Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Costs of Self-Publishing a Book

Brrr! Come on in out of the cold wind. This cold spell is busily announcing the first week of December. Order yourself a hot drink and listen to Mary Babic as she continues to educate us on the cost of publishing.

"Book publishing costs arise from three areas and the costs can be substantial in all three whether you traditionally publish or self-publish. Here's the story on each cost area:

"1. WritingIf you publish with an established publisher, they may pay for most of the editorial costs, but you may still be responsible for some. For example, you will still spend money for book proposal coaching if you need it or for someone to write the proposal for you. You may also want to hire your own editor before you send the manuscript to the publisher. You pay any costs associated with permissions and indexing. In addition, if you make too many changes once the book has been designed, you may be asked to shell out more money for some of the corrections.

"2. PublishingIf you publish with an established publisher, you won't incur the costs of production. But if you self-publish, you must consider the expense of book design and layout, book cover design including back cover copy, prepress production, indexing, proofreading, and printing. After books are ready for sale, there are the charges of carrying inventory (unless you use a print-on-demand process), packing, and shipping (although shipping costs are ultimately passed on to the purchasers).

"3. MarketingEven if you use an established publisher, you will be responsible for most of your own promotions and any travel you do to represent the book. For the vast majority of books, a publisher will allocate a budget of $1,000 or less for marketing the book, and that just isn't enough. The publisher may also do some collaterals—bookmarks, event posters, one-sheet flyers—but generally very few.

Here is a rough estimate of the expenditure to produce a professional-quality soft cover book in which you do most of the writing and you self-publish:

  • Expected editing costs:    $2,000
  • Self-publishing production, book interior
    design, and layout:    $2,500
  • Proofreading:     $750
  • Indexing:     $500
  • Cover design, listings, print prep:     $3,000
  • First Printing:     $600
    (200 review copies at $3 per book,
    high-quality, on-demand)
  • Collateral materials for book events:    $2,000
  • Small book launch publicity effort:
    press releases and follow-up to trade journals
    and targeted media, some local speaking
    and exhibiting:     $3,000 to $5,000


"You can expect to spend $10,000 to $15,000 and up to self-publish a book and do some modest marketing with increased cash outlay for any additional help you need. Of course, you can spend a lot more at each stage of the process if you don't find a high-quality professional to work with the first time and have to redo some of the original work.

"If you have any questions please visit"

Thank you, Mary. It always helps to understand the bottom line. Counting the cost before we commit to spending the money will take some of the stress out of our decisions.

Next time I want to talk about money coming in, not money going out. Isn't that a pleasant thought?! So keep writing…

Monday, November 22, 2010

What’s Money Got to Do with It? Part 1

Here I come, tardier than last time I visited. Some days just don't seem long enough at this time of year.

I hope you find a few minutes to join me today. Thanksgiving week starts a season of so many opportunities to celebrate that finding time to sit and think about writing may be difficult. I've asked Mary Babic to share her perspective about the financial costs inherent in getting your work published. (Mary is a professional author's assistant.) So, sit back with a cup of something refreshing and see what Mary has to say.

"Big chain stores and have significantly changed the publishing industry over the past decade. The good news for the consumer: Books are less expensive and more readily available than ever. regularly discounts 30 percent off the retail price of books.

Where does this 30 percent come from? It comes directly from the publisher's profits and ultimately from the author's royalties. Industry statistics estimate that only 10 percent of books published are profitable to both publishers and authors. Because this leaves about 90 percent of books that either break even or lose money, publishers have decreased their costs in order to stay in business. Cost reduction usually takes the form of offering fewer services to authors, especially first-time authors. Unfortunately, they are essential services that formerly helped increase the odds of success. For instance:

  • Publishers now give surprisingly little editorial guidance. Writers must be able to communicate and organize their ideas in a marketable way, a skill authors must develop, but at a cost. Usually the cost balances between time and money - learning as you go or getting expert help. Your time is valuable, so even something "free" has an "opportunity cost." (An opportunity cost is the money you might have brought in if you had some other work that you know how to do.)

  • Writers face the significant hurdle of having to market their books. Even if an author writes an outstanding book, without the help of a promotions expert, the book may only sell a few hundred copies. A promotions expert for a modest marketing plan can cost the author $3,000 to $5,000.

Because publishers are no longer able to help bridge the gap between author and reader, the author must be able to invest her time or have the budget to hire the help she needs. Of course, this assumes she can find the right people. The learning curve is so high for a first book that most writers end up frustrated. If they're willing to tough it out, though, they may be more successful with a second book…or they'll never try again."

As many aspiring writers and emerging authors learn, getting a traditional publisher's contract may not mean the cash flows in. Getting a well-written book published and marketed can require more money flowing out than you originally expected. If commercial success is your goal, then be prepared to put money into the machine before you get any results. This can be a risky business with no guarantee of success.

Thank you, Mary. If you want to drop by Mary's web site and check out her services, then go to Next time, Mary will look at the self-publishing costs in part two of "What's Money Got to Do with It?"

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Giving Away 3,000 Copies of a Book, Part 2

Dare I show my face in the coffee shop? It's been over a month since I've come in. Anyone who has spent time in a hospital emergency room, doctors' offices and surgery waiting room will understand when I tell you that I would much rather have spent time with you than in the places I've been frequenting. I'm glad to be back.

Now to catch up.

I want to share with you some of the things I've done in giving away copies of my book. (As of today, I've given away 2,641 copies.)

  1. I keep an eye open for unexpected opportunities. I attended a women's prayer group where I met the director for one of the local National Day of Prayer events. I gave her two cases to give away at the event. When I heard about our local Christian radio station's fund-raiser, I gave them a case to give as thank you gifts for volunteers.
  2. I give a copy to my neighbors. One of my neighbors took twelve for the prayer group at her church.
  3. I offer a copy to the people with whom I do business. The bank teller to whom I gave one copy eventually took 100 for her church. One of the clerks at the drugstore has given away at least 150.
  4. I sent a copy to the people on my Christmas card list. Distant relatives and old friends were happy to get a copy of my book.
  5. I gave away copies through and These give-away programs resulted in terrific reviews and ratings. Copies have gone to Canada, Malaysia, India, and other countries.
  6. I look for ministries that could use my book. A pastor in Oregon is using twenty copies to teach a Sunday School class. A women's prison ministry in Massachusetts took 100 copies to use in their correspondence class on prayer. A friend took sixty copies to Haiti for teaching English in a private high school.
  7. I ask for help. When I give away one book, I always asked the person to help me give away more. That resulted in my sister's church giving away 150 on Mother's Day. A close friend has given away almost 300 copies.
  8. I give away copies at prayer workshops. Two family members and I hold prayer workshops around the city. I include a free copy of the book for each person who attends.

Conventional wisdom says that giving away my book would devalue it. I have found the opposite to be true. People in whom the prayers strike a spark value it highly and want their friends to have a copy. This ripple effect of a reader sharing the news with others pushes me toward my goal of giving away 3,000 copies of Changing Me, Change the World.

If you want a free copy, send me an email (at lynndaell [at] live [dot] com), with "Coffee House" in the subject line and your name and mailing address in the body of the message.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Giving Away 3,000 Copies of a Book, Part 1

Welcome back!

This season has been busier than I expected. What happened to the lazy days of summer? You may not have all day to spend, here in the coffee shop, but I hope you stay long enough to read about my unexpected marketing plan.
  • Marketing a book can be expensive.
  • An emerging author who personally publishes a book has a high barrier to getting out the word.
That sums up everything I knew about marketing when I published Changing Me, Change the World with WestBow Press, last December. Granted, part of the publishing package I purchased contained marketing elements, but the marketing elements were the most basic ones. I received worldwide channel distribution, book representatives working to sell to Christian book buyers, and an ad in their catalog. Because I was one of WestBow Press' first five customers, Changing Me, Change the World was available on in January, but the book was publicized only in WestBow Press' on-line bookstore until their spring catalog was issued. (I won't see any results from that publicity for at least another month.)

When I wrote a proposal for my book in the querying stage, I identified actions that I would take to market Changing Me, Change the World if I could find a publisher:
  • Schedule book signings at the bookstores in the area
  • Read book selections in public libraries
  • Seek opportunities to speak in other churches
  • Solicit interviews with the local newspaper's religious editor and/or books editor
  • Exhibit and sell books at the state book festival
  • Solicit an interview on the local Christian radio station

I intended to use this list as a basic marketing plan when I personally published the book. Then, I sprained my knee – twice in two weeks – and that delayed all my plans. It also gave God time to get my attention.

Through a series of circumstances (as in God providing the money and the opportunity), I was able to purchase 3,000 copies of Changing Me, Change the World. (WestBow Press does not require an author to purchase books, but they give an author the opportunity to buy copies of the book at a graduated discount. The way discount pricing for an author is structured, I had just enough money to buy 3,000 copies, but not fewer.)

So here I sat - an emerging author with no platform, a sprained knee, and 3,000 books.

Before I purchased the books, I knew that I bought them to give away, even though conventional wisdom says that giving away my book would devalue it. (One of my foundational beliefs is that I can't out-give God.) If God wanted me to bless people by giving them copies of Changing Me, Change the World, then giving away 3,000 copies would not devalue the book. Instead it would be the perfect way to promote my book and send out the message He gave me.

My biggest problem is that I don't know 3,000 people! In spite of that, I've given away 2,171 copies of the book in fifteen weeks. Next time, I'll share some of the things I've done to reach that point.

While you're waiting, if you want to help me reach my goal of giving away 3,000 copies, you can ask for one or more copies. Just send me an email (lynndaell [at] live [dot] com), with "Coffee House" in the subject line and your name and mailing address in the body of the message.

And as always, keep writing.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The World of Personal Publishing, Part 2

Welcome! I'm not surprised to see you here, today. Finding a cool spot to have an icy drink is the only way to ride out this heat wave.

I've asked Kristen Hackett from to join us, again. Last time, she described the concept and the purpose behind their new business. Today, I've asked her to explain how makes the connection between the authors who participate in their site and the readers. This is an important part of the picture for writers who want to find an audience for their work. Kristen, you have our attention.

"We developed a two-tiered marketing approach. Since is a relatively new business, we needed to inform authors of the opportunity to open their own virtual bookstores. Using social media, events and paid advertising with Publisher's Weekly and Writer's Digest, we began building our author base. In the few months that has been available, over 900 authors have signed up.

The highlight of this marketing program was the Great American Author competition, which just ended. Three winning authors will be announced on in August. These winners will have their books featured in our first television commercial. The television commercial will officially launch our marketing program to attract the readers to We are also switching much of our social media efforts over to attracting readers now that the contest is over. is becoming the new hot marketplace for writers and readers."


Thank you, Kristen.

Not too long ago, writers had only two options for getting their work published: being accepted by a traditional publishing company or using what has always been called a vanity press. Both options resulted in ink-and-paper books. The synergy of readily available computers, the internet, and publishing visionaries has changed that picture so much that it is hardly recognizable. Jeff Kagan expressed his frustration with the new environment in a comment to a Wall Street Journal article: "…As a successful businessman who is writing a book I find myself swimming in a sea of new ideas, competing claims and confusing choices as I try to understand this changing marketplace. This new world creates unlimited new opportunities, but for authors trying to decide which way to go it can be maddening."

The article on which Mr. Kagan commented is entitled 'Vanity' Press Goes Digital. I highly recommend that you read it - carefully. It offers a number of "expert" opinions on the way the whole industry will shake out – some of them contradictory.

The one idea on which all the experts appear to agree is that traditional publishing companies have lost control of the industry. A writer has much more control over their work with this new paradigm, but with control comes the need for business savvy. As Mr. Kagan explained, even a successful executive may have difficulty in finding his way. This is a time for all of us to continue learning as much as we can about the business of publishing while we keep on polishing our writing skills.

We'd love to hear about your recent activity with publishing your book. Please leave a comment.

In the meantime, keep writing.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The World of Personal Publishing, Part 1

Wow! Half of the year is gone all ready. What happened? Take a look at your writing goals for the year. Sherry, you may get extra inspiration from your copy of Publish Your Nonfiction Book. I drew your name to receive a free copy. (Please contact me at lynndaell[at]live[dot]com so that I can mail it to you.)
The rest of us can sit back with an icy beverage and dare to dream. According to Kristen Hackett, our guest writer for today, all you need is a Word.doc and a dream to publish your book.

-------------------------------------------- is a Personal Publishing site created for authors, BY authors.  The site launched earlier this year, but it has been in development for over a year as the founders saw a real need for a place for authors to gather, share stories, and publish their work.  We felt the future of publishing would be changing.  Had to change.  To benefit authors - the very people who create the stories people want to read. is not a vanity press, but a place for Personal Publishing, a place that creates a 360-degree experience in publishing, providing unique value to independent authors, published authors and their readers.

The site offers independent authors the opportunity to create eBooks, audio books and printed books.  And control each of those aspects.  The site offers the opportunity to connect with like-minded writers and readers.  And offers personal service via an array of options to help authors with all aspects of their book:  from forums to talk with other authors about ideas and issues, to logistical assistance with printing their books (including copyright filings, editors and proofreaders, an audio book creator, epub conversions, cover art creators and more) to marketing their books.  All in one location.  All so simple to use.  All to help writers fulfill their dream. also offers readers a connection to authors that becomes a personal experience.  We feed their sense of discovery with books they may never have found had it not been for

 We know there are other sites out there that are similar - but we feel our personal approach sets us apart, as does the fact that we are writers.  We have firsthand experience with what writers go through to publish their work.  We feel the ease of use of the site is key to writers (we are as easy to use as Facebook!).  And we are continuously looking for services that will help writers.  We just launched a FREE epub conversion software and an audio book creator.  Two more services that give writers what they need.

We are a group of people that love to write. We love to read. And we wanted to create a community where authors and readers could forge a more personal relationship, where authors didn't have to pay to publish, a place that READERS KNOW ABOUT, a place that could enhance the craft of writing in the digital age.

Please look at and let us know what you think. We value all the feedback we get and strive to make the site better every day.


As Kristen's article states, the Internet gives writers multiple options for publishing their works. If you have used, or any independent publishing site, we welcome you to share your opinion about your experience.

In the meantime, keep writing.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Grand Opening: The Emerging Writer Reading Room

I am so glad that you stopped by for a few minutes. This is a special day. We've already had the ribbon cutting, but pick up a piece of strawberry shortcake before you go in The Emerging Writer Reading Room. On Center Stage, you will see the first book displayed.

 I chose Sharlene Martin and Anthony Flacco's book, Publish Your Nonfiction Book, for several reasons. First of all, this book rocks. Every time I pick it up, I find timely and useful information. Second, the book has wide appeal to everyone in our community. Finally, all followers of the blog (as of the end of June) are eligible to have his or her name drawn for a free copy. (Previous book winners in 2010 are not eligible.)

So, pick up a fork and a napkin and go see what you think. I'm open to all suggestions for improvements to the room.
In case you haven't noticed, the July/August issue of Writer's Digest is on the newsstands. If your nonfiction genre' is memoir, then you really ought to buy a copy and read the feature articles. I'll give you some snippets:
On the market – "Demand for the genre' doesn't seem to be fading, so that means there's still room to break in."
On baiting the hook – "Finding your hook is about presenting your story in a marketable and interesting fashion that best displays your skill and strengths as a writer."
On floating the arc – "Back then I hadn't even heard of an arc. Now I know it's the emotional framework of a memoir.
On the rough water – "To write an effective, authentic, cohesive memoir, you'll likely need to revisit or even relive the pain you'd rather forget."
On legal torpedoes – "Your best defense is to understand – before you publish your work – the legal issues that apply when you're writing about real people: namely defamation and invasion of privacy."

 Writer's Workbook in this issue of Writer's Digest has one of the best definitions on dialogue that I've read. In Building Tension to Heighten the Stakes by Jessica Page Morrell, she states, "Dialogue is not conversation. It is conversation's greatest hits." That summarizes beautifully all the tips I've read about dialogue. Much of real world conversation revolves around mundane subjects – the weather, the traffic, a bad-hair-day - all things that can bore our readers.

My final announcement: If you plan to be in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area next month, you might want to attend the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference. This three-day conference is scheduled for July 23 – 25, 2010. The Friday night keynote address on writing memoir will be presented by Mary Karr, author of Liar's Club. Who knows, you might see me there.

 Until next time, keep writing.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Community Spotlight #8

Come in. Come in! Whether you are escaping from the downpour of heat and humidity or from the rising thunderheads on the horizon, come in. As one forecaster says, "We're in the season for active weather."

Our coffee shop is a haven against the elements – and no newspapers allowed. Like Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind, I'll think about all those horrible headlines tomorrow. Unless your writing assignment requires the latest news be part of your focus, put that aside and join us for a few minutes. Pour your favorite beverage and relax. Take this time to meet some new members of our community.

Let me introduce Jennifer Perry. Jennifer doesn't seem to write a blog. I understand the reason for that. Jennifer loves to read blogs about dogs. She follows at least twenty! I would be totally unsurprised to discover that she is writing a book about dogs. So tell us, Jennifer, do you blog about your own dogs?

Newcomer Richard Grayling adds another adjective to our writer descriptive lexicon: struggling – as in Struggling Author, the title of the community blog he co-hosts. (Richard lives in the U.K.) Drop by his site. He just announced a new youTube channel for authors. Welcome, Richard.

Now meet Bobbi Linkemer, book writing coach, ghostwriter, editor, and the author of 14 books. She is also the nonfiction editor for Scribe & Quill, award-winning Internet e-zine. Her blog is The Writing Life where you must go immediately and read her two of her latest articles. The June 3rd article is on self-publishing lessons learned. The May 18th subject is a marketing outline that is the best list I've seen. Awesome.

New member, Galen Schroeder, calls himself Dakota Indexing, which is also the name of his web site and business. Having Mr. Schroeder join the community emphasizes another unique facet of this blog. Indexing is not something with which most writers of fiction books need concern themselves. Nonfiction writers, on the other hand, usually write books that gain by having a well-developed index. Welcome to the community, Galen. You'll notice if you look in the column on the right that I have added Dakota Indexing to our recommended sites list.

Here is Mike10613, a young man from England that has an explosion of interests – including all computer related and Internet related technologies - and writing a book. You can find Mike at his Home Page.

Now that we've met the newest members of our community, I have one more item I want to spotlight: Sharlene Martin is presenting a new webinar on 10 Secrets to a Winning Book Proposal. (Remember that I will draw one name at the end of the month for a free copy of Sharlene's new book, PUBLISH YOUR NONFICTION BOOK: Strategies for Learning the Industry, Selling Your Work and Building a Successful Career.) Writers' Digest is hosting this webinar on June 17, 2010. Link here to see the details.

That's all for now. Keep writing…

Thursday, June 10, 2010 Update

Welcome! The weather outside is sizzling, so we’re drinking iced versions of our favorite beverages, today. Find a chair and listen as David Nicholls, CEO of, gives us the latest news about his on-line bookstore of eBooks.

---------------------------------------------- commenced in February this year, I view the last few months with mixed emotions. A sense of pride that an idea, emanating from an ‘I wonder if’ moment, has actually come to fruition and is becoming an integral part of the mix for aspiring writers’ publication options.

Having recently watched a rerun of How the West Was Won, I know this journey of trying to reach the Publishing Promised Land, is full of ups and downs. We have attacks from the natives balanced by friendship and encouragement from friendly travelers.

Most of the criticism has been from my fellow Brits on this side of the pond. Sadly, it is an integral part of the British Psyche to point out that a new venture is either doomed to failure or intended as a ‘get rich quick’ scheme. This skepticism has always been prevalent in our culture, but isn’t very conducive to an entrepreneurial mentality. Thankfully, however, the response from the States and other parts of the world has been amazing. has 50 authors with 64 books available for purchase.

The last three months have certainly been a learning process, full of hand holding for the writers who have ventured cautiously into this arena. “Can it?” “Will it?” “Will you?” “Why not?” The questions quite rightly come in abundance. The two most common ones however have been;
Am I allowed to publish elsewhere if my book goes on Answer: Yes.
Who owns the Copyright? Answer : The author.

The eBook route is easier, quicker, cheaper and more achievable than going the traditional route, but a stand-alone eBook is still quite new. I feel however that we are not too far away from publishing online being the norm.

We have attracted eight known publishing agents to the site so far. To date, three of our authors are now in dialogue with a few of these agents about their work. We have attracted writers (including a US Ambassador) from around the globe. Some of them come with an existing following. Due to their knowledge, patience and tenacity in promoting themselves on the Internet, these authors sell better, as they are able to maximize the free social networking opportunities.

As part of Lebrary’s commitment to promote our authors, we have embraced social networking, which really does drive traffic to the site. Sites we focus on are Linkedin, Twitter and Facebook, where we have started a Fan Page to promote authors.

We have also developed a Facebook game called Book Pile Up, which shows our authors' book covers and is great fun.

This is only the beginning of a long and interesting journey. I’m sure there will be more arrows fired in our direction, but if you believe the recent AAP report that eBook sales jumped by 252% in the first quarter, then this wagon train is well on the way to the Publishing Promised Land.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Drum roll, please. It is time to announce the person whose name I drew for copy #1 of Publish Your Nonfiction Book. In my last post, I wrote that I didn't know anything about Doris except that she has a beautiful smile. Well, I guess the smile worked. I drew her name. Congratulations, Doris.

That's not all. Doris is a writer, traveler, and photographer who lives in China at the moment. She keeps an active web page at Doris Gallan . Her latest post on crossing a busy street in China is an adventure in itself. As an armchair traveler, I intend to visit Doris' site often.

Remember that two additional copies of Publish Your Nonfiction Book will be given away to members of this community (e.g. followers of Calling All Aspiring Writers of Nonfiction Books). I will draw a name for the next copy at the end of June. Everyone who has not already won a book this year is eligible.
While I was exploring various web sites, this past week, I found four opportunities that I want to share with you.

1. Here's a heads-up alert about another nonfiction agent that I've added to our list. The agent's name is Regina Ryan of Regina Ryan Publishing Enterprises. Guide to Literary Agents Blog has an interesting interview with her.
This is her advice on making a positive impact with a proposal:
"1) Say what your book project is right away on one or two sentences, without a big preamble; after that, you can explain it more fully. 2) Do a careful, thoughtful, sharp analysis of the competition. It would be good to include Amazon sales figures with your analysis. Figure out why your book is different and better than each, and articulate that fully. It's a key to selling your proposal and book."
Link to the complete interview, here.

2. Narrative Magazine has a spring contest you might want to explore. The contest is open to nonfiction as well as to fiction. The list of possible entry types is impressive. This is their lead:
"Our spring contest is open to all fiction and nonfiction writers. We're looking for short shorts, short stories, essays, memoirs, photo essays, graphic stories, all forms of literary nonfiction, and excerpts from longer works of both fiction and nonfiction. Entries must be previously unpublished, no longer than 15,000 words, and must not have been previously chosen as a winner, finalist, or honorable mention in another contest."
First prize is $3,250, entry fee is $20, and the submission deadline is midnight PDT on July 31, 2010. To review complete details, link here.

3. Carpe Articulum Literary Review has a June special for their revolving contest. From the Winning Writers Newsletter, comes this information: "Carpe Articulum Will Accept Free Contest Entries During the Month of June! We're looking for short fiction, essays, poetry, novellas, and photography. Email your entries with your contact information and a cover sheet to Please include code FREEJUNE1WW on the cover sheet."
Visiting their web site and following the detailed instructions is the best way to enter the contest. Link here. Remember to include FREEJUNE1WW on the cover sheet.

4. The editors of Cup of Comfort books has put out a call for submissions for their newest volume: Cup of Comfort for Christian Women. Their request:
For this anthology of 40-50 inspirational true stories, we are looking for narrative personal essays (creative-nonfiction short stories) written by and for Christian women that reveal how one's faith has provided (provides) insight, guidance, comfort, and joy in navigating one's life."
Compensation is $50 + one copy of the book for each story published. Submission deadline is August 15, 2010.
For complete submission guidelines, link here.

Next time, look for an update from David Nicholls about

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Community Spotlight 7

Great news, my surprise is ready. Do you see the drawing of the man reading a big book to the cat on the end of his shoe? That is the door to our own private room, here in the coffee shop. Clicking on it will pop you into The Emerging Writer Reading Room.

I read a blog by John Smolens (director of Northern Michigan University's Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Program and acclaimed writer) in which he used the term "emerging writers" about his students. The term is so descriptive of all writers that it caught my eye. We all emerge from the present level to another – aspiring writer to apprentice, apprentice to professional, professional to master of the craft.

The phrase worked well with the idea I was kicking around in my head. I decided to create a place in our community to celebrate the skillful persistence of our members to write and publish a book. It displays the nonfiction work published by the members of our community on a separate blog page.

Here's the way it works. Anyone who follows Calling All Aspiring Writers of Nonfiction Books can copy the template on The Emerging Writer Reading Room, fill it out, and send it (along with a file containing a picture of the front cover) to me at lynndaell[at]live[dot]com. Your book will have center stage for a minimum of one week. After that, the front cover will move to the column on the left. It will stay in the left column as long as the blog is active. So what are you waiting for? Send me your info ASAP!


Now that I've got my surprise delivered, I want to introduce more new members.

Meet Debra7000. She has a flashy blog space on the internet. With five sons, a grandson and a full-time job, she still finds time to blog occasionally. We're glad you found time to join us, Debra.

Elaine Fields Smith is one of the writers who has taken the self-publishing route. You can learn something about her creative narrative nonfiction book at Ridin' Around. That's also the name of the book. I'll look for an email from you, soon, Elaine so that we can display your book in The Emerging Writer Reading Room.

Let me introduce F. B. Comito. She lives in Nebraska and has two sons. I was unable to learn more about her. Fbcomito, maybe you can tell us more about yourself in a comment.

Phoebe King (aka Bizlady08) is an accomplished freelance writer, editor, and project manager. She works in the greater Chicago area and has a web site named The Grateful Grebe™. Phoebe's passion is keeping up with the latest social media developments, online behavior and trends. Maybe you could write something for our community on the latest social media trends, Phoebe.

The only thing I know about Doris is that she has a beautiful smile. (Her picture is on the top row, second from the left.) Doris, would you please tell us something about yourself in the comments?

The last introduction for the day is Cari from Bismarck, North Dakota. She blogs at Faith's Mom's Blog where you can share her joys and other experiences of raising a special needs daughter. I really enjoyed your spa day account, Cari.

It's time for me to post this article and write up the information on my own book, Changing Me, Change the World.

Keep writing!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Community Spotlight 6

Wow! Look around you and you'll see a wonderful new group of writers who have joined our community. You might also notice that we have our own private room now, here at the coffee shop. So many of you are coming to see what's going on that the proprietor leased the empty shop next door and added it to his place. I've been talking to him about some ways to make our room special. More on that later.

Right now, I want to call your attention to a quote from an article posted on Guide to Literary Agents (you can read the whole summary of the panel discussion using the link):

Ammi-Joan Paquette said it's a challenging market. The book needs to be a compelling, fresh topic that fits into the same categories. You need to find the right project. It has to be a great story, greatly delivered.
Edward Necarsulmer suggested it's easier to get nonfiction published as a first time author because almost everyone is writing fiction. But you still need to have an interesting topic and a new hook."


Now let me introduce some of the new writers who have joined the community.

First up is Toni. She is a wife, mother, teacher, artist and writer who lives in Veneta, Oregon. Toni's blogging energy amazes me. Always Do Write is her blog on published writing gaffes, but she also has a blog where she posts her artwork, THREE blogs on natural birth, and another blog where she reviews books. Welcome, Toni.

OK, now I know I am out of my league. Meet Michelle Dunn. Michelle is an entrepreneur and writer who lives in Plymouth, New Hampshire. She is anything but an "aspiring" author. She wrote twelve books for the business debt collections niche. Visit her web page, Michelle Dunn Online, to read her personal story. I promise that you will be inspired. Michelle, will you share some of your writing experiences with us?

Now say hello to Duchess O'Blunt. She is married, lives in Ontario, Canada and writes on Hubpages. Duchess is an aspiring writer who hasn't quit her day job – yet. She blogs at A Would Be Writer's Journey. She describes herself as "an avid social butterfly in cyberspace." (I love that description!) Duchess, are you interested in becoming our community social director?

It is a privilege for me to introduce one of my special internet friends, Lynn Mosher. Lynn lives and writes in Louisville, Kentucky. I started reading Lynn's devotional blog, Heading Home, almost a year ago. God speaks to me often through Lynn's essays. She has a second blog that you've just got to visit: The Sweetest Blogs. It's a cupcake shop of blog awards! Thanks, Lynn, for making a way for us to recognize the blogs that speak to us. (I'm adding The Sweetest Blogs to our "Wheels Not Invented Here" list on this page.)

Next, I'd like you to meet Lorie Huston. Lorie is a prolific freelance writer on the subject of keeping pets healthy. She lives and practices as a veterinarian in Providence, Rhode Island. Lorie has a cool dog and cat web site named The Pet Health Care Gazette. Welcome, Lorie!

I've run out of time, so the last introduction for today is Steve Finnell. Steve blogs at Christian With a View about Christian theology. His other interests are football and basketball. Since his profile is short on details, maybe Steve will tell us something about himself in the comments.

Next time, I'll introduce more new members to our community. I hope to have my surprise lined up, too. In the mean time, keep writing.

Friday, May 14, 2010

A Writer’s Voice, Part 2

Welcome to the coffee shop. I'm glad you stopped by to spend some time with us. If you are new to our group, you may want to read part one of this topic. Last month, I wrote about how developing a voice is important to becoming a skillful, professional writer. Link here to read it.

From the quote in the May/June 2010 issue of the Writer’s Digest magazine, it appears that everyone has a natural voice. Brenda Novak explains that our natural voice contains our core values and worldview. In that same issue, a tribute to J.D. Salinger contains a quote from William Cane’s book, Write Like the Masters.

"…voice refers to the feeling and tone of writing, a certain flavor determined by word choice and phrasing that gives a text dimension and makes it peculiarly human."

Look at an example taken from another book I received from BookSneeze, I Am Hutterite, a memoir by Mary-Ann Kirby. She attended kindergarten in the Hutterite community from age two to age five. This is the way they started their mornings:

"We eagerly clasped our hands and bowed our heads to repeat our German prayers in unison before diving in, scooping generous dollops of jam onto the linen-colored cream and plunging the soft, fresh buns into the decadent dip until there wasn't a white streak left at the bottom of our bowls."

This quote is actually longer than the one from After the Hangover in part one and a Hutterite community is probably just as foreign to most people's experience as a Washington D.C. think tank. However, in this quote, no dictionary is required and the choice of words and phrases paints a vivid picture of the enjoyment of these toddlers eating their breakfast. No one would ever mistake R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr.'s voice for that of Mary-Ann Kirby.

Mary-Ann Kirby uses her voice to show the love she had for the people and the land when she was part of a Hutterite community in her early childhood. While she layers the description of her experiences with lyrically rich textures, she is also able to include elements of tension and problems in the same voice. While her voice seems to be her natural one, she obviously worked to make that voice eloquent and clear. I Am Hutterite reminds me of Isak Dinesen's writing in Out of Africa. They both have a hauntingly beautiful voice that captures the essence of a lost time in their lives.

Can both After the Hangover and I Am Hutterite be successful books? Absolutely, but probably not with the same audience. In order to be successful, each book must find the readers who hear the writer's voice as authentic to them. The other half of having a voice is finding an audience to listen to it.

I've learned three things from these examples and quotes:
1. A natural voice comes out of who you are. A bitterly cynical man cannot naturally write in the voice of an innocent child.
2. A writer works hard to polish and clarify her voice. Regardless of the natural voice, eloquence in using it comes from hard work.
3. A voice that seems phony has trouble attracting an audience. Success is more likely to come to a writer who finds readers who like his voice.

Has this topic brought any ideas to your mind? If so, please share them with us.

Friday, May 7, 2010

On Friction – Not Fiction, Part 2

Ahh, it's Friday. Isn't that a lovely sentence? Time to take a deep breath, sit back in a chair with your favorite beverage and contemplate the change of pace the weekend brings. It's also time to finish a few things and to find surprises. You can start that, here, too.

Today, you can read the rest of Sharlene Martin's essay on the friction in her professional life. (THAT may contain a few surprises in its own right.) However, the official surprise is a gift from our generous guest. She is offering a free copy of Ten Top Tips to Writing a Terrific Book Proposal, an outline to guide the preparation of your proposal. These are the instructions for getting it.
1. Send an email message to
2. In the subject line, write "Calling all aspiring writers."
3. In the body of the message, mention that you'd like to get a copy of Ten Top Tips to Writing a Terrific Book Proposal. Please thank her for her essay, as well. (Yes, I'm still taking notes from her comments in part one.)

Ms. Martin, you have our attention:

"As for the editors and publishers, I have been at this for enough years now that I can say from personal observation that publishing house editors who employ sneering condescension tend to be the ones most quickly departed (helpful note: everybody hates jerks). And even a rare publisher who plays fast and loose with the accounting or payment of royalties can no longer hide from today's blogosphere, where a sullied reputation can torpedo an entire publishing imprint.

The narcissism and amorality that have become the hallmarks of contemporary popular culture have bled over from the land of reality TV programming and into the general public. Some of them write to me, just as I am sure that each of you has recent memories of personal encounters with an individual who demanded that which it was yours alone to give, and upon receiving it only resented not getting more; the mindset manifests in my work day in the form of would-be authors , sometimes on the executive side from one who mistakenly believes that a curt attitude and a dismissive tone somehow establish mastery in a relationship. They do so without noticing that their vital business relationships do not last, remaining blind to the fact that colleagues who invest a bit of energy in mutual respect tend to go farther and faster. And yet they think that they are the smart ones. It's only laughable in a rueful sort of way –such behavior simply causes them to dissolve into today's general misconception that the nastier you are, the more "genuine" your response.

But respect is genuine, too. So is honesty and so is the passion to do good work, the best work that you possibly can, while you are in this world. The wonderful men and women whom I am fortunate to call my colleagues are the ones who embody their understanding of that. They are why this line of work is so worthwhile to me and why MLM's motto is and always will be "Considerate Literary Management for the 21st Century."


It is reassuring to know that the publishing world, while far from perfect, still maintains a civil atmosphere. Since we are investing our lives to become an integral part of that world, I appreciate knowing in advance what to expect.

Speaking of "becoming an integral part of the publishing world," I want to remind you that everyone who follows this blog is eligible for a drawing to receive a copy of Publish Your Nonfiction Book. To whet your appetite, why not watch Sharlene's book trailer at

Have a great weekend!

Monday, May 3, 2010

On Friction – Not Fiction, Part 1

Welcome to our table at the coffee shop. If your shoes are still squishy after that wet weekend, then you are part of a very large crowd. I'm ready to think about something other than the weather and since you're here, I trust that you are, too.

A special guest joins us, today. Sharlene Martin is President of Martin Literary Management and a literary agent who specializes in representing nonfiction books. (If you look over at the right hand column, you will see I added Sharlene to our nonfiction agents list (N-F A-List).) She recently published PUBLISH YOUR NONFICTION BOOK: Strategies for Learning the Industry, Selling Your Work and Building a Successful Career with her husband, Anthony Flacco.

This book is a must-read for every aspiring writer of nonfiction books. I am so excited by the high quality and clarity of the information that I found in PUBLISH YOUR NONFICTION BOOK that it will be THE BOOK for our giveaway drawing for the next three months. Everyone who has not already won a book in 2010 and who follows this blog by May 31, 2010 will be eligible to participate in a drawing for the first copy of PUBLISH YOUR NONFICTION BOOK.

I asked Sharlene to share some of the thoughts that are on her mind, right now. She chose to give us insight into the working of an agent's life. Sharlene, you have our attention.

"I love this job. I get up every day looking forward to doing this kind of work. But we know that every line of endeavor has its, shall we say, areas of friction. I find that the literary representation field is sometimes littered with dysfunctional attitudes of self-entitlement on the part of writers who aspire to major publication. I also sometimes see it on the business side in the form of the occasional editor who refuses to employ the rudiments of professional courtesy, or I see it with a publisher who finds reasons to stall timely payments because the total difference in accrued interest for that company is considerable. And still, I love this work. I am therefore thankful every day for the fact such people are the decided minority in the book world. My daily experience confirms that well-considered products of creative minds still command a residue of mutual respect lost to many other parts of social life.

On the writing side of the business, friction comes from a disconcerting number of wanna-be authors who contact me and indicate that since they have finished their book manuscript or have almost finished thinking up an idea for a book they would like to write, they are now ready for me to sign it, sell it, and make them rich, hoping I will do it before the end of the month because they are upside down on their mortgage. When I try to correct that notion, or someone on my staff attempts to explain the factual reality of the publishing marketplace, there is that percentage who react with anger and indignation. They feel compelled to hurl invective, to lob a flame-y email or slip in a hostile phone message. Students of irony earn extra credit for noticing that this manner of departure validates the decision."

I'm taking a lesson from Sharlene's words. As she says in PUBLISH YOUR NONFICTION BOOK, "Never discount anyone you meet." That includes agents who have rejected my book. It will always do us well to remember that good manners opens many doors.

Come back next time to hear about the minority crowd on the other side of the publishing table. I assure you, you will not be disappointed.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Writer's Voice Part 1

Thank you for taking the time to pop over to Mary DeMuth’s place to read my last post. Mary will be shutting down her blog in a couple of weeks, so be sure to read it soon if you have not yet done so.

A few weeks back, I told you that I would be reviewing books I received free from BookSneeze. Today, I want to talk about After the Hangover by R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. Mr. Tyrrell. is editor in chief of The American Spectator, a conservative political and cultural magazine. He writes a weekly syndicated newspaper column on conservative political thinking. In other words, Mr. Tyrrell has a platform. Keep that in mind when you read this excerpt from his latest book, After the Hangover:

“Then again the fractious rivalries among conservatives are debilitating, and there is a tendency for conservatives to promote one issue at the expense of a full agenda: the proponent of military readiness who ignores economics, the supply-sider who is insouciant to culture.” (Let me assure you that the title of the book is the last phrase you will understand clearly without the benefit of the Oxford English Dictionary – unabridged version.)

I chose this quote for two reasons. It contains half of the book’s premise and it is a typical example of his voice.

If you read, as I do, many of the publishing blogs on how to break into the industry, this quote might surprise you. If a manuscript with this sentence hit the slush pile, it probably would not even receive a printed rejection. This book breaks all the rules. The first six sections are rambling diatribes (See, he even has me doing it!) against the current generation of conservatives and maudlin boasts about how much more sincere the past generation of conservatives was. In between, Mr. Tyrrell uses his witty repartee to flay the liberal political pundits.

Here is an example of his humor: “Through the decades, there has only been one Liberal principle that the Liberals have agreed on without fluctuation. That is their solemn belief that it is fundamental to the progress of our nation that the Liberals disturb the peace.” (Read the book to get the rest of this tongue-in-cheek barb.)

So how did Mr. Tyrrell become a New York Times best-selling author? Remember, he has a platform. According to the web site,The American Spectator’s blog has 50,000 subscribers, and then, to get the full reach of his platform, add the readers of his syndicated newspaper column. His audience expects to read a book in which Mr. Tyrrell sounds just like that. They know what they are getting when they buy his books. If he changed his voice, they would feel disappointed and maybe even cheated.

I want to leave you with a quote from an article in the May/June issue of Writer’s Digest. In “Romancing the Publishing Industry,” Brenda Novak says, “Voice contains an author’s core values and worldviews and cannot be duplicated.” In Mr. Tyrrell’s case, I would say that's a good thing. We have only one audience for a voice like his.

I’ll dig into the details of voice in a future post. If you have a question about voice, leave it in a comment and I’ll try to address it.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Self Editing at Mary DeMuth's Place

Hi, everyone. If you've got a few minutes to spare, link over to "So You Wanna Be Published" and read my guest blog on self editing, Write Until We Get It Right.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Community Spotlight 5

Today, I have the pleasure of introducing you to two new members of our community. First up is Maria Morgan. Originally from Michigan, she and her husband migrated to Georgia where they and their daughter are happily serving God and avoiding the deep freeze winters. She blogs at Life Lessons. Maria has had articles published in Christian Womanhood, Up In Cumming and At the Center magazines. Welcome, Maria!

Now meet Jules. She blogs at Big Girl Bombshell where she writes most creatively about her work transitioning from an obsession for food into a healthy lifestyle. Jules, I sense a memoir seed growing in the articles you post. Your creativity is already helping many people see that body size issues are as much about attitude as about the scales.

Jules won our drawing for March. Jules will receive a copy of 24 Hours London from the author, Marsha Moore. (Marsha has a new book, 24 Hours Paris, coming out in mid May.) Congratulations, Jules. Please send me your mailing address so we can send you the book.

Blog stats may not interest anyone else, but I look at the stats for our table at the coffee shop about once every three months. It’s fun seeing a world map with visitors’ stick pins dotted all over the globe. Naturally, most of you come from North America, but some of you - from the United Kingdom, Australia and India - also frequently stop in at the table. Then we have one or two visitors from twenty-two other countries. Thanks to all of you for coming to the coffee shop. It would be no fun at all talking to myself!

As a final note, I want to bring to your attention that we’ve added two new “wheels not invented here” entries. Both of them link to sites offering similar electronic publishing options. The first one you heard about from David Nicholls in the last post. The other one, Off the is located in New York. While both sites offer writers an open venue for publishing their works, the business model for each one is significantly different from the other. Since no one knows what the market may be for these services because they are so new, everyone should read the fine print and ask questions before using them. Having unrealizable expectations can be painful for both the authors and the reputation of the businesses.

Next time, we’ll look at the importance of voice in writing nonfiction. In the meantime, sit back and enjoy a cup of hot green tea, or whatever your favorite beverage happens to be.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The ePublishing Road, Part Two

Wow! Where did that week go? The appearance of blossoms on the redbud and dogwood trees, the explosion of azalea blooms, and the blizzard of dead leaves from the live oak trees have bemused me. If you're seeing crocuses in the snow, brightly colored tulips and pussy willow buds, then I'm sure you feel the same way. Even with the Easter cold snap looming, I've put away the heavy coats.

The arrival of spring is not the only source of my bemusement. Publishing options have me looking slightly glassy-eyed. Like the sudden switch from winter to spring, the explosion of ways to turn my manuscript into a book seemed to go – overnight – from only a traditionally published ink-and-paper book to a number of open-ended options with multiple solutions.

In order to begin getting a grip on this transition, I asked Mr. David Nicholls to share his story with us. Last time, David explained how the reality check he experienced when he attempted to publish his manuscript led him to start the Aspiring Writers' group on LinkedIn. The explosion of the group (It's closing in on 1300 members.) encouraged him to take another step. I'll let him tell the story.

"With the growth of the Aspiring Writers group on LinkedIn, it occurred to me that, with the emergence of online publishing, I was looking at an opportunity to empower authors to take charge of their own careers. So many writers, worldwide, want to get their work published, but the traditional publishing industry treats aspiring writers as second-class citizens. Unless an aspiring writer is a celebrity chef or has appeared in a soap, traditional publishers rarely take a chance on a new writer.

With these thoughts and a growing group of writers passionate about wanting to get their work published, I came up with the idea of developing an online portal for aspiring writers. Unique? Certainly not. What is unique these days? But learning from the sites that had already been developed, I set about turning my ideas into reality. I wanted to give these passionate writers the opportunity to publish their work, earning money for the time and work they had already invested.

They say that naivet̩ can be a good thing and in this case, I would certainly go along with that sentiment. I consider myself an entrepreneur not a 'techie' so I started to look for people who could share my vision. With a small team that included a web developer and a creative director, we put together We put out initial feelers and the feedback was very good. In February, it was launched Рand we held our breath. Within a very short time, we hit our first target of twenty books on the site, with sales of these books already starting. We even attracted a US Ambassador who put his work on the site. Although these are early days, the signs are very promising. We have plans to develop the site with the ability to download on e-readers, including mobile phone Apps.

Some people have said that online publishing is only a temporary success, but I remember someone saying that about the Internet! So if you feel you want to be part of this exciting revolution – then have a look at – you'll be more than welcome."

In preparation for today's post, I popped over to It now has twenty-eight registered authors with thirty-five books for sale. Though the site is in Great Britain, the transactions use US dollars. Authors can sign up for one of two publishing packages. The basic package is free, with books sold for $2 or $4. The link to the "Author Terms and Conditions" can be found at the bottom of every page. If you have used, please leave your thoughts about the site in our comments.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The ePublishing Road: Part One

Hello, friends. Daylight savings time has arrived. If you’re like me, having that extra daylight means you can spend more time writing in the evening – or coming here to visit. I’m glad that you chose to spend some of your time at our table in the coffee shop.

A week or so ago, David Nicholls left a comment. He had some interesting things to say, so I asked him to be a guest blogger. I wanted everyone to have a chance to read what he shared. Mr. Nicholls comes from the U.K., which should be obvious from some of the British terms he uses.

Before I let David Nicholls take the stage, I want to announce that Marsha Moore, our resident travel book writer – who also lives in the U.K. – graciously offered a copy of her book 24 Hours London for the winner of our next drawing. Everyone who follows Calling All Aspiring Writers of Nonfiction Books by March 31 is eligible for the drawing. (The exception is Jennifer Ortolano, who won the drawing last month.)

Now let’s find out how Mr. Nicholls got into ePublishing.

“I’ve never considered myself a “career writer.” In fact, up until 9 months ago, I never considered myself a writer at all. Having been in the advertising and marketing industry for more years than I can remember, I became one of the many to fall victim of the economic climate. If the truth were known, my first reaction after getting over the initial trauma of being made redundant was a feeling of relief. A strange reaction I know, but being “pushed off the merry go round that you hated being on, but were too scared to step off of” makes you feel like someone who’s just been released from a long spell in prison. You know you have to face reality eventually, but you do enjoy that euphoria of freedom.

Apart from being tied into a contractual “garden leave” arrangement for a month and knowing I wouldn’t be able to pick up employment immediately, I set about putting down that story we all promise ourselves to write. I knew I had a vivid imagination, but my planning is appalling, so I sat at the computer and let it flow out of me. I realised it would never win a Booker Prize but felt I could tell a good story.

Feeling very proud of myself, I started to research the process of getting my hard work published. I put my head on the pillow at night seeing my book in shop windows and discussing the film rights. However, I soon found out the reality of being a writer. First get an agent, and then get a publisher. We all know how difficult a process this is and for most, impossible. Apart from getting the standard response from agents, the reality is that traditional publishing has been and certainly is now, playing safe. If you’ve been on a reality show, you stand more of a chance of getting work published, even if it’s by a ghost writer, than if you are an extremely talented writer. Of course, people do get their work published, but they are rare.

In a moment of sheer frustration, I started a writers group called Aspiring Writers on LinkedIn, which if you didn’t know, is the leading professional social networking site. My thoughts at the time were to attract a few fellow Brits to the site so we could have a good moan about the state of publishing. To my astonishment within five months, we attracted 1,200 members. The vast majority of the members come from North America, but the group is truly international. The group has attracted a vast array of talent, including professional authors, agents, publishers and of course aspiring writers, all who have the aim of helping and encouraging each other within this very competitive market place.

Am I still cynical about the publishing industry? The simple answer is yes, but the passion that most writers have about their craft doesn’t diminish and I am now flying the flag for online publishing which empowers any aspiring writer in a way that was historically never possible.”

Next time, Mr. Nicholls will explain how he went from LinkedIn to ePublishing. Come back to hear more of his story.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Community Spotlight 4

Wow. Would you look at all the aspiring writers who have joined us lately? We've added so many new faces to our community that one table is no longer enough. Let's rearrange the tables and chairs so that we can all be together. Today, I want to introduce you to our new members.

Let me introduce you to Inside the Shrink, Dr. Bobbi Craigmyle. She is a licensed psychologist in the state of Missouri who writes three blogs. Psychobabble covers topics related to mental health and to the brain. Her most recent article is about psychopathic personalities. Dr. Bobbi also blogs at Inside the Shrink where she talks about issues affecting her own life. Link to her latest post to read how she overcomes adversity. The third blog is Daily Grace, a short devotional thought for the day. Check out her blogs. One of them might spark an idea for an article.

My introduction to Steve Player will be much less informative, since his name is all I know. Leave a comment, Steve, and tell us more about yourself – and welcome!

Rebecca Ford joins us from La Vergne, Tennesse. Besides nonfiction writing, Rebecca is interested in the future of the publishing business. (Aren't we all?) If you have any opinions on what's going on in the publishing world, Rebecca, please leave a comment and we'll plan on a guest spot for you.

Please greet Lynette Benton. Lynette is a published author who holds a Master's degree in Communications Management. She also teaches classes on writing in Arlington, MA. We'd be interested in hearing what you have to say, too.

Misti is another community member I can only introduce by name. Misti, it appears that you may be new to the blogosphere. We're glad that you chose to join us in the coffee shop. We'd like to know more about you, so please leave a comment.

Please welcome, Mickmas. Mick blogs at – are you ready? – at Mick Blogs. What the name of his blog lacks in imagination, the work on his blog completely makes up. Mick hails from the UK where he takes the most amazing photographs and shares them on his blog. If his photographs don't inspire you, nothing will. Oh, yeah, Mick REALLY likes music, too.

My final introduction of the day is queeninme80. Ms. Queen doesn't blog, but I have a feeling that she has a story to tell. I trust that by joining us at the table, she'll someday find the words to tell it.

I have one last subject for the spotlight, today. If you scroll down the page and look in the right-hand column just above my picture, you'll see a new gadget/link for BookSneeze. Some of the books I discuss on this blog will come from Thomas Nelson who owns BookSneeze. (In the set of articles about memoirs, I received a free copy of Thin Places as part of a blog tour for Mary DeMuth, I bought copies of By Searching and Writing for the Soul, I borrowed Plenty, and Thomas Nelson gave me a free copy of A Century Turns.) If you blog and are interested in reviewing books for Thomas Nelson, you can link through the icon. (No, it is not an affiliate link.)

It's been a pleasure getting to know all the new members of our community. We hope that you will feel comfortable enough to stop in often. We enjoy getting together and there's always room for one more.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Memoir Month #4

Welcome! It's time for some good news. I have the winner of the drawing for a copy of Mary DeMuth's book,
Thin Places.

Jennifer Ortolano, you are the winner. Congratulations! Please contact me at lynndaell [at] live [dot] com so that I can send it to you.

We've viewed memoir writing from several perspectives. Mary DeMuth gave us information about writing memoirs in general and followed up with the personal issues she faced. Last time, we looked at memoir writing from an agent's prospective via Laney Katz Becker's interview.

Today, I have another blog excerpt. Rachelle Gardner blogged about writing memoirs. Link here to read the whole letter. I want to focus on a few lines:

"Memoir is a demanding genre; it will only sell if the writing is stellar, and the story is crafted in way that is very compelling. It usually needs a unique hook or a fresh spin on a common topic… Selling a memoir is not just about your story. It's about how that story is written. Lots of people have a story similar to yours; only a few will be able to write it in such a way that it could become a bestselling memoir."

Rachelle uses strong words: demanding, stellar, compelling, and unique. She also talks about the agent's perspective of having a best seller: "only a few will be able to write it."

So what's a writer to do?

What else? Write a book!

Write a memoir. Just don't call it a memoir.

No, I'm not talking about some magician's razzle-dazzle. I am asking you to rethink your book. Think about a memoir as a guided trip into someone else's world. How deeply we delve into the author's life determines what type of memoir it is.

When, by opening the book, we read the answer to the question, "Hello, how are you?" the book is primarily about the author's past. Memoirs like,
Thin Places
and Isobel Kuhn's book By Searching answer that question by inviting us into the deepest places in their lives and souls. They share memories and experiences that may be painful, but their answers help others who hurt.

Sometimes, the book answers the question, "What do you do?" I've recently read two great examples of this type of memoir. Plenty is an example of the memoir style "A year in the life of…" It's about how a couple lives out the goal of securing locally grown food. It contains strong personal and emotional elements of the couple who wrote it. It makes compelling reading.

Jerry Jenkins' book Writing for the Soul skillfully weaves his personal life into information on how he writes. Because his writing style reflects his lifestyle, the account of his writing life would be hollow without the personal life that sustains it. As co-author of the Left Behind series, Mr. Jenkins has a unique hook.

Another question a memoir can answer is, "So what happened?" Of the three types of memoir, this type is the most objective. I recently read A Century Turns by William J. Bennett. In it, Mr. Bennett wrote about the twenty years of American history beginning in 1988 and skillfully constructed a stained-glass window of national life. Because he was involved in much of the political activity during those twenty years, he adds a personal touch to the account. Much as the thin strips of lead hold a stained-glass window together, his touches of memoir become the slivers of light that give definition and cohesion to the picture he creates.

As you look at your story, think about it in relation to the food you eat or the work you do or the people you know. You will still need all your writing skills. It's just that by turning outward, you might find a larger audience for your story and make your memoir a best-seller.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Memoir Month #3

If you’ve been coming to the coffee shop regularly, you know that we are focusing on memoirs, this month. With all the nasty weather we’ve experienced, I almost wished that I’d chosen something a little cozier to snuggle up with during these cold, dark nights. As we’ve learned from Mary DeMuth, most memoirs, including her own (the newly released Thin Places) are not “cozy” books to read. Most of them contain experiences so difficult to read that one wonders how the author survived. Yet, the story of the ways God heals our brokenness is endlessly fascinating. So what do agents want in a memoir? What can get the attention of someone who can help sell it?

To provide insight to these questions, I have an excerpt from an interview with an agent. The interview was originally posted on
Guide to Literary Agents.

This excerpt features Laney Katz Becker of Markson Thoma Literary Agency. Laney was an agent at Folio Literary Management before she joined Markson Thoma. Prior to becoming an agent, Laney was an advertising copywriter and freelance journalist, as well as an award-winning author of fiction and nonfiction.

Guide to Literary Agents (GLA) asks for three tips from Laney Katz Becker (LKB), but she generously gave twice that many.

GLA: You say you love memoir, and a few of your recent sales - Unsane Childhood and then First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria - are those great books writers love to see – i.e., memoirs written by people who are NOT celebrities or politicians. Give us your top 3 tips on writing memoir and catching your attention.

LKB: Love this question. Everyone thinks their story is interesting to others, but more and more publishers are worried about “platform,” which is why we see so many (too many!) celebrity books. But even if you’re not famous, you can do yourself a huge favor if you have some following/audience/readership. Whether it’s through Facebook, Twitter, a blog, a regional radio show, a regular column in your local paper …something!

“When it comes to memoir, I’m a sucker for voice. I want it to feel fresh and compelling. I want to like you on the page. I also want a fresh story. I’m not interested in the dysfunctional family memoir, or the abuse (drug, sexual, etc.) memoir. I’m sorry, I truly am, but I feel like I’ve read that story too many times and I just don’t want to invest months of my life working with an author on a proposal if it’s a topic/story that doesn’t wow me. BTW: that’s another thing. I sell memoir by proposal only. And no, it doesn’t mean if you’ve already written the whole book it’s better. Proposal. Only. I also like a memoir that exposes me to a different culture or country. I like stories that allow me to walk in someone else’s shoes. In both fiction and memoir, I like racial stories.”

Information like this is extremely valuable if your writing goal is to publish a memoir. Make yourself a checklist from this excerpt that you can use to critique your own manuscript. Then take a chance and send Laney Katz Becker a proposal. What do you have to lose?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Memoir Month #2

According to the groundhog, we'll have six more weeks of winter, so I guess we'd better put down the spring seed catalogs, flip open the laptop, and write a few thousand more words. Before we do that, however, we might want to take the time to listen to Mary DeMuth's wise words on writing a memoir. So, sit back, take a sip of your latte, and give her your attention.

"I wrote Thin Places only after I gave myself permission to say it all. (More on that later.)

First, one clarification about memoir: no memoir can be 100% accurate. Every memoirist must recall, to the best of his/her ability what happened in the past. Only God knows what truly happened! And to protect the people listed in a memoir, I've changed names and distinguishing characteristics. That's allowable in a memoir, and is often expected.

To make a memoir work, it must be either:

  1. From someone famous or
  2. A story so strong and surprising, the story carries the book.

I'm of the latter category since I am by no means famous. But my story is raw and redemptive. And a bit out there. Find out more about Thin Places here.

The most important thing for a memoir is that it be memorable and beautifully written. If you don't have a platform, near perfect writing is a must backed up by an intriguing/surprising story. Think of a memoir as a novel with rising action, climax and denouement. Consider writing it as you would a novel, with characters, dialogue and a plot (even if the plot is your life!)

A great example of a memoir that tells an amazing story is Parting the Waters by Jeanne Damoff.

Even though the story is beautifully written, Jeanne shopped the story to every publishing house far and wide through her agent. Though it was a great story, she faced a lot of rejection.

Eventually, after much prayer and seeking wisdom, she decided to self-publish the book through WinePress. It's got a wonderful cover and is selling well.

Another amazing memoir is Startling Beauty by Heather Gemmen. Wow. It's one of the most beautifully written, achingly painful memoirs I've read.

It's not easy to write a memoir. I fear that some people are so afraid to do it because the people involved aren't yet dead. So they work on a fictionalized version. Is that really honest? What is the purpose of telling your true story if you make it fiction? Of course, you can take elements of your struggle and life and place that in fiction, but I've found that tacked on messages seldom make a book.

My best advice: obey God. Write what He tells you to write. If you're too afraid to write a memoir, then don't do it. Prayerfully consider whether your need to get it all out is, instead, a form of catharsis that no reader really needs to see. And if you add some of your story to the memoir, consider that story is the king. The story must support the rest of what you write."

Remember, one member of our community will be chosen in a drawing on February 28th to get a copy of Mary DeMuth's new book, Thin Places. (Note: Be sure to become a follower of our blog to be eligible for the drawing.)