Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Clear your throat before you pick up the phone


I work from my home office. I don't have co-workers to chat with, and I communicate through email, IM and text most of the time. Not a lot of vocalizing happening here, and it shows. If I make a call, or answer a call, my voice is rough.

What with it being cold and flu season, I thought I'd share some tricks to keep voices sounding positive and happy.

  • Clear your throat before you pick up the phone
  • Take a deep breath
  • Always have water available nearby (to wet your mouth and avoid "tongue clicks")
  • Sing or hum during the day to keep vocal chords loosened up (even if you don't consider yourself a singer)
  • Smile when you say hello (people can hear it)

What do you do to sound good over the phone?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Contracting for coffee - or unusual ways to get what you want

I know, it's been awhile. But, in my defense I've been busy.

Here's what's new with me -

  • I contracted for coffee. Yep. Coffee. I designed and "prettied up" a flyer for the local coffee shop and dance studio who are running a co-promotion. It was fun and I get Turtle Mochas out of the deal.
  • I redesigned my website at www.maryevelynlewis.com
  • I've been hired as the Online Communications Specialist for Cozy Calm (my longtime friend, Eileen, who invented the Cozy Calm Weighted Blanket, gave me one for Cameron, who has slept consistently through the night for over a week now - talk about a well rested HAPPY Mommy!). I officially start January 1st, but there is preliminary work to do and a learning curve to get through.

So, I will continue to be busy, but I'm loving what I'm doing. I'll still be posting here, and at Just Another Mom . And of course, tweeting @maryelewis and updating my status at Facebook .

I'm still here, and wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Interview with Lynda McDaniel, author of Words At Work

Lynda McDaniel, author of Words At Work: Powerful business writing delivers increased sales, improved results, and even a promotion or two. A veteran writing coach shows you how. was kind enough to answer a few questions for me. Read on, her answers are enlightening.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. There are lots of jokes about that city, but I had a good time growing up there. I received a great education and fell in love with baseball there. I’ve lived lots of places since—from the mountains of North Carolina to Washington, D.C. and the San Francisco Bay Area—but I’m proud to be from Cleveland.

I didn’t start writing professionally until I was 25 years old. A lot of people think they have to write when they’re kids or in high school, that it’s too late for them to start now. But that’s just not true. That’s one of the reasons I wrote Words at Work. My students and clients kept telling me that my story—from getting a late start to facing some hurdles along the way—inspired them that they can write too. And they do.

My writing career began in the most unlikely of places—just a speck on a map of the North Carolina mountains—but it was ripe with opportunity for me. That’s where I met a school director who asked if I’d like to learn public relations. To be honest, I should have answered, “What’s that?” Instead, I said, “Sure,” and took to it like ink to newsprint. Once I saw my first published article, I was hooked. I’ve never stopped writing. I’ve gone on to write five books and hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles for publications such as Southern Living, Country Living, Yoga Journal, and washingtonpost.com.

How/why did you decide to write a book about writing for work?

I heard a student tell another student as they left my writing class, “They sure don’t teach this in school!” That meant the world to me. I knew I had tapped into something special, and I wanted to share that with a wider audience. I love taking all the things I’ve learned during my writing and writing coaching career—sometimes the hard way—to make other people’s lives easier. I wrote Words at Work for everyone who wants to write well, and especially for those who thought they couldn’t. They can.

What do you like to read for pleasure?

I’m a voracious reader of novels. I just finished Michael Connelly’s Scarecrow and Henning Mankell’s Before the Frost. I recently read a non-fiction book entitled Blue Ocean Strategy: How to create uncontested market space and make the competition irrelevant. It’s a fascinating book about thinking beyond what’s traditional and creating something new from the unfulfilled needs of the “old.” Another fantastic non-fiction book I’m currently reading is How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer. Not only is the information compelling, but his writing style is brilliant.

With Twitter and texting becoming ever more popular, do you think there are times when it is appropriate to conform to the adopted "shorthand" that limited characters has required? Or do you think we just need to find the correct words and send as many texts or Tweets needed to convey our message? OR... do we need to write "tighter" - clear and concise?

There’s a time and place for everything. Even shorthand writing, which I call our “jeans” writing. More on that in a minute. Just be careful. With so much e-communication today, we rarely meet the people who write us, but that doesn't stop us from forming a picture of them using the only clues we have—their words. We need to pick the right look depending on the situation. Similar to Casual Fridays at work, you’ll choose your “jeans” words when writing friends or acquaintances (tweets and texts). Most of your writing will be your basic work attire, which leaves a good, solid impression. And for those sales proposals and articles, blogs and Web copy (or novels, memoirs, and essays)? That’s when you don your fanciest glad rags. Have fun. Be creative.

What books do you suggest to become a better communicator through writing?

Brenda Ueland, author of If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit. More than any other book, this book inspired me to both honor my own creativity and learn how to improve upon it. Brenda is amazing. She lived earlier in the 20th century, but I use present tense because she still seems so alive. Her words jump off the page. I could hear her voice in my head as I wrote Words at Work—and I hope I succeeded in sharing the same kind of inspiration and encouragement with my readers. Also check out Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, and the classic, On Writing Well by William Zinsser. And, of course, Words at Work.

Thank you so much, Lynda!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Book Review - Words At Work by Lynda McDaniel

Words At Work
Lynda McDaniel

Words At Work is an easy to read, easy to use primer on written communications at work. McDaniel writes with a conversational style, and relates amusing tales about her experiences, putting the reader at ease.

Lynda shares two well kept secrets in Words At Work.

1. Everyone can learn to write well.
2. Bad writers just stopped too soon.

I agree, to a point. Anyone who can write a sentence can learn to write well, if they want to. I liked this book. I will be recommending it to friends who communicate mainly through email at work. Good writing leads to less confusion and higher productivity.

I was invited to review this book by Tracee at Pump Up Your Book Promotion. Thanks for the opportunity, Tracee!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Color me confused.

I finally got all the books gathered together to donate to the local High School and delivered them this morning. The reception was a little lackluster, I must say. Most of the books were hardcover first editions, by debut authors, and fairly popular titles.

The librarian looked through them and seemed concerned that a few of them might not be appropriate. This is where my confusion comes in. This is a Senior High School, grades 9 - 12. None of the books were of an adult nature. Some of them were Historical Fiction, which I assumed might make history a little more interesting.

When I was in school, we had a wide variety of books in our library. Not all of them were the "Mary Poppins" type. Seriously, I can understand being discerning, but this seemed a wee bit like "1984".

Is there a librarian in the house? If so, would you like to comment on how books are chosen for school libraries? I'm really interested.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

So excited about new books!

Ice by Sarah Beth Durst went on sale today.

In the interest of full disclosure, I was sent an actual hardcover First Edition copy of the book, I assume from the publisher, which I promptly devoured like a triple scoop ice cream cone after spending a day exploring the Mojave Desert - and then handed it off to my 12 year old son. When he is finished with it, I'll be donating it to the Jordan Middle School library, because funding is limited and I'm sure they will appreciate it. The only profit I gained in reading this book was the joy of reading a new take on a Beauty and the Beast kind of tale.

Ice is a fun read, though I suspect girls will enjoy it more than boys.

Books I haven't read yet, but am REALLY looking forward to...

At Home on Ladybug Farm
Donna Ball

I read A Year On Ladybug Farm a little while ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. This is the followup.

An Echo In The Bone
Diana Gabaldon

I've been reading this series off and on for years. I read the 6th book just before my son's birth, back in December of 2001. Needless to say, I can't wait to get into the new adventure.

No Time To Wave Goodbye
Jacquelyn Mitchard

I read Deep End of the Ocean years ago and wondered if there would be a sequel. Now I know, and No Time To Wave Goodbye is on my wishlist.

Monday, September 14, 2009

America's Most Wanted Recipes by Ron Douglas

The Great American Taste Test

"Discover the recipes from America's most popular family restaurants and cook them at home for a fraction of the price!"

"Wouldn't it be nice if you could treat yourself to dishes from your favorite restaurants anytime? Now you can -- at home! In America's Most Wanted Recipes, Ron Douglas reveals copycat versions of carefully guarded secret restaurant recipes and shows family chefs how to prepare them at home, saving time and money. With these easy and mouth-watering recipes, families can enjoy a night out in their very own kitchens."

It's no secret I love to cook, so when the opportunity presented itself to be part of The Great American Taste Test, I jumped on it. The rules were as follows:

  • Choose a recipe from the book
  • Make the dish
  • Purchase the "real" restaurant dish in order to conduct the taste test
  • Taste test can be done with anyone - friends, family or strangers
  • Blog about the experience on September 14, 2009

I chose Panera Bread's Broccoli-Cheese Soup. I've been looking for a recipe for a while, and this one is actually fairly simple. It took me about an hour from start to eating.

My husband, and my ex-husband (who happened to be dropping our son off) couldn't tell by sight which soup was mine and which was Panera's. They both liked mine better, and my sons (ages 12 and 7) loved it! They asked if I would make it again.

This was a really fun experiment!

My soup is on the left.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

So many books...

These are the books I'll be donating to the local high school. There are 11 of them.

In my room are over 30 Advance Reader Copies and I have no idea what to do with them. I've read them. I've reviewed some of them. I can't donate them to the library. I can't take them to Goodwill. I definitely can't sell them (not that I would anyway).

What I'll probably do is let my friends take what they'd like, but then what? Do I throw them away? Help! What do you do with your ARCs?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Book Review - The Book of Unholy Mischief by Elle Newmark

The Book of Unholy Mischief
Elle Newmark

Unlikely circumstances pull a homeless boy into a mystery he has no interest in. His focus lies in a safe place to sleep, a relatively full belly and a girl. But, this is the year 1498, Venice, Italy and Luciano does as his benefactor - chef to the doge - says. As apprentice to the chef, Luciano discovers there is more than delicious food cooking in the kitchen. The stories he overhears lead him to discover information about a secret book, a book that the doge wants for the magic it contains.

The Book of Unholy Mischief lushly describes Venice at the very beginning of the Renaissance period. The kitchen, the marketplace, the cut-throat politics at play, all are drawn with precise lines and vivid color. Luciano's life is not easy, but it's also never boring. The telling of his story is almost more interesting than the search for the book. Fans of cooking, historical fiction and love stories will enjoy Elle Newmark's The Book of Unholy Mischief.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Book Review - The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf

The Weight of Silence
Heather Gudenkauf
ISBN # 978-0778327400

Imagine that your 7 year old daughter, and her best friend, have gone missing. It's not unusual for them to hang out together, but there is usually a trusted adult with them.

The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf is a comedy of tragic errors. Neighbors turn against neighbors in their fear and desperation to find Calli and Petra. Old grievances come to light and new secrets are uncovered. Gudenkauf builds a delicious suspense. You'll be turning the pages quickly, driven to find out what happened to these two little girls. There is a plot twist at the end that will leave you gasping.
(July 2009, pp 384, $13.95)

I was given the opportunity to review The Weight of Silence through Trish at TLC Book Tours. To follow the tour, click any of the links below -

Monday, August 17th: Book, Line, and Sinker

Wednesday, August 19th: Virtual Wordsmith

Thursday, August 20th: Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’?

Monday, August 24th: Peeking Between the Pages

Wednesday, August 26th: Bookstack

Friday, August 28th: Beth’s Book Review Blog

Monday, August 31st: Sophisticated Dorkiness

Tuesday, September 1st: The 3 R’s: Reading, ‘Riting, and Randomness

Thursday, September 3rd: Word Lily

Monday, September 7th: Jenn’s Bookshelf

Tuesday, September 8th: Book-a-Rama

Thursday, September 10th: Write Meg

The publisher is offering a coupon code SILENCE10 for 10% off, and it’s effective August 1 - September 15 at eHQ for print or digital. The coupon can be redeemed at eharlequin.com.

Monday, August 17, 2009

A few words from Lev Grossman

I reviewed The Magicians by Lev Grossman a couple weeks ago. I was so impressed with the book that I fired off a few questions (via email) to Mr. Grossman. He was more than kind in taking the time to respond. Read below to find out a little more about Lev and The Magicians.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Lev Grossman. I’m 40. I live in Brooklyn. I have a daughter, Lily, who’s 5. By day I work as the book critic for Time magazine.

While reading The Magicians, I couldn't decide if you were paying homage to J.K. Rowling and C.S. Lewis or thumbing your nose while winking at them. Maybe a bit of both?
Both! Definitely both. That’s the great thing about novels, you don’t have to choose. I love Rowling and Lewis both, but it would be boring for everybody if I wrote just like them. (Which I couldn’t do anyway, if I tried.) So instead I wrote about some of the same things they did, but from a different place, with a different take.

How did The Magicians come to be?
Slowly. I’ve spent my whole life reading fantasy, which I suppose was a way of getting ready to write The Magicians. I took the first notes for it in 1996. I was inspired by Ursula Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea -- the chapters set at the magic school on Roke. Then I put it aside again. I wasn’t ready yet.

Then in 2004 a few different things happened. I read Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, and my head pretty much exploded. Also I had a mid-life crisis (divorce, etc.) I had been planning to write a more conventional novel, but I threw it away. The fantasy part of me wouldn’t be quiet anymore. Fantasy was the only way I could think of to talk about what was going on with my real life.

Which authors have inspired you?
On the fantasy side: Lewis and Rowling, obviously, but also TH White, Fritz Leiber, and Larry Niven. And of course Susanna Clarke.

On the literary side: Evelyn Waugh (especially Brideshead Revisited), Donna Tartt (especially The Secret History), and Jonathan Franzen. While I was writing The Magicians I kept a copy of The Corrections on one side of my desk, and a copy of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe on the other.

What are you reading right now?
I read for a living, so I’m always reading a bunch of different books at once. Right now I’m in the middle of Iain Banks’ Transition (which I’m loving), Nicholson Baker’s The Anthologist (which I wished I were loving but am not particularly yet) and E.L Doctorow’s Homer & Langley (too soon to tell). Also -- not for work, but when I can make time for it -- I’m reading I Remember the Future, a collection of stories by an old friend of mine, Michael Burstein (which I am loving).

Will you be traveling the country to talk about and sign copies of The Magicians?
Yes! New York, Boston, Denver, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles. Maybe more places, if people want. Come see me! I am an enthusiastic but somewhat spazzy public speaker, and I wave my arms around too much. But I’m doing my best.

For more information about The Magicians and Lev Grossman, visit www.levgrossman.com

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Book Incognito on Kindle

I came across this video showing how to keep people from seeing what unsavory titles might be lurking in your Kindle. Watch it, I'll wait.

Ok. Now, while that's a nifty trick, is it a necessity? I could maybe see being discreet if Hustler is one of your regular subscriptions, but feeling as if you must hide your beloved Harlequin romances... not such a big deal.

My biggest complaint about e-readers is not being able to hand off my newest favorite book to my friends. Well, I could, but then what am I going to read?

Are you ever embarrassed about the books you're reading?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Book Review - The Magicians by Lev Grossman

The Magicians
Lev Grossman
Viking Adult
ISBN # 978-0670020553

"Quentin Coldwater is brilliant but miserable. He's a senior in high school, and a certifiable genius, but he's still secretly obsessed with a series of fantasy novels he read as a kid, about the adventures of five children in a magical land called Fillory.

Everything changes when Quentin finds himself unexpectedly admitted to a very secret, very exclusive college of magic in upstate New York, where he receives a thorough and rigorous education in the practice of modern sorcery. He also discovers all the other things people learn in college: friendship, love, sex, booze, and boredom. But something is still missing. Magic doesn't bring Quentin the happiness and adventure he thought it would."

I loved The Magicians! I giggled, chortled and "ah-hah'ed" outloud through the entire book. My husband kept giving me funny looks, because I'm typically very quiet when I'm reading.

Invariably, The Magicians will be compared to Harry Potter and Narnia. And, of course, I noticed some similarities, too. But, The Magicians is like Harry Potter on steroids - much bigger, deeper and darker (and written better, I think).

Lev Grossman has written a book that tweaks all of my reader buttons - great words, superb writing, books within the book, humor, tragedy, satire and conceit. Do yourself a favor and visit The Magicians Book, it's pure fun for grown-ups.

(August 2009, pp 416, $26.95)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Book Review - Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner and a giveaway!

Best Friends Forever
Jennifer Weiner
ISBN # 978-0743294294

Discover what happens when your best friend from high school shows up on your doorstep and says "You're my only hope. Help me."

Considering that Jennifer Weiner's book, Best Friends Forever just attained the coveted position of #1 on the NYT Bestseller list - Congratulations, Jennifer! - I'm sure she doesn't need more promotion... but, I wanted to talk about it anyway.

Best Friends Forever is about acceptance, forgiveness and love. High school can be like a haunted house for lots of kids. You never know if you're going to meet Casper the friendly ghost, or some entity that will suck your soul out through your nose. Teenagers are inherently insecure, always looking for a group to belong to, and always wary of betrayal. Jennifer's characters are no different.

What most of us come to realize as adults is we all do the best we can. Love (of self and others), acceptance and looking outside of ourselves brings perspective we don't possess as teenagers. I liked this book, and apparently many other people do, too.

Now, for the giveaway! I have 2 copies of Best Friends Forever to share. All you have to do is leave a comment, by midnight July 31st, and you will be entered. Giveaway only open to US locations. Was high school tough for you or the time of your life? Do you still know and talk to your BFF from back then? Have you come to understand why your friends were the way they were back then?

The drawing will be decidedly old fashioned. My 7 year old will draw two names from a hat - or a bucket, depending on how many entries there are. Good luck!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Book Review - The Castaways by Elin Hilderbrand

The Castaways
Elin Hilderbrand
Little, Brown and Company
ISBN # 978-0316043892

"Greg and Tess MacAvoy are one of four prominent Nantucket couples who count each other as best friends. As pillars of their close-knit community, the MacAvoys, Kapenashes, Drakes, and Wheelers are important to their friends and neighbors, and especially to each other. But just before the beginning of another idyllic summer, Greg and Tess are killed when their boat capsizes during an anniversary sail. As the warm weather approaches and the island mourns their loss, nothing can prepare the MacAvoy's closest friends for what will be revealed."

No matter how well you think you know your friends, never assume they've told you everything. Elin Hilderbrand might as well have written a case study of human psychology/sociology, although I must say, The Castaways held my attention far longer than a thesis would have.

The webs woven among the four couples (self named The Castaways) begin to unravel when Greg and Tess McAvoy die in a boating accident. The mess they leave behind changes the way their friends view each other and themselves. Hilderbrand is masterful in her approach, interspersing flashbacks and real time to show how the friendships begin, grow and are stretched to their limits.
(July 2009, pp 368, $24.99)

Enter to Win EXCLUSIVE ElinHilderbrand.net Tote Bag, plus a copy of THE CASTAWAYS, BAREFOOT, and A SUMMER AFFAIR

Friday, July 10, 2009

Woah! I wrote that?!

Have you ever written something, just to get it down on paper before it drove you insane? And then come upon it much later, only to have it take your breath away? That happened to me yesterday.

I won't share it here, mostly because it's very personal. But, I have been struggling with writing for the last 8 months or so, and it gave me hope that all is not lost. The words are still there, waiting for me to write them.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Write for free? I don't think so!

If you're a freelance writer, you know the work involved in findng writing gigs. First off, you must have original ideas that will interest an editor. Second, you have to present the ideas in such a way that grabs the editor from word one. Third, you have to make the time to write the piece as cleanly as you can.

I don't know about you, but I'm pretty tired of the writing leads that say "Please send a sample relevant to the topic." I've been published, I have two blogs, and I'm capable of writing an email. Shouldn't that be enough? I'm not inclined to write something fresh, email it off to an unknown person, never hear anything back and then see my work show up somewhere without any compensation for it.

Honestly, does it really have to be this frustrating (and insulting)?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Book Review - Summertime by Lynn McMonigal

Lynn McMonigal
ISBN # 978-1442102538

“Entertainment journalist Laura Bell has been a single mother for her daughter's entire life. She has not even seen her daughter's father, Joey, a member of a once hugely popular boy band, in almost 10 years. When his band, Zero Gravity, plans a reunion tour, Laura is asked to cover the event. She is suddenly forced to confront her past. Can she build a life for her daughter, one that includes Joey, without compromising her new-found Christian faith? Or will she have to choose between God and Joey?”

Summertime is the first book I've read entirely in digital format. I've been dreading doing this because I usually read curled up in my comfy recliner, or in bed just before I go to sleep. I'm so glad I had the opportunity to read Lynn's book this way.

Lynn has written a terrific feel good story. It touches on some difficult issues, but remains hopeful and highly entertaining. It's a smooth read, the pacing is good - the perfect book to slip into your beach bag!
(June 2009, pp 306, $15.00)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Why I Love Twitter!

I am an information junkie. Infatuation with ideas is what keeps my heart beating. I also love humor. Make me laugh - deep down from the gut, side splitting, face cracking jocularity - and I'm yours forever (probably). Thanks to Twitter, I find myself constantly amused. Sort of like a 20 something male visiting a nude beach for the first time. Concurrently titillated, aroused, curious and mortified.

Some of the gems I've been exposed to, just today, follow...

I love Twitter because it's a never ending source of things that make me go "hmmmmmm". Once upon a time, I thought about starting a blog called Did You Ever Wonder? Twitter did this for me, in 140 characters or less. Now, that's MAGIC!

So, Twitter, heart it or hate it? And tell me why, please.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Green Teen

Last week, I attended the online release party for The Green Teen by Jenn Savedge. It was held at The Green Teen's Facebook page. Just by contributing to the ongoing conversation there that day, I was entered to win some fabulous prizes. FANTASTIC marketing concept, not only for Jenn, but also for the companies donating the prizes.

The Green Teen website

I was lucky enough to win a t-shirt from revengeis.com. It's made from 50% cotton and 50% recycled bottles! I love how it fits and it's incredibly soft.

The release party was fun, and again, a brilliant way to promote a book.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Time flies (or passes by)

The last three months have been tough. I've been dealing with a family member's diagnosed mental illness, up close and personal. It hasn't left a lot of room in my head for any kind of creativity. And, my grandfather died a few weeks ago.

The good news is said family member is being treated and is showing marked improvement. And, it's Spring! My front flower garden is beautiful, laden with tulips, irises and violets. Any time I need a lift I look out my bedroom window.

So, for those of you who have wondered, I'm still here.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Guest Post - Annette Fix, author of The Break-Up Diet, talks about Self Publishing

D.I.Y. (Do-It Yourself) Publishing – Is It an Option for You?
By Annette Fix

When I was a little girl and someone tried to tie my shoes for me, I always insisted, “I can do it myself!” Maybe that same stubbornness and strong belief in my own abilities foreshadowed that I’d choose the publishing path less traveled. It wasn’t my original direction, but it’s eventually where I ended up.

Thanks to the advances in printing technology, it’s now possible—more so than ever before—for every writer to see her words printed and bound in book form. The easy access to cover and interior book designers, digital printers, and even offset printers, makes the once mysterious publishing process available to any and every writer who takes the initiative to utilize the resources.

The traditional route—through an agent to an editor at an established publishing house—was the only option for writers for many years. Now, the field of options has grown exponentially.

For a detailed explanation of the available publishing models, take a minute and read this article: http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/11-FE-AnnetteFix.html There is too much information for me to explain in a single blog post.

Alternate publishing options I had to choose from:

Independent Publishing – Independent publishers function much like traditional publishers in their structure, but often take on fewer projects per year, and often do not pay royalties. They can range from micro presses with only one title to large indies like Wiley & Sons (the For Dummies publisher).

Joint Venture Publishing – A newer publishing model based on expense and profit sharing between the author and the publisher.

Subsidy/Vanity Publishers – AuthorHouse, iUniverse, Xlibris, et al. (Countless subsidy companies have cropped up online and often use the misleading terminology self-publishing company and/or POD publisher.*) This model is explained more in depth in the article linked above. *There is no such thing as a POD publisher. POD = Print On Demand—a digital printing technology, not a publishing model.

Self-Publishing – The author creates her own publishing company, purchases a block of ISBN, and moves her manuscript through the editing, design, and printing processes as well as securing distribution/fulfillment, and establishing wholesale accounts, including Amazon.com.
Of those options, I chose to self-publish.

My book, The Break-Up Diet: A Memoir, is the candid story of a 30-something single mother and aspiring writer who is working as an exotic dancer, searching for Prince Charming, and trying to find the perfect balance between her dreams and her day-to-day life as Supermom.

Of course, living my life (and then writing about it) was a wild ride, but I had no idea how much I would learn about the publishing industry during my self-publishing adventure. To give you an idea, I’ve created a list of pros and cons—based on my experiences:

Complete creative freedom to choose your book cover image, interior design, launch date, and everything and anything associated with developing the product, fixing it in tangible form, promoting and selling it.

Complete creative freedom to choose a lame cover image, horrible interior design, poorly-timed launch date, etc. (laughs) Seriously though, it’s often challenging and costly to find the right freelance editor and designers to work with you to create a product that can compete on the same level with traditionally published books. It’s not unusual for many self-published authors fail to create a competitive product.

Receive the lion’s share of the financial return from book sales—which for a $16.95 retail paperback works out to be approx. $7.63 per unit for the author/publisher. Ok, so maybe it’s an emaciated lion. (Traditionally published authors make between $1.00 - $1.50 per unit—based on the number rumors I’ve heard.)

Assume all the financial risks, have trouble getting wholesalers to actually pay your invoices, limited distribution, and more confusing accounting and inventory paperwork than any creative person should ever have to deal with. And don’t even attempt self-publishing if you can’t blow through more than $10K without developing a facial tic, or if you’re allergic to standing beside the freeway off ramp with a cardboard sign and giving your books away with a bag of oranges.

Tally It Up:
When it comes down to it, it’s not an easy road. And maybe after reading about my experiences, you’ll have a better idea of whether self-publishing is the right publishing model for you.

Find out about Annette’s publishing journey from the traditional road to her self-publishing detour:

Annette Fix is a freelance editor, a publishing industry and single parenting speaker, Senior Editor of WOW! Women On Writing, and the author of The Break-Up Diet: A Memoir.

Visit her blog at Annette’s Paper Trail. She enjoys hearing from her readers. You can email her directly at annette[at]annettefix[dot]com.

For the length of her blog tour, Annette will be giving away free digital copies of her memoir. If you’d like a copy, send an email to promo[at]thebreak-updiet[dot]com, please put “Virtual Wordsmith” in the subject line.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I've got a brand new pair of roller skates...

Remember when you were a kid, and life was all about right now? You walked out the door with no plan, no agenda - whatever happened next was completely unknown to you, and that was the fun of it.

I'd forgotten about that, until I started reading Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott. The book is about writing and life, but it's also about taking things small steps at a time, letting the characters show you what happens next. No-one sits down and pours out a full length novel in one shot.

The one thing that really jumped out at me is Anne's concept of the "one inch picture frame." As in, write only about what you can see through the frame. What a marvelous focus tool!

Bird By Bird has reminded me of the joy I once felt when I walked into my 7th grade English class and the teacher would say "Today, we write." She would give us a prompt, and then we'd scribble furiously for 20 minutes. The stories shared were what we saw through our respective tiny picture frames, but funnily enough, the views were panoramic.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Sometimes life can't help but take precedence...

I was really hoping to be blogging every weekday again, but a few things came up in the last two weeks that took precedence. However, today is a new day, beginning a new week, and a new month - so here I am.

I went to Barnes & Noble on Saturday looking for 2 specific books (and maybe a side of inspiration). Picked up Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott and The Writing Diet by Julia Cameron. I figured while I was there I'd grab The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, as well, since it just won the Newbery Medal.

One would think it would have its own spectacular display screaming "Here I am! Buy me!" But, no, not so much. I walked over to the information desk to ask about it. The had no copies in-store, but they had just placed an order for... 12.

Now, I know the award was a huge surprise, to the author himself, even. But, come on, the book has been hyped all over the 'net - and Neil went on a whirlwind tour, reading a chapter of the book at each stop. You'd think bookstores, and Target, and Walmart would have some copies on hand.

So, I'm rather dismayed to say that amazon.com will most likely profit from my book buying dollar. I really wonder if there will be any brick-and-mortar bookstores around by 2015.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Now, where did I put that... ?

I've been reading a lot of blog posts, Tweets and Plurks about getting organized. It is that time of year when people resolve to be better about keeping track of their stuff and where they put it.

There are many options for writers to keep backups of their writing. The one thing I always try to do is keep an actual hard copy of anything I write (well, anything I sink a lot of time into, anyway). I print it out and put it in a plastic sleeve, and then put it in a 2 inch binder. I haven't written enough pieces for this to be a space issue just yet.

As for virtual storage and organization, this is what I do...

  • I keep one copy on my desktop computer, as that's where I do most of my writing.
  • I have a designated SD card for my writing and I keep copies there as well. Jump Sticks work just as well.
  • I also upload my files to Google Documents, so that I can access them from anywhere I can acquire an internet connection.

There are online backup sites, such as www.4shared.com or www.mozy.com. Some are free, some are not.

If anyone has other ideas/ways they stay organized, please chime in. Now, where did I put that... ?

Monday, January 12, 2009

A world dusted in confectioner's sugar.

It began to snow at daybreak. At first a fine sifting, gradually increasing, until there were four inches of fresh powder by noon. Now, the flakes look like goose down. It lifts my spirit and makes me drowsy - simultaneously.

School was dismissed two hours early. My plans for the afternoon hit a hard stop, but I don't mind. I still remember the excitement of an early dismissal from school, and walking into my warm home and my mom hugging me. We'll make cookies and take care of homework without the pressure of dinner making, and bath taking and bedtime.

Snow like this slows things down. I do appreciate it - now and then.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Back in the game!

My New Year's resolution is to get focused and get back in the game of Freelance Writing. I veered off course as soon as the kids went on Summer Break last year and it was all downhill from there.


I have submitted a gardening tip to a major mag and it's under consideration. I sent a query to a regional gardening magazine regarding a reprint. And, I've spent a lot of time the last couple of days jotting down ideas and researching publications to query.

I've also come to the realization that I've been much too isolated and I NEED to get out and socialize, and participate in life if I want to have a hope in hell of generating interesting ideas. So, one other goal for 2009 is to do things I've never done before. Nothing radical or bone breaking, but do some of the things I keep saying I'd like to do - like spend a weekend camping up North in Minnesota, visit the places in the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, and go hunting next Fall.

That's my plan for the year. What's yours?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Book Review - The Writer's Planner by Gayle Trent

If you're a writer, you probably have a system for keeping track of your works in progress. But, if you're a new writer, you may have found yourself lost as to how to organize your work. Gayle Trent has provided an excellent tool with The Writer's Planner.

"At last, writers have a planner all their own. This printable, editable planner includes articles, URLs of interest to writers, quotes from writers and a submission tracker. You can even list your TBR list and your favorite sites with passwords. Best of all, the planner can be used year after year as long as you save a copy of the original."

The Writer's Planner is available at the Amazon Web Store.