Know your tools

Clients hire me to “edit a book and get it online.” Expectations are everything.

When someone hires me, I expect that they have done the digital corrections already. Correcting spelling errors is hardly even editing, since the computer does that for you. You can train your computer to override certain unusual spellings. You can create custom spelling dictionaries for unusual spellings that you only use in a particular document.

A savvy writer understands their tools and hones them to work in a way that improves writing. You can train your computer to help you edit as you write. Teach your word processor how to punctuate.

hack     #fieldtrip Let’s take a quick peek at the Grammar Settings in Microsoft Word. If you have not customized the settings, please do yourself a favor and at least look at the options. You will find settings that control when your word processor should indicate that there may be a better way of writing your words.

I will be offering a course on how to Write Like A Writer soon. But, in the meantime, open your Word Options and take a look at what your word processor has been asked to do for you. I do not have “Use of first person” activated because I often do write in first person. I don’t want Word to flag first person content as something I should revise.


Please note, that there is an option for “Spaces required between sentences.” The correct number is “1.” The current style dictates that there should never be two spaces used. Ever. For any reason.

Even Word doesn’t call these options editing. They are called spelling and grammar. You hire an editor.

But, first, do your due diligence and present a clean copy. They are your words. Make them shine.

#spelling  #grammar  #fieldtrip  #writelikeawriter  #thinkfastwritefast


Building a book

Writing a book is about more than writing a book. We treasure books. We understand how to read books. A book is more than words. It can, and should be, an interactive experience.


Lulu Author Ray C. Freeman published the FIRST EVER Augmented reality pop-up book! His book features virtual three-dimensional artwork by eighteen artists. Learn more about Ray’s book Pop Up (AR)t A Technology Enhanced Publication here:




Lulu Author Suzanne Conboy-Hill’s new book Let Me Tell You a Story is geared towards individuals with literacy difficulties. Her book is a collection of short literary fiction and poetry, exploring themes of relationships, disability, loss and vengeance. All sound tracks are accessed by scanning an QR code. Lulu is proud to be part of this wonderful project! . Learn more here:

hackFieldtrip! Making a QR code is easy and younger people love them. I used QRcode Generator. There are several out there but this is one that lets you create something more decorative than the traditional black-and-white QR code.


You just type in your web address and your QR code is generated. You can alter the shape 14 different ways and choose colors for foreground and background. You can embed your logo in the center. Mine is a big long so it isn’t as pretty as it could be. Save it. Use it like any graphic. People scan it with their smartphone, using any QR code scanner. Your website pops up. You can direct QR users to a specific page, or to your website. In my case, I used my WordPress blog instead of my website. Have fun. Share yours! I’d like to see your QR code!

You can do really interesting things with books. Self-publishing has moved way beyond what your local copy shop can handle.

Yes, I am biased. I prefer Lulu. I admit it. I don’t work for them. I publish through them for myself and others. They offer hardcover and other options you just can’t get from other publishing companies.




Gimme a pipe

One unresolved self-publishing issue is pipes. Browse an old copy of PC Magazine from 1993 and you’ll see that the pipe concept has been around for a long time. Basically, for those who don’t want to click-and-read, it’s a method of moving digital information from one place to another.

Whether you are self-publishing for someone else, or hiring someone to self-publish for you, pipes matter. How do you get your information into the cyber bookstore?

The person who will receive the royalties needs a self-publishing account. That person sets up their tax information, designates what account should receive the royalties, and a host of other bits of data.

The person who actually uploads the content of the book and the book cover needs access to that same account.

So if you hire someone to format your file for any kind of a book, they need to have access to your account. If you are an author, do you really want to give your Createspace or Lulu password to someone you hire? The author’s account contains credit card information, which is actually pipe in from

Once a client accesses an author’s Createspace account they have full access to edit the account so that all royalties are deposited in the client’s account, instead of the author’s.

Someone needs to invent a way for editors and layout personnel to access a self-publishing author’s account without giving them full credit card, and other payment, access.

As editors and design staff, we need to inform authors that they need to help us advocate to protect their payment data.

No client has ever asked if I am bonded before giving me their passworded information. They don’t ask for legal contract wording to protect them.

I am concerned about the liability on my part. How do I protect myself? If uploaded data is less than perfect, I need to see the online viewer only accessible via passworded access.

All self-publishing companies need to address this issue.

How do you handle this? As an author, do you give out your password to editors and layout providers?

As an editor or designer, do you log in with authors’ passwords?


It’s About Us

I edit nonfiction more often than fiction. There are rules for editing both and not just because some people like rules. The rules exist to make reading easier.

I was recently editing a book for a writer who frequently mentioned the names of companies. Part of the rationale, no doubt, is to capitalize on SEO. So many Short Reads, in particular, are thinly-veiled advertisements. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

But, if you are going to namedrop, you need to drop the correct name, spelled correctly. The easiest way to know if you are using the name correctly and whether you are using it legally is to refer to the company’s website.

No S

Comb through the Nordstrom website. Does it look like I spelled that name wrong? I have meticulously combed through the Nordstrom website and the company never uses the spelling “Nordstrom’s.”

It’s simple to find this information. It’s on the company’s About Us page. If you’re still not sure, look for a Press Release section. Nordstrom always says Nordstrom.

05/16/16 Nordstrom Brings 1,600 Jobs to Toronto for Eaton Centre and Yorkdale Stores
05/15/16 34th Annual Nordstrom Beat the Bridge Race Results
05/12/16 Nordstrom Reports First Quarter 2016 Earnings
04/28/16 Nordstrom to Report First Quarter 2016 Financial Results on May 12

How do you spell Ray-Ban? The company hyphenates it and capitalizes each word.

Book layout

Speaking of Ray-Ban, if you need a photo of sunglasses, it is illegal to copy one from their website and print it in your book.

How do you know? Well, first of all, you should assume that it is illegal. But, Ray-Ban makes it perfectly clear on their terms of use. Copying images and citing the source is not sufficient. Don’t do it unless you have permission, in writing, from the company. The company often doesn’t own the artwork. They have likely purchased it or hired the photographer and have a legal agreement with the photographer or artist not to give away the artwork for other people to use in for-pay publications.

There may be exceptions, for educational purposes. But, be sure to read the copyright permission, as posted on the website or available directly from the company.


Give credit. How do you know how to credit artwork? The website often explains the rights and cost of use, for how long, in what kind of publication and in what part of the world. In the above example, the rate varies based on use.


That seems like a lot to keep track of but it isn’t. Photographers and artists often embed the ownership inside the image. It is your responsibility to know that and to give credit where credit is due.

hack Need to copyright your images? Need to know if an image is copyrighted and by whom? Open the file in Photoshop and open File/File Info. No, I didn’t stutter. That’s really the menu option. There is a Copyright section where the owner or creator can add as much copyright info as they need or choose.


Play nice. You wouldn’t like it if someone made money or a reputation on your words without compensating you. Support the arts community.





LinkedIn for authors

The whole concept of LinkedIn has escaped me for a long time. For one thing, I’m not a twentysomething. I’m not even a thirtysomething, although I am old enough to remember when the tv show premiered. (You do know that was when the term was coined, right?)

I am a freelancer. I am not looking for a job.

I had a brief debate with my Facebook friends about whether or not I should bother with LinkedIn. I waffled. I decided to do what I usually do: I decided to experiment and give it a try.

It’s been an interesting experience. I have a certificate from a program at the University of Southern Maine that no longer exists. I earned my bachelor’s degree from a college that is now a university, complete with name change.

I don’t even bother putting all my experience online. I participated in a strawbale-building workshop for women. We learned to build a house with strawbale. It was great. I’m glad I did it. I don’t anticipate ever doing it again and I am not going to list it as experience on LinkedIn.

I talk about it because it is interesting and humorous, especially since we learned that if you don’t square the door frame you have to take it apart and do it over again. And, it was hard enough to build the first time.

Just for the record, it didn’t happen because we are women. It happened because it was a learning experience that probably every builder goes through at some point.

The thing I have learned most about LinkedIn is that, once again, business is about conversation. It’s simple. Talk to people. You can do that. You’re a writer, right?

I always thought only “important people” posted original content on LinkedIn. Everything else was just the rest of us reposting things.

That’s not what works. Here’s what is worthwhile. Talk to people. If you repost something, say why or give an opinion. I have been hired for more for-pay projects as a result of conversations than from all the paid ads in the world.

I learned something else. Writers list their publisher, or self-publisher, as their employer. It never once occurred to me to do that.

Ever the curious one, I’ve been trying to figure out whether that is wise. Does it help? What do publishers think about it?

So far, I have only had one personal message with a CEO of a self-publishing company. (Did you KNOW you can privately message people on LinkedIn?)

I warned him I might quote him. Besides, a newspaper editor once told me that there is no such thing as “off the record.” I don’t know if that is legally true but it gets your attention, right?

Anyway, I asked Nigel Lee, CEO of, what he thinks of the practice. He agreed that it was a good question. He said, “I’m supportive of our authors who do so if it helps them appear more credible or supports them in any way in being more successful in pursuing their dreams.” He also pointed out that LinkedIn doesn’t offer any other mechanism for describing your relationship to your publisher.

Still unsatisfied, I went on a fieldtrip. I like fieldtrips. Once again, I invite you to participate. Search for authors you know on LinkedIn and see what they do.

I was a little surprised to discover that Dean Koontz is employed as an Author at Collins Harper. My favorite writer, Dinty W. Moore, is apparently not on LinkedIn. Me? I just call myself a self-employed freelancer.

hackFor kicks, search for “author” on LinkedIn. At present, there are 237,773 results for author. I am not going to check each and every one to see who considers their publisher to be their employer. Just in case you wondered.

As usual, there doesn’t appear to be a rule.

Does it help? Does it not help?

I’m not sure it matters.

It is all about the conversation. Personally, I believe that discussing publishing and talking about what I write or how I write or who I write for is probably of more value than listing each publisher I have published through.

Business is a conversation. What do you say?



Robert Rodriguez List

Meet people. That’s the smartest thing a writer can do. And talk to them. You could be amazed at what you learn.


Jester Timm Gillick

A few years ago, I met Jester Timm Gillick, an Indie film-producer and host of WTVP’s “The Screening Room,” in Peoria. I have learned a lot from Timm. Among other things, he introduced me to the Robert Rodriguez List.

The Robert Rodriguez List is a simple concept. When you come across something interesting, make a note. You never know when it might come in handy.

In the case of Rodriguez, it was generally film locations. You know Robert Rodriguez, whether you know him or not. Among his long list of credits, he produced the four “Spy Kids” movies.

Apparently, the name of the Robert Rodriguez List was coined by someone else. I have been repeatedly corrected, by the way, that it is ALWAYS called the “ROBERT” Rodriguez List. Just so you know.

The Robert Rodriguez list consists of notes about memorable vehicles, homes, animals and props. Rodriquez then creates a screenplay based on a list of these interesting things. It has obviously been a very successful technique for him considering he has 24 filmography writing credits, according to IMDB.

The first question most people have is what is the best way to keep track of your list. My well-researched answer is that there isn’t a best way.

Use what works for you. Evernote. Sticky-notes. Google Docs.

hackI rely on fact, even when I write fiction. I photograph locations similar to what I want to include in a story. It helps to realize where the alley might be, where the nearest bus stop might be, or whether it is likely the sun could shine through a particular window.

If nothing else, keep it in your head. But, give some thought to creating your own Robert Rodriguez List.


Lulu self-publishing: splitting the difference

Academic publishing is innately different from all other publishing, just as the academic world, in general, is different. The primary difference is the sharing of information. Or, not.

I have worked in both the private business sector and for universities. In the private sector, business is all about competition. Business competes for customers and employees alike. Innovations are protected. Ideas become an employer’s property. Instead of information becoming power, the ability to hide information becomes power.

The academic world is a different culture. Faculty often collaborate with their peers at other universities in a way that would prompt a meeting with corporate attorneys in the business world for one simple reason. Generally speaking, faculty own their information. They own their research. They also know what the next step is and how to get there. Sometimes it requires collaborating with another mind on another campus. It often involves sharing information with grad students who will move on in a year or two.

That just doesn’t happen in the business world. One of the few and early exceptions was the Power PC. But, for the most part, business is about division and protecting trade secrets rather than sharing and evolving them.

Except at Lulu. But, then, business is a little different at Lulu.

One of the features Lulu offers is a revenue split. A revenue split is the perfect way for creators to each receive their share of royalties. When a book project is created, an author can add accounts for others who worked on the same project.


As books sell, Lulu handles the paperwork and pays royalties via PayPal or check to each coauthor. I hope that, when Glass Tree Academic Publishing, goes live they will include this feature.

But, who do you share creator revenues with? Anyone you want. If you want to split a portion of the royalties with an illustrator, just set them up with an account. Or, it can be one or more coauthors.

I’ve looked closely at Createspace and Amazon Business and don’t see a way to split revenues automatically. But, then, they follow a different model. One that doesn’t cater to the academic world.

As always, think outside the box.


Serially, folks

Lists. They are everywhere on the internet. 7 Ways to Do This and 15 Ways Not To Do That. Are they effective?

I have created several series. The first was a few titles in Holly Lisle’s 33 Worst Mistakes Writers Make About… series.

I revisited the series concept when I wrote for Genealogy Today. My first series for GT was about databases. I happen to love a good database. But, I discovered that most people leave a lot of the fields blank when they use a database software program like Live Roots™ and so on.

Those fields are important. Let’s say you find two different people with the same name as your grandfather in one of the census enumerations. If you know that grandpa was a jeweler, then he probably wasn’t a coal miner or a chimney sweep. So, it can be really wise to fill in all the blanks.

As databases are shared more online, I found the issue even more frustrating. I would find really good data—but some piece of information would be missing. I really wanted to see a complete profile for every single person.

I wrote a dozen articles about databases, in serial format. Even as you read this, dear readers, I see some of your eyes glassing over.

Yes, I needed to generate some enthusiasm for reading the series. So I came up with “The Compleat Genealogical Database” and wrote a separate article on the 12 most common fields that really should contain data.

The Compleat Genealogical Database: Legal Events
The Compleat Genealogical Database: Property Ownership
The Compleat Genealogical Database: Death Data
The Compleat Database: Life Events
The Compleat Database: Education
The Compleat Database: Cultural Affinities
The Compleat Database: Citizenship Matters
The Compleat Database: DNA and Health
The Compleat Database: Non-traditional Relationships
The Compleat Genealogy Database: Compleat Names
The Compleat Genealogy Database: Names
The Compleat Genealogy Database: Religious Affiliations

Later, I wrote another series on The Genealogy of Communities. The focus there was on different groups of society, like logging camps. Yes, really. You can find the names of people who lived and worked in logging camps. That just might explain why 20-year-old Bobby was missing from the census that year. He was off in the wilderness felling trees.

The Genealogy of Communities
Genealogy of Communities: Logging Camps
Genealogy of Communities: Fishing Camps
Genealogy of Communities: Seminaries and Other Educational Communities
Genealogy of Communities: Indian Reservations
Genealogy of Communities: Prisons
Genealogy of Communities: Asylums, Hospitals, and Sanitariums
Genealogy of Communities: Prostitution
Genealogy of Communities: Faith-Based Communities
Genealogy of Communities: The Utopias
Genealogy of Communities: Intentional Community in the Next Century

So, what’s the point of a serial?

Serial readers. You want to keep your readers reading.

Tell me more.

In the articles I wrote, I had a process. I would list my topics ahead of time, before I ever started writing.

I am not that particular about the number of topics. There may be something magic to the number 7 or 13. But, I don’t actually do a count. I have read some research on this subject and have yet to read anything that says a specific number guarantees readers. I am more concerned with being thorough.

The Genealogy of Communities, had a nice flow. It began with an article that introduced the series. The name of that article became part of the title for every individual article. That way, if anyone remembered the words Genealogy of Communities and wanted to find my articles again, they could Google Genealogy of Communities.

As I wrote each article, I created a link to the previous one. That way, I could guide any reader to the previous article, just in case they started in the middle of the serial.

It’s possible to mention what your next topic is, as you are writing. But, you don’t usually have a live link to add yet. But, you can add a live link to the previous article.

When I finished the series, I went back to every single article and added live links to every article in the series. I was just being thorough.

Other Articles In This Series: 

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2009.


I am a practical writer. I wanted to link to the article before and the article after each one. But, I also wanted readers to know the entire list of articles and how to find them.

The value of a serial is to keep readers reading. Not only do you need to add new material, you need to make sure your readers can find it.


Binge-watching has had an impact on society. It is a new way of presenting the serial concept in one big dose. Instead of waiting for a weekly edition—and maybe missing it—now we can watch at our leisure. A new innovation is the release of an entire season all at one time. Order up the pizza and send all calls to voicemail.

A lot of writers create series. Readers like the characters or the story or the topic, and they want more.

Generally, writers release one book, make a big splash, go back to writing, release another…. But, recently, as a guest at a meeting of Writers on the River, in East Peoria, Illinois, I was surprised to hear author Amanda Meredith say that she prefers to wait until all of the books in a series are complete before she releases the series.

I think Amanda may be ahead of the curve. What’s good for Netflix is good for… writers?

wotrPhoto from Facebook. Writers on the River. Jessica Ann Clements, Amanda Meredith, Mandee Wallace Shanklin, Melinda Huff Bones,Anya Breton, Aly Grady and Judy Rosella Edwards ( a/k/a Think::Fast::Write::Fast).


hackAnother idea for a series is to repackage several monographs, like Amazon Short Reads, into a single volume as a collector’s edition. Maybe even sell it as a hardcover (yes, I’m talking about again).

Serial writing can be a good thing. It keeps readers on board. It can help you organize your writing. You have options: publish individually, or publish all at once for your binge-readers. And, you can still order out for pizza.