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From the President
Welcome to all the new members and subscribers who have discovered SPAWN this month!
I can’t believe we’re already one month into 2011. I hope your year is going well! In my case, I’ve made a renewed commitment to my writing. Many people like our own Patricia Fry post to blogs or write articles every single day.
I’ve never done that before, but I’m inspired by the example they have set. So I’m trying to write an article every day for one of my own Web sites or guest posts/articles for other sites. I’m only on Day 4, but so far it’s going well. I don’t know if I can sustain this level of productivity over time, but I hope so.
I stopped writing articles over the last few months while I was working on our training courses. I learned during this hiatus that if I don’t write, I don’t want to write. My creative energy stalls out and I have trouble even thinking of ideas.
Since I’m a writer, that’s a completely unacceptable situation and I confess that I worried and fretted about it a lot. Worrying seemed to actually make the problem worse. As it turns out, the act of writing itself is what fired up my creative energy again. So if you’re having trouble with your writing too, maybe the the most obvious solution is the answer: write something!
February Teleseminar Announcement!
Teleseminar for SPAWN Members
Who: Bob Bly
When: February 15 at 1 pm Pacific (4 pm Eastern)
How: Members will receive an email with call-in details
Title: “How to Write and Sell Simple Information for Fun and Profit: Your Guide to Writing and Publishing Books, E-Books, Articles, Special Reports, Audio Programs, DVDs and Other How-To Content” (More details are here)
A new pet-sitting client moved to town last year. I told her St. Louis generally gets one or two snows a season—nothing much to worry about. We got a lot of snow last year. She moved on, but this year is the same or worse. So I’m taking “snow days” to catch up on writing assignments and to research new venues and topics. Niche writing and marketing is a good thing, but being versatile and adaptable is more profitable. I’ll be scouring the Market Update for new places to submit. A reminder from an e-mail list I’m on—read and follow the submission guidelines! They might not make sense to you, but the people who wrote them are also the people who write the checks for accepted and published work.
In this issue, Doug Snelson’s article shows how a casual remark can lead to a published book—and shows the benefit of family help during the publishing process. Patricia Fry’s book review of Be Your Own Editor gives us more ideas, Sandra Beckwith’s article on how to do a virtual book tour tells us how to promote the book once it’s published, and Bonnie Myhrum’s article on word usage keeps us from making bloopers like “she poured over the documents on the table.” Are you planning to be at the LA Festival of Books? Let us know! It’s always great to meet members in person.
— Sandy, Editor, SPAWNews, email@example.com
Join SPAWN at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books
The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books (LATFB) is billed as the nation’s largest public literary festival, having attracted around 140,000 people last year.
It wasn’t always this big, and some of us here at SPAWN remember its beginnings. The LATFB launched in 1996, the same year that SPAWN did. SPAWN has had a presence at this now- gigantic event almost every year since.
The LATFB will be held at a new venue this year—the University of Southern California campus in Los Angeles, April 30-May 1, 2011. SPAWN has secured two booths to accommodate our members. The fee for selling your book(s) from our booth is $200 per day. (Three titles per member, only.)
We are offering those who can’t attend LATFB the opportunity to display a copy of their book(s) in the SPAWN booth at $20/title. For an additional $35, members can list their books in the SPAWN Catalog of Member’s Books and Services; everyone visiting the SPAWN booth will walk away with one of our beautiful full-color print catalogs. The absolute deadline for having your book included in the SPAWN Catalog of Member’s Books and Services is March 15, 2011.
Visit http://www.spawn.org/latfb2011.htm for all of your options, and sign up today.
The LATFB opportunity is open to members only. If your membership has expired or you haven’t joined yet, this is a good time to take care of business.
If you want a major bookselling opportunity and incredible exposure for your book, sign up to join us in the SPAWN booth—first come, first served.
Learn more about the LATFB here: http://events.latimes.com/festivalofbooks
SPAWN Market Update
by Patricia Fry
The February 2011 SPAWN Market Update features dozens of opportunities for authors seeking a publisher for children’s, young adult, spiritual, and even gritty street-crime titles. We reveal what ten publishers want NOW. We also include a link to a global list of publishers—thousands of them in every country, including some you’ve never heard of, right here in the U.S. You’ll find links where you can showcase and sell your e-book for free and we tell you where to go to get help if you want to use your book to further a cause.
We provide a treasure trove of opportunities for freelance writers, including specific ideas for breaking into certain high-paying markets. And we list THREE job sites for artists who want to finally get paid for their skills and talent.
Miss out on reading this issue of the SPAWN Market Update (in the member area of the SPAWN Website) and you could miss out on fulfilling one of your publishing dreams, a lesson that could lead to you establishing your freelance writing career, or the opportunity to make big bucks from jobs or book sales.
While you’re at it, thumb through the SPAWN Market Update archives, then report back, letting us know what new opportunities you discovered. The opportunities are there, just waiting for you to take advantage.
Locate the SPAWN Market Update in the member area of the SPAWN Web site.
Ask the Book Doctor:
About Literary Virginity, Capitalization in Titles, and Possessives
By Bobbie Christmas
Q: I have been writing a book, but I hesitate to get feedback or pay an editor, because I want to maintain my literary virginity, so to speak. What is your opinion on the subject?
A: I have two pieces of advice:
1. Never ask a barber if you need a haircut.
2. Never ask an editor if your manuscript needs editing.
Yes, I’m an editor, so I am naturally going to say that it’s wise to get feedback from an editor. Ask friends for help, though, and they may rewrite your work. A professional editor, however, knows not to ruin an author’s voice, but simply to correct errors and make further suggestions for improvement. The author can then decide whether to follow the editor’s advice or not, and smart authors listen and learn from a good editor. You may lose your literary virginity, but you should gain a great deal of insight into solid, marketable writing. To stick with the metaphor, even sex gets better with good guidance and plenty of practice.
I had been a professional editor for many years and was the final word on everything that went to press at several periodicals and organizations, when I took a step down and accepted a job under another editor at a large company. Up to that point, my work had almost never been edited; I’d always been the alpha chicken in the pecking order. I feared I might feel upstaged or unappreciated at the new job, but instead, I felt privileged. For the first time in my life, I worked under a talented editor who taught me more than I’d learned in any class or book. Within a few years I rose to the top and became manager of the whole department, and by then my editing skills had increased tremendously.
It is therefore my opinion that no writer should remain a literary virgin. If we are to reach the climax of our writing careers, we have to learn from other writers and editors.
If you don’t want to hire an editor, find a local critique group of your peers and measure their feedback against what feels right in your gut. You can always improve your writing style without losing your integrity as a writer. If writers were not able to improve their works, why do we have so many books on creative writing? Why do so many universities offer creative writing courses? Why do we have writing seminars and conferences? We have all those things because writers must always be practicing and improving their skills, and we do it by learning from others, either other writers or professional editors.
Q: In the book title Soar like an Eagle, would the word “like” be capitalized?
A: According to Chicago Style, all nouns and pronouns get capitalized, and the rule has been softened in recent editions to include prepositions that are stressed or used adjectivally or adverbially. For that reason, if it’s your book title and you want to capitalize the preposition “like,” you may do so. You’ll note that my own book, Write In Style, capitalizes all three words in the title, too.
Q: Help! I made a fool of myself when I corrected a coworker. He wrote “Mick Stagnus’s itinerary…” I asked why he used an apostrophe plus “s” instead of just the apostrophe. He said the rule refers only to singular nouns and sent the following rule from a grammar Website: “Add an ’s to make a singular noun possessive. Examples: Chris’s coat, the puppy’s ears, Mark Twain’s stories.”
Is he correct? Is the Website correct? And if so, how come I don’t remember that rule?
A: You’re both right, because the question refers not to a grammar rule but a style issue. AP Style and Business Style, too, if I recall correctly, call for the apostrophe alone if a proper noun ends in an s (Sam Jones’ house is brown.). You’ll see that style used in your daily paper, probably, so you may think it’s an absolute rule, but it’s not. If the term Stagnus’ Itinerary appeared in a periodical following AP Style, it would be correct.
Chicago Style (preferred by book publishers), however, states that the possessive of most singular nouns is formed by adding an apostrophe and an s, and the possessive of plural nouns generally is formed by adding only the apostrophe. Names ending in s, x, or z, in both singular and plural forms, still follow the same guideline. Examples given in The Chicago Manual of Style include the following: Kansas’s legislature, Burns’s poems, Dickens’s novels. If following Chicago Style, then, Stagnus’s Itinerary would be correct.
Styles such as AP and Chicago were created to ensure consistency; therefore, the only important issue regarding possessives of proper nouns is that a body of work be consistent throughout.
Although my explanation doesn’t settle the argument, it proves why people are confused today about how to make plurals and possessives, and it means you didn’t make a fool of yourself. Relax, learn what style the publication follows, and follow it accordingly.
What’s your question about writing or publishing? 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. Read more “Ask the Book Doctor” questions and answers at www.zebraeditor.com.
Book Review: Be Your Own Editor, A Writer’s Guide to Perfect Prose
by Patricia Fry
Be Your Own Editor, A Writer’s Guide to Perfect Prose by Sigrid Macdonald
Lulu Enterprises (2010)
Paperback and e-book, 140 pages, $17.99
Sigrid Macdonald is an author and an editor. She wrote this book in order to help authors better prepare their manuscripts for publication, whether the author does the final edit himself or he hands it over to a qualified editor before seeking publication. The more the author can fine-tune his manuscript, the better chance he will have at landing a publisher. If he decides to hire an editor to add the final editorial touches, the editor’s fee will be lower than if the author hadn’t done the fine-tuning. So learning to self-edit is a win-win situation.
I found this book to be easy to follow, substantial in content and concept, and even a tad humorous at times. Macdonald demonstrates editing techniques and rules in both fiction and nonfiction. She covers common spelling and grammar mistakes, punctuation, and word usage. I especially like her tips for catching typos. Did it ever occur to you to magnify the type in order to more easily spot typos? What about spellcheck? Should you use it? Should you rely on it? Macdonald has an interesting view on this.
I notice that she covers mistakes that I see frequently in my clients’ manuscripts—mixing present and past tense, confusing first and third person, using repeated words, and using inconsistent capitalization, spelling of proper names, etc.
Are you still confused about using commas, certain words and terms (lose/loose, fewer/less, who/whom, its/it’s), for example? This book will help. I suggest keeping it right next to your Chicago Manual of Style as a quick reference when you have an editorial question. Macdonald’s index will assist you in quickly locating the problem you need help with.
How to Set Up Your Virtual Book Tour
by Sandra Beckwith
What is a virtual book tour, why do you want to do one, and how do you make it happen?
A virtual book tour is a promotional tactic that lets you interact with bloggers and online media outlets in ways that help you get the word out about your book. Just as if you were preparing for an in-person book tour, you select a time frame for the tour and schedule specific appearances. The possibilities include:
- Live Webinar presentations
- Blog Q&As
- Guest columns on blogs
- Reviews of your book written by key bloggers
- Articles that you write and place in key locations
- Video interviews hosted on the blogs or sites of others
- Blogger-hosted contests that offer your book as a prize alongside information about your book
Virtual book tours are worthwhile for any author whose target audience is online. They allow you to connect with readers personally, share enough information about your book to help people decide if they want to buy it, and—this is my favorite part—include a link to a site where people can purchase it immediately. Who doesn’t like instant gratification?
The process is pretty simple:
- Identify the blogs and online media outlets that reach your target audience.
- Start becoming “known” on the sites by offering helpful, informative comments on blog postings (in an ideal world, you’ve been doing this all along).
- Compile a database or grid with each site’s contact name, e-mail address, site URL, notes about the site’s format, and specifics about what you like about the blog (these last two items will help you in the pitching process).
- Select your tour dates.
- Send your pitches.
Authors seem to be especially intimidated by that last step—sending the “pitch.” “Pitch” is just another word for sales letter. It’s what you say via e-mail that convinces the blogger or online journalist to open the door to some book-related content from you. (Because so many authors aren’t sure how to approach bloggers and others, I’ve included a virtual book tour e-mail pitch template and sample message in Build Book Buzz Publicity Forms & Templates.)
You don’t pitch in a vacuum, though. That’s where the database or grid you’ve created comes in. What you pitch to one blog might not work for another, so you use your notes in the grid to help you decide what to offer each individual site. Sometimes it’s obvious—you wouldn’t offer the host of an online radio program or podcast an article. You’d stress that you’re an interesting and animated guest—the kind of person people will want to listen to. If you’ve noticed that the blogger or media site uses a lot of guest columns, that’s what you should pitch, and perhaps add a few suggested column topics to your pitch, too. It’s definitely not a one-size-fits-all process, which is why you don’t use a mass e-mail approach for this. Every site contact gets an individually crafted pitch.
You’ll need to add a few more columns or fields to your database or grid for response tracking—both theirs and yours. Note what and when you hear from those you’ve contacted, how and when you responded, and due dates for content or next steps. Then keep your calendar handy so you can log all activity appropriately and deliver what you’ve promised when you’ve promised it.
Virtual book tours truly are fun and easy! I hope you have fun with yours. And do let me know if you have questions—just send me a note!
Sandra Beckwith is a former national award-winning publicist who now teaches authors how to be their own book publicist. Get her free special report, Beyond the Press Release: 10 Exciting Book Buzz Ideas That Will Take You to the Top, when you subscribe to her free Build Book Buzz newsletter. Sandra is also the author of three books, including one about publicity for small businesses and another on publicity for nonprofits. Get more publicity tips at her blog, http://buildbuzz.blogspot.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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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Susan Daffron launched two new products in January. Information about her Write and Publish Your Book training program is available at http://www.SelfPubU.com. You learn how to get from idea to published book in as little as two hours per week. Even if you’re busy, you’ll be able to integrate the training into your business and your life. Susan also has formed a small virtual mastermind/Q&A group for people who are involved in writing or marketing a book. The first meeting of her new Book Authors Circle will be held in February. Please contact Susan for more information.
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Leslie Korenko, author of the Kelleys Island books, had a short article published in Country Living (an Ohio Rural Electric Co-op publication). In just 150 words, she described the problem of trying to keep a New Year’s resolution. Leslie notes that telling a complete story in 150 words or less is a great exercise in stripping a story down to its basic parts. She’s kindly let us post it here for you to read.
New Year’s Resolutions: Broken or Kept? By Leslie Korenko
The New Year’s party was fun. We didn’t stay too late, and I didn’t eat or drink too much. I was ready. I had resolved to be more patient. It was a goal I was sure I could achieve.
New Year’s morning arrived. I swung my legs out of bed and stepped on a dog toy, which caused me to fall against the dresser, on which I stubbed my toe. Then I staggered into a squishy pile of dog vomit—wonderful! Hopping into the bathroom, I fell into the toilet (yes, the seat was up), and in my struggles I managed to flip chunks of undigested dog food into my hair.
Three minutes into the New Year and I had already lost my cool. I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next. I still had to make it down the stairs.
A profile of Barbara Florio Graham, along with a review of Mewsings/Musings, is in the January/February issue of WOT Magazine. The full article is at: www.SimonTeakettle.com//wotmagineinterview.
She also sent this item—My article, How to Train Your Cat Like a Dog, is in the current issue of Phil Zeltman’s newsletter: www.DrPhilZeltzman.com. This is the article that won the $1000 Sticky Paws Award for best article on training at the CWA conference in 2002. My methods clearly work. Terzo continues to learn new behavior and tricks, including sitting on command, giving one paw and the other, resisting a treat as he performs a requested action, etc.
The current issue of The Book Designer features our own Patricia Fry, discussing how to sell a self-published book that’s selling well to a major publisher. Great info, as we always expect from Patricia! (Sent in by Barbara Florio Graham)
Danielle Hartman says, “Mindy Reed and I have given The Authors’ Assistant a facelift in order to keep up with today’s publishing trends.
Please drop by http://www.authorsassistant.com/ and join us on Facebook and Twitter to find out what’s going on with the publishing industry, get tips on how to promote your work, read excerpts from our clients’ work, and join in the discussion.
This is an exciting time to be a writer; there are so many tools to help you get your writing out there.”
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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 email@example.com
Featured Member – David M. Perkins
I’ve been writing on and off for most of my life, sometimes for money and sometimes just to hear myself “talk.” I even dabbled in writing for film and television for a while, which resulted in membership in the Writers Guild of America. I have ranted on my blog about politics, religion, social issues, movies, books, and any number of other topics for which I have no legitimate facility or background. Such is the nature of the Internet; it allows anyone to pontificate on anything, regardless of whether he adds something positive to the discussion or not. Instead of the “information superhighway,” it might better be tagged the information mosh pit. But, I wasn’t consulted about that.
Writing changed for me a little over a year ago when, at the urging of friends and family, I posted a piece to my blog titled Dear Austin ~ A Letter to My Son. It was, as the title suggests, a letter written to my son as he was about to depart for his first year at college. It included what I thought were the most important things he should know before striking out on his own, and writing it served as a catharsis for me as much as it may have provided guidance and reassurance for my son—maybe more. It was published with my son’s permission and blessing.
The letter seems to have struck a universal chord among parents, and the reaction took me a little by surprise. It got linked to several parenting blogs and forums, and I began to receive e-mails and blog responses from parents—at first dozens and later hundreds—who had recently experienced this milestone, or soon would. The responses were generally notes of thanks for sharing a message they felt would make their journey easier. Remember, these were parents. I’m guessing that to a would-be college freshman, it reads like just another volume of bloviating by a self-important old fart.
A year later, the letter became a book—a small one, to be sure, but a book nonetheless. It’s available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble and all the usual places books are found. The problem, I soon discovered, is that getting it published was only the beginning, and the real work was still to be done. I had to learn how to promote my book. That is what eventually led me to SPAWN.
Scouring the Internet for advice and counsel, I stumbled across Patricia Fry. I contacted her and she graciously agreed to read my book and give me her recommendations for how best to sell it to the world. She read it, and invited me to meet for a brief chat after one of her local speaking engagements.
When we met, I could tell that she was not terribly impressed with my book, but she still generously gave me her time and her feedback on what I had done so far to promote it, and offered some steps to take in the future. And she invited me to join SPAWN. The idea that she might not actually care for my book had the odd effect of making me trust her.
So, here I am several months later, continually looking for new ways to promote my book. I’ve done a couple of radio interviews, with another coming up soon. My book has been reviewed on blogs and in print, and it will soon be profiled in Costco Connection magazine. I’ve learned that there are thousands of generous people—writers, small publishers, bloggers, publicists, and support groups—who are willing to help, sometimes just for the asking.
SPAWN has been an enormously helpful resource. Fellow members sharing what they’re trying; what worked, what didn’t, their successes, their failures, new avenues discovered—it’s all such a huge asset. It can give you a direction when you’re trying to figure out what to do next. It’s also nice to know that you’re not alone. I’d just like to say thanks for that.
That day in August, when I stumbled across Patricia Fry, turned out to be a fortunate accident indeed.
Words to Live By
by Bonnie Myhrum, Professional Secretary, LLC, www.professionalsecretaryllc.com
I learned this in school, but I’d forgotten the terminology. Has it slipped your mind, too? Here’s a refresher.
Heteronyms: Words spelled alike but different in meaning, derivation, or pronunciation.
Homonyms: Words pronounced the same but different in spelling or meaning.
Add/ad—Remember to add writing the newspaper ad to your list of things to do today.
Bear/bare—Cold air against bare skin is too much to bear if the temperature is below freezing.
Taught/taut—The sailor taught his son to keep the line taut.
Team/teem—The team’s locker room was teeming with young athletes.
Write/right—If you are going to write, please learn to spell right.
Red/read—He read the letters on the red sign: STOP.
Wrote/rote—The poet wrote it; I had to learn it by rote.
Might/mite—Try as I might, I couldn’t get rid of the dust mites.
Through/threw—That boy threw his baseball through my window!
Read/reed—I plan to read the instructions on how to make an oboe reed.
Read/read—You read it and said it was good; now I want to read it.
Bow/bow—He straightened his bow tie and took a bow.
Bass/bass—The bass fisherman sings bass in the choir. He might also drink Bass Ale.
Lead/lead—You can lead a horse to water, but it might be contaminated with lead.
Number/number—After we sat and listened to the child recite every number from 1 to 150, our ears were number than our backsides.
Minute/minute—I can accomplish a minute amount of work in a minute.
Close/close—The people in the room will have to stand close together if we close the door.
Attribute/attribute—I attribute my son’s best attributes to his father.
Refuse/refuse—I refuse to take the refuse to the curb right now.
Sow/sow—I took the sow to the pen and went off to sow the seeds in the garden.
Separate/separate—Let’s separate the class into three separate groups.
“Heteronyms must incense foreign learners! I can’t imagine a number feeling than spending hours learning a common English word, a minute little word, then finding a second meaning and pronunciation!” (David Bergeron, “Heteronyms.” English Today, Oct. 1990)
“Homonyms and heteronyms must be a lot to bear for those who are learning English. Perhaps we should bury the language and start over with the bare minimum of letters.”
Work Is Love Made Visible
by Doug Snelson
“The universal name of every dog should be ‘Face!’ When people talk about their pets, especially dogs, they always comment about their faces.”
The “Face” comment I made stayed with me. I grabbed a napkin and wrote the phrase, “Who’s got the face?” That phrase would eventually become the title of my children’s book. From that sentence I began writing simple couplets about a dog named Face.
I have a dog. His name is Face.
He’s got the smiles all over the place.
Face struts around with a playful grin.
I call to him as his day begins.
I e-mailed my completed poem to my kids and wife Diane. They responded enthusiastically. I thought, “This could be a picture book for young children just learning to read. But now what? If I write this book, who will publish it?” To quell that uncertainty, Diane and I formed our own publishing company, Petalous Publishing, LLC. I knew it was one thing to have a cute story for family and friends, and quite another to produce a book that would be marketable.
My daughter Renée and I discussed how I saw Face’s three main qualities: kind eyes, a furry tail, and large, sure-footed paws. Renée gave Face texture, color, emotion, and love. I knew we were onto something.
My son Ryan offered to work with Renée. He designed the book and helped establish its look and feel. Ryan never let my attachment to the story interfere with its progression.
My daughter-in-law Michele encouraged me to find a children’s book editor for further revisions. I did and asked the editor to hold nothing back in her review. She didn’t. We tore up a few concepts and added a more logical flow to the story.
As I told others how close we were to finishing the book, I would mention that it’s dedicated to our late family dog Suede, a cocker spaniel. More often than not, those I was speaking with responded with a happy or even sad smile. “You know, my dog’s name is Max.” “When I was young, I had a dog called Buffy.” I changed the dedication page to read, “To every dog we know who has ‘the face,’” and listed the names of 98 dogs from family and friends.
I read Who’s Got the Face? at schools, YMCAs, libraries, and special events as much as I can. We are now working on a second children’s book about a snake named Slim—he’s a wobbler who wants to be a wiggler. That story is about finding your own personal gift.
Kahlil Gibran, the author of The Prophet, wrote, “Work is love made visible.” As I reflect on the family love that was demonstrated and shared in the making of the book, I realize how true these words are. And when I sign each copy of the book, “I hope this book puts a smile on your face,” I am thankful that Ryan and Renée continue to do so for Diane and me.
Doug Snelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Who’s Got the Face? is available at independent bookstores in New Jersey and Manhattan, at Barnes & Noble, and online at www.barnesandnoble.com www.amazon.com and www.petalous.com.
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.