I have developed a series of grief recovery talks that build and expand on the books I have written. One talk has been received really well, so well I decided to expand it into a book. I wrote a draft of the outline, revised the draft, found resources, and started the actual writing. The book was progressing so well I decided to contact my publisher. The executive director listened patiently to my two-minute pitch, paused a moment and replied, “We already carry a book with that title.” What a disappointment.
Still, I did not let this disappointment slow me down and resumed my search for a good title. I brainstormed for a day, started a list of possible titles, and kept adding to it. Then I put a star by the one I liked best and logged into Amazon. To my dismay, this title was there on the screen, and worse, there were nine books with this title and different sub-titles. Sheesh! It was back to brainstorming.
Not only did I have to find a title that represented the book, I had to find one that matche the book’s structure. Again, I made a list of potential titles. I entered these titles into the computer and tried out different fonts to see how they would look in print. I ranked the titles and chose the simplest one. When I logged into Amazon I was thrilled to see ththe message, “We cannot find a book with this title.” The title was mine! I logged into a royalty-free website and looked at thousands of photos that might represent this title.
After printing out eight photos, I discarded several because they were too busy, and several others because they were obtuse. I kept discarding until I was down to one photo, an ideal match for the title. Now that these tasks are done I am back writing and loving every minute of it. But I have some advice for other free: Check Amazon before you choose your title.
The terrorism at the Boston marathon got me thinking about hatred. From the outside, the terrorist brothers looked like Americans, dressing like everyone else, participating in sports, and hanging out with friends. Their inside personalities were a different story. Apparently these brothers had been taught to hate. Years ago, Rogers and Hammerstein explained hate simply in their song, “You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught.” The lyrics say you need have to be taught to hate and fear others, taught to “hate all the people your relatives hate.”
The lyrics of this song seem to apply to the Boston terrorists. Someone, or a group of people, taught them to hate the nation that welcomed them, gave them asylum, and in the case of the younger brother, awarded him a scholarship. Still, these young men were seething with hatred and building bombs to maime and kill. The Watertown, MA Chief of Police thinks the young men intended to set off more bombs and kill more innocents. As Americans, I think we need to become more aware of the hatred in our midst.
I was a very young child during World War II, yet I remember the slogan, “Loose lips sink ships.” The slogan was on a poster and the posters were everywhere — in grocery stores, on store fronts, and lamp posts. Our new slogan has become, “See something? Say something.” This isn’t a time for political correctness. Rather, this is a time for Americans to take care of each other, be alert, report unusual/odd behavior, take cell phone photos, and use social media. Instead of teaching hatred, we can teach fairness, respect, and tolerance. We can come together as a nation and cherish the freedom we have.
I have a book in production, write for three websites, contribute to blogs, and volunteer in my community. Yesterday I received a phone call from a colleague about the organization’s newsletter. She needed someone to serve as editor, a long-term commitment and something I was unwilling to do. I told her I was in my late 70s, extremely busy, and couldn’t sign up for this commitment. At first, my colleague congratulated me on my age. Later sge said she didn’t realize I was that old. Well, I am.
I’ve celebrated many birthdays, am a grandmother, and been married to the same marvelous man for 56 years. I’m an active older adult. You won’t see me sitting in a rocking chair, marking time, and waiting to die. Certainly, my creativeness hasn’t died. Today I am more creative than I’ve ever been and have more writing ideas than I can pursue. Maybe that is nature’s plan. If we fail to use the gifts we’ve been given, we will gradually lose them. Experience has taught me the value of persistence, of keeping at it, of challenging myself, how to accept rejects, and celebrate a book sale.
There are more articles to write, more book ideas to consider, more organizations that need my time and experience. What’s age got to do with creativity? Plenty. Like fine wine, we get better as we age. Older adults like me understand what we can do and what we cannot. We’re kinder to ourselves and laugh a lot. Best of all, we savor every moment of life. Despite all the sorrow I have experienced, I am a happy person and I am blessed.
Just because a publisher has posted my book on its website doesn’t mean it will sell. It publishes grief resources and only those who know about the company will visit the website. Clearly, I need to get better at Internet book marketing. Guess I’m slow on the uptake, but I’m just beginning to understand the power of the Internet and how it can spark book sales.
At the end of this month I’m participating in an online book “tour.” The fact that it is called a tour amuses me. In addition to the tour I’m posting on a blog about writing. Of course I’m posting on Facebook.
Many authors ask people to write reviews of their books and post the reviews on Amazon. While this is a good idea, I was reluctant to do it. However, I did ask one expert to post a review and she was kind enough to do so. As soon as my latest book, Walking Woman: Step-by-Step to a Healthier Heart, appears on Amazon I will update my website. I try to keep it current, but every update costs more than I think. Still, I’ve received emails from several people complimenting me on the quality of my website and I am grateful for their emails.
Recently I updated my Amazon profile and I will add regular updating to my To Do list. I also continue to write articles for an Internet website that posts my bio at the end of each article. I’m not the only author who is discovering the power of Internet marketing. An author friend of mine is making similar discoveries and she has given me some leads. Both of us are working hard and both of us wrote our books because we wanted to help others, not make money.
I’ve made several memory cookbooks and putting them together is fun. The first one I made was a Christmas gift for members of my extended family. It was in memory of my mother-in-law and contained favorite recipes from her recipe boxes. When I typed the recipes I followed each one just as she had written it. If a recipe referred to a family member I included the reference.
This last week I’ve been working on another memory cookbook, a going away gift for a friend of mine. Each club member submitted two recipes that had been served at meetings. Some members, including me, submitted an extra recipe or two. The recipes were as diverse as the club members. Putting this gift together made me think of ways to get the best possible results. My tips may help you.
1. Set a theme. The book I’m working on now includes recipes for foods members have shared together. You may create a book that represents a specific heritage.
2. Strive for a minimum number of recipes. I am working towards two dozen and have almost reached this goal.
3. Determine how the recipes will be displayed. A three-ring binder works best for me because it fits the standard paper size. Narrow and wide-spine binders are available at office supply stores.
4. Choose a suitable font. I surprised myself by choosing a font called Berlin, which has an art deco look about it.
5. Use a consistent format. For example, I decided to type recipe titles in Berlin bold, 18 point. The recipe instructions are 14 point, which makes them easy to read.
6. Include personal information. Was this recipe served on Christmas Eve? Has it been handed down from generation to generation.
7. Give credit where credit is due. If the recipe came from a cookbook, please cite the title and author.
8. Protect the recipes with plastic page sleeves. The good thing about them is that you don’t have to punch holes in paper. Instead, you just slip each recipe into its sleeve.
9. Divide the book into sections. These divisions may depend on the number of recipes you have. The gift I am working on now only has two sections, Sweet and Savory.
10. Stick a photo on the cover. I used a photo of club members that was taken in front of a member’s home. It’s the perfect beginning to a memorable gift.
This morning I am expecting a call from my publisher regarding the layout of my book. In preparation for the call, I looked through my manuscript, and compiled a list of layout suggestions. Notice that I said suggestions, not directions, because I am not a graphic designer. I am, however, a person with a graduate degree in art. Though I’ve never laid out a book, as I am writing ,I can see the cover and interior design in my mind. To get an idea of what is selling, I look at published books that have eye-catching covers and layout. Why am I drawn to the book? Are there design elements I could adapt? Dense layout — too much copy on the page — is something I want to avoid. The reader should have white spaces to rest his or her eyes and headings that draw guide them through the book from beginning to end. The layout should also support the book’s purpose. All I can do is make suggestions. The final interior design is up to the pros. You may have a book in production now. If so, think long and hard about the layout. You want your book to look its best.
In the last two weeks we’ve been snowed in twice. My husband and I weren’t snowed in for long, but we couldn’t go anywhere. A huge drift covered the patio door, and when we opened the garage door we realized we couldn’t go anywhere. Though we have plowing and shoveling service, we have to wait our turn. Right after the driveway was plowed the city plow came along and pushed a four-foot wall of snow across the driveway. So we had to wait for the plowing service to return. What did we do with our time? I wrote several articles and polished a manuscript. My husband paid bills and worked on the mail pile, which is always huge at our house. Fortunately, we were able to throw lots of mail away. Being snowed in made us slow down and we enjoyed many coversations over coffee. I did some baking as well. All in all, we decided we were grateful to have a warm house, enough food, and each other.
I think of myself as a detail person. When I’m writing a book, I try to keep track of details such as spelling, indenting, and typos. The last few days I’ve been proofreading an electronic version of my latest book. Saving paper is the main reason I’m doing this. Each day, when I sit down at the computer, I find more errors. Some are left from text editing and sometimes I change a word because I like it better. Having older eyes also slows me down. Though I wear bifocals, I take them off when I’m writing and proofreading. Days have passed and I am still proofreading. To to a good job I feel like I need the eyes of a hawk. Next week I hope to submit an electronic version of my book to the publisher, so I have to keep at it. A proofreader has already gone through the manuscript once and I’m working on consistency, citing articles, newsletters, and books in a uniform way. Proofreading isn’t for the lazy, that’s for sure!
Posted in Books
Nothing is like having a book in production. After working on a book for a year or more, in one case a dozen years, I can finally see the results of my labor. I love everything about the process: writing the back cover copy, submitting design suggestions, approving the interior layout, and working on the cover design. Seeing the cover for the first time is always exciting. Because I have a graduate degree in art, I can visualize the cover and interior pages in my mind.
A local graphic designer created the covers of my last six books. He is sharp, talented, and stays up-to-date on treds. I’ve been so pleased with his designs I asked him to create the cover of my 32nd book. For hours, I looked at potential cover photos on a royalty-free website. In all, I must have looked at 1,000 photos and narrowed my choices down to four. The designer will choose the best photo and I can hardly wait to see which one he selects.
Now I’m proofreading my manuscript for the upteenth time, looking for stray periods, incorrect commas, spelling and layout errors. It’s a tedious process and I need total quiet and concentration in order to do it. One of my friends, who has eagle eyes, also proofed the manuscript. Between us, we should catch the errors. Other authors, especially first-time ones, will understand the excitement of having a book in production. Many have likened the publication of a book to giving birth. Though it isn’t really like that, the publication of a book is similar. I can hardly wait to hold the book in my hands.
I belong to a volunteer organization that helps the public library. We pay dues, catalog thousands of books donated by members of the community, work at holiday book sales, and volunteer in the organization’s book store. This organization is vital to the economic health of the library. Last year, the organization donated more than $50,000 to the library, proceeds from various sales and fundraising events.
Yesterday I worked at our winter book sale. Thousands of books (and I’m not kidding) were displayed on long tables and the boxed extras beneath the tables. Despite bad weather, a mixture of rain, sleet, and snow, a surprising number of people came to the sale. We sold books for 50 cents each or five dollars a bag. Book-lovers of many ages — toddlers, senior citizens, a man in a wheelchair — came to the sale and hundreds of books went out the door.
Setting up for the sale takes days and boxing books at the end of the sale takes muscle. Leftover books are picked up by an oganization that sells them and gives some away. I helped to box hundreds of books that were to be donated to the local food bank. When I got home I was tired, but it was a good kind of tiredness. I enjoyed meeting people, helping parents find age-appropriate books, and helping out in other small ways. Book-lovers are a special breed and I’m one of them. We enjoy looking at books, touching them, inspecting the design, and looking for books about unusual topics.
I think a child can have too many toys, but never too many books. One of the best things you can do for a child is to foster reading. Whether books are printed or electronic, a love of books will help your child all through life. Intellectual curiosity will sustain your child as well. So I salute the world of books and book-lovers everywhere. We are in good company.