Wednesday, July 20, 2011

There Are Opinions, and Then There Are…

Regarding book reviews, I keep hearing: “Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion…” and “All opinions are valid, because you can’t argue with subjectivity.”

No, not everyone is entitled, and no, not all opinions are valid.

Everyone is allowed his or her feelings and beliefs. Opinions, on the other hand, need to be informed, well reasoned, and stated intelligently. If they are not, they are less than useless, they are harmful, and shouldn’t even be given a forum in which to be expressed, much less listened to and taken to heart.

Or this, posted on Twitter:

“I hate when people give your book a 3-star review because they don’t like the digital formatting. Was it a good book or not?”

Hey, Buddy! If you expect us to care about your words, you have to care about our total reading experience, and that includes the formatting!

The strongest and most lasting appeal of any story arises directly from only one source: the unified effect of the totality of the words. Distractions from that story, however, can come from several individual but interrelated sources, that also, interestingly enough, have to do with the words:

• bad spelling
• bad grammar
• incorrect punctuation
• inappropriate word usage
• incorrect information
• anachronisms
• bad storytelling involving
     - character development
     - setting
     - plot

Any of these can jolt the reader out of the story and into the “here and now” and, as a writer, that’s the very last thing that you want to happen. My teen-aged daughter, Hope Edwards (author of The Adventures of Dough Girl), will even stop reading a book in disgust if there are too many misspelled words.

If you—as the producer of the words, as the creator of the story—if you do not understand that fact, if you think that we who speak of the importance of spelling and punctuation and grammar are “nit picking” or are being “too fussy,” in short, if you just “don’t get it”… then no, you are not a good writer and, no, yours was not a good book.

Monday, July 18, 2011

New covers for “Memograms”

I have redesigned the front and back covers of my book, Memograms. I think that they now have a fresher, more professional look to them, and I have added review blurbs from Liz Alexander,The Book Doula (especially look at her Birth Your Book on Amazon), Steven Lewis of Talelist (a great site for Kindle publishing info), and from Kathleen Maher (author, Diary of a Heretic). I did a little tweaking of the front matter, also.

After I get it uploaded to the Kobo online store soon, I will be doing a more directed marketing campaign to increase exposure and sales. I’ll keep you posted.

Monday, July 11, 2011

What Would You Like to See In a Formatting How-To Book?

I am working now on my next book, From Idea to eBook: a 1-2-3-Easy Guide, and (since it’s an e-book itself) it’s relatively easy to add things as I go along, and that got me to thinking: I remember what I wanted to know as I was doing the formatting for the two books that I’ve published so far (Memograms and The Adventures of Dough Girl), and that’s what I’m putting in my book, but what would someone else want? What special problems have other people had? What really drives you guys crazy when it comes to getting your e-books formatted and ready to publish?

I ask that because I want my book to be as useful to as many people as possible. I’ve paid for and read a number of other formatting guides, and there have been bits and pieces of each that I have found useful, but no one of them completely addressed my particular needs. I had to find some answers in this one and some answers in that one. It was difficult and should have been unneccessary.

I want my book to be as complete and thorough a guide to basic e-book formatting as I can make it. So, I’m asking you now: What do you want in a formatting book?

Give me your answers by commenting, or by email. I’d love to hear from you.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Contest Winner

Our recent contest winner is fiction author Kathleen Maher, and her web site is called, “Diary of a Heretic.”

Her answer:

I’m popping by to say I looked up the quote: it’s from a 1950 movie, “Harvey,” with Jimmy Stewart. My mother used to love putting together “treasure hunts” for us kids; it sounds like something she might have said when we were begging for clues.

Kathleen’s prize was a free copy of my wordplay book, Memograms, for her Kindle.

Kathleen is a little unusual in that she doesn’t make you pay to try her writings. She posts her fiction, chapter by chapter, story by story, right there on her web site, for all to read and comment upon. I’ve started reading her and I find her opening sentences absolutely intriguing:

From Motivations:

From The Battered Child:
A month after his Emergency Contraception escapade, he still couldn’t guess.

From Plan B:

If those openings don’t make you want to know more, then you should just stick to reading soup can labels! Check out her work. You just might find yourself to be a fan.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Contest, Twitter Me @GallantPress

Well, I have a Twitter account now (@GallantPress), and I’m learning how to use it to connect with people—people I know, people I don’t know but would like to get to know, people I don’t know and from reading their Tweets would never want to know! I wasn’t breathlessly anxious to jump into Twitter at first, but I have to admit that there is a certain fascination in reading short things that various people find important enough to say to the world.

Anyway, I will be Tweeting “here and there, now and then, to this one and that one.” And the first person who Tweets me back, or comments here on my blog, with the correct source of that quote will get a prize. I’m not sure what, yet, since I just thought of this, but something trivial and commercially worthless (remember, it’s the thought that counts).

I will give you only one hint: it has nothing to do with anime.

And tell your friends, I’d love to start getting more followers.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Up and Ready

My book Memograms: The Fun Way to Remember Hard-to-Spell Words is now available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble online, and the Apple iBookstore. Click any of the links in the text above or on the pictures to the right to go to those stores. It’s only 99¢ everywhere.

I took the extra time to specially format my book to work on all reader devices and smart phones, so you shouldn’t have any trouble viewing it, whether you have an Android, a Blackberry, a Sony, a Kobo, a Nook, an iPad, or any of the desktop apps that simulate an eReader on your computer. And it works in either black-and-white or color.

One place that it is not available is Smashwords. That is deliberate on my part. The extra trouble that I take to format my books correctly is not available to me if I distribute through Smashwords. They insist that writers send them a Word file, which Smashwords then runs through their own formatting program called “The Meatgrinder.” The results (which I have repeatedly looked at in books from other authors) are… to put it politely… less than “ideal.” They’re sometimes even less than that. However, in all fairness to Mark Coker (the owner of Smashwords) and his team, that may be partially the fault of the authors and how they format the Word files that they send to Smashwords.

I have read post after post on blogs from people who are just crying because they are desperate to figure out how to do their formatting. They have tried this-and-that and are just lost! I’ve also read posts from other people who have told them this-and-that to (supposedly) help them out, and their directions sound like advanced physics.

To see if I can help to remedy the situation, I am writing a new book. It’s called From Idea to E-Book: a 1-2-3-Easy Guide. It will tell you how, in a series of easy step-by-step instructions, how you can format your book to be the best that it can be for the widest variety of devices. It is really not that hard to do, but it is specific! You can’t be sloppy. But, if you can follow simple directions exactly, you can do it, and I can help. I have been both a computer systems engineer and a teacher of computer classes. I know how to make computer programs work and I also know how to make computers users understand new concepts and new ways of doing things. So I think that, if you want to learn how to format an e-book, and the other places you’ve looked haven’t helped very much, my book will be for you.

I will keep you posted here how it’s coming along and when it will be ready. Stay tuned, and if you know of other people who might need a book like this, send them over here, too.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Memograms Is Published

My first e-book to be published is now available on Amazon and at Apple’s iBookstore, and it will be available on the Barnes & Noble web site in a few days. I’m also working on getting it on the Sony Reader Library and at Kobo. It’s called Memograms: The Fun Way to Remember Hard-to-Spell Words, and it’s published by my own publishing company, Gallant Press.

From the description: “Memograms: The Fun Way to Remember Hard-to-Spell Words is a collection of humorous mnemonics (memory-helpers) for 120 of the most difficult words to spell. Each word is presented with an accompanying anagram (a rearrangement of its letters) that is not only linguistically correct but is also sometimes eerily related to the original word (“aspirin” becomes “I sprain”). These are followed by an often funny sentence that uses both the original word and its anagram. Finally there is a short definition of the original word. All of which is designed to help the reader conquer some of the most formidable “spelling demons” in the English language.”

It costs 99¢ and is a great little book to have handy on your smartphone. If you have any particular words that just drive you crazy with their spelling (mine was “dictionary” for years), and if you’ve ever been in a situation where your spelling checker wasn’t helping you—they truly don’t always work and you sometimes find yourself without one available—there is a Memogram to help you. I’ve collected a first 120 of them here in this book; I’m working on volume two, More Memograms, now.

Check it out at Apple’s iBookstore (using the iBooks app) or at Amazon. Read the sample. Give it a shot. At 99¢ it’s hard to go wrong.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Book is Finished!

The children’s picture book that my daughter and I have written is finally done. It is at the last of the beta readers as I now work at gathering together all of the metadata (ISBN, official “subject” designation, etc.) that is required to send it to Apple for approval and placement for sale at the iBookstore. I also have to put together versions for other e-reading devices like the Barnes & Noble “Nook” (the “Nook Color” especially, since our book has color illustrations) and for the Amazon “Kindle.” It is 30 pages long, plus the front and back covers. Those 30 pages include the 22 pages of actual story and eight pages of ancillary information (author bio, etc.).

The official description of the book:

A gentle baker turns into Dough Girl, a superhero who flies off to help a girl named Meghan who is being made to eat unpalatable muffins that were made in a food factory from processed dough. This is a picture book enhanced with dialog and sound effects, which are accessed by touching the audio player controls visible on every illustrated page. Definitions and usage examples are available for any word of the text by merely touching the word on the screen. Ages: 4 to 10 years. Viewable on iPad or iPad2 only. Not compatible with any other device.

I will announce the date when it will be available to purchase when I get that from Apple, but I’m hoping for no later than May 19. That’s my daughter’s birthday.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Write Well, People

I couldn’t have said this better myself. Click on the link below:

Indies Need To Become Better Writers

Too many self-published writers are not doing enough to polish their professionalism.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I’ve Been Busy

I have been away from here for a few days because I have been busy finishing up my book. It is a children’s picture book (originally written by my daughter) about a baker who turns into a superhero. It’s titled, appropriately enough, The Adventures of Dough Girl.

 It’s an e-book formatted exclusively (for now, at least) for the Apple iPad. It’s in what Apple calls its “Fixed Layout EPUB Format” which displays a two-page horizontal view that is not changeable by the viewer. There is no changing of type size to re-flow the text. However, you can zoom the pages in and out, and scroll around.

It’s wonderful for picture books because you can have an illustration that goes the full two-page spread with the text blocks fixed—in position and typeface—anywhere on the page. That means that the book’s designer has as much freedom as with a paper-&-ink book.

My book is also enhanced with dialog and sound effects, which the viewer plays by touching the audio player controls on the page.

I will be telling more about it here as it gets closer to publication (sometime in May). Right now I’m getting my iBookstore account set up. I got the approval from Apple Monday, and I will be selling books directly through Apple’s iBookstore app. iPad users with an iTunes account can go there, buy the book, and download it immediately.

The plan is to also re-format it for the Kindle, the Nook, and other e-book readers. I’ll tell you more soon.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

“…an actual book.”

My teenaged daughter is a snob… sort of.

I’m not speaking here of Hope Edwards, my almost-fourteen-year-old whose cute-and-quirky comic strip, The Adventures of Dough Girl, I’m formatting into a picture book for the iPad. I’ve mentioned her elsewhere and will speak further of her upcoming book in a future post. I mean her twin sister, who is also a writer but who hasn’t chosen a pen name yet, whom I will refer to here as “Daughter.”

I was taking Daughter to tennis practice this morning and I asked how her writing was coming along. She said, “Fine,” so I mentioned that, whenever she felt that she had a book ready, I could publish it as an electronic book for the Kindle, or the Nook, or the iPad.

Her reply set me back:

“I’m not going to publish it as an electronic book before I get it published as an actual book.”

Well, that was the end of our conversation about writing; we went on to other things until I dropped her off at practice.

Frankly, I was surprised at Daughter’s response, at her seeming to be put off by modern technology. After all, we are a fairly technological family. We have our share of computers and cell phones, with which we are all quite comfortable. My wife and children, especially, do Facebook and Gmail and texting and all of that. So, yes, I was surprised.

I was a little saddened, too, because her remark expresses the all-too-prevalent view that a mass of writing is not a legitimate book unless it is printed with ink on paper. To be fair, Daughter may be a “monster of my own making.” We have tried to instill in all of our children a certain reverence for books. They are to be treated with respect as physical objects of value—don’t tear the pages, don’t throw them around, keep them clean—but also respected for what they contain: exciting and enjoyable stories, and also important and useful information. What she said, about the two paths to publication available to a writer today, clearly shows the strength of the grip that the traditional one still has on many writers. She said, in effect:

“I’m not going to publish it myself before I convince someone else to legitimize it by publishing it for me.”

Now, there is something to be said for a certain degree of “legitimization,” at least in the form of proofreading and editing (and virtually all self-published books could use a much heavier dose of proofreading and editing than they have been getting lately), but to think that it’s not a real book until it exists as ink on paper is shooting yourself in the foot, because any form of publication is better than none at all.

As other people have pointed out, writers are not makers of books, they are tellers of stories, either true stories or made-up stories. Furthermore, merely creating the story is only the first half of storytelling; the story has to reach an audience, either by being read or heard, for the act of storytelling to be completed, and denying yourself the ability to reach that audience because you believe that you have to wait until someone else says, “yes, you are allowed to pass this story along to others,” is not merely foolish. It’s sad.

It’s foolish because of the financial (or quasi-financial) aspect of it all. If the story doesn’t get published, the author gets no return, either of actual money or of something else of value: prestige, name recognition, personal satisfaction, etc.

It’s sad because, if that someone—that keeper of the publishing gate—says “no,” all of the writer’s effort—all of the “blood, toil, tears, and sweat,” as it were—that it has taken to get to that point, where the story is ready to make its way out into the world and rise or fall on its own merits, all of it will have been wasted.

Because a story never published is, in effect, a story never written.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The iPad and Children’s Literature

I believe that the iPad, from Apple, has the potential to be—if it is not already—a major platform for storytellers to reach children directly, bypassing the traditional, curated (and slow) publishing cycle.

I used to be the children’s department manager at a Barnes & Noble, my wife is currently the Lead Teacher at the Infant/Toddler Head Start program here where we live, and five of our children have been childcare workers of one kind or another (three still are, one at a Montessori school). We all believe that telling stories to, and with, children, starting when they are very young (even while prenatal), is the single most helpful activity that can be done to facilitate their language development.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The 99¢ Book

Joe Konrath on his blog today set his horror novel, Trapped, to 99¢ as a promotion so his fans could force him donate to the “First Book” reading program. In his blog he tells a little about “First Book” (looks like a great program), then he tells a little about Trapped.

You know what? I stopped right there. I didn’t read anything about the book.

Why? Because I don’t have to. I just went ahead and bought it. I don’t want to know anything ahead of time. I want the pleasure of the discovery. And how can I just go ahead and buy this book, about which I know nothing? Not because it’s only 99¢, but because the first book of Joe’s that I read was 99¢. He offered a teaser price on one of his books and that’s what got me. I said, “He writes in a genre that I often like; I'll try this one for 99¢” And I did. And I liked it. (It was Serial, by the way. *Content Warning* [sex, violence] for those of you who don’t know anything about it.) And I will buy more of his books. Not because of any particular price that they are now, but because Joe had the good sense to let me discover him at a bargain price, and now he has a paying fan. And isn’t that what all writers strive for?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Saturday, April 2, 2011

On Language

Precise language—good grammar and spelling and punctuation in our writing; clarity and proper pronunciation in our speech—these are the elements that make up the target at which we should all shoot. The closer we get to the bullseye the better our communication will be, to all readers and listeners, not only those who are highly educated. Few of us hit that bullseye with any regularity, but that should not stop any of us from taking aim.

Friday, April 1, 2011

A Writer’s Voice

Every writer has a voice; every voice has an audience. When the two find each other, it’s magical, like lovers, and it can last a lifetime.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

High Price/Low Price = Good Book/Bad Book?

Seth Godin had this to say on the subject today (his grammar is not perfect, but his thoughts are right on):

In general marketing, it’s called “perceived value.”

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Beginning a blog is daunting, in a way. One thinks: “Will I have enough to say that people will want to read it?”

Well, we shall find out.