Monday, February 28, 2011

The Greatest Website Features Other People Will Never See

It has always been the case in the web industry that some people know just enough to be dangerous. When I first got into website development, it was moving gif images and frames, not to mention flashing text. People would find this cool thing that they could do and overload their websites with it. Later, it was music in the background. Today it is more subtle, but we still have people putting the latest and greatest stuff out there without consideration of what it does to people who are trying to use their sites.

These days, computer security is a big deal, so firewalls are a way of life. Companies want their employees to have access to websites for the information they provide, but they use firewalls to protect their networks. You may be using a firewall on your home computer. These firewalls can wreak havoc on blogs that use features other than the most basic of features. Steve Laube’s blog appears to be simple, but there is something about it that prevents me from leaving comments. I can’t see anything related to the form that makes me think it should cause problems, but it does have significant amounts of JavaScript that could be causing the problem.

I have similar problems with Michael Hyatt’s blog. His blog is loaded with scripts. It’s no wonder it doesn’t play well with firewalls.

The one the takes the cake is Brandon Cox’s blog. I removed his blog from the feed reader because every time an RSS item showed up from his blog it would cause Internet Explorer to hang up if I tried looking at the RSS feed from behind a firewall. Brandon considers himself a web designer, so you can imagine the kind of stuff he sticks on his blog.

If you want to play well with firewalls, stay away from client-side scripts as much as possible. That’s a good idea anyway, since client-side scripts cause a website to load more slowly. You can do anything you want on the server-side. I realize that will keep your website from having the cool features that make it look like it is functioning like a regular program on your computer, but if a firewall blocks that stuff it isn’t going to work anyway. If you limit what you send to the client to HTML and CSS, there won’t be anything for the firewalls to mess up.

Have you run into similar problems with fancy blogs?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Review: Mother Not Wanted

Hey guys, this is Sara Dawson. I hope I don’t scare you away because this is a guest blog. Timothy asked me to do this some time ago, but I’m not really that great of a writer, so I’ve been putting this off. I write what I have to for school and stuff, but it’s easier for me to just talk to people if I want them to know something. Anyway, Timothy asked me to read Mother Not Wanted and to write a review. Here goes.

I think the first thing you’re supposed to do in a review is to tell what the book is about. If not, you can just skip on down to after I tell you what it’s about. Mother Not Wanted begins with Amber and Lizi on a train to Fort Worth. That’s part of the reason I took so long to write this review. I don’t like trains and Timothy knows it. I had a bad experience with a train. I was on a train that derailed and it could have killed me. There was another girl who did die. But I’d rather not think about that. Amber and Lizi get off the train in Fort Worth and they go to Fox’s house. Which isn’t easy because they have to ride the bus and then they have to walk and then they find out he lives in a gated community and the guard won’t let them in.

I should probably tell you why Amber and Lizi are trying to get to Fox’s house. Lizi’s mother died when Lizi was very young. I can relate to that. Anyway, Amber has been taking care of Lizi, even though she knows that Lizi has family somewhere. After all these years, Amber has decided to find Lizi’s family, but she doesn’t know that much about them. She’s done enough of her homework to know that Fox is Lizi’s grandfather, but she doesn’t know which of his sons is Lizi’s father. She also doesn’t have much in the way of proof, so she decides to do what she’s always done—she fakes it. She has these fake birth certificates that have different names written in for father. But when she meets the family, she discovers that the women these two men married are different than the woman she knows to be Lizi’s mother. I’m telling you too much, aren’t I?

I loved this book. Maybe it’s because I see similarities between Lizi and me. I know what it’s like to grow up without one parent. Lizi was without both of hers, but she had Amber, so she was probably better off than she would’ve been if her mother had lived. Now, I’ve got Ellen, but that doesn’t keep me from wanting to know what my real mother was like. Lizi must have wondered what her parents were like during those years it was just her and Amber. But I think a lot of people will like this book.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

My Absolute Best Work

Several days ago, a reader asked me which of my novels I and other people think is the best. I completely understand why people would ask that question. I ran into the problem when I decided I wanted to try one of Tamela Hancock Murray’s books. She has about 40 books available and since many are romance novels, I don’t anticipate reading them all. I have fewer books, but even picking from five novels can be overwhelming when you just want one.

I wish I could say that it is an easy question to answer, but all of my books are good. I love each for a different reason. Add to that the fact that the book most fresh in an author’s mind is the one he will prefer above the rest. But having given it some though, I’ve narrowed the question of my best work to date down to two. And since I feel I must choose one or the other as the book I would recommend if people wish to read one book and no more, I will place Mother Not Wanted in the top slot and For the Love of a Devil in the second.

What I love about Mother Not Wanted is that it’s about a woman who has been raising a child that isn’t her own. The child’s mother, the woman’s roommate, died and the woman just kept on taking care of the child, but the woman has reached a point in her life that she realizes the child may be better off with her real family. With the last money she has, the woman takes the girl to her family, but the woman will do whatever it takes to stay in the girl’s life.

For the Love of a Devil is a story about true love. It is the story of how a man ought to love his wife. The woman no longer loves her husband and has turned to another man for love or at least the things he can give her. She leaves husband and their three children. That’s just the beginning of all she does to hurt him, but he loves her anyway. She does more and more to push him away, but he is unchanging in his love for her, even when she reaches a point in her life that no one else sees real value in her. At times, it is an emotionally difficult tale to read, but I think that is part of what makes it great.

If you don’t read anything else that I have written, read these two books. You won’t be sorry you did.

Your turn. If you've written multiple books, which one do you consider to be your best work? If you haven't, what is you favorite book by another author?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Why I Won't Buy Your Book

While looking through some forums I found the following post from a fellow writer:

Hello Ready-Readers! This is Ready Writer, [name deleted], and I'd like to introduce my Christian Fiction novel titled, "[title deleted]." This is a must-read page turner you will NOT be able to put down. This book is 100% clean that will not only edify the Body of Christ, but will also minister to the lost and backslidden. Please check out my website: [URL deleted] or search for the title here on for reviews and testimonies. Thank you for looking.

Blessings to you all for a Happy and Healthy 2011!

I’ve removed the identifying information to protect the guilty, but thought it might be useful for us to consider this post and its inability to promote the book the writer intends to promote. The first problem appears first thing. “Hello Ready-Readers! This is Ready Writer!” Doesn’t that just make you want to puke? Whatever else this writer says, she has already turned us off by talking to us like we are children.

The next thing, “Christian Fiction novel,” is rather minor, but it is redundant. “Christian novel” will do.

“This is a must-read page turner you will NOT be able to put down.” Oh really? Just watch me. I won’t even pick it up in the first place. The phrase “page turner” is over used. It is the kind of phrase well known authors use for blurbs when they haven’t even read the book. Just saying a book is a page turner doesn’t make it so, especially when it is the author who is using the phrase. And NOT in all caps is just irritating.

“This book is 100% clean.” Isn’t that sort of implied by the word Christian? And I feel sorry for those authors out there whose books are only 95% clean.

“…will not only edify the Body of Christ, but will also minister to the lost and backslidden.” I suppose that makes this the Swiss Army knife of books. Why I might just buy a few hundred copies and pass them out at church and hand them out to my lost neighbors. Or not. I don’t know of anyone who buys a novel because it will “edify the Body of Christ” or because it will “minister to the lost and backslidden.” People buy novels because they have a good story. People want to escape into another world for a while, to image that they are seeing things that they don’t see and experience in normal life.

If that isn’t bad enough, the writer doesn’t even tell us what the book is about. We don’t reject the book because the author is promoting it on a forum but because the author has given us no reason to accept the book. We should assume that people’s answer is always no until we have provided them with sufficient reason to say yes to our book.

What do you look for an author to tell you when he/she is promoting a book?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

PublishAmerica Review

PublishAmerica is by far the most notorious publisher in the publish-on-demand game. And here I pick my words carefully because PublishAmerica goes to great lengths to say that they are not a vanity press. Looking at their website, they give one the impression that they are a traditional publisher. In fact, they are not very discriminating in determining what to publish, making them more of a publish-on-demand publisher than a traditional publisher. I was unaware of this several years ago before I published my first book. An acquaintance had published a book through them and I gave serious thought to doing the same, but when visited their website, I saw wording that said that PublishAmerica “specializes in books about, or by, people who face and overcome hardships and obstacles in life (both fictional and nonfictional), and who turn stumbling blocks into stepping stones.” I looked at the nature of my book and decided it didn’t fit in that category, so I didn’t send them a manuscript. Knowing what I know now, I’m sure they would have accepted it if I had.

Not having any real experience with PublishAmerica, other than purchasing a few of their books, I can’t say much about them, but I saw a comment on Rachelle Gardner’s blog from one of their authors, Norma Davis, that I am posting here because I believe it describes what you can expect from PublishAmerica in a very succinct way:

Three years ago Publish America (PA) published my Christian novel, "Pick up the Broken Pieces". There were no fees, but I won't send them my second book, which is being revised. I'll search for an agent when it's ready.

I signed a seven year contract with PA. It is POD. Although my novel is listed on and Amazon, the price is too high for a softcover book ($27). They make their money by selling to authors at discounts after pricing it too high. Every week I get e-mails from them wanting to send my book to Ophra or other movie stars. I only have to buy more books. They make a lot of money from postage (overpriced).

I'd like to take my chance with a real publisher this time. I want an honest opinion of my writing. PA wasn't a good experience.

-- Norma Davis, Feb 12, 2011, Used with permission.

I think that some of what PublishAmerica does is necessary if they are to make money while publishing nearly everything they are sent. Similar services with other POD companies start at about $500. PublishAmerica may need to sell 50 to 100 copies of a book to recover their costs. But some of what they do seems unscrupulous, so it might be best to avoid them altogether.

Norma Davis’ blog is at
Her book, Pick Up the Broken Pieces is available for order at

Have you used PublishAmerica? What did you think?

Monday, February 21, 2011

What People Think

It’s normal for people to care what other people think about them. If people didn’t, some people would show up to work in their bathrobes or even less. If we find someone who truly doesn’t care what other people think, we generally think that person is insane. And yet, people go through life wishing they didn’t care what other people think about them. We want people to be impressed with us in various ways, but we hate that we are hindered from doing things we believe we should be doing because we’re afraid of what people will think. A classic example is sharing the gospel. We have this idea that we should find a way to share the gospel with everyone we meet, but we don’t do that. In many cases, this is because we are fearful of what they will think of us when we do.

It’s easy to say we shouldn’t worry about that, but the reality is that we do. It is similar to what I experienced in high school when we were required to get up in front of the class to give speeches. You would think that a teacher, whose job requires her to know how to give presentations, would be able to tell her students how to give a speech. Somehow, that didn’t get communicated to me very well. We spent a lot of time preparing note cards. I didn’t trust myself to remember what I wanted to say, so my note cards tended to be a deck of cards with the whole speech written out on it. Some preachers preach that way. They will write out their sermon and then either read it or recite it. These days, Presidents give speeches that way. When is the last time you watched a State of the Union Address where the President wasn’t reading the teleprompter?

Wouldn’t it be fun to go back to high school and redo those speeches? Perhaps not, but I know I would do a lot better at those speeches now than I did then. My approach to public speaking is completely different now than it was then. Back then, I was so afraid that I would mess up and forget what I was going to say that it paralyzed me. I couldn’t relax and enjoy myself, and the teachers didn’t seem to know how to teach us how to get past that. These days, my notes are much shorter than they were then.

When I prepare a speech or a lesson, the first thing I do is ask myself what the audience needs to know and how I can communicate it to them. This is quite a contrast to when my biggest concern was how I could make myself look like a great speaker. Sitting at my computer, I develop an outline of the points I want to get across. This serves a twofold purpose. One, it gives me a memory aid for when I am speaking. Two, it forces me to work through all of the points I want to cover. But unlike in high school when I nervously read the points I wanted to make from each note card, these days, I find that I hardly look at my notes during a speech. By paying attention to the needs of the audience and relying on those things that are clear in the mind, it is much easier to put aside thoughts of what people will think and focus on what is important.

How do you get past the fear of what people think of you?

Retellings and Continuations

I had an epiphany the other day. Occasionally I do. The topic was retelling fairy tales. Moreso, it had to do with continuing an existing story like Cinderella. The discussion had to do with people not liking how a continuation of the story of Cinderella had turned out. In this particular story, Cinderella didn’t live happily ever after, but instead turned into a self-centered adulteress who wasn’t happy with the prince but wanted some other guy. Of course, the first thing we think of when we think of that is that Cinderella wouldn’t be like that. She isn’t that type of girl It messes with the archetype.

But consider that there are hundreds of Cinderella retellings out there. I know of one in which they turned the story around. Instead of Cinderella having humble beginnings and attending the ball to meet the prince, the Cinderella character was wealthy and was magically forced to become a servant and only regained her position after learned to be humble. No one objected to that story because it wasn’t true to the original, but rather they rejoiced in its diversity.

There is a huge difference between retelling a story and continuing a story. If we say we are going to continue a story, readers expect us to pick up where the other story left off. With a story like Cinderella, that can be particularly difficult because there are so many different versions. The best we can do is to stick to those things that are common to most of the stories that people remember. I doubt people will get upset with you if you retell it with a wooden shoe instead of a glass slipper, since we’ve seen both in the stories. But Cinderella is always humble and submissive. If we make her something else in a continuation, people will decry our character as not being a true Cinderella.

Suppose however that we begin with a retelling. In this retelling, Cinderella isn’t humble and submissive. Instead of just taking it, she dishes back what she receives from her step family. We instantly know that this isn’t the traditional Cinderella, so when we change the story to fit the character our audience isn’t surprised. We can’t have her helped in the same way as in the typical Cinderella tale because it doesn’t fit the character. We might instead have her give the prince a love potion that makes him fall for her.

Once we have established this new story, we can go into the continuation of this new story. If in the continuation Cinderella turns out to be an awful person, people might cheer when she fails, but they won’t be upset about the character making such a drastic change without explanation.

I don’t really like continuations anyway. The problem is that the most important thing that happened in the character’s life happened in the first story, so whatever we throw at them in the second will be less important or we will have to manufacture something that doesn’t really fit.

What about you? Do you prefer retellings or continuations?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Bloggers: Sign Up to Review "Mother Not Wanted"

25copies of
Mother Not Wanted
are being made available to bloggers willing to post a review.

 Mother Not Wanted - When a granddaughter, that Fox Jacobs never knew he had, shows up unexpectedly, she brings hope to a family still reeling from a fatal accident. But Fox could do without the woman who is with her. Amber Mills is a con artist by her own admission and a woman who has her sights set on Fox’s son. Fox must determine if Amber is telling the truth about the girl, and must protect his family from the threat that Amber poses. With the help of the woman Fox sees as a more suitable match for his son, Fox sends Amber away, but the celebration is short lived. Fox soon discovers that Amber is much closer than he thought. As he continues to look for ways to protect his family from this con artist, Fox discovers that there is a bigger danger lurking that may turn his family against him and lead them into financial ruin.

To Sign Up to Review Mother Not Wanted

  1. Complete the form below (If your blog is selected, you will receive a shipment from

  2. Mention in your review that you received this book for free from the publisher.

  3. Read the book and post a review on your blog. Please come back here and leave a link to the review in the comments of this post.

  4. Post a review on, Barnes and Nobel or some other well known retail site.

First Name:

Last Name:

Email Address:

Blog Address:

Address (no P.O. Boxes Please):


Friday Free-For-All

To celebrate the full moon on a Friday in February, I'm announcing a Free Friday. Post whatever you want in the comment section (keep it clean). Ask a question. Post a link to your blog. Tell us about your book. Complain about the state of the world. Complain about me. Say whatever you like, I want to hear it.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Review: 42 Months Dry

I purchased 42 Months Dry after seeing a request from the author for top reviewers to review the book. I am not a top reviewer, but I thought I would review the book anyway. I can only hope that the author will return the favor.

The thing that made it stand out is that it is a retelling of a biblical account of the life of a prophet in a modern setting. I used a similar approach when I wrote the book For the Love of a Devil. Mine was based on Hosea, but in this book Zach Bartels tells the story of Elijah.

42 Months Dry is different than you might expect because Bartels puts a gun and a cigarette in his main character’s hand and the character is known to curse in fits of anger. That may be offputting for some readers. The tone of the story is rather dark and the body count is high, but for people who like that kind of story, I don’t think they will be disappointed.

Bartels is a skilled storyteller and it is obvious that he studied Elijah before writing the story. That is more than can be said for some authors who have attempted to retell a Bible story. If you are looking for a Christian Thriller, you will do well with this book.

Meaningless Terms for Self-publishers

There are a number of terms in the publishing industry that have very little meaning when we start talking about self-publishing.

remainered - A book is remaindered if the publisher is overstocked. At some point, the publisher decides that it will cost more to hold on to the books than what he will get from selling them. The books are either sold in bulk at a discount or they are destroyed. Most self-publishers won’t run into this situation if they are using POD to print their books. But if the author has several boxes of books in his garage or living room, the day may come that his wife says, “you are going to have to get rid of those books.” At that point, his book is going through the process of being remaindered.

sell in - This is the number of books that are ordered by retailers. We would like to see this as a large number, but most self-publishers will have a low number. If a book is selling well, you will find that or any other store that is getting a lot of requests for the book will keep a few copies on hand. The better it is selling the more copies they will order.

sell through - This is the number of books actually sold. In a non-returnable situation, sell through and sell in will be very close together.

earn out - This term has absolutely no meaning to the self-publishing author at all. A book earns out when enough copies have been sold that the royalty from those books is greater than the amount of the advance. If the advance was $5000 and the author gets $1 per book, then it will earn out after 5000 books are sold. Up until that point, the author doesn’t receive additional money. After it earns out, the author will start receiving a check every so often. But this means nothing to the self-publishing author. Technically, self-publishing authors don’t receive royalties and they certainly don’t receive an advance. I suppose a self-publisher can declare that he has paid himself and advance and take what subsidy presses all royalties and apply it to that number until it earns out, but other than a little silliness, there is no value in that.

What other publishing terms do you think have little meaning in self-publishing?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What's Wrong With Marketing?

We’ve had more ice and snow in north Texas than what we’re accustomed this year. Following one storm, KTVT showed a couple of guys out in subfreezing temperatures helping people who were stuck on the ice. They had high praise for these guys and their willingness to help, but when they saw someone pass them some money, they backed off their praise. Somewhere along the line, we’ve picked up this idea that if someone is getting paid to do something they don’t deserve praise for it.

This same notion carries over into publishing. If an author visits someone’s blog and mentions a blog post that is related to the subject that is on his blog, most people will see nothing wrong with that. But suppose the author mentions a book he is selling that is related to the subject. Many people would frown at that because he is getting paid for it.

I agree that people who do things without compensation deserve recognition for that, but it shouldn’t be considered a bad thing when people ask for compensation. Sometimes I don’t want to cook at home, so I eat out. I pay someone at a restaurant to cook for me. Just because I’m paying for it doesn’t mean I can’t be appreciative of them for offering the service. And if I am traveling along the interstate and I see a sign advertising a restaurant, I don’t complain because they just want money. I’m actually appreciative of the fact that there is a sign telling me where I can find a place to eat.

Some people don’t like it when we promote our own books. Well just how are people supposed to know about our books if we don’t? Yes, we want money. We can’t afford to give our books away for free. We have no reason to feel guilty or ashamed for promoting the books we write. If anything, the people who have problem with us doing that should feel guilty for expecting us to give them something for nothing. I’ll admit it. I write good books that I want everyone to have the pleasure of reading, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to give them away free.

Do you place less value on something you pay someone to do than something they do for free?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

It Is Harder To ________ Than Ever Before.

We know,” the radio announcer said, “that it is harder to save money than ever before.” With that, he introduced some program designed to teach people to manage their money. Have you noticed how many things fit into that blank? It is harder to raise children than ever before. It is harder for couples to stay together than ever before. It is harder to get to know your neighbors than ever before. Everyone seems to have something they believe is harder or worse than it has ever been.

Particularly in Christian circles, it seems that we want to make things more difficult and worse than they’ve ever been. “Why look at how bad the public schools are,” someone will say. “Or look at how bad our government is.” “Look at how evil the world has become. The Lord’s return must be close.” I should point out that some scientist use similar techniques. Global warming is an example. A few decades ago, they were talking about global cooling.

Don’t get me wrong, I realize there is much need for improvement in our world and I do believe that the Lord could come back any day, but I also think that some people have an incentive to portray the world as bad as they possibly can. The belief is that if we convince people that we are on the brink of destruction then they will feel motivated to change for the better. It is basic scare tactics.

Scare tactics work, to a certain extent, but we should remember what happened to the boy who cried wolf. I can understand people who put their faith in science having reason to fear, but Christians in particular need to get away from the scare tactics. The only thing we have to fear is God. Christian who truly fear God have no reason to try to persuade people to take action because of fear of the future. The person who fears God realizes that God is in control and will serve the Lord without coercion.

What have you heard is harder than ever before?

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Cinderella Story of the Bible?

Esther has been described as the Cinderella of the Bible. There are some similarities in the story, a common girl being chosen as queen from among the best looking virgins in the kingdom. There are also differences and there are other stories in the Bible that are similar as well. For that reason, I hesitate to say that Esther is the only Cinderella story in the Bible, but I’m not going to disagree with people who want to compare it to Cinderella. I think the stories of Ruth and of David are also Cinderella stories in their own way.

Let’s look first at the similarities between Esther and Cinderella. They both have humble beginnings. Esther lost both of her parents, though she was staying with a loving uncle, Mordecai, rather than a wicked stepmother. I suppose Mordecai combined with the keeper of the women is similar to the fairy godmother in the Cinderella story. Because of her beauty, Esther was chosen as queen. Also similar to Cinderella is the fact that Esther did not reveal who she was until later.

Haman is clearly the villain in Esther, but he is no wicked stepmother, so the differences are vast. Haman hated Mordecai because Mordecai would not bow to him. Haman’s hatred was so great that he want to destroy more than just Mordecai. He wanted to destroy Mordecai’s people, the Jews. But in a great twist of comeuppance, Haman was forced to show honor to Mordecai and ended up dying on the gallows he had built for Mordecai. The Jews faced destruction, but at the request of Queen Esther, it was turned around and the Jews were able to destroy their enemies. Mordecai was given Haman’s position in the kingdom.

There is a significant difference in theme between the two stories. Cinderella is about good overcoming evil. Cinderella is submissive to her stepmother, which is the good and right thing, but good overcomes anyway. In Esther, the theme deals with the principle that God will curse those who will harm those he chooses to bless. This theme is stated when Haman reveals his frustration to his wife when he is forced to parade Mordecai through the city proclaiming him as the man the king wanted to honor. Haman’s wife declared that he would come to ruin because of what he was doing to harm Mordecai’s people.

Friday, February 11, 2011

God Loves Stories

Currently, the DiscipleGuide Sunday school quarterlies are taking us through the books of the Bible over a period of twelve months. Last Sunday’s lesson was on Esther. I had the privilege of teaching the class, but I did something I’ve never done before for a Sunday school class. Typically, we will have a text to read and we will discuss how to apply that text to our own lives or we might discuss the historical significance of something. What I did instead was to read the book of Esther to the class—all ten chapters. It took about forty minutes to read the book aloud.

I believe we need to understand the importance of reading God’s word, as is, without commentary. I’m not saying the commentary isn’t useful and important, but the words of the Bible can stand alone. We often get too caught up in trying to explain what God has already stated clearly. In the case of the Book of Esther, the book is written as a story. God understands the power of a story. There is much in Esther that is worth discussing, but if we haven’t read the story as a story then we are missing the main point.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Selling Books You Don't Own

I don’t get it. Just days after Book Cover Design Wizardry became available on, one book seller listed two used copies of it for $34.64 + $3.99 shipping and $35.35 + $3.99 shipping. I can kind of get why some of the other sellers are listing new copies starting at $23.19 + shipping. They are attempting to undercut, but I don’t see why a selling would raise the price of the book, especially when I know for a fact that they don’t actually have a used copy of the book in hand. I won’t go into how I know that, but I know that.

What we have are several sellers who are making money by listing books they don’t own, hoping that buyers will choose the lower price over the price. When the order comes in, they order the book from the distributer, reship the book with their required packaging material and collect the lower price. I imagine it works fairly well, though from an outside view it looks really silly.

But makes no sense at all for someone to list a new book as used and sell it at a higher price. I’ve seen some of my books listed for as high as $80. It might make sense if the book were out of print and they had one of the few copies still in circulation, but when the book is in print and they have to order the book from the distributor before they can sell it, I don’t understand it.

The only thing I can think is that maybe they don’t want to be bothered with selling the book, but having it listed on allows them to track information about the book or something. I haven’t tried selling books in that way, so I’m not sure what information provides the sellers, but I’m sure they aren’t going to sell “used” books at that price when they are much lower in price when purchased new.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Writing Success for Big Failures

Why do writers write? It would be funny if it weren’t so sad, but I often hear people talk about taking up writing to make money. I was listening to the radio a few months ago and they were doing a career makeover. They had a guy on the show who had been laid off and they were taking him through a process of finding something else he could do. After some reflection, he decided that he could become a writer. I have no way of knowing what became of him, but I doubt he is out there making a living from writing. Most writers, even those with publishing contracts, don’t make enough from their writing to make a living. So why do it if we aren’t going to make money from it?

I think it has as much to do with the dream as the money. All writers are dreamers. Even though it may be unrealistic for us to believe that we’ll be able to quit our day job and just write, many of writers have that dream. Daydreams are a funny thing. They aren’t quite as effective at creating memories as an actual experience, but they come close. People buy lottery tickets, just so they can dream of what it would be like if they found out theirs was the winning ticket. Writers do something similar. Sending a manuscript to an agent or having a book in print allows us to dream of what it would be like if our book was flying off the shelf and people couldn’t wait until our next book came out. It is disappointing when we see the form rejection letters or the sales figures. That leads to frustration and sometimes we voice that frustration, but in between we enjoy the daydream. We also get to spend time in the imaginary world in which our characters reside. That is pleasure in itself.

When frustration comes, there’s not much we can do about it other than just get through it, but I think it is worth reminding ourselves that our greatest pleasure from writing isn’t going to come from a big contract and a lot of fans. Our greatest pleasure will come from dreaming about those things. We can do that already. That’s not to say we should quit trying to succeed. We need to keep submitting manuscripts, publishing books and checking our sales figures to keep the dream alive, but the little successes will bring as much enjoyment to our efforts as big success.

And now, I hope you will help me keep my dream alive by purchasing Book Cover Design Wizardry or Mother Not Wanted.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

God's Slush Pile

And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not unto men – Colossians 3:23
I don’t know how many times I’ve looked at that verse. I knew what it meant and I don’t know that what I’m going to say today does anything to change that understanding, but I had reason to give it special thought the other day. I heard someone telling a story about a man who was doing some work that no one else would ever see. He reached the end of what he was doing, looked at it and tore it apart. A younger co-worker asked him why he did that, since no one would see it and it was good enough. The man said that he wasn’t doing the work for other people or even himself, he was doing it for God.

I think we have a tendency to think about how forgiving God is and we think that he will be willing to overlook the flaws in what we do. We think of him like a grandmother who will hang her grandchildren’s artwork up like a masterpiece, even though it is crude. But let’s think about that. Is that the proper attitude with the God of the Universe? In the Old Testament, God demanded the best for sacrifice. He wanted the ones without spot. Yes, he knew they were just going to be burned on the altar, but he wanted the best anyway.

When you sit down to write, do you give thought to whether your work will appear before a publisher or not? Do you work harder on if it will? Shouldn’t we work even harder for perfection if it is for God? When we sit down to write, we should take the attitude that we are preparing a gift for God. Not just any gift will do. This is a gift for that person who truly has everything. This is a gift for a person who receives gifts from millions of people. While we need not compete for God’s affections, I image what my gift would look like if it were stuck in a pile of all the other gifts. God’s slush pile far exceeds that of any agent or editor. That should make us want to put more work into it and offer our very best to God.

Monday, February 7, 2011

How You Can Make Profit With Self-Publishing

Recently, Michael Hyatt listed what book consumers look at on his blog. They are as follows:
  1. Title
  2. Cover
  3. Back cover
  4. Flap (hardcover books or book with “French flaps”)
  5. Table of Contents
  6. First few paragraphs of the book’s content
  7. Price
Notice that price comes last. This is important because potential buyers have already decided they want the book before they look at the price. They’ve already assessed the value and see something worth having and now they are asking whether that value is worth the price. This is actually very good news for those of us who have chosen to self-publish.

The POD printing process costs more than offset printing. It uses higher quality paper and the overhead isn’t spread across as many books. Because of this, most self-published and small press books cost more than books published by major publishers. We may choose to reduce the price of our self-published books to be the same as those produced by major publishers, but by doing so we may prevent ourselves from making money from the book. We can’t completely ignore price, but if we can persuade people that our book has value, they may purchase our book even though it is priced higher than a similar book.

Our primary concern should be that we write a book that has value. Assuming we have done that, we want to make the potential customer aware of the value of the book. We need a title that identifies the value of the book to the customer. We also design a book cover that helps the customer see the value of the book. Of course, we don’t want to spend so much on the book cover that we can’t make any profits from the book. (That is why you need to read Book Cover Design Wizardry.) The more the potential customer sees to convince him of the value of the book, the more likely he will willing pay the higher prices that self-publishers must charge.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Watch, Wait, What's the Difference?

Watch and wait, do you know the difference? The Bible calls for us to do both. We are to wait upon the Lord, but we are to watch for his return.

To wait is to delay with expectation. We pull up to a stop light and we wait for it to change. We have the expectation that it will eventually turn green. When we wait upon the Lord, we have the expectation that he will give us some kind of guidance on how we should proceed. But it also brings us to a halt. We delay our action until we know what the Lord wants us to do.

To watch has the expectation, but not the delay. To watch is to be vigilant. When the light turns green, we watch for the guy who isn’t going to stop for the red light and the pedestrian who is still in the intersection. If they are there, we take a different action than if they aren’t, but watching doesn’t prevent us from taking action. The same is true of watching for the Lord’s return. The Bible tells us that no one but God knows when that will happen, but we are to watch. We look to the sky and listen for the trumpet every day, but at the same time we are making plans for the future. We should be prepared for it to happen today, but our actions should also be such that it would be okay if it doesn’t happen for a long time.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Book Where I Least Expected It

I received a shock the other day. I did a search on for books I had written and I found this book among the results. D. F. Magruder wrote this book and I published it, but I didn’t assign it an ISBN and I offered it at cost on Lulu. Now, with no input from me, they are offering it for sale on I’m not opposed to that. I had been thinking about assigning it an ISBN so that I could list it on Even though D. F. Magruder made every effort to get accurate information from the churches, I’ve heard rumors that one church thinks something is inaccurate about their church, so I was hoping to resolve any issues like that and release a second edition of the book rather than reprinting the first edition. But this will work too.

What this tells me is that for you guys looking for a self-publishing company, Lulu is trying to be a more viable option than they were before. Even with books like this one, which doesn’t have an ISBN assigned, they are attempting to make them available to a broad audience. I don’t think that means that D. F. Magruder’s book will suddenly start selling like hot cakes. We’ve already sold as many copies as I expected it to sell. But I do think Lulu’s efforts will help some of their authors. However, if you have a book on Lulu that you don't want sold on, you might want to go check your account settings.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Most Misused Word in CBA

I don't know who started it, but I keep seeing this work in novels published for CBA that is driving me crazy. It is a phrase as much as anything and it seems to appear in the first chapter quite frequently. At first, I thought it was a suspense novelist thing. I saw Brandilyn Collins use it and then I saw it in a Love Inspired Suspense book, which made me wonder if that author had copied it from Brandilyn Collins. But it also appears in Lonestar Sanctuary by Colleen Coble. "Rick watched the feeble horse try to feed, and he fisted his hands. (Emphasis mine) I'll tell you what. If I see this phrase many more times, you won't find me fisting my hands, you'll find me fisting a podium.

Given the context of the sentence around it, I think what these writers actually intend to say with this phrase is that he clenched his fists. Granted, a secondary mean of the verb fist, according to Merriam-Webster online is to clench into a fist, but the primary meaning is grip with one's fist. Interestingly, The 1988 Third College Edition of Webster's New World Dictionary of American English didn't even include "to clench one's fists" as one of the definitions it included. In it, the primary definition is "to hit with the fist" and the second definition is "to grasp or handle."

So here's the thing. When we come to a phrase like this, out first thought is that to fist means to strike with the fist. Now it could be that Collen Coble intends for us to think that this dude is standing there watching the horses eat and hitting his hand with his fist while they do, but I find this unlikely. One doesn't normally fist something unless it is to cause damage or to emphasis a point during a speech. We might, for example, write, "'If he doesn't clean up his act, well...' Bob fisted his hand." We might also write about a child, "I handed him the nickle and he fisted it." But our hand is too large to fit in our fist, so it is use the term in that way.

If you intend to say that a character clenched his fists, why not just say that the character clenched his fists. Of the two phrases, it is the more clear. What can you hope to gain by saying "he fisted his hands" rather than using the correct phrase "he clenched his fists"? The correct phrase is only two characters longer than the incorrect phrase. Are we so concerned about tightening that we are concerned about two letters? We should be more concerned with not confusing the reader. [I fist the table as I write this post.]

Tuesday, February 1, 2011