Tuesday, October 14, 2014

NAMW... finally

I [finally] formally joined the National Association of Memoir Writers at namw.org. They offer a rich variety of events, articles and resources for those interested in good writing, including but not limited to memoir.  I have long recommended this organization for my clients, but its time I take my own advice.

You may have seen the recent New York Times article featuring NAMW leader, Linda Joy Myers, PhD and Brooke Warner of SheWrites.

Helen Gallagher

Friday, October 3, 2014

Why is so much writing so bad?

From today's Wall Street Journal...

"Why is so much writing so bad? Why is it so hard to understand a government form, or an academic article or the instructions for setting up a wireless home network?"

The answer in Steven Pinker's article, The Source of Bad Writing, points to what he calls the Curse of Knowledge: a difficulty in imagining what it is like for someone else not to know something that you know.  It is an excerpt from his new book: The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Amazon launches Kindle for Kids

This might be a good time to re-issue a children's book in digital format.

Amazon has announced https://kdp.amazon.com/kids
Kindle Kids' Book Creator: 
Import illustrations, add pop-ups and preview your illustrated kids book with Kindle Kids' Book Creator.
Age and Grade Tools: 
Help parents choose the right books for their kids. Use our Age and Grade tools to reach the right audience.
Marketing Tools: 
Benefit from Amazon's powerful marketing tools and global distribution. Enroll in KDP Select to get more promotional benefits.

Here’s the link… https://kdp.amazon.com/kids and a “Get Started” button with more details. 

Learn how now... https://kdp.amazon.com/how-to-publish-childrens-books?ref_=GS


Monday, August 4, 2014

Evernote users: Publish directly to Fast Pencil

Fast Pencil is a fairly well-known print on demand service for authors. Evernote is the smart note-taking and information database used by thousands if not millions. It has endless practical uses, from grocery lists to estate planning, is fairly easy to start, and is unstructured. Many writers use it for data gathering to writing drafts.

Now, because these two firms put their heads together, you can publish your Evernote content as a POD book. Once you organize your text and finalize your graphics and other content, you are ready to publish and distribute vie ebook or print.  A nice way to test out your book in draft form and move forward with publishing in 2014.

[Press Release] - excerpt...
FastPencil Creates Print Books and eBooks from Evernote Notes Instantly
New feature is first to enable Evernote users to easily import, self-publish and distribute notes as an eBook or print book regardless of device, location or previous publishing experience.

FastPencil, the fastest, easiest way to write and self-publish books, announced today they are offering all Evernote users the ability to instantly self-publish their notes using the FastPencil platform for ingestion, book building, transition to print and eBooks formats, online distribution and selling of the finished book. Available today, Evernote users can immediately take their notes and import them into FastPencil to create and publish in an eBook or PDF in a matter of seconds. The work can then be shared via the web or distributed through FastPencil’s publishing packages.

“This is an exciting partnership because it allows millions of Evernote users the opportunity to publish their work seamlessly through the FastPencil platform and push their book out in multiple formats,” said Steve Wilson, co-founder and President of FastPencil. “When we talk about bringing the capabilities of e-publishing to the masses, this is exactly what we mean and we couldn’t be happier to have such an amazing advocate in Evernote.”

FastPencil’s integration with Evernote allows users to create a print-ready PDF or eBook in seconds. Users simply take their specific notes – or full notebook – importing them directly into FastPencil’s self-publishing platform. From there, they will be able to edit, collate, format and create a table of contents. Then, they can choose which format they prefer, hit publish and share their newly published content. If users choose to print copies of their book, they can thru the FastPencil platform with their print partnership with Gung-Ho. Members looking to distribute their work will have the ability to utilize FastPencil’s vast distribution network channels including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kindle, iPad, Sony eReaders, and the entire Ingram Network.

“Evernote is a powerful writing tool and this relationship further reinforces this,” says Chris Traganos, director of developer relations. “This integration provides writers and creatives with an effective way to publish their life’s work from Evernote with Fast Pencil.”

Read the full press release here:  Evernote and Fast Pencil

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Rejection: Barbara Kingsolver's perspective

Thanks to Alexandra Caselle for posting this quote on her blog:  Alexandra is a native Floridian author and poet.  Her blog, Rhet Effects (http://rheteffects.wordpress.com),

Barbara Kingsolver quote on rejection:
 “This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don’t consider it rejected. Consider that you’ve addressed it ‘To the editor who can appreciate my work,’ and it has simply come back stamped ‘Not at this address.’ Just keep looking for the right address.”

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Author marketing... a continuous improvement project

Publishers Weekly has an important article on successful self-publishing:
Self-Publish Like a Pro: Finding an Audience, posted July 10, 2014.

In it, Alexandra Fletcher discusses the need to build a base of readers before your book comes out.
Regardless of your road to publishing, her statements ring true, and are a wake-up call to authors who think their book will sell without visibility and following.

"Nothing diminishes an author’s self-publishing dream quite like watching sales stagnate after a title’s release. An author aggressively promotes the book on social media platforms. Her friends, co-workers, and family members buy copies and write reviews to show support. But within days or weeks of the book launch, the author is hit with the sobering realization that sales have dropped off because no one outside of her immediate social circle is looking for it."

Wherever you are in your book promotion plans, take a look at the article and see if you can adapt a few of Fletcher's suggestions.  Here is the link: Publishers Weekly

Friday, July 11, 2014

Platform: An excellent explanation from Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman has an excellent piece about platform on her site. What it is and what it isn't. As she states:

Platform is
  • Visibility. Who knows you? Who is aware of your work? Where does your work regularly appear? How many people see it? How does it spread? Where does it spread? What communities are you a part of? Who do you influence? Where do you make waves?
  • Authority. What’s your credibility? What are your credentials? (This is particularly important for nonfiction writers; it is less important for fiction writers, though it can play a role. Just take a look at any graduate of the Iowa MFA program.)
  • Proven reach. It’s not enough to SAY you have visibility. You have to show where you make an impact and give proof of engagement. This could be quantitative evidence (e.g., size of your e-mail newsletter list, website traffic, blog comments) or qualitative evidence (high-profile reviews, testimonials from A-listers in your genre).
  • Target audience. You should be visible to the most receptive or appropriate audience for the work you’re trying to sell. For instance: If you have visibility, authority, and proven reach to orthodontists, that probably won’t be helpful if you’re marketing vampire fiction (unless perhaps you’re writing about a vampire orthodontist who repairs crooked vampire fangs?).
And, as for what Platform is not, here's her list. Note the first two, which I think clears up many author misperceptions.
  • It is not about self-promotion.
  • It is not about hard selling.
  • It is not about annoying people.
  • It is not about being an extrovert.
  • It is not about being active on social media.
  • It is not about blogging.
  • It is not about your qualifications, authority, or experience, although these are tools for growing or nurturing a platform.
  • It is not something you create overnight.
  • It is not something you can buy.
  • It is not a one-time event.
  • It is not more important than your story or message (but hopefully it grows out of that).
Read Jane Friedman's full piece here http://janefriedman.com/2012/03/13/author-platform-definition/

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

How a Contest Judge Views Your Book

How a Contest Judge Views a Book
by Helen Gallagher

Literary merit is a core requirement for any prize-winning book.

After succeeding as an author, book reviewer, and publishing consultant, I was recently pleased to participate as a judge in a national book competition.

If you are or have been given this honor, it is a big responsibility and a whole lot of fun. Each judge must critique the contest entries on a long list of factors, not limited to content, accuracy, editing, and design.
In order to avoid being overwhelmed, I agreed to judge only the three genres I know best. I would not feel comfortable judging categories where I don’t have an informed opinion of quality, such as mystery, sci-fi, or romance. 

Unlike my work as a book reviewer, in which I evaluate writing style and content and consider the value of the book’s theme or message, judging goes much further. Reviewers often discuss an author’s point of view, while letting the reader of the review know pertinent details of the book. That’s why people read book reviews—to determine if they want to invest time in reading the book.

In judging a book contest, the parameters are set by the organization or committee running the contest. They set criteria for entries and sort through all submissions to be sure each entry that is judged fits the standards for quality writing in the category. The biggest job for a judge is remaining objective in order to judge fairly. Frequently, contest entries are read and judged by two different people. The second judge performs the same task as the first: analyzing the book’s worthiness on all the variables, and the combined scores are averaged.

Most contests have very specific categories. As an author it is important to make sure your book is in the best category, or choose multiple categories, such as “Motivational” and “Self-Help,” to give your book a better chance against steep competition. Most contests charge an incremental fee for multiple categories, so be clear about the category that best fits your book.

As an author, what I found most interesting about being a judge is the importance of every detail. That’s right—If you enter your book in a contest, you don’t want to have a perfect book design but fall short on other elements or overlook errors. The lesson here is that when you are finalizing your book for publication, nothing is unimportant. Don’t overlook errors in the Table of Contents, pagination, page layout, or chapter headings, and re-check every word and every reference, from cover to cover.

Give the same consideration to the importance of good cover design and quality printing. Whether you use a traditional publisher, print-on-demand, or a local printing firm, your book must look as good as any other mass-market book to be worthy of an award. This includes cover artwork, fonts, design, proper placement of the ISBN and barcode, and error-free layout of both the front and back covers.

You may have a great story, but if you failed to do that last round of proofreading or checking the layout, another contest entrant may outshine your book by a few points.

Here are some tips to consider, not just when you prepare to enter your completed book in a contest, but before you publish your next book.
  • Is your title/subtitle appropriate and does it generate interest?

  • Does the title truly reflect the content of the book? Don’t fall in love with a quirky title that would disappoint or mislead the reader.

  • Is your book price appropriate for the target audience? Have you done research to determine this?

  • Do your book layout, editing, and design meet the highest standards?
These four sample factors are just the first steps in passing through to the award level in your book’s category. Many contests haves thirty categories by which each book is measured. If any of these initial factors is adequate but not truly professional, entering an important book contest might be a waste of money. 

Before you run back to your manuscript to polish it up, keep in mind that literary merit is a core requirement for any prize-winning book. Books up for award are of course evaluated on the writing, not just the spelling and punctuation, but quality of language, comprehension, and the ability to present material in an interesting way, authored by a person with the qualifications to write on the topic. 

Remember that your confidence in your book when presenting it for any award consideration requires all the up-front effort and attention to detail well before you even dream of winning First Prize in a book contest. The reward, though, when your book is chosen, is increased publicity and increased sales, because of the distinguished honor in winning a book award. 

Helen Gallagher is the author of Release Your Writing: Book Publishing Your Way.
Her publishing blog is at releaseyourwriting.blogspot.com.  © 6/24/2014

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Contently: a resource for freelance writers

Contently.com has a portal called "The Freelancer" full of great writing, and a weekly digest. You can create your own profile to promote your freelance writing, to "see and be seen" beyond your desktop and notebooks of great writing.
Read more here.

Today, the Contently magazine has a terrific article by Michael J. Berens of the Seattle Times on investigative reporting, something we should all be doing in our writing, no matter the topic. In the article, Berens discusses the plight of freelancers wanting to get hired to write for editors. He seems to have a clear recollection of the path to success, and offers candid suggestions for freelancers. as we develop expertise in various areas, and discusses ways to stand out in the very crowded world of publication.

Here is a link to the full story, and int includes Berens' notes on what matters most in writing: Finding the Story. You'll find it mentioned in the piece on Contently and also at his site: Watchdog Reporter, along with other resources. Keep in mind, this is from a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, sharing this information with us.

Here's more good news:  You can create your own profile at Contently -Here is a snapshot of mine: Gallagher Ink

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Calling all great writers...

Barnes & Noble sponsors the Discover Great New Writers program, founded in 1990, which highlights books of exceptional literary quality from authors at the start of their careers. 

Their site notes: "A small group of Barnes & Noble bookseller volunteers convenes year-round to review submissions to the program and handpick titles for our promotion, currently featured at 700+ Barnes & Noble and 100 prominent Barnes & Noble College Bookstores, and on www.bn.com/discover."

Current deadlines are shown below... don't delay!
Full details on the many benefits and prize money are here:


Upcoming deadlines for this ongoing program are:
Holiday 2014 (November-December 2014)   June 26, 2014
Spring 2015 (January-March 2015)  September 25, 2014
Summer 2015 (April-July 2015)   December 11, 2014

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Would you want to write like Gay Talese?

From a very old issue of The Paris Review (Issue 198, Summer 2009) Gay Talese reveals some of his writing quirks:

Here is just one excerpted example...

"Usually I wake up in bed with my wife. I don't want to have breakfast with anyone. So I go from the third floor, which is our bedroom, to the fourth floor, where I keep my clothes. I get dressed as if I'm going to an office, ... What I am really doing is going downstairs to my bunker. In the bunker there's a little refrigerator, and I have orange juice and muffins and coffee. Then I change my clothes."

Friday, May 23, 2014

Publishers Weekly launches BookLife, for self-published books

Galley Cat reports today that... "Publishers Weekly is getting into the self-publishing business with launch of a new site dedicated to self-publishing.  The site is a joint venture with PWxyz and Mediapolis, a technology firm co-founded by Pritzkat.

BookLife, which will go live on May 29, 2014 at BookExpo America, will focus on three main subject areas: book creation which includes editing and cover design; publishing which is all about the physical manufacturing of a book; and book marketing, which will include information on distribution, publicity and sales.

“Self-published books and authors are having more and more impact on readers and the publishing industry,” stated Carl Pritzkat, the president of BookLife and VP of business development for PWxyz LLC."

Source: Galley Cat article

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Read "The Telling Room"

Flip on over to the Book Review page for a great book recommendation.

Already read The Telling Room? Please add your comments below.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Oh, to write like David Brooks...

In a recent New York Times op-ed page essay, David Brooks wrote about an interesting passage in a biography of Isaiah Berlin. It was in Leningrad in 1945 when Berlin was invited to meet a pre-revolutionary poet, twenty years past his age. The next four paragraphs are a mini-movie, as Brooks teases us to read on and on. Let me just share the beginning line of each paragraph, like so...

Berlin was taken to her apartment, and met a woman still beautiful and powerful, but wounded by tyranny and the war...

By midnight, they were alone, sitting on opposite ends of her room...

By four in the morning, they were talking about the greats...

Deeper and deeper they talked, baring their souls...

In the next seven paragraphs of this thin newspaper column, Brooks discusses how spiritually ambitious people can experience that sort of life-altering conversation, and the "ideal of a certain sort of bond... that happens once or twice in a lifetime."

Please read David Brooks' essay, and enjoy the opportunities for real communication among friends or strangers who become friends, and perhaps capture "the numinous magic of that night" in your own life.