For contributions to the newsletter and Letters to the Editor, please email the editor of SPAWNews: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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If you are not a member, join now online: http://www.spawn.org/join.htm
From the President
Welcome to all the new members and subscribers who have discovered SPAWN this month!
Our next SPAWN member teleseminar is April 22 with Hobie Hobart from Dunn+Associates Design and it’s all about book covers. The title is “You Have 10 Seconds to Sell Your Book! Use the Power of Your Book Cover To Launch Your Business Empire.” I consulted with Hobie’s partner Kathi Dunn on my first book cover and I still feel it was some of the best money I spent because people really DO judge a book by its cover.
You can always see the upcoming teleseminars on this page:
Hobie will also be speaking at the Self-Publishers Online Conference (SPOC) in May. If you have lamented the fact that you can’t afford to fly to New York City for Book Expo, consider attending SPOC. There is no cost for a Basic Pass. And you can attend from the comfort of your own office. (No airports or tedious trips through security involved!) You can read more here:
In SPAWNews news, I’m pleased that Sandy has selected creativity for the newsletter theme this month. I just adopted a new rescue dog and haven’t gotten much sleep, which has made me feel decidedly NOT creative. I think I need to try out Barbara Florio Graham’s fun creativity exercise later today. (Scroll down and you’ll see what I mean!)
Until next month, keep on creating!
April Teleseminar Announcement!
Hobie Hobart to Present Teleseminar for SPAWN Members
Who: Partner at Dunn+Associates Design
When: April 22, 1:00 p.m. Pacific Time
How: Members will receive an email with call-in details
Title: “You Have 10 Seconds to Sell Your Book! Use the Power of Your Book Cover To Launch Your Business Empire”
Read more: http://www.spawn.org/blog/?p=1079
This month’s theme is creativity. Currently, I’m using all of my creative thoughts in dealing with an IRS audit. If my creativity needs a boost after the audit, I’ll do Barbara Florio-Graham’s exercise. (Look for it in this issue.) She says I’ll be able to tap into my right brain—will you try it, too?
Also in this issue you’ll find out how Sandra Jones Cropsey whittled, cut, smashed and coerced her book into a play. Susan Alcott Jardine talks about art in a slow economy. Confused about word usage? Bonnie Myhrum can help you out.
During hard times, we have to be especially creative in order to keep our businesses going, income flowing and, frankly, to beat out the competition who say they are willing to work for pennies, just to see their name in print. Take a contrary approach—see what is on magazine covers. Can you write an article on the opposite viewpoint? People-watch for new ideas. If families can’t afford a night at the movies, what are they doing instead?
Send me your best hints on keeping your spirits up, ways to save on office costs, and tips for living with less while waiting for things to improve. I’ll put them in the next newsletter. And on a slow day, wander through the SPAWNews archives for inspiration. They go back to the 90s; you never know what ideas will come to mind reading “retro news”!
I’m always on the hunt for interesting members. As a featured member in SPAWNews, you get to tell about yourself, your work and give a blurb about your book or service. It might bring you some business! If you’re interested in being the next guest of honor, email me: email@example.com.
You have to be a member to join the SPAWNdiscuss Yahoo list, but it’s worth it. This month’s main discussions were on the $47, 40-page e-book; hard sell vs. soft sell; what constitutes value to the reader; affiliate marketing; alternative ways to sell books, and piracy.
— Sandy, Editor, SPAWNews, firstname.lastname@example.org
SPAWN Market Update
by Patricia Fry
The April SPAWN Market Update is designed to help you sell more books, earn more money through writing, and further position yourself as an expert in your field. If this doesn’t appeal to you, as a career author/writer, you are in the wrong business.
This month we have located a whopping 26 magazines that publish book reviews and book excerpts and most of them pay for your excerpt or book review. We feature 32 (mostly) paying markets for freelance writers as well as for authors who are promoting books. Twenty-two of them publish fiction. As usual, we also report on numerous updates and changes within the publishing industry—some of them are important to your success as a writer/author. Are you aware of the Facebook Writers’ Club? Would you like to know more about how to start your own newsletter? Do you know what a Vook is? Are you interested in a job in a publishing company? Do you have any idea what Alibris, New Leaf, Candlewick Press, The Chicago Sun Times, Entrepreneur Magazine and Sam’s Club are doing that could affect you? Read the April SPAWN Market Update and find out!
If you are a freelance writer or author, do your career or your book promotion efforts a huge favor. Spring forward and join SPAWN NOW. It’s only $65/year. That’s 12 issues of the valuable SPAWN Market Update. Check out the other benefits of joining here http://www.spawn.org
Ask the Book Doctor:
About Book Proposals, Their Purpose and Format
By Bobbie Christmas
Q: I’m thinking about writing a controversial book about [subject deleted for privacy]. There have probably been a number of books already written on this subject, and there is a ton of information about the subject on the Internet.
I have two concerns. One, could plagiarism be involved if I take information from the Internet? My next concern has to do with the market. I wrote to some of the Web sites for permission to use their material, and a person wrote back and claimed that books of this nature do not sell well, even if you are an experienced writer. Any thoughts?
A: Research statistics and information are available to us all. You plagiarize only when you use the exact sentences and paragraphs someone else has written, but if you take information and rewrite it in your own words, you are not plagiarizing.
As to the issue of marketability, obviously the subject goes against popular thinking, which means one of several things can happen. It could hit a controversial note, catch a publisher’s eye, get published, get a great deal of publicity, and sell many copies. A few controversial books have done so. At the opposite end of the spectrum, it could be too controversial and not unique, and no traditional publisher will want to touch it. How can you guess which it will be?
Here’s the thing to remember: Only one percent of all manuscripts written ever get traditionally published, but people keep writing books, and publishers keep buying them, so people who are passionate about their subject and diligent about polishing their writing and editing skills are still being successful, even in a tough market. Self-publishing means you take all the risks, but you could reap the benefits if your book becomes a hit.
The reason traditional publishers want a book proposal for nonfiction books is simple: Proposals make the author research the market and estimate the size of the market as well as the size and toughness of the competition. My suggestion is this: Instead of writing the whole book, write a proposal. Get a book on how to write a book proposal and perform all the research a proposal requires. Study the size of the market. Find other books on that subject and find out how they fared. Don’t listen to one person’s vague comment. Go to the publishers of similar books and ask for sales figures.
See what, if anything, you can do to make your book unique, better than others on the market, and more appealing to a broader audience. If you can’t come up with a unique selling point, you may decide not to write the book, or you may decide to self-publish a small quantity and test the market yourself, if you have an outlet for your book—that is, if you can find a way to reach into the niche market to which it is geared.
Q: This “book proposal” stuff is a fine kettle of fish. Too much advice, and much of it contradictory. Double-spaced, single-spaced, some of each, etc. When YOU write a proposal, do you use strict Standard Manuscript Format, including a Courier-style font, or do you write more like you’re writing a long letter and use a more Roman-type font? Do you single space ANY PART of the proposal? Do you underline, or do you italicize? And what about bold? And what about these double hyphens? (–) You see what I’m asking. A manuscript is written the way it is because it’s written for a typesetter. A proposal, however, is written for an agent to use to sell a manuscript. Can the proposal be written more like a letter, or is sticking close to the Standard Manuscript Format the best advice?
A: I, too, have seen conflicting guidelines about book proposals, including a recent one in which a publisher allowed me to submit the whole proposal in the body of an e-mail, and to heck with all the formatting, because e-mail takes most of it out, anyway.
For the publisher who bought my most successful book, Write In Style, though, I followed the style set forth by Michael Larsen in his book simply titled How to Write a Book Proposal. His suggestion, and I followed it to a T, was that the entire book proposal as well as the sample chapters be in Standard Manuscript Format: double-spaced, 12-point Courier type, no boldface type, and underlines to indicate italics. Double hyphens are used to indicate a dash, and no space goes before or after dashes.
Yes, manuscripts are written in Standard Manuscript Format because it used to be the style typesetters required. Agents and publishers got used to seeing manuscripts that way, and most still want them that way, even though computers have changed things.
One ghostwriter I know zips together a quickie proposal in single-spaced Times New Roman and still gets many a job, but he has an extensive successful track record, and several of his books have won national awards. Until you feel as confident, you can never go wrong by following the rules, but you can sometimes go wrong by breaking them. I worked with one publisher who said he never even reads the first line of a manuscript that is not in Standard Manuscript Format, because any writer who can’t or won’t follow rules is either uneducated or too much of a prima donna to make a good client.
Bobbie Christmas, book doctor, author of Write In Style (Union Square Publishing), and owner of Zebra Communications, will answer your questions, too. Send them to Bobbie@zebraeditor.com. Visit Bobbie’s blog at http://bobbiechristmas.blogspot.com. Read more “Ask the Book Doctor” questions and answers at www.zebraeditor.com.
Want to be part of the Member News? Send us your items and we’ll be glad to include your good news in the next issue. Want to be a Member Interview? It will give you a chance to plug your book, your business, yourself. Just email me and let me know you’d like to be included. The email is email@example.com
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Mark your calendar for the 2010 Self-Publishers Online Conference (SPOC)
Live Long and Publish! May 12-14, 2010, at SPOC you’ll learn from 15 experts about all the ins and outs of self-publishing and marketing your book. Dan Poynter, Mark Victor Hansen, Fern Reiss, Peter Bowerman, John Kremer, Penny Sansevieri, and many more will be on hand with presentations sure to inspire and motivate you.
In addition to the speakers, you’ll enjoy an online exhibit
hall with book industry vendors, Q&A roundtables, and online discussion tools so attendees can network with one another. There is no cost for a Basic attendance pass. For more information or to register, visit the SPOC Web site at: http://www.SelfPublishersOnlineConference.com
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SPAWN President Susan Daffron and her husband James Byrd are offering a writing retreat for non-fiction book authors this fall (September 24-29, 2010). Initial information on the retreat is available here: Cabin in the Woods Writing Retreat
Susan and James are still working out the exact program and pricing details, but if you are interested in learning more and possibly attending, let them know by filling out the form on the writing retreat page, so you can be first in line when registration opens.
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Patricia Fry announces her latest book. Surprise! It is not of the writing/publishing kind. It is a charming book of true cat stories. Catscapades, True Cat Tales reflects cats and kittens in a variety of harrowing and heartwarming circumstances. Perfect-bound, over 40 color photos of cats and kittens, dozens of stories. $12.95. http://www.matilijapress.com/catscapades.html
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From Dallas Woodburn, Youth Director/Board Member of SPAWN:
About a month ago I shared that my youth literacy foundation “Write On!” was a finalist in the Glamour Magazine/Sally Hansen “Best of You” contest. I would like to thank you all for your kind words of support and for taking the time to vote for me on the contest Web site. I was blown away by your amazing and positive response.
I just found out that Write On! is one of four grand-prize WINNERS!!! The prize is a generous grant for Write On! Projects, plus a three-day trip to NYC to be in a photo shoot for a future issue of the magazine. This will be such wonderful exposure to help spread the word about Write On! I am absolutely thrilled.
Also, we helped raise more than $5,000 for DKMS, the world’s largest bone marrow donation center. Thank you!! Have a wonderful week! I’ve spent all morning dancing around my living room!
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Note: To have your announcements included in Member News, you must be a paid member of SPAWN. Please email your news to firstname.lastname@example.org
Words to Live By
by Bonnie Myhrum
Some folks will have you believe that to show how educated you are, or to make a good impression on others, you should know a lot of fancy words. In my opinion, it’s better to properly use the words you already know. This makes me think of the woman I knew more than 30 years ago who thought she was “all that” and talked about the “fay-kade” (her pronunciation of facade) of Independence Hall. She gave herself away with her mispronunciation and we have never forgotten it.
We see words, hear words, write words, and say words. I have thought a word meant one thing, when it actually meant something else (disinterested). I have heard a word and wondered what the speaker meant but never bothered to look it up, thinking the speaker didn’t know what he was talking about (believe it or not—iterative). I have read words that I thought were incorrect but dang! I looked them up and sure enough, they are actually real words (sewerage and analyzation)! And I have mispronounced words (fete and forte).
I’m editing a novel whose author has used and misused many adjectives in an effort to describe the scenery or the action in his story. His eagerness to describe EVERYthing in detail has created a glut of peculiar sentences, phrases, and images in my head. Frankly, I think he has used too many words with which he’s not that familiar. He’s also used a few words with which I’m not familiar. And I have come across a few made-up words. The result is a narrative that is bogged down in flowery descriptions that bore and sometimes confuse the reader. Use fewer words that get to the point, be sure you know what they mean, and spell them correctly.
For more articles on writing, grammar, punctuation and spelling, visit my blog “Read/reed Write/rite” at http://professionalsecretary.wordpress.com.
SPAWN member Bonnie Myhrum, editor/proofreader, proofreads SPAWNews and has edited and/or proofread numerous books, proposals, articles, flyers, Web sites, letters and other written (and sometimes spoken) words. See her Web site at www.professionalsecretaryllc.com e-mail her at email@example.com or call 734.455.0987.
by Patricia Fry
The Power of Memoir, How to Write Your Healing Story
By Linda Joy Myers, Ph.D.
251 pages — $16.95
The Power of Memoir is more than a book on how to write a memoir. It is also a toolkit for helping writers heal long-held pain. I think most of us who have written a memoir, found the process therapeutic. And Myers, a psychotherapist and an author, has discovered a way to help writers share their stories in a more meaningful, more truthful and more healing way.
This step-by-step guide begins by challenging you to truly understand why you want to write your story. Your response to Myers’ questions may surprise you. Once this is established, the author takes you by the hand and leads you through the process. And it can be an interesting one. As she says, “Writing a memoir is an adventure into the unknown and, at the same time, like visiting the comforting old movies of the past that flicker in the parlor, where tea, a fire, and the smiles of our ancestors greet us.” But it can also be an emotional journey as you delve into old hurts. And Myers is there to help along the way.
She provides the tips and techniques you need in order to write a cohesive manuscript and even offers information and resources for those who wish to publish their works. I think most readers will appreciate that she includes sample stories from some of her workshops. And she generously sprinkles the pages of her book with plenty of expert quotes and perspective as well as anecdotes.
One of the most valuable aspects of this book for most new authors is Myers’ section on organizing your memoir—what to include, what to leave out, and how to organize all of the information you collect. You’ll also find her writing prompts useful.
If you are thinking about writing your memoir, I suggest you study this book first. You may just decide to keep it at your elbow during the writing process for guidance and support.
Linda Joy Myers, Ph.D. is founder and President of the National Association of Memoir Writers. http://www.namw.org.
How to Turn a Book into a Play
by Sandra Jones Cropsey
Author of Who’s There? and Tinker’s Christmas
Who’s There?: From Written Word to Staged Play
Some years ago, I watched my young son portray “Rudolph” in the Christmas program at his school. Seeing that darling child frolic down the aisle to the stage gave me immense pleasure. This year, I saw one of my plays performed at a local theater, and the pleasure in so doing was equally rewarding. Written works often become like children to their creators, albeit sometimes unruly children, but children nevertheless, and they are nursed and nurtured in much the same way through all the various stages of development.
Published as a novel in 2007, Who’s There? was originally written as a play and was part of the Atlanta New Play Project many years ago. The logline is as follows:
Momma, Sister, and Ivylee live on a chicken farm in the rural south where
each looks for love and each waits. Every day they hold a bizarre memorial
service for Bunk’s amputated leg, which they otherwise keep in the freezer.
Someone knocks, but Momma’s beliefs are not strong enough for her to
answer. So she looks for signs to help her understand who’s there.
Although shrouded in comedy, Who’s There? is more than just a comedy. Often I have referred to the story as a cross between Joseph Kesselring’s Arsenic and Old Lace and Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. When I first read—and then later saw—Waiting for Godot, I found myself deeply moved by it. Oftentimes, life does seem to be that little thing that happens to us while we wait. Although influenced at the time by many of the Theatre of the Absurd playwrights, I was particularly enamored with the work of Beckett and Harold Pinter. Their works best addressed the stark reality life mirrored in the existential question: Why am I here? Thus, Who’s There? became, for me, my own quest to find meaning in a world that sometimes does not seem to offer any. Whether I happen to adhere to all the aspects of the Theatre of the Absurd style or not, there is indeed one to which I do adhere: The “purpose [is] to provoke thought with laughter.” If pressed to describe this work, I would have to say “Theatre of the Absurd with a southern slant.”
In February and March of this year (2010), the revised version of the play was performed by the Main Street Players in Griffin, Georgia and I agreed to direct the play. After one of the matinee performances, we hosted a “talk back” entitled “Who’s There? and How We Got Here: The Trials and Tribulations of Undertaking a Premier Production.” Casual and fun and not nearly as pretentious as the title suggests, between 30 and 40 people attended, and question topics ranged from the premise for the original story to the development of the characters. Each member of the cast shared his or her individual reaction to the experience of working on a yet-untried production, and all agreed that the greatest challenge was in not having a previous performance to look to in terms of character preparation. A couple of cast members added that having the playwright present presented its own unique circumstances. Imagine that. One member of the cast liked to paraphrase a lot, so the director, who also happened to be the playwright, delivered her own monologue: Writers select words and phrasing in a certain order for a reason. The selection is never random, and those words have been read aloud thousands of times for substance, sound, rhythm, and nuance. At no time is random selection a consideration. To this fine actor’s credit, he went back to the script and presented the lines as written.
The greatest challenge for me personally—besides overcoming all the nerves involved in such an undertaking—was editing the script enough to get it to an acceptable running time. As it was, with the intermission, the performance time was approximately two hours, which tends to be a bit long for today’s productions. In the process, I had to eliminate scenes I thought would play well, which was not only challenging but painful. Taking a 221-page published work and condensing it to a 109-page working script is like stripping an automobile down to its body and then building it back with only the essentials. Sometimes what was left on the ground were all the bells and whistles that make driving so much more enjoyable: “Oh, but I like power windows. . . No surround sound?. . . Not the cruise control, too?. . .” My only consolation, at moments, was: “Well, maybe there are enough parts left over to write a sequel.” Basically what I was left with was a beginning, middle, and end, with some funny, fluffy stuff on the side. But as with most writing, is that not what is supposed to be left, except maybe for the fluffy stuff?
As a writer, especially if I am experiencing difficulty bringing a work full circle to my anticipated end, I challenge myself to take a work in one format and rewrite it in another, i.e. take a play to a screenplay or a novel to a play, addressing at the same time the elements of each format. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it does not. Judging from the audience’s reaction to the production of Who’s There?, this time it worked.
All in all, I could not have been more pleased with the final product, unless of course some big New York producer had been waiting for me backstage with a check. God blessed me with the opportunity to work with some truly gifted actors, and the small black-box theatre belonging to the Main Street Players created just the right warmth and ambience for the play. We ran the show for eight performances and received standing ovations at every one. My greatest pleasure was to sit at the back of the theater and watch the audience’s reaction. I saw big, burly guys literally shake from laughing, and one gentleman got so tickled, he lost his breath. I found myself thinking, “Is he going to pass out? Is he having a heart attack?” Gratefully, neither. Apparently, he was just having a good time.
The experience is one I shall never forget. Like my living, breathing child, my words developed a life of their own! The closest I could come to describing the sensation is to say that it is similar to the way an author feels when copies of his or her very first published book arrive, only magnified a few thousand times. It is love of a different sort; it is theater.
Tapping Your Innate Creativity
by Barbara Florio Graham
Take a piece of blank paper, and using your non-dominant hand, begin writing the phrase, “When I was a child…”
It’s surprising to see how the right brain (whether you’re right- or left-handed) taps into memories and emotions that are deeply buried. Participants are often amazed at what flows out of their pens.
If you use a colored pencil or marker when you do this, you’ll help engage your right brain.
Art in a Slow Economy
SPRING IS HERE AND ART IS IN THE AIR By Susan Alcott Jardine
The good news according to Art Business News, is that even though we are experiencing the largest economic turndown since the Depression, “functional art” seems to be holding its own in the art marketplace.
It’s spring and the art fairs and festival circuit is beginning. This has always been an ideal market for functional artists . . . those craftsmen and women who create wearable art, ceramics, pottery, jewelry, whimsical sculpture, furniture, woodwork, quilts—one- of-a-kind, hand-crafted pieces that have a use. Collectors value made-by-hand works that are not only something beautiful to look at, but useful as well.
With many commercial galleries closing or charging artists for wall space to exhibit their work, how can fine artists create affordable and functional art that is fun and can tide them over until our economy picks up? If you are a fine artist, illustrator, or graphic artist, your work most likely falls into the “fine art” category, and is usually considered wall art. How can that be converted into “functional art” without licensing it to major art publishers or trying to manufacture products on your own? A Web site called www.cafepress.com provides artists the opportunity to upload an image, which customers can order to be printed on a myriad of products—T-shirts, totes, aprons, trivets, note cards, baby clothing and wall clocks, to name just a few. The artist opens his or her own store/Web page and the customer chooses the image and product. It is printed and shipped to the customer and the artist receives a royalty on the sale. Of course, you must advertise this on your own Web site and printed matter, so people know where to find you.
You may even ask a friend to host a home party where samples of your “functional art” are shown for partygoers to order. This type of art makes a wonderful gift, so you could tap into that market.
You also can consider placing your functional art on consignment in gift shops or boutiques, although I’m not sure this would work in a commercial craft gallery where original pieces or limited editions are preferred.
Another place to sell functional art could be at local weekly farmers’ markets. For painters who enjoy “en plein air,” check your community regulations. Wouldn’t it be fun to set up your easel on weekends at an outdoor café and do small impressionist works that could be sold to the patrons? Don’t forget your vendor’s license and to check with the café owner. You will create your own art event to complement the café’s business. People love to watch the creative process. Have 3×5 cards available in a basket and ask folks sign up for your mailing list, for future art activities, or for a drawing for a free gift. Keep your price points affordable.
There are many creative ways to work within your own community. Because of educational cutbacks in the arts across the country, you might want to teach a summer art workshop to children in your community—perhaps at the local community center or at your own studio. Or you might approach retirement homes to ask about teaching a weekly workshop to the residents. Also, many colleges and universities have continuing education programs, and art is always a best-seller in that area.
Remember, this could be something to pursue in your spare time if you are a children’s book illustrator or a graphic artist and your normal project assignments are lagging because of the economy. It will get you out into the community and will be fun as well. Who knows, it may be something you will want to do even when the economy picks up. You will be growing your art and reaching out to others.
Enjoy your summer.
(Resource publications: Art Business News; American Style (Art, Craft, Travel, Interior Design), and ART Calendar (the business magazine for visual artists).
Susan Alcott Jardine, Green Door Editions
Contests, Events and Opportunities
We have moved the Contests, Awards, Events, and Opportunities listings to the blog. Please use these links to get the latest information
SPAWN is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization. SPAWNews advises “caveat emptor” when dealing with venues, contests or promotions unknown to you. SPAWNews was proofread by Bonnie Myhrum, Professional Secretary, LLC. 734-455-0987.