Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Link to great article on how authors can best utilize Twitter

Alan Rinzler wrote a great article on how authors can best utilize Twitter.

He suggests that writers should use their real names (the one they write under) because your name is your brand.

Know your audience, and build a following by finding and following people who are interested in your topic through Google's book blogger search  and with which is like a yellow pages for Twitter. Also, @GalleyCat on Twitter has compiled lists of  useful people to follow, including book reviewers.

Putting people into lists on Twitter lets you see the most recent posts by people on that list. Follow them, and they might follow you. Start Tweeting, and make sure your posts are original, funny, timely,  or informative: the kind of stuff others may retweet. Retweet things you find interesting. Provide content about your topic, area of expertise, or if you write fiction, "a character, scene or situation you're working on." I would also add that you should ask questions. It's a good way to meet people in real life, so why wouldn't it work online too?

Link back to your blog, Tumblr page, website, Facebook, and include your Twitter name in your email signature, on your websites and blogs and so on. Put it in the back of your book. And after a while, mention that your book is available and link to where people can read chapters or buy it. Don't try to sell your book. Instead, simply try to provide useful content to others. 

Great article!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

This sums up how I'm feeling about my decision to epublish my first novel. I'll be starting with Toren: The Teller's Tale.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Places to get cover art, book trailers and more


2. Rob Siders, for ebook formatting:

3. Great illustrator who does covers:

4. Derek Mah's website for covers:

5. Carl Graves (cover designer, reasonable rates) website:

6. Sharon Pavón: "My cousins make independent films and are open to doing book trailers. This is their website"

7. Premade ebook covers at great prices:

8. Mia Castile says, did my amazing cover :) (She does book trailers too.)

9. Huge collection of images, reasonable prices:

10. Another huge collection of images, as well as video and audio, at reasonable prices:

11. From Arthur Slade "This is the company that did a few of my book trailers":

Useful blogs, articles and other info on epublishing

1.Blog of an ebook bestseller:

2. Great advice on ebook publishing:

3. Interview with Amanda Hocking:

4. Books for Kindle outselling all other formats--including paperbacks--sold by Amazon:

5. Published authors, like Arthur Slade, are self-publishing their out of print books as ebooks:

6. E Is for Book is "a coalition of respected children’s trade book authors developing their books for electronic media."

7. Arthur Slade's blog where he writes about his ebook adventures:

8. Up-to-the-minute information on ebooks:

9. Successful ebook self-publisher Terri Reid's blog:

10. Bestselling author L.A. Bank's reasons for choosing to epub her own books and how she did it:

11. A How-To article from CNet on self-publishing ebooks:

12. How to make full-bleed (allowing pictures to reach the edges) picture books for the iPad:

13. A couple of useful Yahoo! Groups, one for self-publishers and the other for self-publishers of children's books: and

Links for writers interested in publishing their own ebooks

Getting started with Kindle:

Getting started with CreateSpace (for paper books sold through Amazon):

PubIt! for Barnes & Noble's Nook:

SmashWords: ebook publisher and distributor (takes 10%):

Book Baby: ebook publisher and distributor (costs $99):

Ebook conversion starting at $99.95:

I had no idea you could do that with a Blogger/BlogSpot page

I was frustrated with the look of my BlogSpot blog. It didn't seem there were many options when it came to design. But then I discovered that if you pick the "travel" theme, there's a drop-down menu of really cool backgrounds you can access. I picked one that looks like Earth from space, which fits the whole "Shevi's World" concept. What do you think?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

What is the worst advice you've been given that set you back?

Someone posted this question recently in Amazon's Gold Box forum, and here is my answer.

I'm a writer. I've been banging my head on the wall trying to get my books traditionally published, which is what every agent, editor, and writer's organization tells you to do. I have an English degree, a Theater degree, and I've worked 12 years as a journalist. I was an arts-and-entertainment writer for a couple of years, reviewing comedy and children's entertainment, so I know what audiences like. I've even won third prize in a national novel-writing contest. And yet  no matter how hard I try, I just can't seem to get an agent. Last year, I got seven requests out of ten to see the full manuscript of one of my novels, and, except for one agent I never heard back from, all seven turned it down. The most common reason given as to why? "I enjoyed it very much, but I didn't feel passionately enough about it." There's nothing I can do with that.

People keep telling me to just keep writing, editing and submitting my work, and it'll happen. Right now that sounds as silly to me as, "Just click your heels, and all your wishes will come true." I've been writing, editing and submitting for nine years with seven different novels for kids and teens, and I'm getting nowhere.

So I'm starting to think that maybe what everyone is telling me isn't the best advice. Maybe I need to give up on going the traditional route and epublish my books instead.

Is this bad advice I've received, and has it set me back? It's not bad advice. It works for some writers. But for some it doesn't. It's like playing cards at a casino. Knowing the game and how to play it helps, but it's still no guaranty you'll win. I've been sitting at this table way too long. I've done nothing but lose. It's time for me to walk away.

I don't really know if this advice has set me back. I have to see how well my ebooks do. But at least that advice has pushed me to hone my craft, which might not have happened if I had never tried to publish traditionally. And maybe I had to go through all that so technology and the world could get to the point where I could epublish my own books successfully.

The tide in the publishing industry is just starting to turn. Will it carry me on this new adventure? I haven't charted the safest course, but before today the safest course has been so hard, and it's led me nowhere. It's time for me to see what else is out there. If I can't get an agent to believe in me and my work, at least I can believe in me.

And I'm not giving up on getting traditionally published. I'm going to epublish my first novel first, and I have six more to go through. Maybe all my wishes will come true in the end.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Art for Japan

Like most of the world, I've been watching the news in shock and disbelief. The power of nature that struck Japan boggles the mind.  Houses turned into splinters. Cars carried by the tsunami like toy boats in a bathtub. Thousands of lives lost. Mothers losing children. Husbands losing wives. Daughters losing mothers. A country in mourning, struggling to find the missing. It's heartbreaking. And the world weeps for Japan.  

Like most geeks, I love Japan. I love its food, particularly sushi, but also miso soup and ramen. I love its magnificent gardens. I love its manga. I love its video games for the Nintendo DS and the Wii, like my favorite, Professor Layton and the Unwound Future. I love its anime, particularly Miyazaki's movies. Kiki's Delivery Service is one of my favorites. The wave reminded me of scenes from Ponyo and Spirited Away. Now I think I might never see those movies the same way again. I also admire the quiet stoicism and strength of the Japanese people.

Like most of the world, I felt helpless, and I still do. But I found a small way I can help. I created a piece of artwork for an auction: Art for Japan. It was inspired by Japan's beloved Hello Kitty. I just want to give that little kitty a hug and tell her everything is going to be okay. I hope she conveys my love of Japan and the Japanese people.

If you're an artist and would also like to donate a piece of your artwork to a good cause, check out the website and contact Meg Hunt. And if you're not an artist but would still like to help, I hope you'll consider buying one of the pieces.I'm sure every little bit helps.

All the best,


Thursday, March 10, 2011

How I'd fix America

I'm not a politician or an economist. I was a political cartoonist for seven years, so if what I'm about to say offends you, take it as being humorously intended. I don't know what I'm talking about. I'm just one person, and this is just one person's opinion.

I see two main problems with our economy: first, we buy too much stuff from overseas and not enough American-made stuff. Not only does this ship our money overseas, it ships our jobs there too. If companies can make more money producing goods in China with lower paid workers, they won't hire workers here. This doesn't just apply to manufacturing but customer support, some health services, and pretty much everything else.

The answer I see is to tax American companies that sell products here for every employee overseas. This should be a fixed amount, say $1,000-$2,000. Non-American companies should also have a tax added to the products they sell here, say 10%. This should also apply to parts produced overseas and shipped here to be put into products that are only assembled in the USA. This money should then go directly to American businesses to pay for American workers. For every employee who earns, say, between $20,000 and $50,000 a year in America, the company would get  $1,000-$2,000. Basically, a fraction of the taxes those employees pay would help finance their own employment. The price of goods from overseas would go up, but so would employment in the USA and our ability to buy things. This would be a good thing for the rest of the world, too, because our biggest asset to the global economy is as consumers. Americans buy products from companies that employ the world. The more buying power we have, the better it is for everyone.

The second problem I see is that 60% of our government budget is made up of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security--and that number is only growing as Baby Boomers retire and Americans in general become unhealthier. What most people don't realize is that the purpose of so-called "universal health-care" isn't to finance everyone's medical insurance but rather to force the middle class to finance minimal health-care: in other words, Medicaid. Everyone who can't afford good health care will get Medicaid, and the middle class will foot the bill. The rich, meanwhile, will continue to pay for the quality health-care they're already getting. This doesn't really seem like a good solution to me.

Instead, when it comes to health care, I would look to our current legal system. Today if you get sick because you once had a job that exposed you to asbestos, you can sue your former employee for your health costs, pain and suffering. That only seems fair. The person responsible for you getting sick should foot the bill.

But what if you're responsible for your own illness? Should the rest of us have to pay for your cancer treatments if you smoke a pack a day? Should the rest of us have to pay for your diabetes treatments if you ate yourself into obesity and never exercised? I don't think we should. If the only people who received Medicaid were those who became sick through no fault of their own, not only would we cut the cost of Medicaid by more than half, the quality of health care to those who deserve it would rise, others would be more motivated to quit smoking, eat right and exercise, and the new health care program would--gasp!--actually lead to people being healthier.

Because, you see, what we have now isn't a health-care system, but an illness care system. Go ahead, smoke a pack a day, spend all your free time in your car or in front of the TV, and eat nothing but fat and sugar. You might send yourself into a diabetic coma, but you won't have to pay for the tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills, so what do you care? This doesn't make sense.

The only thing I can say about Medicare is that it shouldn't be given to those who can afford to pay their own health care. If you have over $1,000,000  in cash and property, you shouldn't get it. That just goes without saying. Otherwise, I wouldn't touch that program.

I would, however, eliminate the forced retirement age and make retirement optional after the age of 65. People live longer and are healthier when they're active and productive, so why should we deny them that? I'd also restrict Social Security to those who are retired, don't earn more than $40,000 a year, or don't own more than $1,000,000 in property. Again, I think this is just common sense. We could even give a higher Social Security rate to retired people who work as volunteers. Retired teachers could continue to work in the classroom as volunteers, and that would improve their quality of life. It would be a win-win for everyone.

Speaking of teachers, the teacher strike in Wisconsin has placed a lot of focus on the cost of public education. This is ridiculous, not only because education is only a small part of the budget, but because there is no greater investment in our future. A well-educated student can get a better job, earn more money, and put more money into the economy. A poorly educated student will have a hard time getting a job, is more likely to turn to crime, and will cost society as a whole over time.

Still, I do have an idea of how we could save money on public education: I would simply eliminate all competitive sports. Too much is spent of football, basketball and baseball, and not enough on actual education. Lately we've seen high-school athletes dying, in part because of the stress such sports put on young hearts. We've also seen a professional football player kill himself because he couldn't deal with the adverse health affects the sport had on his brain.

Just like people should be responsible for the illnesses they get stemming from their own actions, I believe we shouldn't finance activities that harm our kids both in the short run and in the long run. Sports take a huge part of a school's budget, but if that were put into something else--like math, science, and computer education--it would better serve our kids today and in the future, and that would better serve our community as a whole. Imagine an America where instead of dreaming of becoming the next movie, pop or basketball star, kids dreamed of becoming the next Steve Jobs or Jonas Salk? Not only would the next generation fix America, it would fix the world.

Lastly, one of the reasons state and local politicians give for wanting to fire or pay government workers--including teachers, police, and firefighters-- less is that the alternative is to raise property taxes, and people don't want that. I think property taxes should be raised, but only on houses valued at over $100,000 per resident. You're married and you have two kids? Your family of four can continue to pay the same property tax on your house valued at under $400,000. You're a single guy, and you live in a $200,000 house? Either pay the higher property tax, get someone to live with you (like your aging parent), move into a cheaper house, or sell your house and rent a place. If we did this, there might even be a little money left over to reduce the property taxes for people who are living within their means or simply can't afford to pay those taxes, like the unemployed.   

Like I said, I'm not an economist or a politician. I don't know if these ideas will work. But I do wish someone in government would stop asking, "How can we cut the budget without raising taxes?" and start asking "What's fair, and what makes sense?"