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The Blog

News and Notes

Observations and opinions about the brave new publishing world.


We stay on top of happenings/trends in the publishing world to help out busy writers who are spending their time doing what they should be doing: writing.



1. Another Amazon worker’s story
Amazon claimed that they didn’t know of any amazon employees who had been treated the way that New York Times article portrayed. This former employee begs to differ.


2. On the other hand, we can’t quit you…
We want to stay mad at amazon, we really do, but then we read something like this. Amazon is about to go into home delivery of alcohol.


3. Self Publishing is Good for the Industry
We’ve always been firmly on the side of self-publishing. Wired has a great article on some of the many reasons why it’s good for the industry.


4. October 8th is Book-a-palooza
If you haven’t removed the Christmas lights from your home, don’t bother. October 8th marks the official start of the season for the publishing industry. More than 500 books will be released on that day.


5. Fifty Shades of Legal Problems
The BBC reports that the publisher of Fifty Shades of Grey has to set aside $10 million in an ongoing dispute with a business partner. In case you don’t want to do the math, that’s $200,000 per shade.


6. From Avon to Self-Publishing Queen
Newsweek has a great piece on how a former Avon Lady became the queen of self-publishing. It’s apparently easier than selling soap.


We stay on top of happenings/trends in the publishing world to help out busy writers who are spending their time doing what they should be doing: writing.



1. How One Chicagoan Keeps Winning the New Yorker Caption Contests
I’m posting this piece for a few reasons. One, go Chicago writers. Two, I love the tweet that alerted me to this Chicago Magazine article…

2. How much is Amazon paying these days under the new “pay only for pages read” metric?
I’ve been reading quite a bit lately about this trying to get a handle on it. On it’s face, it sounds like such a an incredibly horrible deal. But there are a few pieces out there praising it, including the one I linked. According to this, Amazon pays about 1/2 cent per page view.


3. Should writers respond to negative comments on their articles?
This is a question our authors ask us all the time because most authors also write something else (articles, blogs, etc) and they inevitably get negative comments. Why? The internet is a cruel cesspool of bile. (That’s my opinion as a 10-year blog writer). I personally no longer allow comments on my personal blog because I found it’s better to simply stay above the fray. Life’s too short to argue with trolls. You can never win those arguments anyway and it makes you look thin-skinned and impotent. Other writers disagree with me. Lots of different opinions at the link.


4. Apple’s mistake was hooking up with the book-publishing cartel
My condolences to you if you own Apple stock. It’s been a rough few weeks. According to this piece in Fortune Magazine, their big mistake was to make a deal with the major book publishers. Read the piece and judge for yourself if you agree or not.


5. Another look at Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken”
The New York Times Book section took a new look at one of the classic American poems, Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken”. I’m guessing my fellow writers will find this story as interesting as I did. There’s apparently a new middle ground theory about the poem’s meaning.


6. Mastering the Radio Interview: 10 Tips for Authors from a Talk Radio Host
As a twenty-year radio veteran and a frequent radio guest for the past ten years, I can tell you that the linked article is the best advice I’ve ever read for authors who are planning on appearing on a radio show. It gives you tips for how to get booked, what to expect when you’re on the air, and what to say or do when you get your chance. All of it is true. Great stuff.


We stay on top of happenings/trends in the publishing world to help out busy writers who are spending their time doing what they should be doing: writing.



1. Ebooks Are Changing the Way We Read
The Guardian has a great article about how eBooks are not only changing the way we read, but also how authors write.


2. 6 Tips for getting your self-published book reviewed
We happen to be in the “you really don’t have to get it reviewed” camp, but if it’s important to you, it’s not impossible at all for self-published writers to get reviewed. There are a few good tips in this article.


3. Chicago Book Review
For authors in Chicago, there is always Chicago Book Review. We’ve had several of our books reviewed by this site. Of course, there’s no guarantee it will be a positive review, but we’ve found them to be quite fair. They are obviously Chicago-centric. Here’s their mission statement: “Our mission at Chicago Book Review is to highlight local and regional authors and publishers as well as books that tackle Chicago and the Midwest as subject matter, regardless of genre.” They are also publishing a Fall 2015 preview which includes information (not reviews) about new releases coming from local houses and/or local authors and/or books that tackle local subject matter. Their deadline is August 31st to be included in the Fall Preview. E-mail them at chicagobookreview@yahoo.com


4. Indie City Book Fair August 30
It’s been our experience that you won’t sell a lot of books at book fairs, but this one sounds a little different. The Indie City Book Fair will be on Sunday Aug. 30 from noon to 5 at 1448 E. 57th Street in Chicago. Authors are invited to come, take over half a table, invite all their friends, family and fans and give a reading. It could be a cheap way to throw a book launch party. They are only asking for a $35 fee (not a percentage of the book sales), and are scheduling 30 minute windows.


5. Working at Amazon is like living in “Lord of the Flies”
To know Amazon well is to fear the eventual demise of our civilization. Yes, you need to sell on amazon (especially e-books), but Amazon’s business practices are apalling. They really take advantage of authors and publishers, but their “eat it–where else are you gonna go” attitude is not confined only towards to their vendors. According to this piece in the New York Times, Amazon is also a horrible place to work. It takes the concept of survival of the fittest to ridiculous extremes. Enjoy your time working there–just watch your back because your co-workers are encouraged to squeal on you, and don’t get sick.



We know you’re busy writing, so we keep an eye on the publishing world for you. Here are just a few pieces you’ll probably enjoy and might have missed.





How Writers Can Find Meaning in Nonsense
The Atlantic is doing a feature asking writers to discuss their favorite passages of literature. In this article author Jesse Ball talks about Lewis Carroll’s Jaberwocky and why he finds it a good example of writers embracing nonsense words. A short excerpt…

There’s a question of what master are you serving when you write something. If you want to tell someone that they have to go unplug the toilet, that’s a very specific sentiment: Go, and unplug the toilet. It can succeed, or not. But what if the master you want to serve is to somehow communicate the entirety of your experience of Anglo-Saxon poetry, in a single poem? That’s when something like nonsense comes into its own. The wonder of it is not that it makes something out of nothing, or that it is without sense—but actually that it’s exploding with sense. It’s not for when you have nothing to say, but when you have many things to say at once.


The Ideal Length For Blogposts
Most writers maintain a blog to stay in touch with their readers and promote their work. But it’s one thing to write a blog, and another to attract readers to it. This piece by Orbit Media has facts and figures backed up by research.  We will warn you in advance. The ideal blog length for SEO purposes is much longer than you’d think. A short excerpt…

Think about it this way: Google is a research tool. Longer pages have more opportunities to indicate their relevance. Google sees longer pages as more likely to contain the answer to the searcher’s question.

Another reason is links. When MOZ analyzed 3,800 posts on their own blog, they found that the longer posts get linked to more often. Longer pages generally attract more links, and these links support a higher rank.

The ideal length for a search optimized blog post is 1,500 words.


Social Media Grammar Tips for Authors
My kids mock me because even my texts include proper punctuation. But when you’re writing in 140 characters or less, that can really hold you back. This piece gives you seven grammar rules that you need to keep in mind when you’re writing on social media. Shortcuts are OK, but mistakes in these seven areas make you look like a lousy writer. Here’s one example…

If you have two sentences, please put a period between them. If you like semicolons and your sentences are closely related, use a semicolon. If you are using a conjunction like and or but, you can use a comma. What I am telling you is don’t use a comma alone to separate sentences


How ‘Lady Authors’ Were Told to Promote Their Books in the 1960s
This is a great piece in Time Magazine that shows how the times have changed for female authors. There are some great photos to illustrate it. Here’s a short excerpt from the text…

In a LIFE photo essay called “What it takes to be a lady author anymore,” Rejaunier posed for shots that demonstrated how a woman should promote her literary work. A successful lady author, the captions suggested, must “swim a little,” “exercise in a bikini” and be “photographed in bed.” The essay attributed the success of her book, a novel based on the dark side of the modeling world, to Rejaunier’s beauty rather than her literary talents: “Just possibly because she smiles so prettily on the book jacket (the back and the front of the book) The Beauty Trap is now in its fourth printing.”