ORIGINAL BOOK REVIEW: “Stella the Rejected Star” by Marc McCormack

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION*:

Stella wasn’t like all the other stars in the skies above Bethlehem. She was a four-pointed star in a five-pointed world, and the other stars teased her because of it. Then one day, the stars heard an important event was about to happen-and God would choose one star to play a crucial role.

Could that star be Stella? Not if the other stars get their way, and they will do anything to stop her!

Stella’s story shows us that often the ones considered different in the world are the ones who shine the brightest through their faith, hope, and love.

Stella the Rejected Star was written by Marc McCormack when he was eleven. Almost forty years later, Stella’s story has turned out to be his son Brady’s story. Brady, who is blind and nonverbal with autism, navigates his way through the world as both a star who has sometimes been rejected, and one of the brightest-shining ones.

Set against the first Nativity, Stella the Rejected Star is more than a Christmas story and is for everyone, especially those young readers with four points in a five-pointed world.

Stella’s story is the perfect one to teach children the importance of empathy and acceptance. If your child loves Christmas and stars, even mischievous ones, they will love Stella the Rejected Star!

Some of the proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to autism-related charities.

REVIEW:

Once upon a time ….

The first time I read Stella the Rejected Star, I found myself humming “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” aloud to myself. There are definitely some parallels between the stories of Rudolph and Stella––bullying by one’s peers, physical difference as a subject to be grappled with, a sort of “inspecting of the troops” or competition to guide an important process, and a message involving the triumph of the innocent over the cruel––and I think this parallel provides a unique and interesting starting point for discussions between parents (or grandparents, or caregivers) and young children.

How are these stories similar? It certainly doesn’t hurt that both Rudolph and Stella literally as well as metaphorically shine brighter than their peers, or that when Stella and Rudolph are both brought to the attention of God and Santa respectively, they take the high road and refrain from punishing their peers, even though they have acquired the power to do so.

(A quick aside: I still feel uncomfortable about having put Santa into the same sentence as God, particularly since I grew up in a household where the secularization of Christmas was a regular discussion. Whatever your or my personal stances might be on this particular depiction of the divine, I think it’s pretty safe to assume we’re all aware that the Nativity story occupies a sacred and beloved space in many households around the world, and I definitely do not want to imply I do not take the faiths of my friends, family, and neighbors seriously. I do think it’s important to specify that this book resonates specifically with mainstream Christianity as experienced in America, to prevent confusion.)

How are these stories different? Well, we’ve established that God is not Santa (and vice versa). And while Rudolph’s mission is one of spreading good cheer, Stella’s is to lead the shepherds and wise men to the newborn Jesus. McCormack also distinguishes his story with an added twist: in Stella the Rejected Star, faithfulness magnifies a star’s light, while the bully stars discover that their unkindness leads to a loss of this same light. Not only does this provide an opportunity to talk about bad behavior and bullying with kids, but it also introduces the concept of faithfulness and the relationship between faithfulness and behavior.

I find it incredible that an 11-year-old wrote this story, but that’s the background: McCormick wrote it as a boy and published it in honor of his son Brady, who has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). That Brady was himself was a preemie and only surviving twin underscores the importance of this story, both to McCormick, and to those who learn from his picture book. Beyond the value of teaching children to empathize with and be kind to those who stand out for their differences, there is another moral to this story. Hardship, McCormick hints, provides a backdrop against which both heartbreaking and incredibly beautiful stories can play out. All of this in 32 pages, half of them Seth A. Thompson’s colorful and evocative illustrations. I can’t imagine a better way for families of faith to finish out 2020 than with a story of hope, faith, and maintaining joy through hard times.

You can find another detailed review of Stella the Rejected Star on the Readers’ Favorite website, reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford. It is encouraging to me personally that other highly-rated reviewers have begun to pick up on McCormack’s wonderful story.

IN SUMMARY:

Stella the Rejected Star is a sweet and wholesome picture book for those looking to re-invest the holiday season with the magic of love and kindness present in the Nativity story. Marc McCormack’s story and Seth A. Thompson’s illustrations combine to create what will quickly become a modern classic for English-speaking Christian families.

WHERE TO BUY?

You can find Stella the Rejected Star wherever good books are sold, including Bookshop.org, Barnes & Noble and Amazon. You can also find out more about Marc McCormack’s work on the book’s Outskirts Press author page.

WHAT NEXT?

There are several more children’s books in my TBR pile for me to get through before the end of 2020, with my next review scheduled for the afternoon of January 1st. I can’t imagine a better way to start off a new year than with a good book!

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

* Courtesy of Amazon book listing.


SONY DSC

ABOUT KENDRA M.: With nine years in library service, six years of working within the self-publishing world, as well as extensive experience in creative writing, freelance online content creation, and podcast editing, Kendra seeks to amplify the voices of those who need and deserve most to be heard.

In Your Corner: Preparing for NaNoWriMo!

That’s right, it’s almost #NaNoWriMo time!

For those who’ve seen the acronym around but haven’t yet been read in on what the deal is, National Novel Writing Month is an annual tradition among writers looking to kickstart new projects through a dedicated month of drafting. While you can read more about NaNoWriMo’s origin story on the nonprofit organization’s website (www.nanowrimo.org), suffice it to say this has been a big deal for a very long time. As the NaNoWriMo website puts it, “before there was the Beyhive, or Nerdfighters, there were Wrimos” (participants in NaNoWriMo). The community has built up since the early days of the Internet to create a diverse set of resources for those interested in participating—or maybe in learning from the process even if writing 50,000 words in a single month is a bit much.

nanowrimo

There are two kinds of Wrimos: pantsers and plotters.

Pantsers are those who go through NaNoWriMo “by the seats of their pants” or however that expression goes, and plotters are those who prepare, or plot out their book outline, extensively beforehand. I myself have participated in NaNoWriMo several times, once as a pantser, once as a plotter, and once or twice just casually taking part in the prompts and sprints and group writing sessions without aiming to get to the 50,000 word mark by month’s end. These days I fall somewhere between these Wrimo alignments, as many writers do.

nanowrimo plotter pantser

With only two weeks remaining between now and the beginning of NaNoWriMo (my next post, for context, will arrive on the day before NaNoWriMo begins), I feel as though now is the time to encourage those of you who are plotters or plantsers or otherwise in-betweeners to start digging deep into the resources you will need in the month of November. Even those of you who are pantsers or who are not at all interested in participating in NaNoWriMo on any level might find it valuable to tap into the extensive writing-related resources that Wrimos have compiled over the years. These are the kinds of resources anyone can turn to at any time of year, not just during the official NaNoWriMo period.

First, I want to point you to the NaNo Prep 101 Workshop, which is hosted by the organization that really started it all. It can be completed at any time of year for free and provides tips on the following:

  1. Developing a story idea
  2. Creating complex characters
  3. Constructing detailed plots or outlines
  4. Building a strong world
  5. Organizing your life for and around writing
  6. Finding and managing your time

You can find out more about that workshop here.

I also want to point you to NaNoWriMo’s incredible collection of author pep talks, which include several from self-publishing successes like Andy Weir as well as a number of traditionally published authors whose names you might recognize (James Patterson, anyone? Neil Gaiman? Sue Grafton? No?). Those are all available (again, for free) at the link.

I also really recommend that you spend some time looking into all of the many other excellent resources that writers all over the world have compiled on their own blogs and websites. Every author’s experience is different, and chances are that any author you meet is going to have opinions about the usefulness (or lack thereof) of NaNoWriMo to their own process. It’s pretty definitely proven, though, that there are many amazing books in the world that wouldn’t otherwise have been self-published (or traditionally published for that matter) without that core group of writers and organizers who got together and made NaNoWriMo a thing.

So, will I be participating? I’ll let you know … in two weeks. I honestly haven’t yet made up my mind, and I’m okay with that.

You are not alone. ♣︎

Do you have ideas to share? Please don’t hesitate to drop us a line in the comments section, and I’ll make sure to feature your thoughts and respond to them in my next post!

Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

Guest Post: Submitting Your Own Manuscript? Here Are 5 Tips

Nowadays there are four main ways to get a book published.

A. Submitting it to a traditional publishing house. If they accept it, you’re golden. And while they’ll handle some of the marketing, you will still need to market it.

B. Independently publishing it yourself by working independently with editors, graphic designers, book formatters, wholesalers, distributors, and retailers. And of course, you still need to market it.

C. Submitting it to one of those free online places.  Which presumably means you’ve already worked with editors, graphic designers, and book formatters. Fortunately, those free places do take care of distribution and sales for you. And of course, you still need to market it.

D. Submitting it one of those full-service self-publishing websites. They can handle all of the above, and maybe they’ll throw in a little marketing, depending upon who you choose. But you’ll still want to market it.

Regardless of which path you choose, there is one consistent component: your manuscript.  And it is in your best interest to make it the best it can be BEFORE you consider sending it (or uploading it) anywhere else.

rewriting

So, with that in mind, here are 5 things to keep in mind when it comes time to finalize your manuscript for submission.

1. Don’t insert hard paragraph breaks after every line. You can see where hard returns are in your Microsoft Word document by holding down CTRL-SHIFT-8. That bold “paragraph symbol” shows you where the hard returns are. They should be only at the ends of paragraphs. Traditional publishers probably won’t care, but it’ll wreak havoc with the other three, since in all likelihood, your book will be a different size than your 8.5×11 manuscript, and those hard returns will end up in the middle of lines instead of at the end of them.

2. Don’t manually insert hyphens.  Same problem as above. Your word processor should hyphenate words automatically, unless you have that function turned off. But even turning off auto-hyphenation is preferable to manually inserting a hyphen yourself. A manually inserted hyphen will cause all sorts of problems during interior book formatting, so be sure to remove them from your manuscript before submitting it.

3. Don’t use ALL CAPS. You may be tempted to capitalize words for emphasis, or for book titles. In both instances, italics are preferred. This doesn’t cause technical formatting problems so much as perception ones.

4. Spell check your work. All word processors have built-in spell checking. Even if you plan on having your manuscript professionally edited before publication (the traditional publisher will handle this, but for the other three options you’re on the hook, at least for paying for it), it is a good idea to run your spell check program on your manuscript prior to submitting it, just to fix all the “easy” mistakes.

5. Check your grammar. Most word processors also have built-in grammar checking, although they are admittedly poor. There are better (and free) alternatives on the Internet. One favorite is Online-SpellCheck.com. Simply cut and paste your manuscript, a chapter at a time, into the online form and Online-SpellCheck will not only identify spelling errors your word processor probably missed, but it will also catch other common grammatical errors such as contextual misspellings, commonly switched words, typographical errors, and more.

Additionally, there is a popular Chrome extension to consider: Grammarly (at Grammarly.com). This browser extension runs in the background on the Chrome Internet browser and checks spelling and grammar “on the fly” as you enter words into online forms. This is very useful for completing a publishing process error-free and is handy for other marketing endeavors after-the-fact, like writing on blogs, for instance.

Obviously, there is no substitute for a professional human editor, but complementing professional editing with Online-SpellCheck and Grammarly is the perfect hat trick to almost guarantee an error-free book.


brent sampson

In 2002, Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Semi-Finalist Brent Sampson founded Outskirts Press, a custom book publishing solution that provides a cost-effective, fast, and powerful way to help authors publish, distribute, and market their books worldwide while leaving 100% of the rights and 100% of the profits with the author. Outskirts Press was incorporated in Colorado in October, 2003.
In his capacity as the President and Chief Marketing Officer, Brent is an expert in the field of book publishing and book marketing. He is also the author of several books on both subjects, including The Book Marketing COACH, Self-Publishing Questions Asked & Answered, and Sell Your Book on Amazon.

Self-Publishing News: 10.22.2018 – Publishing Trends Roundup

october month

And now for the news!

Some highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing, specifically regarding publishing trends within the publishing industry, and their implications for all authors!

We’ve written in the past on this latest trend, in which media engines like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon have been looking to self-publishing platforms such as Wattpad for their source material; previously, Hulu had tapped the Wattpad piece The Kissing Booth for translation into the visual medium. Now it’s Light as a Feather’s turn, a soon-to-be-ten-episode horror story originally by author Zoe Aarsen. This article, from Forbes contributor Adam Rowe, chronicles the process through which this story has gone since its publication. Aarsen is an ardent supporter of self-publishing, having joined Wattpad in 2012 “specifically because she was interested in self-publishing and ‘Wattpad seemed like a great way to build an audience.’ ‘When I posted chapters for the first time,'” she told Rowe, she “‘became really excited by receiving feedback from readers all over the world, and so quickly!'” Self-publishing’s timeliness and responsiveness has long been touted as one of its strengths, and it’s certainly one which has paid off for Light as a Feather, and Wattpad certainly seems to be having a moment as well, according to Rowe: “As the biggest and buzziest media companies continue to realize that books are the simplest medium for IP acquisition, Wattpad’s uniquely data-driven artistic approach seems to make the most sense.” We’ll leave the final judgment call up to you, but if you’re interested in serialized fiction, this is a must-read piece!

The grand Good E Reader is showing up for the industry again, as this article from contributor Mercy Pilkington demonstrates. In analyzing several reports from Publishers Weekly and Bowker, Pilkington crunches the numbers and comes up with a summary: “To correlate the numbers, the number of ISBN-assigned self-published ebooks has been dropping steadily–a fact that makes for really good soundbites from publishing industry conference stages–but the number of self-published books is still growing.” Which is a nice and straightforward way of saying: don’t trust the numbers from industry titans whose stranglehold on ISBNs is no longer universal, and whose expensive services an increasing number of self-publishing authors are learning to circumvent. The numbers that matter–and that can be tracked–are giving us far more good news than bad, Pilkington indicates, proving once more that self-publishing is in no way, as it was originally predicted to be, just a “flash in the pan.” Check out her full article!

Last but not least, we bring you some more of those very good numbers! This report comes to us courtesy of Books + Publishing, one of Australia’s premiere news sources for global industry data. This report, published less than two weeks ago, also digs into the Bowker report indicated above–an annual report covering worldwide publishing and self-publishing statistics–and highlights several other important details not touched on in depth by Pilkington. But first! The raw data. The report indicates that “Self-publishing in the US grew by 28% between 2016-2017, with a total of 1,009,188 self-published titles in 2017, up from 786,935 in 2016 with 8% growth from 2015-2016.” This is good news all-around for readers and writers in the industry, with unparalleled volume of reading material promoting the production of higher-quality material, as well. (As is indicated by the increased tendency of media engines in picking up self-published material for adaptation!) B+P agrees with Pilkington that the decrease in ISBNs issued has more to do with authors skipping that process altogether and the diversification of publishing paths–Wattpad is now considered a viable alternative to Amazon, as is the growing stable of quality indie and self-publishing companies–than it does with any decrease in self-publishing overall. Keep publishing, ya’all! You’re doing great things!


spa-news

As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry.This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog every Monday to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

selfpubicon1

Copyright Infringement Rampant on CreateSpace

piracy

I don’t think it’s any secret that Amazon owns CreateSpace. I also don’t believe it’s any secret—especially after the author uproar that occurred in April—that CreateSpace no longer offers “creative services” such as interior book formatting, cover design, editing, or the like. When they ceased offering those services, they severed the one last component that identified them as a “publisher” instead of a “content curator,” which is the role CreateSpace now plays, and is a far cry from meeting the goals of writers who dream of publication.

A perfect example appears in a recent article on the Publishers Weekly website, written by Kenny Brechner and titled “Pirating on CreateSpace,” in which he identifies very specific examples of flagrant copyright infringement by individuals (I wouldn’t call them writers) sharing (I wouldn’t call it publishing) content through the CreateSpace platform.  One objective of a publisher is to protect their authors, and also prevent circumstances like the ones reported by Mr. Brechner. Unfortunately, the exact opposite objective is true for a content curator like CreateSpace.  Since it’s “free” to “publish” content there, CreateSpace and Amazon value neither the content nor the authors who created it. Instead, their goal is to compile as much content as possible for the purposes of offering it—usually by giving it away or encouraging their authors to give it away through thinly-veiled “marketing promotions”—to lure new Amazon members into its Prime, Prime Video Streaming, and KindleUnlimited memberships (all of which require monthly/yearly dues, and none of which reward the content creators for their contribution).  

Since CreateSpace/Amazon uses content and its creators as loss-leaders for subscriptions, they are hardly compelled to prevent copyright infringement or acts of piracy. In fact, as you can see from Brechner’s Publishers Weekly article, it was only after the article appeared on a highly respected industry website that Amazon bothered to do anything about it … and the author himself was unable to get CreateSpace to take any action at all, though not from lack of trying.  And as you’ll see from the comments already piling up below the article, this wasn’t an isolated case, nor is it something that authors are willing to tolerate. Comments include phrases like:

“I’d say, Createspace should be embarrassed – beyond measure.” – GISELA HAUSMANN

“…this article is a wise word of caution to us writers.” – Carol Johnson

“Same thing happened to me. I discovered one of its CreateSpace books had pirated both some text and several of my photos from my website that included those texts and those photos selected from my traditionally published book.” – Mark Mathew Braunstein

In fact, the same thing happened with one of my own books, too: Publishing Gems. I discovered that it had been copied in its entirety through the CreateSpace platform without my knowledge or consent. Not only was CreateSpace selling the pirated version, but so were a vast number of Amazon Marketplace booksellers. When I contacted Amazon about the infringement, they were quick to remove it. When I asked them the name of the individual who was responsible for this act of piracy, they ignored me entirely. Then I started receiving emailed requests from all the Marketplace booksellers, notifying me that they had removed the stolen book from their virtual shelves, and asking me to “approve them” for continued business under the threat of cancellation from Amazon.  Here’s the interesting part – all their emails were nearly identical, as if someone from Amazon’s legal department provided them with the exact verbiage to use to request forgiveness.

Do you know what that tells me? It tells me that copyright infringement happens so frequently through CreateSpace that Amazon’s legal department has come up with an actual procedure to cope with it.

Is that the kind of publ—er, algorithm, you want handling your books?

computer piracy


brent sampson
In 2002, Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Semi-Finalist Brent Sampson founded Outskirts Press, a custom book publishing solution that provides a cost-effective, fast, and powerful way to help authors publish, distribute, and market their books worldwide while leaving 100% of the rights and 100% of the profits with the author. Outskirts Press was incorporated in Colorado in October, 2003.
In his capacity as the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Marketing Officer, Brent is an expert in the field of book publishing and book marketing. He is also the author of several books on both subjects, including the bestseller Sell Your Book on Amazon, which debuted at #29 on Amazon’s bestseller list.