In Your Corner: Derailed by COVID-19?

Coronavirus, Covid-19 symptoms

Yeah.

That happened.

For many of us, it’s still happening. Even in those states that are moving into Phase 1 of reopening, there’s a lot left to do and a great deal that must happen before a “new normal” settles into place.

The truth of the matter is that, while some people did find a way to turn lemons into lemonade during this most lemony of seasons, it has still been hard. And it has been hard, specifically, for those in the business of wordcraft. The shutdown has not, for many people, been a nice and relaxing break from “real life,” but rather a stressful and busy time in which we’ve had to master new technologies and new routines while also feeding families and homeschooling kids and filtering social media and grappling with new and shifting work resources. Personality conflicts and tensions both within friendships or work relationships or family groups have ballooned. A librarian friend told me recently that while working from home, her library’s staff were expected to do twice as much as usual with half as many resources, and be able to flip their bedrooms into functional workspaces each morning. And every back-room tension she and her coworkers already had was magnified exponentially by the miscommunications made possible by working remotely. A teacher friend also mentioned a doubled workload; her two young sons were at home and adjusting to taking her direction in their learning, while she was still tasked with designing remote classes and assignments for three different high school English courses. A retired friend, whose home life is markedly less busy, still found himself unable to concentrate on anything other than his own mental and physical health under the COVID-19 restrictions.

Some writers, undoubtedly, will still have produced fantastic and profound works of art during this period of unprecedented disruption. And good for them! That’s fantastic! But many writers (and readers, let’s be honest) can’t settle into the business of words when they’re either so busy or so mentally burnt out as we have been, collectively, over the last six to eight weeks.

And that’s okay, too.

Just as the world turns on its axis and we go through our seasons, our writing lies must also leave room for the occasional tilt or turn. Productivity does not always have to be measured in the number of words written. Sometimes, productivity is a state of mind, of being open and receptive to the world around us without a pen and paper or laptop as the medium of record. If you emerge from the COVID-19 shutdown with just a sense of having survived, you did good and important work. If you emerge with a story or two or an experience you’re still mulling over, that maybe one day will inform a book you write, you did good and important work. If you emerge with nothing at all and a bleak sense of having failed at anything writing-related, we’re here for you.

Ninety-nine percent of writing, regardless of genre, is about paying attention.

There’s been a lot to pay attention to lately. Don’t kick yourself for something you haven’t done or think you failed to do (and you didn’t fail at anything, we promise). The past will keep. Together, we will figure out the next part of our story together. And if there’s any way we can help encourage you here on the blog, or enable you in your writing or book marketing journey, please (please!) let us know in the comments below.

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author SeLibraries are a book-lovers paradise.  Unlimited books and resources everywhere.  One of the best resources is the librarian itself.  Your local librarian can provide help with possibly setting up a book reading event to help you market your book, answers to questions on how to have your book stocked in the library and much more.  Librarians are an amazing source of help and information services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, 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.

ORIGINAL BOOK REVIEW: “Tales of Invasions and Empires: Our Place in Time (c. 1100-1400)” by Kent Augustson

(POSTING TO SPA April 17th) Tales of Invasions and Empires

cipa evvy award

2019 CIPA EVVY Award

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION*:

This is the first book in a trilogy offering an original interpretation of our place in time that makes the discord of the current day more comprehensible. This is accomplished using three devices.

First, recognizing that human history is the history of civilizations, we have identified four civilizations that, with their spread, account for about 85% of the world’s population today. These are Confucian China, Hindu India, the Muslim Middle East, and the Christian West. To gain an appreciation of these four is to know well today’s world and to glimpse where we are heading.

Second, we provide a unique time frame for the progress of these civilizations which expands upon German philosopher-historian Karl Jasper’s well-regarded argument for an Axial Age relating to love, morality and wisdom in the centuries surrounding 500 BC. We postulate a new Axial Age in our day that speaks to power.

Third, we make our simple but powerful hypothesis accessible by avoiding complex reasonings and endless accumulations of data. Rather, presented perceptively in each book are seventeen memorable tales about the civilizations that link to one another, interact with one another like a long novel of four families out of which our theme evolves. Beginning with 1100 AD when these civilizations start to meaningfully interrelate, the books cover three centuries apiece. The final chapter in this work provides a summation of how events in the 12th to 14th centuries directly relate to the present day.

REVIEW:

QUICK NOTE AT THE TOP: The world has changed somewhat since this book came out in 2018; in the last month alone, twenty million United States citizens have lost their jobs in one of the biggest economic downturns of all time, a reality that is echoed and magnified on a global scale. Whatever else COVID-19 does, it has done much to lay bare the systems of power that underpin daily life. And the fragility of our “modern” world. Augustson has dealt with several chunks of history in his books, including the 2014 publication of Our Place in Time: The New Axial Age and the Pivotal Years (2015-2020), which would be a better place to dig for his predictive insights into what’s happening now.

To return to this particular book: I’m always deeply appreciative when authors can manage to do three things: show their authority (and expertise) on a subject, make plain their personal bias without it compromising the book’s value, and produce a readable book. Augustson doesn’t lead with his thirty years in government affairs; I had to delve into the authors notes and so forth at the end. But it becomes pretty clear from early on that he knows what he’s doing so far as crafting a persuasive argument and backing it up with curated information that’s digestible to the common reader. There are charts. There are maps. There are structured chapters. But there’s also a kind of playfulness and a clear voice to the work which keeps it from feeling overwhelmingly textbooky.

Augustson starts with seventeen chapters about seventeen intersecting lives. Fair warning, though: he takes it for granted that readers are familiar with some terms that I personally hadn’t seen before (“Jaspers Age” being one, and “Axial Age” another). A little quality time with le Googl brought me up to speed, but it’s well worth taking a pause after the introduction to study the initial charts and timelines and lock in some of those terms before going further. I was set up well for this book by reading Keay’s history of China last year and having started Dalrymple’s The Anarchy more recently. (Not to mention all the Western Civ courses I took through high school and college, getting both the Commonwealth (Australian) and individualistic (American) takes on that third of Augustson’s four cornerstones. Once I finish Dalrymple, Augustson has inspired me to look for a book specifically on the history of Islam and Muslim culture; then I will have a better understanding of his four cornerstone civilizations.

Augustson’s grasp of the facts of history is one thing, but his ability to draw together the different threads of history in very different parts of the world by focusing on the intersecting lives of one or two individuals per chapter is what sets this history apart. Whatever you personally believe about the threefold ages Augustson argues in favor of, it is worth reading this book simply for the pleasure of seeing so many otherwise disparate lives wound so cleverly together. The fifteenth chapter, which deals with “Global Cold and the Black Death” is both hard and valuable to read on its own.

IN SUMMARY:

Augustson’s experience in government affairs is put to work in this mammoth installment of what could safely be called history with a bent towards interpretation, and he makes an interesting argument for the realization of humanity in three ages. Fair warning: This book weighs over a pound, so make sure to have set aside some serious reading time.

WHERE TO BUY?

You can find Tales of Invasions and Empires wherever good books are sold, including Amazon and Barnes and Noble. You can also find out more about Kent Augustson’s work on the book’s Outskirts Press author page.

WHAT NEXT?

Regrettably, the far-reaching effects of the current global pandemic prevented me from finishing the book I had intended to review two weeks ago, so you can look for that review next Friday. It has been worth the extra time, however.  I’m speaking of Barry Beaven’s God, Me, and the Blackhorse, a hard-hitting memoir of war. (I know, I picked light subjects to review in a time of global unrest. Comforting.) I’ll see you all back here next week, then, and in the meantime I hope you stay safe and healthy.

 

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

* Courtesy of Amazon book listing.


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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.

Self-Publishing News: 4.14.2020

the word "april" from the wooden letters

We apologize for the interruption to our normal routine! This has certainly been a disrupting time for everyone, not just us, and we hope that now we are settling into all of our respective new routines that this post finds you well and thriving despite the difficulties.

And now for the news.

Highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing:

There have been many interesting by-products of the virus-related shutdown, but one of the most significant ones as far as we are concerned is the potential for self-publishing to flourish under the new restrictions. “Authors are rushing to dust off dystopian tales which might once have joined the list of great unpublished novels,” writes Adam Sherwin of inews.co.uk. (One assumes that he’s not talking about authors who have children at home to manage who would otherwise be at daycare or school while they were at work.) Sherwin focuses on the specific development of one manuscript by thriller writer Peter May, who began writing the book Lockdown after a previous, less severe pandemic. Sherwin also covers several other newly-released books that touch on the novel coronavirus in some way, including A. M. Smith’s self-published novel Muller, which was likewise inspired by earlier historic episodes of contagion.

Here’s an interesting food-for-thought article by Mike Coker for Publisher’s Weekly, which in summary poses and attempts to answer the question: Has Amazon become just as much a bookish gatekeeper as the remaining Big Five traditional publishing houses that preceded it? And if so, are the authors who self-publish through its platform truly indie authors? We’d be really curious to hear what you think. (Comment below with your thoughts!)

Estelle Erasmus has opinions, and she’s here to share them in a recent article for Forbes. “COVID-19 has many of us hunkering down in place and social distancing. If you are a writer, and have all your survival needs met (food, shelter, support), then it might be the opportunity you need to get your story written,” she says, and in the perfect follow up to Sherwin’s article on books already making it into the world, she has some tips for those looking to make the most of that opportunity by getting your own story out there. From crafting a narrative arc to asking yourself the right questions as you move forward, this article is a concise and ultimately straightforward set of suggestions that are worth considering, if they fit with your own life and routine.


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 each month to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

 

 

Self-Publishing News: 3.31.2020

Word MARCH. Vector decorative unusual object

And now for the news.

Highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing:

Now this is a fascinating idea: According to this Accesswire repost to Yahoo! Finance, author J.B. Lion is launching a new series of five books, each of which comes as a “standard text-only version and a graphic novel that mixes illustrations alongside text.” The dual version, the article claims, is “meant to enhance the reading experience, reducing the chance that a reader stops reading halfway.” The series is the product of a decade and a half of labor, as well as the creative insights of Lion’s sons, creators of the world upon which THE SEVENTH SPARK is built. Given some of Lion’s other literary inspirations, it will come as no surprise that the series resonates with those readers who love other mammoth works of twisty and multifaceted fantasy fiction, and the graphic novel version is bound to attract a wide readership among those more attracted to visual forms than thick tomes. Whatever else happens in this series, it’s fascinating to see how indie authors like Lion are pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in self-publishing. Now we’re curious about what other indie authors might be looking into dual-version publications like this one.

To balance out the day’s news release, we take a quick glance away from fantasy to catch a glimpse of another fun new thing in the world of science fiction, this time out of Fairbanks, Alaska. Ramzi Abou Ghalioum writes that “It would have been hard to tell, looking at his first two careers, how Craig Martelle would pivot at age 52 and begin writing science-fiction action novels.” But he did, moving first from the Marine Corps into law, working with Fortune 100 companies for a number of years before retiring from his second career and turning his attention to writing “that book I always wanted to write,” as he puts it. Drawing upon the kind of “streamlined approach” that his experience in the business world introduced him to, Martelle has applied the concept of process improvement to the act of writing–a concept that “involved examining a production process and figuring out how to streamline it for efficiency.”  Combining both his creative gifts and a lifetime of professional experience, he decided to self-publish. “The business part isn’t that hard,” he writes, so long as authors find the resources and guidance they need–another part of his mission.


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 each month to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

 

 

In Your Corner: Get Thy Book to a Bookstore!

Despite the evolution of ebooks and e-readers, as well as other changes within the book publishing industry, a “traditional” bookstore presence should still be a goal for authors who want this. Why? Well, with this brick-and-mortar presence, authors are able to reach readers that are passionate about books. Think about it–people have to leave behind the comforts of their own home to visit a physical bookstore. Most likely, they are there to purchase a book. If your book is on the shelf, yours may just have a chance of going home with them.

Salesman at the checkout in a bookstore

But … how can self-publishing authors work toward getting their books into bookstores like Barnes & Noble and local independent bookstores? Is it a matter of luck? Can we make the cut? What does that even mean?! Well, the good news is that even if you’re not necessarily on a lucky streak, it’s still possible to place your book on the shelves of bookstores. You must, however, have a solid plan in place to do so. You must, for example:

  • … make sure your book is fully returnable. If your book cannot be returned, you are requiring the bookstore to assume a great deal of risk—and many of them simply won’t be interested for that very reason. If they stock 10 copies of your book and only 4 sell over the course of a year and they cannot return the extra copies to you, they lose money. If the books are returnable, though, the store can simply send the books back that don’t sell for you to find better and more successful placements. Think of this return-ability as a type of “insurance” for your book … and as a necessary component of setting up a healthy long-term relationship with the bookstores which will sell not just this one book, but all of your books, present and future.
  • … offer a sufficient trade discount. What’s a sufficient discount? Typically, I recommend discounting your books around 50-55% (or higher) for brick-and-mortar booksellers. Of course this does cut significantly into your profits per book, but a higher retail margin gives the bookstore more incentive to stock your book on their shelves … and sell more books in total. No incentive? No sales.
  • … prove that your book is desirable, and has legs. This is probably the most difficult—though not insurmountable—part of brick-and-mortar sales, as authors often have a biased view of their books. The best indicator of a desirable book isn’t opinion … it’s exponential sales figures! If the amount of books you sell doubles, triples, or quadruples month-after-month, that is something that can work in your favor. If you aren’t a professional marketer, you may want to seek the services of a book marketing consultant. Make sure they are able to help you draft a marketing plan and go forth on planning your publicity.

After you’ve done all of the above, you must put together a proposal to submit to bookstore contacts. But we’ll tackle that in a separate blog post, since it’s a whole other animal unto itself. Stick around next week for my musings on how best to reach out to reach out to the stores, once you have published your book and are on the path towards wrapping up your publicity campaign!

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author SeLibraries are a book-lovers paradise.  Unlimited books and resources everywhere.  One of the best resources is the librarian itself.  Your local librarian can provide help with possibly setting up a book reading event to help you market your book, answers to questions on how to have your book stocked in the library and much more.  Librarians are an amazing source of help and information.rvices for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, 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.

Self-Publishing News: 3.24.2020

Word MARCH. Vector decorative unusual object

And now for the news.

Highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing:

This thoughtful article from Joyce Jenje Makwenda, correspondent for The Herald of Zimbabwe, covers the life and passing of self-publishing pioneer Lillian (or “Lilly”) Masitera, “one of the few writers who had the self-confidence to challenge the monopoly of established publishers” back in the 1990s, and in so doing, “paved the way for self-publishing for many local writers.” Makwenda counts herself as one of Masitera’s beneficiaries, describing the evolution of this iconic African writer from childhood through years of writing creative “letters to friends and relatives before the era of e-mails and text messages.” From these letters, Masitera learned that she had a gift for communication that had the potential to touch many others beyond her letters’ reach, and the confidence to put her words out there. The US National Library of Poetry published several of her poems in a collection in 1995, and for this, writes Makwenda, “she was awarded the International Poet of Merit Award” courtesy of the International Society of Poets. While she faced the same challenges in marketing and distribution as all indie authors, Masitera managed to push through the difficulties and still find time to encourage other women authors to do the same. Her loss is felt throughout the global world of self-publishing.

This fascinating little profile from Grace Chang of the Daily Trojan covers the rise of Aaron Bergen, a freshman in college who started working on his first novel at age eleven and kept returning to that same story time and again until he finished it and brought it to publication this year. The book, titled 2049, “follows a young adult named Thomas, who discovers that his recently deceased father was working on a time machine and rebuilds the time machine to go back in time in an attempt to save his dad.” According to Chang, Bergen “considers himself a self-taught writer,” leaning on YouTube tutorials and gifted acquaintances to assist with beta reading and cover art design. He’s leaving the future open to a sequel, which means that this is one canny college freshman whose self-publishing story has just begun.


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 each month to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

 

 

ORIGINAL BOOK REVIEW: The Realistic Optimist – A Collection of Essays by Ellie Bushweller

457827 Ellie Bushweller cover

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION*:

This book was written by a person who has a full and active life as a wife, mother, grandmother, nurse, counselor and freelance writer. She has been a keen observer of many aspects of human interest.

It is a collection of essays that are concerned with a wide variety of topics. The essays are insightful, informative, humorous and hopeful.

This book should appeal to all those who are intrigued by all the joys and concerns that impact people’s daily lives.

REVIEW:

There are many essays out there in the world, and books like The Realistic Optimist are the best possible kind of persuasion I need to read more of them. Like many readers, my main exposure to the form came in college–first, as an undergraduate learning the basic definitions and structure, and then as a graduate student experimenting with genre expectations and strengthening my sentences. There were essays on supersonic planes, on oranges, on eclipses, on eating unprocessed foods, on shopping every store in the Mall of America, on sports, on hunting, and the list goes on. What there wasn’t, for the most part, was a collection of essays from a single author that captured my interest and felt like something more than a couple of really good works surrounded by filler.

Until now.

For most of a decade, Ellie Bushweller essayed for her local South Burlington’s The Other Paper. Her columns chronicled the daily lives of not just the people she met and the scenes she witnessed, but also the comings and goings of squirrels. Of seasons. Of one’s fellow bench-mates in the park. Of the tools and technologies that pass through our lives. Of time itself. Each of the roughly one hundred essays in this collection were written with conviction and heart, and while the occasional line indicates an essay’s origin in a newspaper column, the collection does not suffer from the change in delivery method.

It is fitting, I think, that The Other Paper would cover this collection of essays which it helped bring into the world with warmth and affection. There’s simply no reading of this book … and no encountering of Bushweller herself … without feeling touched by sunshine. One can easily see why and how she developed a loyal following among the newspaper subscribers of South Burlington.

Which isn’t to say that Bushweller hasn’t walked through some valleys and shadows and maybe even done dark alleys. After a childhood in Brooklyn, she grew into an adulthood as a nurse working to care for children and adults in a dilapidated city housing project. Still, despite life’s hardships witnessed and experienced daily, she clearly never closed her heart to the possibility of doing some good simply by being … a realistic optimist.

IN SUMMARY:

Come for the squirrel stories but stay for the bittersweet authenticity of a life lived with gusto and conviction, gentleness and generosity. The Realistic Optimist is rich with spirit and a balm in tough times. It is also a love letter to a decade of life in a specific time and place–South Burlington–that deserves witness.

WHERE TO BUY?

You can find The Realistic Optimist wherever good books are sold, including Amazon and Barnes and Noble. You can also find out more about Ellie Bushweller’s work on the book’s Outskirts Press author page.

WHAT NEXT?

I’ll be going back to one of my wheelhouses, which is to say novel-length works of memoir and nonfiction. (Although frankly, I can fall in love with any genre if the writing is strong.) I’m working on a memoir of combat in Vietnam: God, Me and the Blackhorse by Barry Beaven. I tend to be deeply affected by stories of war, so I’m taking it slow and checking in and out of some other, lighter works … but I think Beaven’s will be the next book to make it into my reviews. You can catch those thoughts on Beaven’s book in two weeks here on Self Publishing Advisor.

 

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

* Courtesy of Amazon book listing.


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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.