Thursday, February 24, 2011

Digital Publishing

I LOVE books—the feel, the smell, the look of them. So when I put a Kindle on my Christmas list a few years ago, it surprised me as much as anyone. I’m not much of a gadgets guy (well, except for kitchen gadgets), so the desire to own this little electronic reader had to go back to Jean Luc Picard, Captain of the Enterprise. Well, and the memory of lugging two huge satchels of books away with me for the summer.

When I first saw Captain Picard’s electronic reader, this is well before Kindle, Nook, etc., I was impressed that a whole library could be on his hand-held device, and I knew that this was an invention from the future that could be mine. I knew someone would create it for me. And they did. And others did. And more others will take them to the next level.

But for me to publish that way instead of or before a printed book? Well, I just wasn’t so sure I wanted to do that. I had Kris Tualla do a guest blog here at Write Away to help me understand the topic better. I needed to be won over.

But the sessions at the Southern California Writers’ Conference President’s Day weekend and the interactions I had with successful e-published authors got me re-thinking my goals.

First, one has to get past the old vanity press notions that dog us. Digital publishing can be accomplished through legitimate publishers who review your book just as is done for print versions. It can also be done on your own through sites like Lulu and Create Space. When digitally published by a digital publisher, you get a royalty rate, pay no upfront money, and may even see a print copy of your book. They pick the cover, they arrange the copyright (sometimes), and they provide editing services and will format your book for digital release.

When digitally published on your own, one panel at SCWC said you must do two things: pay to have your book professionally edited and pay to have an original cover designed. Both are critical to keeping up the quality of digital books. Don’t rely on the stock covers the site provides. Additionally, you will arrange for copyright on your own, and you will use their templates to format your book for publication. Still, after you pay the fees, you own your book outright with all rights and you get all the royalties after paying some site maintenance fees.

In both cases, as we have been learning over the last few years, marketing is job one for you. Publishers, digital or print, do little. So, the panel argued, why split your money with print publishers.

I am still getting my head around all this, so bear with me as I write my way to understanding on the issues involved. Please comment if you have had good or bad experiences with digital publishing. More, later.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Book Marketing 101—Part II

Remember WANA from Kristen Lamb’s book on social media marketing? We Are Not Alone. Together we can figure out how to market our books and build readership. On February 8, 2011, I published the first half of what were, to me, the best of the sites for building platform and book promotion. Here is Part II of the sites I scoured the Internet for.

“14 Platform-Building Tips” by Daniel Decker

Decker assures us that a platform is a structure consisting of many planks, not just a single big board. He provides 14 ways to build your platform solidly. Some familiar, some not so much so. A specific and concise read.


“Author Website Design” by Morris Rosenthal (an excerpt from his book, Internet Book Marketing)

Rosenthal thinks we have been given a lot of bum advice, and that neither authors nor those in the business end of publishing have got it right about what a website needs to have and do. He is really encouraging about what we can do our our chances of being successful. And he ought to know. His site gets ~8K unique hits daily.


“Learn How to Promote and Market Books Online” (an excerpt from his book, Internet Book Marketing)

Same guy, Morris Rosenthal, talks about some issues around on-line book sales such as don’t give it away for free (take those sample chapters down) and the value of making it easy to pay for books ordered. A short, but practical and specific article.


Blog vs Website for Draft Manuscript by Morris Rosenthal (an excerpt from his book, Internet Book Marketing)

Contrarian Rosenthal is back again exhorting us not to write stand alone blogs if we even do blogs at all as part of our marketing plan. We waste time doing this that could be spent elsewhere with a bigger pay off. But if you blog, he gives some suggestions that might be helpful to implement.


“Writers Create a Marketing Platform” by Rebecca Sebek

Some old stuff in this short article (do book signings at your local book store), but Sebek also suggests ideas I haven’t come across before. She says you should conduct a 60-90 minute webinar information session related to your book and create your own BlogTalk Radio show.


“R.I.P. Twitter as a Marketing Platform” by Dan Schawbel

A really, really different take on Twitter. He makes the argument it is no longer an effective marketing tool for sales. Rather it is best used for brand awareness. Whether you agree or disagree, his stats and his take on the evidence is unique.


“Creating an Elevator Pitch for Your Author Platform” by Tony Eldridge

Just as you have your elevator pitch for your book, Eldridge argues you should be able to present your author platform similarly. An intriguing little article.


We are on this journey together. I will continue to provide resources. Please share what you are trying as well. WANA!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

"I LIKE the feel of a Book" and Other Reader Myths

Give a warm WriteAway welcome to guest blogger and trilogy author, Kris Tualla, who made us all believe that "Norway is the New Scotland"! Kris is here today to help demystify e-publishing. For every 10 comments, Kris is giving away one free book. I will contact you, if you're a winner, to let you know how to get your copy!

Now lean back, take a sip of that beverage, and learn from one who has done it! Welcome, Kris!

Okay - I have a confession. I'm not a patient person. Uninformed or misguided e-reader comments and complaints make me want to knock heads together. And theses comments are everywhere.

Seriously, if you have never used an e-reader, please please please don't say you don't like them! Give one an honest try. I expect you’ll be surprised. I was!

Because it was immediately clear that the medium is NOT the delivery method. The medium is the WORD. Words are combined into sentences, paragraphs. Dialog. Setting. The crafting of plot and character.

Let me demonstrate. Read this word: bereft

You understand it. You associate those 6 letters with profound loss, sadness and loneliness. You know how it feels. You can empathize with a person who is bereft.

And you read it off a computer screen.

If you read a string of words like, “Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm…” you get a picture of a manipulative woman who knows how to work her assets to catch men. Because of the words. Not the delivery method.

Well-crafted stories catch us with their charms.

So, let's say you agree to be open-minded; you'll borrow an e-reader from a friend (if you can wrestle it from their tightly-gripping fingers) and read a book. A good book. One that immerses you in another existence.

And maybe you backtrack a little on those negative comments. Maybe you decide (What froze over?) that you want an e-reader of your own.

What are your options? It's a matter of personal preference, because just about all eBooks are available on all readers.

What all e-reading devices have in common:

· eBooks are generally much less expensive than paper books.

· You do own the books you buy. They are backed-up online.

· Carry your entire library in your briefcase or your purse.

· eBooks can be borrowed and lent in varying ways.

· Libraries DO lend e-books.

· The size of the font is easily adjustable.

· eBooks are purchased online.

· eBooks are delivered wirelessly directly to the device (except Sony).

· Finish that Twilight book and need the next one at 1:15am? No problem.

· You can bookmark, highlight and type in notes in your e-reader.

How e-reading devices differ. There are two e-reader technologies: E-ink, and LED-backlit.


· Looks like an Etch-A-Sketch. Charcoal-colored words appear on a pale gray background. No color.

· You CAN read e-ink in the sunshine.

· E-ink is not backlit so it does NOT cause eye-strain, nor does it disrupt sleep patterns.

· Kindle, one version of Nook, Sony, and Kobo all use E-ink technology.

· They only weigh about 8 ounces.

· CHOOSE E-INK IF: you like to read outside, in the car, or before bed.

· PRICE: $129 - $189


· Full color, brightness can be adjusted.

· IS backlit and can cause eyestrain similar to a computer screen.

· Nook Color, iPad/iPhone and Android phone screens all use LED technology.

· CHOOSE NOOK COLOR IF: you read indoors in a lighted room, subscribe to eMagazines, read illustrated books.

· PRICE: $249

· CHOOSE iPad IF: you read indoors in a lighted room, subscribe to eMagazines, read illustrated books and want a mini-computer.

· PRICE: $499 - $699

· Shop in Amazon's Kindle Store. Download the FREE Kindle App on your phone, laptop or desktop computer and read on a device you already own.

· PRICE: $0

The book and print industry have gone largely unchanged since Johannes Guttenberg first pressed for profit back in 1450. While his invention inarguably changed the world, we are probably due for another change. Jump in - the reading's fine!

Speaking of change, is it time you found a new brand of hero while you're at it? Please allow me to help.

For every 10 people who comment here, I will give away one free e-copy of A Woman of Choice - the beginning of the trilogy. And, yes. Commenter #11 warrants 2 copies! Comment #21? I'll give away three.


In February at the end of my blog tour, I'll give away one SIGNED PAPERBACK SET of the trilogy. Here's how you can get in on that deal:

1. Go to and find the "Secret Word" on my home page.

2. Send an email to with "Signed Trilogy Giveaway" in the subject line. Put the secret word in the body.

3. Comment on any blog at any time in the tour to activate your entry. Each day's blog location is listed at

A Woman of Choice, A Prince of Norway, and A Matter of Principle are all available at - and they are only $3.49 each as an eBook!

A Woman of Choice - Missouri Territory, 1819

A woman is viciously betrayed and abandoned by her unfaithful husband. She is rescued by a widower uninterested in love. In desperation, she becomes engaged to his best friend. One woman, three very different men. Life is about choices.

A Prince of Norway - Christiania, Norway, 1820

American-born Nicolas Hansen has been asked to candidate for his great-grandfather's throne. His new wife Sydney isn't about to let him go to Norway and face that possibility alone. The moment they arrive at Akershus Castle, the political intrigue and maneuvering begin. Can Sydney trust anyone? Will Nicolas resist the seduction of power? Or will he claim the throne for himself? Most importantly: will their young marriage survive the malicious mischief of the ambitious royal family?

A Matter of Principle - St. Louis, State of Missouri, 1821

Nicolas Hansen has returned from Norway determined to change the world. But when he runs for State Legislator in the brand-new state of Missouri, the enemies he made over the past two years aren't about to step quietly aside. Sydney has made enemies of her own, both by marrying Nicolas and by practicing midwifery. When a newspaper reporter makes it his goal to destroy them, Nicolas must rethink his path once again. But this time, it's a matter of principle.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Book Marketing 101—Part I

You are the center of my life, Dear Reader, except of course for all my family and real friends. Still, you are important. So in your best interests and mine, of course, I scoured the web for book platform and marketing plan ideas.

There are bazillions of commercial opportunities on the web. Lots of people want to help you achieve your publishing—and marketing—dreams. I have mostly avoided that here in favor of free stuff. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t want to pay someone to do something I should be able to do for myself. Also, there were some articles on e-mail as part of the platform, but I hate spam, so I didn’t include them.

I can learn this stuff. I can do it, too. And I care more about successful marketing than anybody I can pay.

My criterion for inclusion? Did I learn anything? You may already know all this stuff. I didn’t.

Certain terms kept coming up: form a relationship, on-going/long-term, brand/identity, diversified approach. I get it. A marketing plan and author platform is not just about selling this book to the public, but it is about making the public clamor for more from me.

So, here in Part I, I am listing some of these sites I found helpful. Part II will appear in “WriteAway” on Feb. 10. With a guest blogger in between! Read more at the end of this post.

“How to Build a Marketing Platform” by Christina Katz (she of Get Known Before the Book Deal) published in Writer’s Digest, May/June, 2010.

In order to market our books, Katz says we must have an area expertise, find a unique niche, and get a relationship going with the target audience. Her “10 simple steps” are ones we can all take. They are: 1) Find your tribes; 2) Connect, don’t network; 3) Serve to learn; 4) Give public readings; 5) Learn to teach; 6) Speak up; 7) Start something; 8) Pen articles; 9) Offer assistance; and, 10) Create a one-pager.

Read what these all mean at

“Building a Media Platform for Your New Book—Part I” by Barry Fox

Not so much an article with new stuff as it is a tidy reminder of what you might already have heard but stated succinctly here.


“Publisher Simon and Schuster Says Authors Should Blog and Social Network” by Joanna Penn

This article is full of links to related articles on blogging and social networking. A really good one-stop shopping source for bloggers. Very useful info here. Plus with the imprimatur of S& S, well . . .


“How to Build Your Author’s Platform from Scratch” by Dvorah Lansky

Practical, pointed suggestions in plain speak. Sort of a put up or shut up article.


“Your Author Platform—Branding” by Dana Lynn Smith, The Savvy Book Marketer

Smith makes the case in this short article for getting known by picture and brand. She uses “The Savvy Book Marketer” as her tagline after her name. We all need one, she says, and she offers suggestions.


“Just Say ‘No!’ to Authors without Healthy Marketing Platforms” by Michael Drew.

Drew believes that editors ought to ask these four questions and like the answers before offering a contract to an author:

1. Does this author have a publishing history?
2. Does he/she have a large fan base to work with?
3. What kind of a marketing platform is in place?
4. How will the marketing plan bring readers into the bookstores?


Part II appears on Feb. 10. So come on back for it. In the meantime, set your alarm to show up here tomorrow for Kris Tualla’s blog tour. She will share info on e-publishing and give away some books to some lucky visitors. See you tomorrow. Right here. Write Away.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Playwright or Play at Writing Plays?

I got a compliment at a recent critique group meeting. Or at least I am taking it as a compliment. It was couched in a criticism of my descriptions of characters and setting. To use the vernacular, I suck at descriptions. And my critiquer agreed. But the compliment came in the form of what we in the school-discipline business called a “re-direction.”

“I see you as a playwright. You are so plot-driven. You write great dialogue. In your play, that comes out. I can see why it is harder for you to do the descriptions in novels. That is not your focus.” Or something sorta kinda like that.

So, am I a natural playwright, thereby giving me permission to ignore setting except in the case of stage directions, costuming, and set design? Or am I a non-observer who hides behind scenes and acts and minimal stage directions, incapable of taking my reader to where my characters are?

Hmm. Knotty problem, eh?

But does it matter? Well, yes, if I continue to write novels, it matters a great deal. If I just want to write plays, maybe lack of description is less important. I hope Neil Simon reads this post. I’d like him to chime in on this topic.

Oh, here he is now! ***

Sharon: Neil, may I call you Neil? I was almost in your play, Rumors, but you wouldn’t give us permission to clean up the language so we had to ditch it for another play.

Neil: My play, my rules. Too bad, so sad.

Sharon: Well, nice of you to drop by. So what do you think? Is my apparent inability to describe characters and setting a detriment in writing plays as it is in writing novels?

Neil: I don’t write novels.

Sharon: Right. I knew that. What I meant was, do you think it is important to know your setting and character descriptions for plays as well as you do for novels?

Neil: Duh!

Sharon: Could you expand on that a bit?

Neil: The better you can see your characters, the richer the setting is to you, the easier it is to write dialogue that is consistent with your play. Isn’t that true with novels as well?

Sharon: Yeah, I see that, but how can I write better descriptions so my reader sees all I see?

Neil: That’s why I write plays. I can imagine it all, but I don’t have to put it down for the world. Plays are interpreted by directors and actors all the time. You ever wonder why so many people watch the same play multiple times?

Sharon: So, you’re saying . . .

Neil: I’m saying, good luck with that novel stuff. Gotta run.

Sharon: Uh, bye. Thanks for stopping by . . . Well, now what? Advice from anyone else?

*** C’mon! You didn’t really think that was Neil Simon, now did you???

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Stranger Than Fiction

It was, in Yogi Berra’s parlance, déjà vu all over again. What writer among us has not been possessed by the story? Who has not felt you were channeling another? Who hasn’t had that slight glimmer of omnipotence? I am a god—at least when it comes to this story I am writing right now.

To back up and give you some perspective on this tale, we watched a movie last night. We are usually behind on movies as we rarely go to theaters, and even though we are movie rental people, we might have our three-at-a-time movies sitting on the shelf by the TV for a couple of months before watching one. Maybe that’s how it happened.

From our rental movie queue, “Stranger Than Fiction” showed up in our mailbox about a month ago. Last night, with little to do since there was no Suns basketball and we were still waiting for the next installment of “The Office” to arrive in the mail from said rental movie queue, we decided to watch this 2006 film.

This post-modern dramedy struck both my funny bone and my writer’s ego.

Wikipedia defines post-modernism this way: Postmodernism is a movement away from the viewpoint of modernism. More specifically it is a tendency in contemporary culture characterized by the problematization of objective truth and inherent suspicion towards global cultural narrative or meta-narrative. It involves the belief that many, if not all, apparent realities are only social constructs, as they are subject to change inherent to time and place. It emphasizes the role of language, power relations, and motivations; in particular it attacks the use of sharp classifications such as male versus female, straight versus gay, white versus black, and imperial versus colonial. Rather, it holds realities to be plural and relative, and dependant on who the interested parties are and what their interests consist in.

In other words, what you think to be real, may well not be. In “Stranger Than Fiction” reclusive and brilliant Emma Thompson is writing her first novel in 10 years and she has writer’s block because she can’t figure out how to kill her protagonist. In her books, she always kills the protagonist.

Will Ferrell begins hearing his life story narrated as Emma Thompson writes her novel, a novel with a character who is identical to him. No one else can hear the story. Various people tell him hearing voices is a sign of mental illness, until he ends up at a literature critical theorist’s office. This professor is the key to figuring out what is going on. No more. Wouldn’t want to spoil it for you.

But my point in writing this post is that I have experienced the same sort of fugue state, if that is what it is in the movie, where I felt my character’s life was revealing itself to me, that I was merely channeling a life already lived. That I, too, was surprised at the twists and turns of my characters. That I had little if any control over the events unraveling beneath my fingers on the keyboard.

I wondered, just for a moment, maybe more, if Carrie from Streetwalker or Lucinda from Lucinda were real. Had I created them? Or did they really exist somewhere? Was it my imagination or their actual lives playing out on the page? Very post-modern musings.