Archives for category: publishing

A couple whose lasting love started because of an infernal war.

Here’s what I did in this bold enterprise of writing about my family. I  hope my experience may be helpful to you too.

To present my parents’ life story and my growing-up story I hit upon two ways. First, I could combine the stories of two generations — but only if I could find a beginning, middle and end for a structure around a unifying theme.

  • It couldn’t just be that they were born and died and did something fantastic as a climax near the end. I had important things to say about their effect on me as I grew up. I saw flaws in their relationship.
  • The central theme I wanted get at was one of ego. Altruism is without a doubt the greatest virtue. But babies need to suck in, see and exercise a healthy dose of ego joy in order to become competent, confident, caring adults.
  • My solution was to frame the book as a psychological detective story/family biography. I began by saying I was on a search for my parents’ lost egos. One question I wanted to figure out was why my mother denied my father one of her chocolates the week before he died, even though he begged for it.
  • That way I could keep the reader in suspense and also make the book an honest critique. That’s my way as a nonfiction writer.
  • The title was easy because our family name was KellThe Book of Kells is the famous ninth century manuscript that illuminates the gospels. I point out my parents and ancestors aimed to do that too, by the way they lived.41khlscocglSecond, I could write the book just as an inspiring love story — the quintessential Canadian romance. This approach might appeal more to a different group of readers. 
  • Like the first book, it contains excerpts from my parents’ love letters but the theme is a tribute to my mother’s courage and my parents’ idealism.
  • I tossed out the subtitle and included a dozen authentic pictures of my mother’s adventures instead.
  • The title comes from a hazardous five-day trek on a cariole toboggan made by my mother, my father and an aboriginal guide. The temperature dipped to 30-below-zero. If there was no one to take them in, they slept outside. She had to get to the hospital for her baby to be born.
  • Digital technology made it easy for me to do this. Both books are published under our V&V logo but printed on demand and distributed by CreateSpace (originally called BookSurge.)
  • Revisions are quick and simple to make. Then I order just the number of  books I think I can sell at bookstores, fairs, shopping malls, reunions, book clubs, seniors’ residences, libraries, book clubs, etc.
  • Most customers have a definite preference for which printed edition they want for themselves or as a gift.
  • I take my i-pad with me and can download an e-version of either book if that is what a customer prefers.


Reblogged on

Source: Wouldn’t It Be Great to Have a Magic Button on Your Keyboard That Corrects Everything? But Editing and Proofreading Need to be Done by a Human Being. Here’s Why!

To find out more, click on the link or image below to read Jane Friedman’s advice: amazon-book-description-optimize/

Source: How Writers Can Optimize Their Book’s Description on Amazon…

The scoop on editing with Amazon Publishing.


The author stands on the grounds of the 6th century Abbey of Kells

You never know when you will make a connection. If channels for selling your book seem stale, why not search farther afield? I’ve just returned from a trip to Ireland, where the roots of my family memoir lie. This email from the Tourist Office in Kells (Meath County) Ireland was in my email box this morning:

Good afternoon Margaret,

Thank you so very much for the copy of your book you left at the tourist office here in Kells. It is our Bank Holiday on Monday, so we have a long lazy weekend. If the weather holds I intend to sit in the garden, with my feet up devouring every word therein.

I was intrigued as soon as I saw the cover as my father, his father and various ancestors all served in the Navy. So can’t wait to find out all about your father in particular.

I will email you next week and tell you how I got on. And I will pass the book around the staff and my friends in Kells.

 Thanks again, and very kind regards,

 Doreen Fitzsimons

Kells Tourist Office

I’m looking forward to corresponding with Doreen. She is an expert on all things connected with The Book of Kells and obviously, an extremely nice person.

This blog post adds to the mystery of why anyone would entitle their family memoir A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void. (Our surname was Kell and I am a preacher’s kid. There’s some doubt over whether we originated in a community of ninth century monks.)

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The UPS store on the other side of the Prescott-Ogdensburg International Bridge helps some Canadian authors save on shipping costs.

The UPS store on the other side of the Prescott-Ogdensburg International Bridge helps some Canadian authors save on shipping costs.

If you want a successful book launch, stay organized while awaiting your order from the printer and getting ready to sell at events you’ve already arranged.  These tips may help you avoid the blunders and adopt the time- and money-saving techniques I acquired in past launches, as well as the one I’m doing at present.

  1. Learn how to add a sticker to improve the sales appeal of your front cover. Even if your book hasn’t won a gold-star award badge, it is legitimate to put a sticker on it to attract customers. After having stared at the cover of my proof copy for days, I saw that the lower third was bare and needed ‘oomph’. It is easy to learn how to do this and not too time-consuming if you just apply stickers on the number of copies you need as you go. I found that the local Staples stores sell colored or white labels of various shapes, sizes and finishes made by Avery. Never having done this before, I made all sorts of mistakes. I tried to cram too much text into each 1 1/2″ x 2 1/2″ label and wasted a lot of hours and stickers trying to center and control the layout inside six rows of three oval shapes on a sheet. In desperation, I turned to the Avery website. Believe it or not, they provide a free, blank template for download to use as a guide. From there on I was able to print my stickers out perfectly, ready to be put on my books.
  2. Now is the time to make sure you have a good supply of updated business cards on hand. You can also buy a packet of blank business cards, download a template to your computer and compose them by a method similar to the one used for sticker labels.
  3. Try to find out the precise ‘where’, ‘when’ and ‘how much’ of your book order delivery, or else pick it up. An author can lose money by having to pay a  heavy warehousing charge, for example, or missing a lucrative event because an order of books didn’t arrive. Get all the precise information you can over the phone in order to track your books, if they are coming a long distance, and be in the right place at the right time with the right payment method. A tip for Canadian authors (many of whom live an hour or two’s drive from the border and have their books printed in the United States) is to look at the UPS website for information on their $5 fee for a service that provides their depot as a U.S. delivery address for Canadian customers. Sometimes my printer, CreateSpace in Charleston, South Carolina, offers free shipping but only for books delivered within the continental U.S. My books always arrive promptly and we enjoy the scenic drive down to Ogdensburg, N.Y. to fetch them.
  4. Calculate what your total expense has been to produce your book and save your receipts. For me, this included $21 spent three times over to get successive proof copies from CS via the fastest mail; the cost of the 50 books I ordered, shipping, sales tax and UPS fee; and the cost of the stickers. I threw the receipts for more general business expenses such as lunch, mileage, business cards, computer paper and ink into my income tax file. You need to know what your books cost you so you can estimate such things as ‘What share of the money from each book sold can I to donate to the church or charity who is sponsoring my book launch?’ or ‘Does this book store retain too big a percentage or ask me to leave too many books on consignment?’
  5. Satisfy the Government’s legal-deposit  requirement to immediately provide two copies of your newly published book to the national library. You will then be listed in its catalog, available to distribution agencies, book stores and library branches wanting to locate or order copies of your book. In my case, this means dropping the copies off at Library & Archives Canada on Wellington Street, Ottawa. I talked by phone to Rachel in their office who remembered me from when I applied for my ISBN years ago. She said I should attach a note requesting my copies be brought  to her attention. She would post the Amicus cataloging information on the LAC website asap and from there I could unload it to the inside front cover page of my book, to appear in future print runs.
  6. Take copies around to the book stores and event sponsors who have invited you to sell and sign copies. The stores can start selling your book and put up a poster to advertise and stir up interest in your upcoming signing. Give your proof copy to the person who is sponsoring your book launch so she will be inspired to help promote it. Fulfill any other promises of advance copies you have made — in my case to a radio host who interviewed me when my paperback was published as an e-book and has now invited me back.
  7. Every day, update your calendar with the time, place, exact location, contact name, email address and phone number for all the events you are planning.
  8. Set goals for how many books you aim to sell within what period of time. You cannot make a person buy a book or predict how many events you will need to sell enough books to make your goal. What you can do is make a realistic estimate based on your past experience and that of author friends. Ask the book stores’ owners how many copies of their books other local local managed to sell in their shop on a certain day at a certain time.
  9. Enjoy being an author as you visualize and assemble what you will need to go public with your book. Ruminate in your mind on your sales themes (eg. war centennial, Christmas), your sales pitch, your book’s price at different locales, what  you will wear, your table’s covering, and conspicuous novelties to attract buyers to your table. It’s a great way to have fun meeting people!

Next blog post: How to accomplish live sales of real books

Thank you for dropping by. This blog for all lovers of life and language aims to be useful and entertaining. Topics vary from how to build a canoe to how my mom moved from “prince to preacher and fog to bog” as a war bride after world war one. Writing advice is squeezed in between. Find out more about A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void, Kathleen’s Cariole Ride and Eating at Church on Amazon, CreateSpace or my website.

Happy Reading from Cozy Book Basics!

scrnshot kcrI am finding that an author who is converting an e-book to a paperback has a lot of work to do. Fortunately, my publisher CreateSpace is a pioneer in the process and has honed it to perfection. My job is to type the manuscript into Microsoft Word according to their guidelines, edit it and get at least one other person to proofread it. By now I have learned how to scan pictures into my computer and use the picture program from the MW toolbar to size them and insert them into the manuscript. With more and more practice, I have become quite expert at getting them placed precisely!

When I am ready, I go into the CreateSpace website and click on the commands that let them know I am here to publish my Kindle e-book as a paperback. Because CreatSpace and Kindle are both owned by Amazon, they will convert my book to the new format at no cost! All I need to do is follow their explicit instructions and fill out their forms. They ask for details of my identity, my book’s title, the number of pages, my choice of dimensions, etc.

They also require an ISBN (international standard book number) so that it can be cataloged by libraries and distributors. I got my number from Library & Archives Canada, although I could have had CreateSpace get it for me. Mine was Canadian; theirs would have been American. I had been advised by Canadian publishers at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2003 to follow this path and also to create my own imprint name and logo.This makes the author’s copyright solid.

Making a cover was easy with the CreateSpace cover creator, since you can choose from a variety of templates, fonts and pictures to find what suits  your book best. You can experiment and see previews of your book title in different designs and colors until you are satisfied.

When you are ready, you convert your manuscript to a PDF by clicking the appropriate line in MW, then go into CreateSpace. It will tell you when to press ‘upload’, ‘submit’ and ‘save’ until the job is done. If you are in doubt at any step of the way, you can contact support and get immediate help over the phone or by email.

I found the whole process very satisfactory and am now waiting for them to finish reviewing my files. Then I will ask them to send me a proof copy by priority post. Changes can still be made but everything takes time. The last decisions are to accept  what they say the price will be and order as many copies as you wish. Besides the postage for the proof ($25) the books will be your only expense.

Thank you for dropping by. This blog for all lovers of life and language aims to be useful and entertaining. Topics vary from how to build a canoe to how my mom moved from “prince to preacher and fog to bog” as a war bride after world war one. Writing advice is squeezed in between. Find out more about A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void, Kathleen’s Cariole Rideand Eating at Church on Amazon, Goodreads or my website.

Happy Reading from Cozy Book Basics!

(Next week I will write about how I plan to promote and sell the paperback.)


A good book cover design stays on message, pleases the eye and provokes a strong emotional response.

A good book cover design stays on message, pleases the eye and provokes a strong emotional response.

While I am no expert in book cover design, as an avid reader my point-of-purchase opinion counts. This is my favorite book cover and it dresses one of the best war books I have ever read and reviewed. It is written by  a colleague in the Media Club of Ottawa who gave me the confidence to set up  a weekly community newspaper — but she has been dead since 2002. My Memorial Weekend blog honors her memory.

The cover designer has limited tools to work with but a good cover packed with emotion and information can have an awesome impact. You the author have to judge whether you’re getting your money’s worth.

Here is why I like this one so much:

Overall It Is Strong and Elegant

  • It has unity
  • Everything on the cover strikes the theme of patriotism and courage
  • The gray background sets a mood of gloom

It Is Pleasing to Look At, with Attention to Detail

  • The picture is a close-up of the author’s face
  • The picture frame shows her efforts were focused
  • The title letters are outlined with a disciplined black, showing this is no light topic

It Conveys a Message

  • The title has only three essential words
  • The plain black news font of the author’s name and the subtitle suggest it is a work of non fiction by a journalist

It has economy and space yet stirs excessive emotions.

  • The colors denote red for bravery and blue for loyalty
  • The colors of the frame are the colors of the British, American French and Canadian (except for the blue) flags
  • The flourish of the title italic script is like a woman’s skirt in the forties.

The back cover reads:
“There have been many memoirs of World War II, but none as remarkable as One Woman’s War Remarkable because, unlike other war memoirs, it is written by a woman — and a marvellously engaging and courageous woman at that. Remarkable, too, because it is a story not of military campaigns and grand strategy, but of the joys and sorrows of life on a civilian battlefield — the battlefield of the French resistance. Born and raised in Saskatchewan, Gladys Arnold was sent to Paris by Canadian Press in October 1939, and was the only Canadian reporter to experience the sudden traumatic invasion of France by the Germans in the spring of 1940. Fleeing Paris only days before it was occupied by the Nazis, Arnold returned to Canada passionately committed to the cause of the Free French — a cause which from 1941 on she tirelessly promoted as information officer with the Free French office in Ottawa. One Woman’s War is Gladys Arnold’s vivid, eyewitness account of the fall of France and the growth of the Free French resistance. She was one of the first journalists to interview General Charles de Gaulle, and she brings to life many of the memorable people, French and Canadian, who fought in the underground war. One Woman’s War is a moving, unforgettable portrait of the Free French movement and of an extraordinary era in human history. Elegantly written and emotionally powerful, it evocatively captures the drama, excitement and tragedy of the war years, an era that resonates with the pain and heroism of an entire generation.”  Published by James Lorimer & Company in 1987; republished as an e-book in 2011.

Here is the review I recently posted on Goodreads “Gladys Arnold was a friend of mine in the Media Club of Ottawa.  If you would like to meet an elegant, intelligent, warm single woman who ventured abroad as a reporter for the Canadian Press in world war II, fought for the Free French and was given a French Legion of Honor Award, then read this book. I gave it as a birthday present to my husband soon after she wrote it in 1987 and we both loved it. The original book cover design is my favorite of all time.”

One Woman’s War is on sale in the gift shop of the Canadian War Museum and on Amazon.

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Writing books is all about community so beware of self publishing.

Having read the above blog, I’m more excited than ever about being at the upcoming OIW Book Fair on Oct. 27 with fellow authors and readers. As for debates over whether to self-publish or with a traditional publisher, or as an e-book, I’d like to add these bullets from my 15 years of trying. As you will see, I come down on both sides of the fence, depending on where I’ve been able to find ‘community’:

  • Good, practical advice came in the otherwise-depressing rejection letters I got from traditional publishing companies. I had a maximum of a thousand dollars to put into my book and this advice was free. Structure, length and target audience were some of the trouble spots. I was angry and wanted to prove them wrong in rejecting me but, at the same time, I had to be humble and work harder at revising because ‘might is right’. If I could make my book better, everybody would win.
  • Getting impatient, I decided to self-publish my book as a paperback on BookSurge (one of the first digital publishers) in 2002 for two hundred dollars. They touted the success of some of their authors who had gone on to sign contracts with traditional publishers so this was my goal and role model.
  • I lavishly spent $500 on a review by a New York Times best-selling author, since I still had some money burning my pocket. This was an honest review by Ellen Tanner Marsh whose good reputation stood behind it. BookSurge offered it and it came out in time for me to quote from it in my back cover blurb.
  • BookSurge invited its authors to appear at their booth at the Frankfurt Fair in Frankfurt, Germany in 2003. The dates coincided with a solemn trip to Hungary we had to make to bear my mother-in-law’s ashes home for burial, so we added on the Fair expense as a more cheerful motive for our trip. What I gained from this was a chance to introduce myself face-to-face to just about every reputable Canadian publisher. Again, I got brutal advice, some insulting, which a self-publishing interloper on these hallowed premises might have expected. My new, improved, revision was the upshot of this experience. It was an exhilarating week. My book garnered good international comments and buyers. Some of the publishers called me after we got back home. I began to understand the publisher landscape and how digital books disrupted their financing and marketing.
  • A friend of mine, the guru behind the excellent online community, persuaded me in 2011 that the central love story/Indian reserve part of my book could stand on its own if published as a  Kindle e-book. I worked very hard, even doing ‘overnighters’ in my late seventies, to explore this fabulous new world of authors and readers.
  • What I realize now is that this new way of doing things lacks the real, essential community of writers and readers. I’ve been saddened by the superficial support games authors play on line. Also, I find Amazon’s free book promotions unhelpful for authors. I took part and got into the Top 100 ranking of Kindle ‘sales’. However, not only did I make zero, I didn’t get any customer feedback indicating that I was a part of a community of anything.

Still I’m hopeful that we can all have the best of all worlds. I’ll be bundling my e-book on to my paperback for a special offer at the OIW Fair. See you there!

Margaret Kell Virany is the author of A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void and Kathleen’s Cariole Ride.