstacles to publishing a book, but for Craig MacFarlane, being blind was not one of them. In his book, Craig MacFarlane Hasn’t Heard of You Either,  he tells his remarkable and inspirational story of how sightlessness  has not limited him in the least.Craig MacFarlane
 Blinded at two years of age as the result of an accident, Craig has gone on to become the the World’s Most Celebrated Totally Blind Athlete among his many achievements. He has also used  his athletic accomplishments  to establish himself in the “sighted” world and as the platform for an impressive 30 year career in the world of business.
        I think you will find this interview inspirational and motivational.

 

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