Publishing Self-Publishing

Good for You, Seth Godin

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable by Seth GodinIn his current blog post, Moving On, author Seth Godin announced that Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? will be the last book he publishes in a traditional way.

Good for him. He’s experienced success in the traditional world and he understands what’s possible. He states, “…my mission is to figure out who the audience is, and take them where they want and need to go, in whatever format works, even if it’s not a traditionally published book.”

I’ve long believed that people who have something important to say and a defined audience to speak to are best served by maintaining control of their intellectual property and choosing the most effective means of distribution. For many authors, there remains the longing for a traditional stamp of approval, but the fact is, readers buy content and the Internet has leveled the playing field in a way that allows authors to reach a target audience as never before.

The twenty-first century stamp of approval is the consumer’s dollar, rather than a publishing house’s approval. This is a power shift that leaves authors in a far better place as long as they’re willing to adapt to the new reality and learn what they need to know. As I’ve written in previous musings on the subject, I believe it’s easier for non-traditionally-published non-fiction to find an audience than for fiction, but even that is changing.

When someone as pivotal as Seth Godin steps away from traditional publishing, it’s clear that the market has spoken.

And now, I’m going to read Linchpin.

Publishing Writing

If You Think You Want To Be Published, What Should You Do?

Want to be published? Learn about the industry!So, what do you do when you think you want to get something published?

Here are a few tips for where to start when you have something to say and want to see it in print.

Know your goals. Sometimes self-publishing is a better option than pursuing traditional publishing (if you’re writing a book that you want to give to prospective clients, for example, or if you’re writing the history of your family). Self-publishing done right can be cheaper, quicker, and easier– as long as it fits your goals. You can read a few more thoughts on deciding between traditional publishing and self-publishing at an earlier post.

If you’re serious about getting published, join a writers’ critique group and get feedback at a local level before submitting. Other writers can see things you’ve missed, ask questions that help you clarify what you’ve written, and just offer good advice for the journey. You don’t have to take all the advice you receive, but you’ll find your work strengthened by the exposure to feedback from other writers.

If you’re not absolutely confident that your grammar, punctuation, and word usage are extremely good, hire an experienced copyeditor to clean up your manuscript before you submit or self-publish. Traditional publishers want to see material that is close to publication-ready. Editing is time-consuming, so don’t expect to get a good job free (unless you’ve married an editor;-)).

If you want to be published traditionally, learn about the industry. Read writing magazines; read a lot of good work in your genre; get Writer’s Market and learn about the submission process; and go to writer’s conferences and workshops. In any field, it’s necessary to learn and practice the basics before you can expect to succeed. You probably wouldn’t expect to be hired as a symphony violinist if you’ve taken only six weeks of lessons, so it’s reasonable to assume that there’s a learning curve for the writing and publishing process as well.

Accept the fact that there are standard procedures and timetables in the publishing industry, and you can’t change them. Stephen King or J.K .Rowling may be able to get special treatment, but novice writers needn’t expect anything special. It pays to learn to learn about the industry so that you won’t accidentally sabotage yourself through impatience or lack of knowledge.

Get involved with the writing/editing/publishing industry. Join a writer’s association such as NAIWE, the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors, where you’ll learn a lot more about writing, editing, publishing, and marketing your work.

Finally, enjoy the process. It can be challenging and frustrating at times, but writing is worth it.

Books Inspiration Publishing Writing

Just Do Something: How to Escape the Slush Pile

Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoungI’ve been reading Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will or How to Make a Decision Without Dreams, Visions, Fleeces, Impressions, Open Doors, Random Bible Verses, Casting Lots, Liver Shivers, Writing In the Sky, Etc. by Kevin DeYoung. I picked it up at a recent conference, not because I have trouble with decision-making, but because I’m a sucker for a catchy title (there’s a lesson there for publishers).

It’s a solid little book that takes a serious look at the harm done by indecision, waffling, inconsistency, and the unwillingness to just put a hand to the proverbial plow and get moving. Spiritualizing indecision and inaction may make it more socially acceptable, but it doesn’t make it a more effective life strategy. Just Do Something is more than just a title, it’s a strategy that works.

How does this book relate to writing and escaping the slush pile? Take a minute to read Stephanie Blake‘s inspiring blog post, “How I (Finally) Got a Book Plucked From the Slush Pile,” to get a good look at exactly what “just do something” looks like in the writing world. Stephanie chronicles a year by year saga of her long road to publication heaven, and the thing that stands out is that she simply kept doing something.

Like many unpublished writers, she learned through the process–through slammed doors, frustrating rejections, and tantalizing “almosts.” She went to conferences, worked with agents, did revisions, and did it all again and again. She didn’t wait for the stars to align, for approval from others, or for anything else before she started sending out her work. She sent and sent and sent. She revised. She sent some more. Finally the miracle happened, and The Marble Queen was plucked from the slush pile and accepted.

If she hadn’t written this blog post, there would have been unpublished writers who commented enviously about luck and overnight success and people who get all the breaks (I know, I’ve heard all that– many times, and if you’ve been through Lucky Freelancer coaching with me, you’ll know exactly how to turn those excuses upside down). There’ll probably still be writers who say things like that, but that’s because they’re not out there doing something. They’re just a little too busy–way too busy–to do all that sending and revising and resending, but one day, just watch, they’ll get the call too. Or not.

The fact is that  just do something is the key to almost everything. The book is good too. I’ll be sharing it, so don’t be offended if I send it your way. Just do something!

Books Contest Multiple Streams Writing

Serendipity and the NAIWE Summer Challenge

I had a few rough ideas of what I’d like to accomplish for the NAIWE 2010 Get it Done Summer Challenge. If you haven’t checked it out, the three parts of the Challenge are:

  1. Read three books that will stretch your mind and inspire your creative spirit.
  2. Finish one project that’s been nagging at you for longer than you care to admit.
  3. Brainstorm a new project that will bring you an additional stream of income, then take the first step to make it happen.

NAIWE 2010 Get it Done Summer Challenge

I read Sheri McConnell’s Smart Women Know Their Why (see review in the preceding post) for the first of my three books, and have a teetering stack from which I can choose the remaining two official Challenge books. This is the easiest part, because I know that before summer is over, I’ll have read quite a few more than three books. I schedule morning and evening reading times so that I can bracket each day in knowledge, inspiration, and sometimes, just plain fun.

The second element of the Challenge was to finish a nagging project. I finished a huge one just a few weeks ago, so considered counting it and coasting on this option. However, another nagging project has been to learn more about financial management, retirement planning, and all that goes into being a good steward of resources. So that got added to the list for Part 2 of the Challenge.

The final challenge piece is where serendipity kicked in. I brainstormed a great list of projects that could bring in an additional stream of income (some of them would also qualify as nagging projects), and was trying to decide which to pursue when a brand-new project dropped into my lap. Serendipitously, it happens to fulfill not only the final element of the Challenge, but the second as well.

For Part 3 of the NAIWE challenge, I’ll be producing a book on personal finance and estate planning. I just love serendipity! The author has provided a large collection of written work that needs to be transformed into a book and prepared for publication (compilation, editing, layout, cover, etc.). I’ve begun to work with it, and I can already tell I’m going to learn a lot about finance. It’s also going to be a very large project with a very short deadline, so I’m scheduling the rest of the summer pretty tightly. I’m grateful to have such an interesting project come my way, and doubly delighted at the serendipity of it all.

So…what are you doing for the NAIWE Summer Challenge?

Books Inspiration Review

Review: Smart Women Know Their Why by Sheri McConnell

Smart Women Know Their Why by Sheri McConnellI read quite a few business books, and over the years I’ve found that there’s a common denominator in the ones that stick with me. These are the books in which the author digs deep, gets personal, and shares what’s really worked and what hasn’t. Sheri McConnell’s latest book, Smart Women Know Their Why: The Guide for Discovering Your Life Purpose While Owning a Business So You Can Create Positive Change In the World (and Make Big Profits!, is just such a book.

Sheri understands that without an undergirding purpose and a passion for service, entrepreneurs can create a business that is just another job. Purpose is your reason for being at the time and place you are in this world; passion is what carries you through life’s challenges; and a business is the vehicle that helps you share your purpose with others. Sheri walks readers through the process of discovering life purpose and teaches how to think entrepreneurially and create a business that fulfills that purpose.

What makes Smart Women Know Their Why different from many “purpose” books is that Sheri unapologetically believes that profit is good, because it helps individuals share their purpose and passion with others. What makes it different from many other business books  is that it’s purpose-focused, and written by a mom who has built a seven-figure business from the ground up, working from home.

Throughout the book, Sheri shares her personal journey– an amazing story of transformation that will strip away any excuses you might have for not being able to succeed. I have observed Sheri’s journey over the past few years. From her very first little e-mail newsletter for women writers, Sheri has focused on creating something that would help other women grow and succeed. Smart Women Know Their Why fulfills that purpose–I recommend it.

You can read two sample chapters and order Smart Women Know Their Why at

Words Writing

Great Rules of Writing, Possibly by William Safire

I occasionally want to refer someone to these amusing “rules,” so I decided to post them here for future reference. Enjoy!

  • Do not put statements in the negative form.
  • And don’t start sentences with a conjunction.
  • If you reread your work, you will find on rereading that a great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.
  • Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.
  • Unqualified superlatives are the worst of all.
  • De-accession euphemisms.
  • If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
  • Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
  • Last, but not least, avoid cliches like the plague.

I believe they were written by William Safire, but am not positive. If you know for sure, please feel free to comment!

Inspiration Writing

How to Read a Writing Magazine

I was lucky enough to pick up a few gently used writing magazines from our library’s give-away basket a couple of weeks ago. As I read them, I was reminded of the college textbooks I’ve occasionally bought and sold online. Often, when I’ve purchased a textbook from a user who mentioned getting an “A” in the class, the book has been in “acceptable” condition. There is writing in the margines, sticky notes fluttering from various pages, and very obvious signs of use. In contrast, I’ve also received books in pristine condition with unblemished pages, sharp corners on the covers, and no sign of ever having been opened.

Somehow, I feel that the crisp, near-new magazines I picked up and those unused textbooks have a lot in common.  In order to benefit from the knowledge and experience in any book or magazine, I’ve found that I have to interact with it. I need to read, absorb, analyze, perhaps argue, and finally, I need to apply what fits. Readers who are unwilling to “mess up” a clean page with notes and underlining may be missing essential knowledge.

Just think: If someone makes a habit of sitting down to a meal, glancing at every dish, perhaps tasting one or two, then getting up and clearing everything away, that person wouldn’t be healthy for long. Similarly, someone who skims a writing magazine isn’t going to have a healthy writing career until he or she chooses to absorb and apply available knowledge.

If you want to get the most out of a writing magazine, here are seven suggestions:

  1. Read the table of contents. Most magazines offer an annotated TOC that previews each article so that you can quickly identify those that might be most helpful. As you read articles, you can jump back to the TOC and rate them so that you’ll be able to find them again later.
  2. Have your idea notebook nearby so that you can record any ideas sparked by things you read.
  3. After reading the TOC, start at the beginning and read the whole magazine, including the editor’s letter, letters from readers, and short tips and features. There are reasons for each to be there, and you may find exactly the information you need tucked into an unexpected spot.
  4. Don’t glance at an article title and assume you know what an author is going to say. Arrogance is one of the most common reasons for missing great information.
  5. Don’t skip articles about things you don’t write. Even if you write only travel articles, for example, an article about poetry can help you write in a more evocative way.
  6. Make notes in the margins of articles and underline important thoughts. This will help you find significant points if you want to review them in the future.
  7. Use sticky notes to flag articles or other items that inspire you to action. If you read about an agent that might be a good fit for your work, flag the page. If there’s mention of a website you want to check, a book you’d like to read, or anything else that requires action, flag it.

It’s nice to be able to sell a pristine textbook or give away an almost new magazine, but the really valuable book or magazine is the one that has been read, absorbed, and used. To extract the most good from your writing magazines, study them and make them your own. You can’t become a writer just by reading a magazine, but you can become a better writer by actively learning from others who know something that you don’t know.

If you’ve reached the stage when you feel that you know all you need to know, do a quick career check. If you’re living the writing life you’ve always wanted, earning the income you believe you’re worth, then you may be right. If not, keep learning and growing. There’s almost always room for improvement!

Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested:

that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously,

and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.

Francis Bacon

Places/Conferences Words

Malice Domestic 2010: A Post-Mortem

To say I enjoyed my first Malice Domestic seems a bit of an understatement. Hard to believe I can write it off on my taxes! Here are a few notes:

I enjoyed seeing the honored guests, Mary Higgins Clark and William Link, willingly and graciously interacting with fans and other authors. Despite many successful years in the business (it’s not as if they need to market themselves as unknown authors must do), they seem to still enjoy and appreciate the respect and affection with which they’re regarded, and they gave generously of their time. Both seemed to have a great sense of humor and an indefatigable zest for telling great stories.

Malice Go-Round: It’s Like Speed-Dating With Authors was a lot of fun. Audience members sat at tables, and as a moderator started the time, a pair of authors would come to the table and pitch their books (one at a time, about a minute each) and hand out goodies such as bookmarks, candy, and even a cupcake-shaped lipgloss. It was loud, crazy, and a great introduction to the newer authors. I made three piles of handouts– buy now, buy later, and maybe not. It was nice but dangerous that the dealer room was right around the corner so we could purchase books immediately.

From the Poison Lady, Luci Zahray, I learned that I have enough toxins growing wild in my yard to paralyze half the county. And enough in my medicine basket to kill most of the state. Fortunately, I’m pretty busy this month, so you’re probably safe. Great way to kill off a character, though.

In a panel discussing how tough topics can be addressed in cozy mysteries, I observed once again how “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” Not too many people have feedlots and bovine growth hormones, schoolyard bullying, or prescription drug abuse on their recreational reading list, but if they read cozies, they learn about them in a context and way that makes them understandable and real. The authors on this panel, Avery Aames-M, JoAnna Carl, Kate Collins, Katherine Hall Page, and Maggie Sefton, were passionate about their topic, and they’ve chosen an excellent way to share their concerns.

The Whydunit panel (Pat Remick-M, Joan Boswell, Ellen Hart, Louise Penny, and Cynthia Riggs) discussed motives. Unfortunately, I was standing in back as room monitor, so didn’t get notes. The idea that sticks with me from this session is that every character must have a “why.” Even the most despicable criminal has a reason for his/her behavior, and it’s up to the author to convey this convincingly.

The Red Herring panel (Jane K. Cleland-M, Peggy Ehrhart, Betty Hechtman, Tracy Kiely, and Joanna Campbell Slan) had a great list of possible red herrings that could misdirect a reader’s attention. The critical thing here was that red herrings must seem like clues until the end, and authors must play fair with the reader. It was interesting to hear what sort of misdirection each author used– there are a lot more available than just the classics!

In the Thrills and Chills panel (Debbi Mack-M, Austin S. Camacho, Barbara D’Amato, John F. Dobbyn, Thomas Kaufman) the panelists each read a bit from their book. I headed directly to the dealer’s room to buy two of the books (and no, I’m not telling which!). It was interesting to hear how each of the writers settled on The Idea That Must Be Written, and the way that each approached the writing process. One of the panelists (John Dobbyn, if I remember correctly) offered a very helpful definition: A cozy mystery or puzzle story keeps the mind racing; a thriller keeps your heart racing. It’s important to know which you’re writing!

The Town and Country panel (Clyde Linsley-M, Lila Dare, R.J. Harlick, Con Lehane, Ilene Schneider) focused on how setting affects what you write and how you write it. Each author strategically chose his or her setting to frame the characters in the story. There’s a lot of truth in “you are where you live,” and while human nature has common elements, plot twists are necessarily affected by setting. A small town provides different motives and opportunities for murder and sleuthing than does a big city. If you’re going to write a mystery, be sure you like your setting (and your characters)!

Agatha Awards

I tweeted these (with a couple of typos) as they were announced at the Agatha Banquet, so if you are one of my Twitter followers, you got it almost live. Being there was such fun, as the crowd was enthusiastic and supportive.
  • Best Children’s/Young Adult: The Hanging Hill by Chris Grabenstein
  • Best Short Story: “On the House” by Hank Phillippi Ryan
  • Best Nonfiction: Dame Agatha’s Shorts by Elena Santangelo
  • Best First Novel: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
  • Best Novel: The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny

The goodie bags we received upon arrival were delightful– 11 new books, copies of Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock mystery magazines, a wonderful “Malice at-a-glance” mini-guide, and a nice program with good articles. I wondered why there was a second nice big tote bag included in the goodie bag, but I found out. Not only did we collect endless bookmarks and memorabilia from authors, there was the book swap at the end. People and publishers put out give-away books, and you could take what you wanted to read.

Contributors to the goodie bags were Felony & Mayhem Press, Simon & Schuster, Berkeley Prime Crime, Obsidian Mysteries, Crippen and Landru, American Girl Press, Harper Collins Publishers, Minotaur Books, Midnight Ink, Poisoned Pen Press, Soho Press, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. I’m grateful to each of them for supporting the conference and helping to make it a very special event.

One final note: Covers matter. During the Malice-Go-Round, I heard of several books that sounded great. I went to look at them in the dealer area, and bought a few. Others sounded great, but the cover was somehow unappealing, and when I saw it, I didn’t even feel like picking it up to read the back.

I did buy one book that sounded good in the pitch and had a horrible, self-published-looking cover. The author did a great job pitching and the storyline was unusual, so I bought it despite the hideous cover. The cover was so embarrassingly bad that when I was reading it over lunch, I made sure it wasn’t visible to other diners. I realize that I’m a very visual person, so it may not matter as much to someone else, but whatever you do, just hope that your publisher hires a great cover artist. If it hadn’t been for the author pitching it live, I’d have never picked it up.

Malice Domestic involves a lot of volunteer hours. Thanks to the dedication and hard work of board members and many others, it’s a delightful event and well worth the trip (the vendors are great too). Next year’s Malice will be April 29-May 1, and will be held in Bethesda, MD. Enjoy!


Emyl Jenkins: I’ll Miss You

Emyl Jenkins, author of the Sterling Glass mystery series.It’s always a shock to pick up a newspaper and find a friend’s face looking out from under a headline such as “Author, writing mentor Emyl Jenkins, 68, dies.” It wasn’t that we were super-close everyday friends– we mostly met at writing events. Emyl, you see, was special. She was the first person who introduced herself when I first joined James River Writers, and I discovered that once she knew someone, she was never too busy to chat. We exchanged occasional e-mails and enjoyed catching up when whenever we met.

I enjoyed Emyl’s sense of humor in her two Sterling Glass mysteries, The Big Steal and Stealing with Style, and I’m glad I have them in my library (you can read a review of the first one at my NAIWE blog). They’ll always remind me of their author, a gracious Southern lady whose warmth and kindness brightened Richmond for far too short a time.

Requiescat in pace, Emyl. Thank you for everything.

Contest Writing

NaPiBoWriWee- Another Crazy Challenge

National Picture Book Writing Week, the brainchild of author Paula Yoo, is scheduled for May 1-7. I’m planning to participate, even though I’ll be at at Malice Domestic for the first couple of days. If you’re going to participate, leave a comment below, or stop back by during the week. I’d love to hear how it’s going.

Here are a few excerpts from the press release announcing the event:

In the spirit of National Novel Writing Month (“NaNoWriMo”) where people across the country try to write a complete novel in one month, the fine folks at have decided to start the first ever National Picture Book Writing Week, affectionately nicknamed “NaPiBoWriWee.”

The goal? To write 7 picture books in 7 days.

To summarize, the basic rules:

1. Midnight May 1st to 11:59 p.m. May 7th: Write 7 separate and complete picture books.

2. You are NOT allowed to write the same picture book in 7 variations. Each book must be complete and separate.

3. No minimum word count. Instead, each book must have a clear beginning, middle and end.

4. You are allowed to brainstorm and research book topics before May 1st. Outlines are acceptable. First draft writing is NOT. Do NOT write your books before May 1st – only brainstorming, taking notes, and outlining are allowed.

5. You are NOT allowed to write a single word of your draft until midnight May 1st.

6. There is NO minimum word count required. The fine folks of NaPiBoWriWee require nothing but your word of honor. We will embrace the Honor Code. If you say you have written 7 complete picture book drafts in 7 days, we will believe you. Besides, why would you lie to us? You’re writing picture books for little children! Picture Book Authors are nice, honest people who would never lie!

7. Please register on in order to write comments on Paula’s blog every day with your progress and questions. Go here for help:

8. If you plan to blog about your NaPiBoWriWee journey, please include a link to:

9. Several winners will be chosen from random of all the people who comment from May 1-7 on or who email me to request to be on the drawing list at paula at paulayoo dot com. Winners will receive an autographed copy of my books “SHINING STAR: THE ANNA MAY WONG STORY” (Lee & Low Books 2009)  and “SIXTEEN YEARS IN SIXTEEN SECONDS: THE SAMMY LEE STORY” (Lee & Low ’05), along with items from our NapiBoWriWee Store( and a couple of surprise autographed book prizes from special guest authors!

10. For those of you attending the national Society of Children Book Writers & Illustrators( conference in August, let me know and I’ll arrange for an informal gathering during the conference so we can meet in person and celebrate our first NaPiBoWriWee!