Reading as a Writer

Recently, I started and became a member of a family book club with planned monthly Zoom meetings. This past Sunday was our first. Let me say up front it was great fun. Cousins all, we enjoyed spending the time together, not only discussing the book but checking out one cousin’s latest crafting, briefly talking about football (well, I wasn’t, but I listened really well after asking who the heck was actually playing in the Super Bowl) and reminiscing.

The majority of the meeting did seem to be focused on the book we’d read, though. Amazing how many differing opinions there can be about the same work, especially when the book is a genre in which the reader doesn’t usually have an interest. Once we got past the general opinion that the characters’ drinking (and loving) lake water was the most disgusting thing imaginable, everyone got into an emphatic discussion regarding the various characters, the shortcomings in the tale, the aspects they enjoyed and what they all felt to be an unsatisfactory ending. They verbalized being let down by not knowing exactly what happened, not only to the unlikable character whose inner thoughts ended the story, but with the turmoil left behind by the discovery and consequence from long-ago actions. I had previously been satisfied with the conclusion. I’m not saying I’ve changed my mind, but the debate definitely provided me with an appreciation regarding viewpoint. This is why discussion is good. It opens you up to recognizing a perspective other than your own.   

When the meeting looked to be winding down, my cousin Bobby asked a pointed question of me. He wanted to know what I thought about the book from a writer’s standpoint.


All kidding aside, I was quick to answer. I told him I don’t read books as a writer, that I read them to be entertained and enjoyed, which is a true statement, but perhaps one requiring a little more explaining (you have some ‘splaining to do, Lucy).

As a child I used to read books I enjoyed ten or more times for the sheer love of the words written, the story told. At some point during these multiple reads I started to absorb why I loved the words written and the story told. Eventually I looked to them with a conscious eye to discovery, to learn how these wonderful worlds were created, how words made magic. I suppose at that point it became impossible to separate the reader from the writer in my brain.

Even so, immersion in my craft didn’t mean I no longer read books for the joy experienced (or the heartache, or the anger, or the thrills—whatever the author chose to evoke). However, I do sometimes find myself rereading a passage with conscious recognition as to the absolute beauty and writing skill defined therein. I can’t help that reaction. It is, after all, who I am.

But if and when I identify good writing or poor writing ,or note, sometimes with a screeching halt, typos, unintentionally poor sentence structure, glaring errors such as a character’s eyes being blue on one page and green two chapters on, plot failure, disappointing endings, etc., it doesn’t mean I’m doing so because I am a writer. We, as readers, notice all these things. I was a reader before I made the conscious decision to write. I enjoy reading books. My enthusiasm or disappointment comes from the reader in me, and yes, quite possibly the writer as well, but not as separate, conscious entities. The writer and the reader don’t sit on my shoulders like cartoon angels and devils, spouting out arguments in my ears. The writer and the reader are intertwined unless otherwise directed. They live in reasonably happy cohabitation.

So, when asked about reading as a writer, the above is my expanded reply. With that addressed, let’s move onto the next book, the next read. Cousins, I just ask that you don’t make it one of mine. The reader in me would be fine with it, but I’m not so sure the writer could take your brutal honesty. 🙂

Music in the written word

To me, the written word is like music. It has a beat, a melody, a rhythm, a pattern. Changing any of these can make or break a mood, or cause the reader to wonder at what point the character has strayed from his or her true self.

When I write, there’s a certain cadence. I don’t follow one deliberately, but it blooms as the tale’s true voice. I don’t sit there and tap out a beat and make my words follow it. I can’t even imagine how work would screech to a halt if I did. It happens, though, through some unconscious process.

I’ll often read passages aloud that I’ve written, ones that don’t seem quite right, and usually it’s because the pattern has broken down. Other times I read them with joy because they are singing. I guess I may be listening with a different type of ear altogether.

There are times, of course, when pattern is deliberately altered, the same way it might be in musical composition, leading the listener (as with the reader) in a certain direction or to make them recognize a particular atmosphere or frame of mind. One couldn’t compose a concerto with the same three notes and hope for success, after all (although there is probably music out there somewhere that would prove me quite wrong).

Right now, I’m working on a young adult novel told in first person with three points of view. The one character’s beat is a bit shattered, somewhat chaotic, with stretches of lyricism, indicating his damaged, hectic but methodical mind. Another’s has a pounding cadence interspersed with surprisingly elegant interludes. He possesses a lumbering acceptance of life occasionally spattered with guilt and sparkling revelation. The third is eloquent, filled with the poeticism of her soul, but yet her music falters, too, when appropriate to the moment. As I’ve said, I don’t do this deliberately. The music appears with the character in my head and I strongly believe helps identify his or her voice to the reader, as well as to me.

I’m positive I’m not the only writer to recognize the music in writing, or to acknowledge its value. When I was young and first reading, the books with the most distinct rhythm were those I enjoyed the most. There was rhyme, yes, but with rhyme there exists, usually and especially in children’s books, rhythm. Perhaps that’s where it all began for me, the connection between writing and music’s flow—with Green Eggs and Ham.

Word Count… Really?

I know. Why should there be limitations on how many words are used to tell a particular story? Truly, there aren’t. It’s your story, after all, so you can go on and on and on and on—and on, as long as it serves your tale, right? Well, yes and no.

Adhering to word count isn’t an issue when you’re writing something for yourself, family or friends to read. I’m not saying that’s the only reason you shouldn’t concern yourself with word count, but it is the one time you can count on it not to matter (or at least you can hope it doesn’t—ask a family member at what point in your 200,000 word cozy mystery they tuned out and you might get an idea why genre and word count have such a strict relationship).

And, of course, there are authors out there who, due to their renown or the stupendous stories they weave, will be permitted to exceed expected word count without so much as a peep. There’s nothing wrong with that. We enjoy their stories nonetheless. Their talent shines through. But for mere mortals who are struggling to get published, there are rules and boundaries and expectations.

Even the self-published author might consider keeping their suspense novel to no longer than 75,000 words because, in most cases, those of us looking to read suspense have come to expect the length. Too short, and you’re feeling cheated; too wordy, and the only suspense might be the unfound answer to the constantly circling question in your head as to when it’s all going to end.

There are reasons why publishers have placed word count limits for their various imprints or editorial lines. Experience, naturally, and reader expectation, and some limits ultimately reflect the bottom line (printing costs). Because of this, guidelines regarding length are rather stringent. Self-publishing affords an author more leeway, certainly, but one should still be cognizant of what a reader has come to expect in terms of story length.

For example, let’s say you write romance. Harlequin is a well-known publisher of romance, with various lines. Their Intrigue line is for high-stake thrillers. Word count: 55,000—fast read, fast action. The Harlequin Historical line requires a word count of between 70,000 and 75,000 words. A historical romance (or fiction in general) has more scenery to it, more backdrop in which the characters interact. It moves at a different pace (not dragging, though, or you’ve dropped the ball somewhere else along the line). My novel, Once and Always, a historical set in India in the 19th century, was published by Kensington and consisted of 110,000 words. Each publisher has their own limits. I am only citing these as examples.

Science fiction and fantasy novels require quite a bit of world-building and the usual word count for one of these is 90,000 to 120,000 words. Thrillers generally run about 70,000 words. Cozy mysteries top off at between 50,000 to 60,000 words, although if they’re a bit shorter, no one’s complaining. The length still works. Are mystery novels your forte? Keep it to about 80,000 words. There are, however, mystery sub-genres with varied word counts. In fact, there are exceptions to all of the above, whether because of the story you’re telling, or because a particular publishing house has its own outlines for their needs.

To sum it up, if you’ve written (or are planning to write) the next great [fill in genre here­] novel and are seriously looking to have it published by some other means than self-publishing, take a check on word count to see if you’re in the ball park before submitting. Seriously, you could find your work rejected because it doesn’t fit within the word count parameter. If the novel is exceptional, though, you might have an editor asking you to tweak it to fit the boundaries. You know what I say to that? Don’t take the moral high ground. Sit and think about it for a (little) bit. They are, after all, the professionals. You might actually want to work with them and take their advice.

So, as always, research your market. Research, research, research, and always write the best you can and then write it again.

Until next time folks, have a great week!

Writing – How Goes That Short Story?

Last week, I was blathering on about starting at the beginning, but not necessarily the beginning, or something like that. I’d suggested an assignment, writing a 500-word short story and I did manage to write one. It’s not outstanding, but it does have all the elements needed, beginning in the middle of action, paragraphs that allow the reader to get into the character’s head, understand a bit about her motivation, her personality, her attitude and maybe a hint at the reason for it. There is immediate introduction to the “protagonist” as well. The story is set up, progresses, reaches a climax and resolves in 500 words. Understanding these elements will help a writer no matter the tale’s length (next week’s blog will be about word count and genre, which could be helpful to someone out there). Believe me, I learned the hard way.

I had also said that I would get into ways to “cut the fat” in the writing endeavor, especially the short story. As my eyes droop, I realize this will require more discussion in another blog. However, one way to cut extraneous words is to recognize that they are such. You must be your best first editor. Adjectives and adverbs are great (I use a lot when blogging, because they can be so much fun), but not often necessary to get the point across. Also, can you find a way for a thought or action to be complete without expounding on all the motivations for it? Back story has no real place in a shortened tale, and it is important to dive right into the main character’s reason for being there in your work. If you tried the 500-word story exercise, were you able to edit out those words, sentences, phrases that ultimately did nothing more than increase word count rather than move the story forward? If you did, that’s great, because the same editing will help in all your writing. Like I said, I learned the hard way.

Well, that’s going to be it for now. I ran behind in preparing my blog for this week and the hour is getting late, but I hope this is enough information to keep your interest until next week’s blog. In the meantime here is my short story, for what it’s worth.

Perspective by Robin Maderich

I stop short, my heels skidding on the icy sidewalk. Rubber heels, yes, but soles without tread. I should know better. I am an adult, fully responsible and all that. Lucky for me I manage to save myself and my packages, smashing bags against my abdomen in a crushing grip.

Every year the Christmas season becomes less joyful and more stressful. The guy screaming at the parking meter a dozen feet away truly isn’t helping me feel any jollier.  Jollier is a word. I’ve looked it up. It’s a comparative adjective. Why do I bother looking up words, you ask? Try spending two hours every day on the bus commuting to work. My pocket dictionary has become my steadfast companion. I vowed to make myself smarter when I bought it. Don’t ask me how I’m doing. The answer should be obvious. No tread on my boots, after all, and the snow falling at an inch an hour.

At least I’m wearing a hat. A fuzzy knit hat designed for fashion rather than warmth, but it provides some protection, working great at catching snow, allowing it to build and build until, well, it doesn’t anymore and slush skids down my cheeks and into the hood I’ve neglected to pull up. Yes, I’m having the best day in the most wonderful time of the year. Although, I suppose my day’s not as bad as the one the guy now punching the meter is having. He’s still swearing. I can hear him despite the traffic in the street and the snow clumping around my ears.

I need to get past him. Unless I want to backtrack, cross the street at the light, make my way up the blasted hill once again with all my packages and then struggle back over to this side where my car sits only about thirty feet beyond him and his uncontrolled anger, this is exactly what I have to do. The very idea, however, turns my bowels to jelly. I talk big, act like I can conquer anything with the holiday chip on my shoulder, but really, I can’t. His display scares me silly.

So I stare at him, undecided. And in the next minute the worst happens. His focus turns on me.

A word slips past my lips. Not a comparative adjective but a good, old-fashioned four-letter word that is used as verb, adjective, and adverb, handy for many occasions. His red-rimmed eyes are wide. The color deepens on his cheeks to rust. His mouth opens. I try to suck in a breath, maybe to scream. He takes a step toward me, and then another. I stand there, foolishly believing my many Christmas packages might shield me.

“I’m sorry,” he says.


“I’m sorry,” he says again. His head bows. “My wife passed away three weeks ago. This is my first Christmas without her.”

All my breath rushes out. I leave my packages behind me in the snow and take his hands in mine.

Next week: Writing – Word Count – Really?

Writing – Start at the Beginning

I don’t mean the above title in a literal sense. You don’t have to start creating a story at its beginning. In time, you’ll end up with a beginning (whether fiction or non-fiction, composition does require one), but when you first start out to put your story down on paper or a computer monitor or on the bedroom wall with an eye to its eventual form, the beginning is not always where you’ll find yourself.

However, that will be another blog’s topic.

No, by saying “start at the beginning” I’m referencing a birth, an inception to your creation.  Many reading this blog are already accomplished writers (although you still might find the content interesting, so stick around), while others may not have taken the plunge. Heck, you might not even want to—yet you still could find the blog content interesting, so…yeah, that’s all I’m going to say about that.

In recognition of my recently-blogged, coincidentally-timed, not-New-Year’s-Resolution, I am determined to write more about, well, writing. I can’t help it. The written word was, is and always will be an amazing device. A force to be reckoned with, calling up wonder, distress, joy, sorrow, peace, terror…and right on through the emotion dictionary. (I believe there is such a thing, a tome put together for writers stuck for words. Imagine that.)  

Besides writing about writing, I’m going to suggest certain exercises to those inclined to try them. No one needs to see a thing except you. My initiation into authorship many years ago utilized pencil, notebook paper and crayons. I think I showed my little “book” to my mother, but I might not have done so. I likely coveted it in secret, amazed that I’d managed thirty-six pages and illustrations all by my seven-year-old lonesome. It’s all too long ago to recall for certain. I do know I’d been prompted to the task by my love of horses and of drawing and, naturally, words and all the worlds to be found within them.

This little foray into reminiscence brings me to the point. (Finally! you cry out inside your head—or maybe even out loud, if you’re getting exasperated.) We, as writers, garner our ideas from so many places. Sometimes the smallest incident can prompt a tale in our heads. Perhaps we’ve walked down the street and a door on a house has opened, only to be slammed shut again. A cat looks both ways before crossing a street. A bright red balloon, obviously lost without its child’s hand, bobs in a tree’s naked branches. Someone scribbles a note in a restaurant and drops it in disgust on the table occupied nearby. We’re always observing, we writers, always wondering, always inventing, always studying people, places and things. Researching, too, although sometimes by accident, seeking out and finding those kernels that sprout into a whole scenario, perhaps the entire motivation for the next work. This is why we often seem distant and confused (she says and wants you to believe). There’s just too much going on in our conscious brain to be handled. It can hardly be contained. Except for the dreaded writer’s block, of course, but we’re not going to talk about that today, either.

I am designating Tuesdays for the write-brained-scribbler category in my blogs. This Tuesday, if anything I’ve been blathering on about sparks your interest, break out a notebook, rescue a wrinkled envelope from the recycling bin, crack open your laptop, whatever medium you use, and make a list of…things. Things you’ve seen, thought about, wanted to know, want to pretend you know, with the goal being that one of these will be the idea behind a short story. And I’m talking an extremely short story for starters. The word count for short stories is considered to be anywhere between 5,000 and 10,000 words. They can be as few as 1,000 words, and I’ve read some incredible shorts, the most recent written by the twelve-year-old daughter of a friend, which topped out at approximately 550 words. I was, quite honestly, stunned.

Regardless of length, all stories have a beginning, a middle and an end, or an introduction, a build to the climax, and a resolution. These are fairly simple descriptors, but you get the picture. So, if you’re into it, and I daresay you might be if you’ve read this far, get that idea list in hand. Create a story in your head and get it written down using a 500 word limit. That’s about two double-spaced pages in your word processing program. In the course of those two pages, your character will go through a change, whether in perspective, or attitude, or simply course chosen. Sound good?

Next Tuesday we’ll get into ways to “cut the fat” to reach that limit, in case you’re having trouble. It’s not always easy. I’ll write a short story, too, and post it in next week’s blog. I’m not saying it’ll be great or earth-shattering, because it won’t be, but hey, it’ll be fun.

Tuesdays won’t only be something of this nature, although I would like to take this eventually to the plotting and writing of a novel. We’ll have to see. I’ll still do general craft of writing posts, the occasional interview or review. In the meantime, if you have questions between now and next week, pop them in the comments. See you then!

New Year’s Revolutions

Yes, that’s not a typo, nor is it a call-to-arms. It’s merely a comment on how many times we make New Year’s resolutions with high expectations, abandon them, feel we’ve failed somehow if we don’t meet them, resolve to make new ones when the next year comes around, and round and round and round between plans and, well, plans gone awry. I, for one, have not made any New Year’s resolutions for many a new year. I recognized the circling inevitability for me many moons ago. I’m not saying resolutions aren’t a good thing, because they are, and the beginning of a new year provides a wonderful starting point—what could be so bad about that? Nothing, really. Not for many anyway, because I do know there are people out there who successfully make and keep their New Year’s resolutions, but not me. So, why I am writing this particular blog? Because I’ve made a resolution which, by coincidence, happens to fall on the holiday that brings so many of us to determined expectations and long, slow tumbles away from them. 

Maybe it’s my age; maybe it’s the appalling circumstances I, we, the population of the entire world, has had to face these past two years (and it hasn’t stopped yet, folks); and maybe it’s because somewhere inside I’ve reverted to my young self, to a time where I believed in New Year’s resolutions and their power to change us.

Or, at the very least, to change me.

Not change, as in make me a different person. I’m quite happy with who I am. I’m talking about subtle changes, the ones that make us progress, move to something that better suits us, start a project, a hobby, a diet, a new direction. A new, ahem, blog—or the focus of said blog, at any rate.

I’ve been a writer my whole life. I started writing in earnest when I was seven years old and I’m not stopping now. Since my accident nearly three years ago (a tale that shall not be told here), I’ve had many issues with writing, issues which are slowly resolving. In fact, as an aside, I lost my ability to play the piano, but even that is coming back—I sat down and played a number of Christmas carols recently, with only a little struggle. So my happens-to-fall-at-the-New-Year resolution is to celebrate this integral part of me—the author. Right now, I have a royalty check staring at me from the refrigerator door (to be deposited once I get off my lazy behind) reminding me this is what I am: a writer; a published author; a wordsmith.

Therefore, starting with the New Year, I will be revamping my blog to focus on writing. These blogs will cover the writing craft, the stories behind it, the successes and failures, the successes of others, some reviews and more interviews, with regular rather than sporadic content (that is the BIG change for me). I’ll still continue with my Life as it Comes forays and will also increase the posts regarding handcrafted endeavors (one of my other joys, beyond and at a tangent from writing). There will always be my Christmas blogging, naturally. I can’t abandon Christmas. After all, it hasn’t abandoned me.

Here’s hoping this isn’t a revolving commitment but one that sticks. I guess we’ll find out. Check back and see.

Happy New Year everyone. May you be blessed with health, contentment, peace and joy.

Judging A Book By Its Cover

This worn-out cliché has come to be known by all as a reference to being quick to judge people, places and things by outward appearance, without giving them a real chance. As readers we take this adage to heart, sometimes without meaning to—it can’t be helped. We are drawn to what attracts us through our senses. And since we cannot smell a book (at least not at a distance—love the smell of new pages pressed to my nose, though), or hear it, the first aspect to catch our attention is, of course, the visual. We’ll check the title next, or perhaps the author, read the blurb describing the hopefully wondrous contents between the front and back of the well-crafted covers.

Or at the very least, that’s the idea, the grand plan.

As authors, we are perhaps even more aware of the treacherous vagaries bound into our book covers. A bad or mediocre image, or merely one that does not reflect the novel’s content, can dampen sales. Traditional publishers employ professional, often freelance, artists, but even they have been known to occasionally fall short of the mark.

A cover is the crucial first impression. We can all hope what we’ve written will draw the public’s interest, but if we can’t get them past that first look, where are we? If you have ever walked up to a rundown restaurant, have you turned away or paused to read a menu plastered to a smeared window that sounds amazingly interesting after all? More than likely, you’ve walked away. Something more is needed to entice a body inside. What is needed is a welcoming door.’

A couple winters ago, I took a turn through my local Barnes & Noble with nothing particular in mind. I wanted to be inside a brick and mortar bookstore. However, while I traipsed around aimlessly, absorbing the bookiness (I know that’s not a word) of the place, a cover caught my eye on a hardback for sale in the “new adult” section. I walked over, pulled it down, studied the lovely image, read the reviews on the back, about the book and the author on the inside flaps. The author was unknown to me. Nevertheless, I shelled out $18.99 plus tax and went home the proud owner of Wintersong. The cover’s promise was fulfilled by the book’s contents. This book was as poetically expressive as the title suggested, evocative, involving, and imaginative.

Conversely, one could make a shambles of one’s writing debut if you’ve enticed readers with a wonderful cover and the interior is as rotten as an old apple.

So, I guess what I’m blathering on about, most particularly to those engaged in the limitless opportunities offered by self-publishing, is this—don’t permit the cover or your words to let you or your readers down. A cover’s purpose is to:

  • Engage the reader visually and immediately
  • Depict the genre in a recognizable fashion
  • Make a promise to the reader regarding the book’s contents (and follow through)

So, peruse your local bookstore or an on-line marketplace for books in the same category in which you are writing. Check out science-fiction, fantasy, cozy mystery, hard-core mystery, crime novels, romance, middle grade, young adult, historical fiction, non-fiction—whatever matches your subject matter.

Romance and young adult/children’s books will likely have the most varied covers, due to the range of sub-genres. Even so, all books in a category will have something in common to give a reader a “feel” regarding what they can expect from the novel’s contents.

You may note certain fonts, images, layouts being used. Some may consistently utilize photographic images, others illustrations. For example, photos are mostly used for thrillers and mysteries, although cozy mysteries will most likely be depicted by an illustration. Young adult novels can have photographic covers, but middle grade/children’s books nearly always bear an illustrated cover. Science fiction has a certain popular font; as does fantasy. Both these may utilize photographic covers, but fantasy usually lends itself to illustrative. Check them out and get a feel for the genre.

While you do want your cover to stand out and, of course, always be original, it is important to display the elements of your genre—the promise to your readers as to what they will find inside.

For those who are both artistic and computer savvy, you may be able to craft your own covers using programs such as Adobe Photoshop or Corel (formerly Paint Shop Pro). I use the latter when creating cover art for my self-published works. Images are available on a variety of sites for a fee or free, and can be downloaded for manipulation on your computer. Always check the terms of use, and make sure you are not infringing on copyright. Also, when creating a book cover, follow instructions regarding size, bleeds, etc. The cover specs needed to display your image on, say Amazon, for your digital release, is a totally different animal from what is needed for a print book, or even for touting on your favorite social networking site.

If you don’t have the expertise to prepare you own cover, then you can, and should, pay for a cover artist to create a cover for you.  It can’t be repeated enough that when it comes to book covers, first impressions count. You’ve worked so hard writing your book, gnashing your teeth through all the edits, making your story the best it can be—don’t shortchange yourself on the artwork. 

If you are introducing a series, it’s always important to make the covers similar in nature so that they are immediately recognizable as being a serial, by layout, font, or some other defining commonality.

Below are three mockup covers I did for what I called in my head the Sassy Redheads Series. Fairytales re-imagined, the reader would receive the impression of a strong, sexy heroine. These books still dwell only in my head… You can find more HERE.

Also for your information, these are two cover designers with which I am familiar.

Remember, book covers are your first intro to the reading world. Make them count!

This blog is also available as a podcast at

Inspired by Dickens

When I wrote my blog titled Ah, that Dickens some time ago, I planned to expound upon it. Time has passed, and I have finally gotten around to it in this blog post about self-publishing and episodic releases. I hope you find it informative.

Inspired by Dickens in so many ways…

Charles Dickens has always been one of my favorite authors and certainly a man ahead of his time. In Victorian England, Dickens funded a periodical in which literature of the day appeared in serial installments, including Dickens’ debut serial release of A Tale of Two Cities. Self-publishing at its earliest and finest!

He even opted to self-publish A Christmas Carol, not as a serial release, but in its entirety. He hired an illustrator and had this beloved book printed to very high standards, although it was later published by the publisher. The realization that a man as talented as Dickens decided to break from his publisher and circulate his own works gives authors hope in a changing publishing world. I’m not comparing every author to Dickens by any means, but in the entrepreneurial sense I would like to think we are all in good company.

I consider myself a hybrid author. I have heretofore and continue to be traditionally published. The rights to one of my historical novels were purchased by foreign markets and translated into five languages, which never ceases to make me pinch myself. But I also self-publish, which earns me the “hybrid” designation.

In the present publishing environment, the fact one has the freedom to release one’s own works greatly expands a writer’s opportunity for creativity. Authors are able to pen (or should I say keyboard) stories that might not interest editors at the moment due to the company’s money constraints, editorial wish lists, or a variety of other factors. As an author, you are still able to offers those stories to your readers, as well as to a whole new batch of new readers looking to be entertained or instructed. Self-publishing can be the best of both worlds, although it is, quite honestly, a heck of a lot of work, a true labor of love with profits—and losses—your own to claim.

I have writer friends who have opted for the self-publishing route, or who have come to it after the rights to traditionally published books have reverted to them. As for the latter, releasing books digitally for which you now own exclusive rights can be a godsend. Books in physical bookstores have a very short shelf-life and will only appear on the shelves for approximately six months before they are cleared for the next batch to be displayed. This does not, of course, relate to best-selling works, but there are far less of those than there are books that don’t, for whatever reason, hit it big.

As far as the episodic version of writing—the serial—it seems to be making a comeback. People today tend to like everything in quick bites, sneaking their entertainment into moments during their commute, waiting at a doctor’s office, enjoying a bit of fresh air on a park bench. Years ago, my own work, Emerald Twilight, was released in just such a serial fashion, but the small and wonderful publisher did not outlast the downturn in the market and the complete novel was later released by a small press. As the rights to the book are now mine, I have been eyeballing a company who publishes five-hundred-words-at-a-time “bites” to the reading market. It might be a perfect new home for this story of hope and survival, redemption and, well, yes, love in a distant world inhabited by a variety of characters and frightening creatures.

We watch episodic television, so why not read in the same manner? How many of us watch our favorite shows through streaming services such as Netflix or Hulu? And for the bingers among us, a writer could easily make the book available again as a whole in a digital release. The possibilities are definitely worth investigation.

There is, however, a drawback manifested in the ease of self-publishing. Not all self-published books have gone through the rigors that traditionally published works have. And it’s very important that self-published books are treated with the same professionalism as traditionally pubbed books. Self-publishing is a business venture, not just a fast track to seeing one’s book in print. Too many of the latter exist, sometimes giving self-published books a bad rap.

So, if you’re considering the Dickens’ way to releasing the work you’ve struggled long and hard to complete, remember the following:

  • Self-publishing should always be approached as a business, and therefore expenses will be incurred.
  • Unless you are adept at standing back from your own work to check for errors (both typographical and grammatical), continuity, unnecessary prose, etc., seek out a professional editor for both copy and content. This is a service you will have to pay for, but it is worth the expense.
  • Locate some beta readers. Not family or friends, because their excitement at your accomplishment may encourage them to overlook even obvious flaws in the story.
  • The cover of your book is the first thing a person sees when searching for something to read. Make certain it is up to snuff. So many covers scream self-published, or are just so poorly rendered that they turn a reader off. A properly (preferably professionally) crafted cover can entice a reader to buy your book even if the content is not necessarily their usual fare.
  • When you’ve secured the best end product, generate some buzz before its release. This is true no matter how you are published and is something I have struggled with. Social media is not my thing, but it is an important marketing tool (and a free one). Even traditional publishers, whether small pub or the big NY, encourage this aspect of marketing. It will bite you where you sit if you don’t generate readership through social interaction, which means interaction not a lot of tooting your own horn (although you’ll have to do a bit of that, too). There are many books available to guide your through the social media jungle (many of which are self-published!).
  • A downfall of print-on-demand (if you go this route) is the struggle to get your books into brick-and-mortar bookstores. Even if a writer finds themselves published by a house who releases books as digital with print-on-demand physical copies, your books will not make it in that form into a bookstore. It’s a matter of profit for the bookstores, and they can’t be blamed for that. However, if you self-publish digitally and also provide print-on-demand, the cost to you for POD is often low enough that you may be able to convince your local bookstore to allow you to stage a book signing in their establishment. They will still make their profit on the sales of your book at retail cost, and you should realize a lesser profit, but a profit nonetheless. So, remember that as well. Price your books realistically and according to market practices.

Well, that’s my two-cents…for now. I’ll be back with more tips and discussion. In the meantime, happy writing everyone!

Follow the Firefly and Run, Rabbit, Run! by Bernard Carvalho (Book Island Books)

Found this fabulous blogger, Picture Books Blogger, reviewing (what else?) picture books. As I am a fan of deeply illustrated books without words, I checked out the reviews under “Wordless Wonders” and discovered this book, among others. I hope to be buying it shortly–for me (my kids are all grown, you see, but I’m a sucker for well-crafted children’s books)!

picture books blogger

10923300_10152961120625446_966095189953267695_nHere is a book which you can read from front to back AND from back to front, we kid you not!

We love it when we find something we’ve never seen before, or that is quite different from the norm and this ticks all of our boxes and the some.


Originally published in 2013 by Portuguese author/illustrator Bernardo Carvalho, this original concept is executed beautifully and contains two very different stories of which you, are the author.


Follow the Firefly‘ and ‘Run, Rabbit, Run‘ are wordless stories which play out within the confines of the same tome, but each possessing their own unique story lines and fabulous twists.

Upon your first reading of the book, you are not necessarily aware of the second story making an appearance on the same spreads, until you reach what would normally be the end of the book and you are presented with the next story on…

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