Thursday, September 28, 2017

Grab a Chair and Enjoy Pompeii

Someone asked me to recommend a few books, and the first one that came to mind was Pompeii, by Robert Harris. I've read it two or three times, which is unusual for me. 

We all know how the story ends, right? What makes this fascinating is the forewarning from the aqueduct that brought fresh water to a quarter of a million people in towns around the Bay of Naples.
A young engineer (who oversaw the water supply) realized that whatever stopped the flow into some of the towns was caused by a lot more than a broken pipe.

Marcus Attilius would have a huge task if all he had to do was find and fix the source of the problem on Mount Vesuvius. The bigger personal threat is a corrupt "real estate developer" (to use a modern term) who has benefited from special access to all that water. (Think bribes.)

I love books where science and engineering have a role, especially as they relate to water. Background about Roman engineering feats mixes well with intrigue and a touch of romance. I highly recommend it.  Kindle   Barnes and Noble  
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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Finding Ways to Share Books with Readers

What's better than sharing a good book? Reading it. I was reminded during a hospital stay, when working with an occupational therapist. (No big problem, knee is fixed.) We hadn't been talking two minutes when we realized we both loved to read. We talked books nonstop until we were done.

In the pre-ebook days, I traded books often with friends. A good book could get tattered.
Remember the huge tables of used books at garage sales and bazaars? Or library sales of used books? Books cost something, but not much. Sales continue, of course, but it will be interesting to see if they have fewer books over time.

Ebooks are easier to share -- you can do it across continents with a couple of keystrokes. You can also get a number free just by searching retail sites for such things as "free cozy mysteries." Authors can also choose to let purchasers lend an ebook, usually one time only. (Not true for all books.)

What if an author wants to share books with a bunch of readers? We like to sell books, so why share for free? The primary reasons are to encourage reviews and create enthusiasm (a.k.a. buzz). Though authors are the primary audience for these ideas, readers can use them to ask an author for a book.

Popular methods authors use are:

1) A pdf sent to the reader's laptop. Clunky but functional, and works for everyone willing to read an electronic book.

2) Copy (in one of several formats) sent directly to a reader's Kindle. Every Kindle has a 'free' address that can receive documents from approved senders. If you aren't familiar with this terrific sharing method, check out my earlier blog post.

3) Smashwords coupons. Authors who publish on this site can create coupons for free or reduced priced books, in any format. I create them with long-term effective dates so I don't have to remember to check expiration dates.

4) Instafreebie lets authors load a book and give it away as a mobi, pdf, or epub. The site can be used for books published anywhere, as long as the person providing them to Instafreebie is authorized to do so. (Here's a sample of one of mine, Falling into Place.) FYI - authors can use Instafreebie for (dare I say it?) free, or pay a monthly fee to publicize a free book and garner names for their email lists.

5) Book Funnel also lets authors provide copies of their books, in multiple formats, via a link to their site. Books here can also be published anywhere. While Book Funnel has no free option for authors, fees are less than Instafreebie if an author provides relatively few books per month. This site is also integrated with programs that provide authors with recipient email addresses.

6) Goodreads Giveaway is still for paperbacks only, and prizes are by random drawing. Generally it has newer books. Unlike Instafreebie and Book Funnel, readers can peruse a list of free books. However, no guarantee they'll win one.

7) Author group giveaways are generally tied to Instafreebie or Book Funnel, but some are run independently and can be found on Facebook, or referenced on Twitter. Readers can choose one or all of a group of books promoted together.

8) Bookshare is a site for individuals with a print disability -- such as low vision or difficulty holding a book. There are requirements to be certified to use the site (and who can certify), but if you have difficulty with print books, the site is worth checking. Annual fee required.

9) Ebook Discovery lists free books daily, generally organized by subject or genre. Links are usually to a site such as Instafreebie. I hesitated to mention them, because there are many such sites, but I've used them and found it a seamless process.

Some sites have lists of available books, some simply give authors a place to direct readers and authors publicize the availability. You can search some of these sites passively, but you can also email an author to see if they have books on sites such as Instafreebie or Book Funnel.

Readers are most likely to get books if they say they will review them. Free books do not require you to leave a good review (or leave one at all). Sites such as Amazon require that reviewers indicate if they received a free copy.

As one who sells books, I love buyers. The hope is always that a reader may borrow or receive free one book and choose to buy others by the same author. Bottom line, keep enjoying books!
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Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Thinking Through Writing Options

      When I was about twelve, I had a lot of ideas for stories, but no idea how to share them. This was the 1960s, so books were in the library or you could buy them at school under the Scholastic Book Program. It didn't seem that kids wrote them.
Back yard games. No wonder I didn't finish anything.
     Still, I'd take a notebook and go into the backyard -- wearing my charm bracelet -- and think about the stories in my head. But I was afraid they were dumb, and I tore up what I wrote. Not to say they were good, but it would be fun to look at them now.
     Regret that I didn't have the courage to put my ideas into stories may be why I write books with titles such as Words to Write By: Putting Your Thoughts on Paper. I honestly believe that any of us can write -- maybe not always sell, but write. And maybe get good enough to sell.
     Writing is not a lifestyle, it's hard work. That hard work can lead to a flexible schedule, but any busy person (especially parents) will tell you that working at home does not mean you can drink coffee all morning.
     Perhaps you have a specific idea for a novel or want to share the method you used to pay off student loan debt in only five years. Maybe you worked in retail during college and have ideas that would help managers motivate younger employees more effectively.
    Some might say writing is the height of arrogance. Why should we assume anyone cares about our stories, experiences, or how-to guidance?
     A lot of people won’t. But if you’re writing books to sell, you need to reach a relatively small audience to earn a hundred dollars each month. If these readers tell their friends, you have a larger audience.

     New subjects mean learning a lot and meeting new people. I find it boring to write what I know, but it can be a good starting place.Familiar topics mean less research and faster completion.
     If what you have is the idea of writing but aren't sure what to write, think about the following points.
  • Games you play
  • Kinds of books you read
  • Music you listen to
  • Movies you’ve liked
  • TV documentaries you watch
  • Sports you play
  • Hobbies you enjoy
  • Things you collect
  • Places you have visited
  • Places you want to visit
  • Comic strips that make you laugh
  • Teachers who inspired you
  • Things you have been complimented on
  • People you taught to drive
     People you taught to drive? That’s in case you want to write about how you handle frustration so others can model (or avoid) your experiences.
     The bottom line is, no matter what your life experiences, they can inform your writing. Whether you write fiction or nonfiction.

     Some print magazines pay for articles, or your local paper may pay small fees for freelance articles. Web content is always needed and many writers are freelancers. A search for online writing opportunities turns up dozens of sites. (A couple references are at the end of this post.) Finding opportunities is the easy part. Studying their guidelines and writing to them take time. Handling rejection takes guts.

      Because of sites such as Amazon, itunes, Kobo, Barnes and Noble (Nook Press) and other retailers, literally anyone can write a book and publish it themselves. That doesn’t mean you should, but at least you have options. You can also seek an agent to help you get a publisher.

     HOWEVER, unless you are passionate about an idea for a novel, I would start with something shorter. Writing 60-80,000 words of high-quality content takes time - much of it in the rewriting phase, which could frustrate a novice.
      Revisions are essential. You only get one chance to make a first impression with an agent, publisher, or readers. Do you really want to spend several thousand hours on your first project?
     If the answer is yes, find a critique group and go for it. Buy stock in a coffee company. Avoid snacking when you aren't sure of the next plot point. Smile.
     If you aren't sure you want to invest that time for an uncertain outcome (a.k.a. rejection letters), visit the library to browse the magazine racks. Google "blogs that deal with [insert favorite topic]" to see what's on the web. Don't be discouraged if your ideas are already out there. Your take may be different, and each publication has its own audience.


     If you are considering a writing career because you're fed up with your day job, that's fine. But  don't quit. Consider how long it took you to learn what you needed to know for your current job. You don't need years of post-high school education to write an article or book, but you will want to read how-to articles or perhaps attend a local writers' conference.
     Finally (really) nothing makes it into print or to the web until you put your tailbone in a chair and begin to write. Set up a schedule (even an hour per week) and don't stop.


How to Make Money Writing for the Web, Brian Klems, Writer’s Digest Blog, July 19, 2013. Good overview of places to find opportunities and how to approach them.

For an example of providing good content and monetizing your blog, look to: The blog posts are useful, but they also lead you to the blogger’s books and courses. If you see yourself making money as a blogger, keep in mind that blogs like this are full-time jobs!

Every Writer’s Resource lists the 50 best places to publish literary fiction.

The Write Life publishes a list of 20+ magazines that pay for short stories.

Mark Coker founded Smashwords, a site that permits self-published authors to load a book once and have it appear on multiple online retail sites. His books on ebook self-publishing and formatting are free at Amazon or his site, Don't read these until you are close to finishing a book or article.
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