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?



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.


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.


The Almighty Press Release


Continued from…

You need to write a press release. Why? Because that’s how you get your name out to the media. Don’t wait for them to come looking for you. They won’t. They don’t have time, especially since all of your competition is already getting their attention because they have written a press release.

It is possible to hire someone to write your press release. Just make sure they know how to write a press release for a book. For one thing, they need to actually read your book.

There is plenty of information out there about how to write a press release. If you look hard enough, you might even find a guide to writing an effective press release. So, I’m going to let you find that information on your own.

What I am going to talk about is who where to send your press release. Like many things, it is common sense. Send your press release to news outlets that are of interest to your potential readers.

If you write a book about business, you want business news outlets to pay attention, and so on. But, there are other outlets you need to explore.

Any publication related to your topic is a good source. Post to blogs. Post to Facebook.

hackLook for publication sites like Thunderclap. Look at the success stories, like the book launch for Leave Your Mark. The social numbers are astounding. My first Thunderclap established more than 49,000 contacts.

Ready for help? Contact me at

Get social

Continued from…

In addition to the many things you should be writing, you need to write and respond via social media. Instead of devoting all your time to posting photos of your kitten, you need to connect with your audience. Sharing kitten posts may be a part of that, but you need to have an actual conversation.

Too often we forget that social media is…social. It is a conversation. Lecturing is not social. Having a two-way discussion is.

So how do you jump in and do that? It’s easy.

You can certainly share other people’s posts. But, you need to add a note explaining why you are sharing. If you share a photo of a crocodile, is it because you love crocodiles, or fear them, or breed them, or study them, or think they are funny?

Do keep in mind that search engines crawl social media. Pasting a link into a post accomplishes nothing. You are simply reposting exactly what has appeared elsewhere. Not adding some of your own contact can actually drive readers away from you. If you post a link to something else, with no further information, your reader is going to click on that link and leave your post, possibly never to return. So, why did you post it? Were you involved in some way? Were you hoping to drive your reader away?

It’s fine to post something out of the goodness of your heart, for absolutely no reason. We do it all the time.

But, you do need to focus most of your social media presence on conversations that relate to your business and, let’s make no mistake, writing is a business. Treat your posts like an advertisement for your business.

The social media side of the business can be time-consuming. And, yes, there’s an app for that. In fact, there are several.

hackUse a social media management application to schedule posts. Write content ahead of time and then intersperse it with other content, as it appears. At 108 pages, The Definitive Guide to Social Media is twice as long as a lot of things that pass for books these days, yet it is one of the best guides I have seen—and it is FREE.

There is never an excuse for your social media to appear to be out of date. There is even less excuse for it to actually be out of date. Use whatever tool you need to in order to keep posts fresh and current.

hackI have just started using Airtable’s Blog Editorial Calendar. I can plan out my writing schedule ahead of time and fill in content when I get a chance. I can schedule when I anticipate posting something. I added columns for the various streams I use so I can track where I will or have posted. Airtable understands attachments so I can attach images or text and not have to remember where I stored them and on which server. But, a spreadsheet would do just as well for something simple, basic and already on your computer. Basically, you just need a process.

Some sites use a gimmick [I am not using that word derogatorily]. I used to manage social media for a zoo and we had a “guess what animal this is” day once a week. We knew that we could draw people on that day. Even if they had not looked at our website since the previous week, they would come on that day for the fun.

There was no prize. Just interaction. And, parents often involved their children who would, of course, want to come to the zoo to see the animal in person!

Writing has the unique misfortune of not usually having a location. It does not lend itself well to Yelp! or TripAdvisor, unless you are writing about a location. But, you don’t need a location. You need a conversation.

A common hashtag currently in use is #writerwednesday. Should you participate? You can ride on the coattails of the likes of Huffington Post—but can your content compete with the Huf, or will it swallow you? Maybe you’re better off creating your own hashtag. You decide.

Writers are often shy. We would rather curl up with a book than be the life of the party. Usually. Most of us, anyway. But, SEO and social media should be second nature for us. It’s all just words and do we ever love words?

Ready for help? Contact me at


You wrote a book. Now what?

Completing the writing of your book feels like a big accomplishment. But, not only is the work not done.The end of writing a book is just the beginning.

Writing doesn’t put money in your checking account. Selling your writing does. But, it doesn’t have to be a chore.

Let me show you how to make it an effort that you, as a writer, will enjoy. You get to write!
Getting noticed requires writing. First of all, you need to format your book, regardless of whether you decide to publish a print version or an eBook. For most people, it is probably worth the money to hire someone to format for you. Your time is better spent on what you do best: writing.

Beyond that, you need to write a description of your book. You need to write metadata so that your book is found by the customers most likely to want to read and buy your book. You need to pen your autobiography. You need to write and respond to social media posts. You need to write a press release or two. You should at least consider creating a giveaway, giving away a free copy of your book. The writing never ends, even after you write “The End.”

Every book needs a description. Who better to write it than you? If you are self-publishing, there may not be anyone but you. You can hire someone but—you’re a writer! Write it yourself.

If you are self-publishing through Amazon, you are not required to write any description. But, why wouldn’t you? You can write as much as  4000 characters to convince an Amazon reader that your book is one they should own. Lulu requires a minimum of 50 characters and a maximum of 1,000 characters.

Smashwords eBook publishing does not require any description and, like Amazon, they allow you to write a 4,000 character description for distribution of your book to Apple’s iBook store, Barnes & Noble, Scribd, Oyster, Kobo, Yuzu, Blio and Inktera plus it includes library distribution via OverDrive, Baker & Taylor Axis 360, Gardners (Askews & Holts and Browns Books for Students), and Odilo.


In an earlier post, I discussed writer’s block. One thing to do rather than giving in to the malady is to work on your book description. It may evolve as you write, but sooner or later you are going to need to write it. That little bit of a break can help you achieve a little progress even if your story is on hiatus.

If your head is swimming already, then you should hire help. We are just getting started. Next time, I will talk about the next thing you need to write. Oh, yes, there is much more to come.

Ready for help? Contact me at