If You Want to Self-Publish Your Book, You Should Know about The Book Designer

I’ve subscribed to the Book Designer’s newlsetter for years. It’s an amazing resource and you might want to check it out at bookdesigner.com. Not every post will speak to you equally of course. But these are some of the most detailed and best ideas available, written by a number of people who practice what they preach, with great guest blogs too. If I had a rating system I’d given this one five our of five, or ten out of ten, or, okay, maybe 95 out of 100–nobody’s perfect. If you subscribe, remember, take what you like (or can use or may not want to hear, but know to be true)and leave the rest, because there’s a lot to take in here.

And write on!


YA Books That Strike a Chord

It’s a good thing I clean out my email inbox every once in a while. I see the most amazing things there. I found an article about a Women’s Media Group meeting last month where editors and agents gathered with interested others to talk about YA novels (mostly) and what’s hot and what’s not. And what’s interesting to them right now and why. See the article here. If you write (or read) YA fiction, I think you might like this article.

A Treasure from the Top 100 Websites for Writers

One of my favorites is The Book Designer, started by Joel Friedlander, a San Francisco Bay area publishing fixture. This site, with its newsletter and monthly magazine “Carnival of Indies” really does have something for everyone. Independent (self) publishing has come a long way in the last decade. The Book Designer has kept up with the times. You’ll find articles for newbies, writing tips, and in-depth how-tos for typesetting and cover making and e-book conversion. Check it out here.

If ever I was stumped or had a specific question, especially about book production or design, about new software resources, I’d start here.

What’s a book? Who’s an author? What’s a publisher? A Rant-let!

Years ago, an old friend/colleague, a sales and marketing director in various well-respected, even high-toned literary, houses, once told me this is what publishing is about: what do you buy and what do you sell. In those days, as an editor, I was buying projects that interested me, that I thought fit in with our publishing program, and that had merit–were well-written, presented new ideas, etc. And none of that mattered to my colleague if he couldn’t sell the idea of the book, the author, the book. (And in those days there wasn’t as much direct selling to the reader as there is now. So we were selling to people who were going to sell the book. And of course that still goes on too.)

A few weeks ago I read this article posing the question: is Twitter a book publishing company? Now if I had a dollar for every publishing is dying/changing/being disrupted article I’ve read in the last forty years I could go on a very nice vacation.  (And yes, these articles have been going on for forty years. Those of you who are old enough may remember publishing jobs that no longer exist–typesetters, keyliners, typists.) So why do I keep reading these articles?

Because we are in a sea change. (Not the only one in history, maybe not even the biggest one–printing presses people!) A more recent sales colleague said, somewhat bitterly, he thought there may be more people writing books than reading them. I’m pretty sure that’s not literally true. But a lot of us have a story to tell, information to share. And everyday it seems there are more mystifying, sometimes scary, sometimes exciting, ways to get the word out.

I don’t think the name of the game is keeping up with technology. I don’t think anybody can. In the past week I’ve heard of at least seven new (to me) on-line marketing sites, at least three new independent/self-publishing companies. I’m happy to know about these things exist. I’m excited that there is a revolution in communicating, telling stories, writing the news, writing to celebrate nature, kids, animals. All of that and more. It’s a great time to be alive. But it is not a great time to think any one of us knows it all–the present or the future.

So I’m not going to tell you what a book is. Who an author is. What a publisher does. But if you want to write, and if you want to share your worldview, your story, your dream with readers, you will figure that out for yourself. You’ll spend time surfing (and yes going down rabbit holes) and trying things out.

Oh, yes, and you’ll probably spend hours tearing your hair out to get the structure just right. And more hours in the pure pleasure zone of seeing your ideas and stories come to life on paper or screen.

Write on!

Websites Galore, or Keep This List Handy

Okay, old person alert. When I was young I wrote my first stories and poems on a manual LC Smith typewriter. Then there was a little portable electric, a Royal maybe. Then, oh Frabjous Day, an IBM self-correcting Selectric, at least I think that’s what it was called. And then an Apple, Two-ee was it’s name I believe, followed by a long string, Macs and PCs both. Who knew there would come a day? A day when there would be so many websites and resources for writers of all ages and stripes that someone would think to name the 100 best, for several years running, in fact.

It’s a huge list–an ice cream super duper sundae with three flavors of syrup and whipped cream and a cherry on top kind of list. I’d bet my IBM Selectric (if I still had it) that no one person is going to find use for every website on this list. But I’d also bet that if you’re a serious writer and you’re looking for one sort of resource or another–from help with independent publishing to research ideas to editing help to finding a writer’s group to who-knows-what–you’ll find something on this list useful. So pin it up on your cork board, or maybe just bookmark it. You might find it useful.

And here it is: 100 Best Websites for Writers

Write on!

When Do You Need an Agent? Do You Need an Agent? Where Can You Find One?

This article about when do you need an agent describes one writer’s journey to agent and published book, in a pretty traditional trajectory through an MFA writing program and beyond. It’s a great description of that, but not exactly a how to. You most likely need an agent if you’re trying to traditionally publish a novel with a traditional publishing house, or most anything with one of the so-called Big Five. Obviously you don’t need an agent if you’re going to independently publish. Then you need an editor, a cover designer, maybe a consultant to walk you through your various options.

If you decide you want to look for an agent, the best things to do are described in the first paragraph of this article. Network, check out the acknowledgments in your favorite books, research on the internet.

My last little piece of advice here is to follow each agent’s submission guides (almost always available on their websites) to the T. Do not send them anything more than they ask for, or anything less. Rewrite your pitch until it’s razor sharp. Tell them who you are, what you want to write, and what you’re doing to get that writing out into the world. All in the briefest most direct way possible.

Research your options as you write your book. Write on!

Do You Want to Write a Book?

How do you know you want to write a book? How do you know a book is what you want to write? What might you do to explore these questions.

  1. You might start writing a page or two a day and see what happens. (Check out Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones or The Artists’s Way by Julia Cameron.)
  2. You might make a rough outline, exploring the scope and structure of what you want to write about. (Is it a book, an article, something in between?) And, yes, books are different lengths. Each book should be about as long as it should be–long enough to thoroughly explore your subject and short enough to not include every bit of extraneous side story or bit of information you know.
  3. Ask yourself why you want to write a book. Really. Be honest with yourself. (Not to be too flip, but if the answer is to make a lot of money or get famous, you might want to spend the hundreds of hours it takes to write a book doing something else.)

I work with people who are writing or want to write a book. If you have an idea or a method of teaching something or knowledge or inspiration or a story to share but haven’t a clue how to get started, or got stuck in a first draft, or don’t know what to do now that you have a finished draft, I guide people through the process—writing to publishing—or any portion of the journey. I’ve worked in book publishing for more than 40 years as a coach, inspirer, task master, goal setter, idea clarifier, and editor.

I’ve probably edited more than 1500 books. (I’ve been working in publishing since 1972.) It is work I love. It is incredibly satisfying to help people articulate what they want to write and then help them write it. I ask dozens of questions. I give deadlines and assignments. I cajole and suggest and praise. Sometimes the assignment is to read. Sometimes it’s to write. Sometimes it’s to make a list. Sometimes it’s to finish an outline–not the final, exact outline that the project will follow. But an outline. A way to get started!

My friend Mark, who is the best computer handholder ever, threw in this picture of a typewriter. I’m not sure why. I love how old typewriters look. But even more I love the tools we have now. Computers won’t write a book for you–at least not yet. But they sure make the doodling, and drafting (but beware the boogie version control), and editing, and publishing a lot easier!


This then is a book…

For many years a poster hung on my office wall, a quote attributed to Emily Dickinson. “This then is a book, and there are more of them.”  For me that pretty much summed it up–books, books to read, books to write, books to edit. A life of books. It’s what I dreamed of as a child, sitting in the apple tree with Tom Sawyer, or buried under the covers with Jane Eyre. I have been fortunate to have edited so many books I’ve lost count. To have read a great number of books. To have written a few. To have been present at the birth of many. The books in the header picture are from one of the bookshelves in my dining room. (I have them in pretty much every room in my house.) These are beloved, and some quite dogeared, poetry books.

girl reading

Photograph by Evelyn Brokering