Hope for Novelists and Other Writers by da-AL

Do you have an elevator speech? Book writers are told that they need an ‘elevator speech’ — a one-minute pitch for when they inadvertently meet their star-maker. It’s also useful for talking about one’s book with everyone else.

Theoretically, that is. My elevator speech rarely gets past the first floor.

Bunny rabbit outfitted person reads paper.
Ryan McGuire of Gratisography is a smart bunny.

But I love my books, which is why I keep at them. My two novels are in the final edit phase as I build an audience of followers (that means you, dear reader) who I hope will be interested in them when they’re self-published. They’re narrated by a 40-year-old woman, in the form of letters to a deceased grandmother.

“An epistolary novel: written in the form of a series of letters.” Merriam-Webster Dictionary

The Hope Part of this Post: This video reminds me of me pitching my book — and Maria Keogh Semple’s “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” did great!

Here’s part 2 of her pitching (this time to another very successful author), which is also shown comically yet realistically…

Semple’s book is so successful that Cate Blanchette is starring in a movie version of it!

What’s been people’s reaction when you tell them about your books?

Guest Blog Post: Tips for Sleuthing the Past by Margaret Lossi

Who'll your search turn up? Photo thanks to Ryan McGuire of Gratisography.com
Who will your search turn up? Photo thanks to Ryan McGuire of Gratisography.com

Writers and readers alike, for times we’d like to look into our histories, author Margaret Lossi offers tips for how to get started. My two novels are works-in-progresses! Lossi says that when it comes to looking up one’s family background, be prepared for surprises…

M.A. Lossl

The Family Tree

Warning: family history can lead to emotional discoveries.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but you begin at the end! That is, you begin with you.

Check your birth certificate, verify your parents. It may seem like a given, but just sometimes people find they are adopted, or their mum is really their grandma. It pays to check.

Check your parents birth certificates, to verify your grandparents. Then work your way back through the generations, verifying birth certificates.

These first steps build the strong foundation of your family tree, so worth doing well.

It is not a case of how far back you can go, but the quality of your data

You may wish to answer a family question. I knew my parents were second cousins, so wanted to find out about this link. Set yourself a goal to work towards. Whatever your motivation, make sure you verify each…

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Let’s Make Every Week Banned Books Week! by da-AL

Persepolis is discussed by a UK teen on youtube video about Banned Book Week.

Does the threat of a book being banned ensure that it’s among the finest books written? Check out the fantastic examples cited by the smart folks in this 29-second video (and pat yourself on the back if you smile when “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee is discussed — *see end of this post for why)…

Banned Book Week needs to be every week of the year! Started in the U.S., the now international event has been honored every last week of September since 1982.

* Whereas the girl in the video remembers the story as happening in South America during the 1920s, here’s how Wikipedia tells it: “The story takes place during three years (1933–35) of the Great Depression in the fictional “tired old town” of Maycomb, Alabama, the seat of Maycomb County.”

Once my novels-in-progress are published, I hope they’re not banned! How many potentially banned books have you read?

Guest Blog Post: What to Read When You’re Feeling Super Lazy by Orang-utan Librarian

Drawing of an orangutan reading a listLove + Compulsion… From as far back as I can remember, I had to learn to read! Once I started, I’ve never stopped. Now I’m writing two novels! Was Orang-utan Librarian reading over my shoulder?…

the orang-utan librarian

Hello again!! Yes, I’m actually posting twice in a week- you’re not seeing things! Oh you thought you’d seen the last of me for this month? Well sorry to disappoint 😉 I wanted to do a great “here’s what I’ve been reading this summer guys!” post- but let’s be real, I’ve not actually been doing much reading. Instead, I thought I’d give you an idea of what I’ve been reading/to give myself an idea of what I *should* be reading.

orangutan listLabels on food packets– ermmm yeah this is one of the things I’m actually reading at the moment- to be fair, it’s helping me practice another language, so it’s not cos I’ve become a food nut and I’m not totally weird (okay I am a little weird but you knew that already 😉 )

Road signs– same reason as above- it’s practice! (also directions probably count here, but…

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How to Photograph a Dog? by da-AL

4 headshot photos of da-AL with her labrador pit bull mix dog

I mean where she faces the camera but doesn’t look like you’re choking her (which I sort of am in these because she’d much prefer to chase birds and cats across the street than be a model).

2 full body photos of da-AL with her labrador pit bull mix dog on brick porch steps

A kind reader lamented that she wanted to see more blog posts by me. Though now I feel sort of like a narcissist, that made me think that maybe other readers might feel the same way, so here’re some photos of one of my beloved dogs. I wanted to show her to you on my newly revised site, but the dear girl wasn’t having it.

Have you had any luck shooting great eye-ball-to-lens pictures of your pets?…

Guest Blog Post: Fiction Love by DJ Sakata

Are you getting sufficient fiction nutrition?

Non-fiction = Facts (i.e., wheat bran)

Fiction = Facts + Imagination + Heart + Soul (i.e., dark chocolate or whatever your fave food)

Our newest fellow blogger (and what a cartoonist!) friend, DJ Sakata, understands this, so how can we not like her?…

DJ Sakata self-portrait
I assume this is DJ Sakata’s self-portrait

Aloha to you lovers of tails and tales. I am DJ Sakata/Empress DJ/Honolulubelle, and a new friend of da-AL.  We met on Goodreads and were instant fangirls.   She asked me to sprinkle a few words on her blog of my love of reading. As a child and well into my teens I used to hide under the covers and read with a flashlight as my strict and priggish mother would chide and punish me if I was caught as according to her, “Reading fiction is a waste of time.”   Hmm, then I am now a total wastrel who squanders the majority of her free minutes indulging in such foolishness.  I have an eclectic reading palate, but my favorite will always be women’s fiction.

DK Sakata cartoon called 'smut toss'
Is frenemy Puka taking these for herself?

Since I’ve retired – which BTW is oh, so, sweet – I read all day in my cozy little nest with all the windows open, I live in Hawaii so I can do that year-round – don’t hate me, I’ve earned it.  I do occasionally put my Kindle down when my husband whines for food and/or attention.  I thumb my nose at my mother’s ridiculously misguided notion as I’ve noticed my vocabulary and spelling have markedly improved with the increased perusal.   I am an incredibly lazy blogger, but I do have one called Books and Bindings, which is just a small personal blog where I can toss up my silly little reviews that no one ever reads, but I don’t really care about that. If you find you are all caught up on Ms. da-AL’s posts and have a few minutes or an interest in seeing what nonsense I’ve recently read which my Bible banging mother would most certainly not approve, then come and see, or not. I’m happily whiling away in my little nook while lovingly tapping my Kindle and sipping Moscato 😉

Guest Blog Post: “My Personal Path to Self-Publishing” by Lisa Kentgen, Ph.D.

When it comes to publishing, deciding which route to take can be a challenge.

For the traditional route, once an author writes a book, they sign on with an agent or publishing house. The author shares a hefty percentage of the sales, in exchange for the agent doing everything involved in getting attention and sales.

A self-publisher keeps all the money — but does everything, including possible hiring of an editor and book designer, buying advertising, etc.

New York City psychologist, Lisa Kentgen, Ph.D., debuted, “An Intentional Life: Five Foundations of Authenticity and Purpose,” June 2018. Here how she went about it…

Cover of, "An Intentional Life" by Lisa Kentgen

Turning down a book contract was a painful decision. My book emphasizes listening to your internal voice. My voice told me I wouldn’t be happy signing a contract that didn’t feel mutual. The morning after making this decision the idea for my next book came to me. I then knew self-publishing was the right path.

Two things were clear. 1) I would create a publishing imprint to house this and future books. 2) I would be intimately part of the process.

Creating a publishing imprint meant establishing an LLC. Its mission is broad enough to cover other professional activities, like public speaking, so that my writing will be an essential part of my professional life.

Photo of author Lisa Kentgen by Todd Estrin Photography
Photo of author Lisa Kentgen by Todd Estrin Photography

There are reputable companies, like Girl Friday Productions, that help authors from concept to final production. I believe they quoted me $16,000. I chose not to go with this sort of company because I had a manuscript that already was far along and, also, it means not taking the lead in creating my team. Establishing my team meant spending hours finding a top quality editor, cover designer, and interior designer.

I was fortunate enough to find a developmental editor who is the vice president of a publishing company. She had me reduce my manuscript by 30%. She told me that while I don’t like telling people what to do (I am a psychologist) – as a writer I needed to be more directive. After a major edit, I hired another editor to polish the final manuscript.

For book design, I chose Reedsy, an online company that has wonderful professionals for hire. Inexpensive cover designs cost around $500. For an experienced, artistic designer it is closer to $1000. My cover designer was so good that I persuaded him to do my interior design which cost about $2000.

I learned the hard way that what makes for a beautiful physical book creates complications for the ebook. (Suggestion: Make a copy of the interior before getting fancy!) Creating the ebook to look like the physical copy proved difficult. I had no way to assess the actual skill level of designers. The first person misrepresented their experience, and I paid $450 for something I couldn’t use. The next person charged $500 and what I wanted took more time than estimated–so we negotiated a higher price.

My experience creating the audiobook with Brickshop Audio in Brooklyn was a pleasure. The audiobook, with production help, costs $250 per finished hour. My 55,000-word book (on ACX) cost $1650.

I recommend my path to authors who enjoy creating a business and who have the time and desire to address countless creative details. It means a lot more work upfront, but having finished products closer to your vision. I am excited to take what I have learned to new ventures!

Quote by Lisa Kentgen: Living with intention you understand that your interests are intimately bound to the well-being of others.

Dear readers, share your experiences below with self-publishing vs. traditional publishing…