Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tales from the Editor's Desk - Use Words Correctly

This should be a no-brainer, but as I edit I find so many smart, well-educated people using words incorrectly, I begin to wonder what’s going on.

Then I turn on the TV. I listen to the Eyewitless News anchors who can’t pronounce the words they’re given to read (“tempachure,” says the weather guy, “sheriff’s depity,” says the anchor). I listen to the people being interviewed saying that an actor is “awesome.” I listen to the commercials. We’ve all seen this one: “I gave [the insurance company] a call,” the actor says, “and I literally fell out of my chair.” Literally? The quote was so low she fainted? It was so high she started laughing so hard she fell off her chair? Here’s another example, which I came to in a textbook I once edited. The author, a professor of psychology, wrote that in class one night he was “literally shooting questions at his students.” I couldn’t help but inquire if the classroom was filled with blood and body parts.

The word “literal” comes from Middle English literal, “of letters,” via Old French from the Latin, littera, “letter.” “Literally” (the adverb form) means verbatim, in a word-for-word manner, as when a scholar does a word-for-word translation of a passage from, say, Russian to English. It also means in a strict sense, concerned with facts, devoid of embellishment, exaggeration, or metaphor. A literal account of an event is unexaggerated, undecorated. When we say, “Don’t take what he says literally,” we mean don’t believe every word he utters, don’t take him seriously. “Literal” is of course related to “literature,” “literary,” and “literate.”

And literate is how we do not sound if we use “literally” metaphorically or for emphasis or as an intensive. One of my other favorite examples is “He was laughing so hard his sides literally burst.” Eeeuww! Did they rush him to the ER? Are you feeling tempted to use “literally”? Resist the temptation.

Perhaps I am, alas, fighting a losing battle. Yes, our language is changing. Yes, it’s useful to keep up with the times. But, yes, it’s also important to respect our language and use the words in it correctly and precisely. Especially when we want the words we write to be understood and taken seriously.

To learn more about the editing services Dr. Barbara Ardinger offers, please visit her web site at

Monday, September 28, 2009

Self-Promotion or Death: PR Tips from Sara Dobie

WRITE. Duh. Don’t roll your eyes at me. I’m serious. You’re a writer, aren’t you? You’re good at writing. You have writing advice for others. So when was the last time you wrote an article about character development? What about a column on the topic of climax and resolution? You know about this stuff. You know the ins and outs—the creative and structural techniques that work and don’t. So why not share those techniques with your knowledge-thirsty audience? Write an article. Do some homework to see where it would fit. (Or vice versa, really. Find a website you like and write something catered to that website.) Whatever chicken-or-the-egg technique you use, WRITE. And then, submit your article for inclusion on an industry blog. Submit it to magazines. Submit it to writing newsletters. Anywhere your article might fit, submit it. It’s free advertising! (And hey, some places even PAY for this sort of thing!) This builds your reputation as Author Extraordinaire. It spreads word of your book, because of course, you will include a bio, including all your website/ISBN info, RIGHT?! It will make a name for you, which will make a name for your book. It’s a free and easy way to develop a fan following, and all you had to do was be a writer and WRITE!

For more information on Sara Dobie and her promotion tips, please visit her blog.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Tips for Authors - Interior Layout Again

I know we've already touched on this topic, but I felt a need to say a little more... as I mentioned previously, if budget is a concern, it is possible to do your own interior layout. But please, please, please don't try to re-invent the wheel! I see so many self-published books where the author/publisher thought they'd be different and tried to create their own style.

There is a reason books are right justified. I recently had a book that was left justified, the same as you'd see in a letter. It looked TERRIBLE. It was hard on the eyes, and it sure didn't make me want to read it. It was well-written, the plot was good, but it would have been a much more enjoyable book if it had been right justified. It sounds like such a silly, small, detail, but the incorrect layout gave the book a very amateurish look. Add to that the enormous number of typos and I'm afraid that this particular book is destined to have lackluster sales. You put so much time and effort into writing your book - don't ignore the final touches that will make a customer want to buy your book!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Banned Books Week

A reminder from Sylvan Dell Publishing

Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read

“To you zealots and bigots and false patriots who live in fear of discourse. You screamers and banners and burners who would force books off shelves in your brand name of greater good…” So starts the Banned Books Week Manifesto 2009.

Since 1982, Banned Books Week ( has been observed during the last week of September, this year September 26 through October 3. It was originally founded in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores, and libraries. And no book is safe. Over the years, targeted books have included new releases as well as beloved early examples of American literature. It’s all about content. If content is deemed “inappropriate,” whatever the definition of “inappropriate,” that content could be placed on the chopping block.

According to the American Library Association, this annual event reminds Americans not to take a precious democratic freedom for granted—the freedom to READ. From the ALA website: “BBW celebrates the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them. After all, intellectual freedom can exist only where the freedom to express oneself and the freedom to choose what opinions and viewpoints to consume are both met.”
So for every American who believes in the right to read, it’s time to celebrate this national event. Ask yourself: what book could you never live without? What would you do if someone took that book away?

Useful links:The Banned Books Week HomepageWhat You Can DO!Book Bans and Challenges, 2007-2009ALA’s Banned Books Week Info

And some event ideas from the BBW website…

‘Make your own banned book’ activity: Local libraries, schools and bookstores could provide both the crafts and space for a day/weekend in order for local community members, including children and youth to create their own ‘banned books’; libraries, schools and booksellers could offer prizes for participation.

Collaborate with local booksellers and librarians for larger events.
Capture individuals exercising their right to read banned books on film: Create a Polaroid picture wall of students, patrons and customers who read banned books at your local school, library or bookstore; ask patrons to write their thoughts and feelings about banned books on the white part of the Polaroid.

Invite authors of banned books for signings and Q&A at your local library or bookstore.
Draw a picture of the one book you would save if books were being burned; display the pictures on a wall in the children’s section throughout the year.
Keep a Banned Books Week journal; write your comments and thoughts on Banned Books Week activities.

As students, parents, booksellers, teachers, and book enthusiasts, support Banned Books Week and your freedom to READ in 2009!

For more information, please visit the Sylvan Dell Publishing's blog.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Meet Editor Barbara Ardinger

Barbara Ardinger is writing a weekly column for the Feathered Quill Book Reviews blog. We thought you'd like to meet her... and be sure to check out her column here every Wednesday!

Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D. (, is a published author and freelance editor. To date, she has edited more than 200 books, most of them for authors going to small, vanity, or on-demand presses. The 200 projects are both fiction and nonfiction and also include screenplays, children's books, academic discourse (textbooks and doctoral and master's theses), web site text, and some poetry. Fiction edited includes romance, action-adventure, science fiction, western, mystery, historical, speculative, and horror novels. Nonfiction edited includes philosophy (mostly mainstream metaphysics and New Age), Calvinist theology, holistic health, science and technology, political tracts, business topics, history, and memoirs and biography. The authors live around the U.S. and around the world, and for many of them, English is their second language. Barbara has also taught university classes in writing and public speaking and has worked as a technical editor (four different industries).

Barbara lives in Southern California with her two rescued Maine coon cats, Heisenberg and Schroedinger. When she can get away from the computer, she goes to the theater as often as possible—she loves musical theater and movies in which people sing and dance. She is also an active CERT (Community Emergency Rescue Team) volunteer and a member (and occasional secretary pro-tem) of a neighborhood organization that focuses on code enforcement and safety for citizens. She has been an AIDS emotional support volunteer and a literacy volunteer. She is an active member of the neopagan community and is well known for the rituals she creates and leads.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Author interview with Charles Shirriff

Today we're sitting down to talk with Charles Shirriff, author of Spirits of a Feather, Souls of a Feather, and It’s Not Where You’re Going-It’s How You Get There: Autobiographical Stories .

FQ: Are Spirits of a Feather and Souls of a Feather autobiographical?

It is funny you would ask this question. Several years ago, I was asked by a young man who I was working with in a counselling relationship if I would write his “autobiography” for him. I agreed on condition that he would take me with him to experience as much of his life first-hand as possible. For about 5 years I went with him to gay bars, raves, parties, etc. and met his friends in their natural environment as his “straight uncle.”

However, he was not ready to share enough of his early years in an abusive, dysfunctional family for me to write a proper biography. Not willing to waste the wealth of experiences he had provided for me, I decided to fictionalize his story enough that I could still write his actual biography at a later date. In writing these two novels, I incorporated my young friend into two of the characters. Jay represents most of my friend’s actual personality (except for his being gay) while Steve, being gay, allowed me to make use of my experiences and understandings of gay people and of the gay community.

FQ: Why did you pick Winnipeg as a location?

My friend lived in Winnipeg when I met him and I lived near Winnipeg. The novels are officially works of fiction, and could have been based in any large city. I chose to make the novels as “fact-based” or as a “fictionalized biography.” Hence, the environment needed to be true to the story.

FQ: Do you have Native American blood?

No. But I have taught many native (or “First Nations” people as we now refer to them in Canada) and have been involved with them in many and varied situations. I have always been interested in people who are different from me.

FQ: Why did you select the eagle as a totem animal for Jay?

I looked at the various totems and the eagle was most appropriate for my friend, and hence for Jay in the novels. The majestic eagle is strength and vision. The eagle symbolizes power and prestige. It protects the spirit and the body, representing health and wholeness of being. It signifies the person who rises above the petty details of daily life to take in the big picture. This seemed like a good fit.

The moon watches over us and is the protector and guardian of Earth. Moon has the ability to change our moods and might have been appropriate. I did consider this totem, but it was too hard to personalize and incorporate it into the story line.

The others were just not appropriate to Jay’s character: Whale is the traveler's friend, Hummingbird is the healer; Bear is strength and health, Beaver is community and sharing, Frog is success coupled with humility, Raven is wisdom and understanding, Wolf is the teacher and nurturer, Sun is faith and inclusion. None of these was a good fit. Besides, the Eagle is much more interesting (plot-wise) than the Frog, for example.

FQ: I loved Arrow the dog. Why did you decide to include him in the story?

I didn’t decide to include him. He wrote himself into the story. He just appeared when I was describing Jay knocking on the native shaman’s room – he growled from within the room, and when the door opened - there he was. I have found that in writing, I am usually not in charge of the words as I type. I set up scenes in my head, but then they tend to write themselves as I type - with or without my approval.

For instance, Phil was supposed to be a “walk on” character as a foil for developing Jay’s character during the bus trip. He was supposed to get off the bus in Brandon and then disappear forever. I was surprised when I found he was getting back on the bus to complete the trip. So I decided to have Jay walk away and leave Phil in the bus station. I had no idea that Phil would take Jay home with him, let alone become a major character.

FQ: What is the basis for your interest in these different cultures?

My interest in cultures/religions was fostered through the people I met in my personal life and in my educational/counselling work. I did extensive research to fill in details concerning the various cultures and to develop and understand them, but I always worked within my personal knowledge of typical individuals.

I had a person in the head office of the Bahá'í in Toronto read relevant sections of my draft to be sure they accurately reflected the Bahá'í philosophy. My chapters on Hutterian life were rewritten and corrected extensively by teachers at the colony where I was working at the time when I was writing.

FQ: Are you working on anything now?

It will probably be a book of humorous short stories or “essays” based on illogical (or silly) rules, ideas, signs, conventions, etc. that are accepted as normal or logical in our North American society. I will probably use a format of short stories or “essays” interspersed with very short vignettes (similar to the format of my recently published autobiography,It’s Not Where You’re Going – It’s How You get There). The working title for my next book is, Life Is Not A Gay Bar - don’t ask why. It just presented itself to me one day.

To learn more about the author's three books, please read the reviews at:

Spirits of a Feather

Souls of a Feather

It’s Not Where You’re Going-It’s How You Get There: Autobiographical Stories

Self-Promotion or Death: PR Tips from Sara Dobie

Know your target audience. The world is too big to throw news and media tips willy-nilly. Therefore, do your homework. Case in point: Sylvan Dell Publishing just dove head-first into the social media terrain, with no map and no GPS unit. We’ve been having fun, but we’ve also realized that in most cases, it’s the writers who start following us. It’s the writers who want US to know THEM through OUR social media, because we’re a publishing house, and all aspiring writers really just wanna be buddies with a publishing house. So who are we really going after with this social media campaign? Teachers. Parents. Media specialists, and that is who we’re catering to. We’re going after the blogs that teachers read. We’re Tweeting about education. We’re learning—through trial and error—who our friends are, and we need their support. You are in the same boat, no matter who you are or what you do. You need to know your target audience, because the more targeted your audience, the more effective they will be when you need their help the most. So do your homework. Figure out who your friends are, and work together, lifting each other to the pinnacle of publishing success.

DoJ Says Google Settlement Must Be Changed

Andrew Albanese -- Publishers Weekly, 9/18/2009

In a highly anticipated brief, the Department of Justice on September 18 said the Google Book Search Settlement as currently structured should be rejected by the court overseeing its approval. “As presently drafted the proposed settlement does not meet the legal standards this court must apply,” the DoJ report concluded. "This court should reject the proposed settlement and encourage the parties to continue negotiations to comply with Rule 23 and the copyright and antitrust laws.”

In a silver lining, the DoJ recognized the potential value of a deal to facilitate book digitization, and officials urged the settlement parties to head back to the negotiating table. "A properly structured settlement agreement in this case offers the potential for important societal benefits," reads the DoJ statement. "The United States does not want the opportunity or momentum to be lost." In a brief statement, Google, the AAP and the Authors Guild, said they will address the concerns of the DoJ. “We are considering the points raised by the Department and look forward to addressing them as the court proceedings continue,” the statement read.

The DoJ's opposition makes it increasingly likely that the October 7 fairness hearing, or at least its outcome, will be delayed. While the DoJ was upbeat about the settlement's potential, suggesting that the parties address DoJ concerns and make the settlement viable, the issues outlined in its brief nevertheless strike deeply at the heart of the deal, and it remains to be seen how quickly these thorny issues, the subject of years of tense negotations, can be resolved, if they can be at all. Without modifications, the DoJ indicated there was "a significant potential" that the Department would conclude that the settlement "violates the Sherman Act."

Reaction: In a statement, The Open Book Alliance, a group opposing the deal, said it was pleased with the DoJ's conclusions. "Despite Google's vigorous efforts to convince them otherwise, the Department of Justice recognizes that there are significant problems with terms of the proposed settlement," read a statement. "Making books searchable, readable and downloadable promises to unlock huge amounts of our collective cultural knowledge for a broader audience than was ever possible. But, as we've noted, this settlement is the wrong way to go about making this promise a reality."

On his blog, the Laboratorium, New York Law School professor James Grimmelmann praised the DoJ's brief. "So many of the briefs and letters I’ve gone through in the last few weeks take a one-sided view of the settlement—wholly good or wholly evil—that it’s refreshing to read one that takes both good and bad seriously." Grimmelmann wrote. "The emphasis on continued discussion is healthy, and the indications that negotiations are actively underway are very encouraging. I’m feeling more optimistic that something good will result at the end of the day than I have been in a while."Perhaps the overarching question now, is how will the parties set about to fix the settlement? Will they continue to negotiate among themselves in private, or will they more actively bring in stakeholders, such libraries and European publishers? Already, European publishers have said they wish to be at the table going forward. I

n a terse statement, officials at the Federation of European Publishers, a trade group representing 26 national book publishers associations, demanded they be involved in the ongoing negotiations to fix the deal. "FEP has contacted the parties seeking an early seat at the table throughout ongoing negotiations," reads an FEP statement. "It is not acceptable that [European publishers] learn of progress through the press, and not consistent with the principles of natural justice that they be excluded from discussions."

Friday, September 18, 2009

Tips for Authors - Author Interviews

Many review sites offer author interviews as a part of their promotional services. If you get the chance to do an interview, take it! Look at it as an additional chance to promote your book(s). There are two types of author interviews, written and spoken. This week we'll look at written interviews. Next week we'll explore interviews via radio (internet or traditional).

For written interviews, always remember, sell yourself! This is a chance for the reader to connect with the author. What makes the author tick? Why did he/she write the book? Where did his/her ideas come from? Readers want to know! You need to tell them! At Feathered Quill, we do our interviews via email - we send the author a group of questions and once he/she returns the answers to us, we post it on both our site and here on our blog. Our number one piece of advice is to be sure to check what you write! Is it grammatically correct? What about typos? Typically, if we find an obvious typo, we'll fix it but we can’t change the author’s words so be careful. We've received interviews with incomplete sentences, email "speak" (IMO, etc.), and other errors that make the author look less than literate. Proof your answers, read them again, then wait a day before sending them along, and read once more before sending to the review site. For many people, printing out the text and proofing it (rather than on the computer screen), allows them to catch errors. Does it make you sound like a professional? If so, then send it along and get it posted. Then link to it from your website. Use it as a promotional tool as you would a review. Don't let it languish on somebody else's site.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Court Acknowledges More Than 400 Submissions in Google Settlement

By Andrew Albanese -- Publishers Weekly, 9/16/2009 2:45:00 PM

In an order posted Wednesday, federal judge Denny Chin said the fairness hearing for the Google Book Search Settlement scheduled for October 7 will go forward, and acknowledged receipt of more than 400 written filings. In the order, Chin gave the parties in the settlement until October 2 to respond in writing to the filings, and laid out the procedures that will govern the hearing. Those wishing to speak at the hearing have until September 21 to request time via e-mail, and will be notified by September 25 whether they will be permitted to address the court. In the order, Chin also said the court would review all the written filings in the case.

One major filing, however, still looms—Chin had previously given the Department of Justice until September 18 to file its written comments with the court.Bloomberg, meanwhile, reported that Google, publishers and authors are in talks with the Justice Department on ways to address any concerns the department may have about the deal. As expected, a majority of the written filings are in opposition to the deal. However, a review reveals a wellspring of strong support for the deal, from organizations representing authors and the tech industry, to the disabled, such as the National Federation of the Blind, as well as a host of major universities and libraries, such the University of Michigan, Stanford University, the Cornell University Library and the University of Virginia.
“Libraries have worked for years in support of legislative solutions to the orphan works problem,” noted University of Virginia librarian Karin Wittenborg in her letter to the court, “but the history of attempts to address this and other knotty issues in copyright law has not given us confidence that the legislative process is any more likely to bring about practical, constructive change than the complex work of the parties to this class action.”

Cornell librarian Anne R. Kenney told the court that the settlement would make most of the Library’s long out-of-print holdings not just findable, but available. “The potential benefit of this to researchers is inestimable,” she wrote. “For this reason alone, the settlement should be approved.”

Poiltics? In addition to a heavy reading load for the court, the deal took another twist last week, this one political. At a September 10 hearing before the competition subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee U.S. Register of Copyrights Marybeth Peters criticized the deal, telling lawmakers it was “fundamentally at odds with the law,” and that it usurped a role occupied solely by Congress. Association of American Publishers’ Allan Adler told PW he politely disagreed with Peters’ assessment and said publishers would respond to Peters’ more directly in their forthcoming brief to the court.It remains to be seen, however, what if any interest beyoned general oversight Congress has in looking at the deal at this late stage. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat who represents Silicon Valley, suggested that Congress should stay away. “At this point, we don’t have a role to play,” she said, adding that the settlement was “the private sector achieving what we failed to achieve” in terms of legislation. Rep. Hank Johnson, a Democrat from Georgia, however, suggested that the settlement was a “classic case of legislating from the bench.” Adler said he believes it is unlikely the hearing will result in any action, and that all parties will have to look to the court for a determination. Whether the court looks to the Copyright Office, meanwhile is another matter. On the positive side for the settlement proponents, the hearing offered an opportunity to make their case for the deal: in essence, that it would indisputably offer more access to more books than ever before in history, and that the massive public good of the deal far outweighed the individual greivances of rightsholders.

In his testimony, Google’s David Drummond told lawmakers it would be unfortunate if the settlement discussion “devolved into hypothetical debates over class action law,” and that the deal represented “the progress of science to tackle copyright challenges and help ensure millions of out-of-print books do not fade into oblivion.”

Moving up - In yet another twist last week, New York Senator Charles Schumer confirmed that Judge Chin will be nominated to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals by President Obama. That news kicked off speculation in some circles that Chin might eventually recuse himself, and yield the settlement decision to a third judge in less than a year. Chin inherited the settlement after Judge John Sprizzo passed away in December 2008. Chin’s order this week, however, would seem to silence those rumors. Nevertheless, despite Chin's insistence that the hearing will proceed, a delay is not out of the question, especially if the DoJ decides to intervene, or indicates to the court that it wishes to delve further into the settlement.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Tales from the Editor's Desk - Query Letters, part 2

From the Desk of Barbara Ardinger

Let’s revisit that awful query again.

ive written three fiction novels. … i am looking for a literality agent, as i’m in this for the long hall.

Not only do we need to use the spell checker and not write in text-speak, but we also need to use the right words. Words are a writer’s most basic tools. To use a cliché, just as a cook starts with a good sharp knife, just as an artist starts with conte crayons, just as a mechanic starts with a wrench that’s the right size for the job, so do we start with words. We are required to use them correctly. We can spend our lives learning to do so.

As far as I know, all novels are fiction. Fiction is something that is invented, rather than something that actually occurred. The word “fiction” comes from the Latin fictiō, “a making or fashioning,” via Old French and the Middle English ficcioun, which means “invention.” When we write a novel, we’re making it up. Some novels are, of course, very close to nonfiction (Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood comes to mind, as do the novels of Dominick Dunne), but when this guy uses the words “fiction novel” in his email to a literary agent or acquisitions editor, it shows that he probably doesn’t know what he wrote. A query should not be a ficcioun.

Next, when this guy writes that he’s looking for a “literality” agent, he’s not just misspelling the word. My guess is that he has faulty hearing and maybe conflated “literary” and “literal.” Or maybe he’s a sloppy thinker, or he’s too lazy to look in the dictionary to double-check a word he thinks he knows. This reminds me of an ad I once saw in a college newspaper: “Looking for a doctrinal hood.” If we want to be taken seriously, we need to use the right words. I don’t know what a doctrinal hood looks like. I can’t help but wonder what reality a literality agent lives in. And if said agent could sell a book in the current publishing marketplace. And, finally, yes, there are long halls, often found in dormitories, hotels, and hospitals. But I’m pretty sure that’s not what the writer of this query intended to say.

“I’ve written three novels.” I am looking for a literary agent.” “I’m in this for the long haul.” If you want the agent or acquisitions editor to whom you want to sell your novel or nonfiction book to pay attention (and not just laugh at you), every word in your query must be used and spelled correctly. Creative people invent words, of course, and the meanings of words change, but in a query letter, it’s useful to be as correct as possible.

To learn more about the services Barbara Ardinger offers, please visit her website at:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Day for the Bookstores

-- Publishers Weekly, 9/14/2009

This fall, we invite you to join Publishers Weekly in celebrating the first annual National Bookstore Day, a day devoted to celebrating bookselling and the vibrant culture of bookstores. This year's day will take place on Saturday, November 7, and to make it a success we need your help and participation.

PW is committed to promoting National Bookstore Day to attract both local and national media coverage well in advance of November 7, with the goal of driving new (and loyal) customers into bookstores. Throughout September and October, we will place announcements in our print magazine, e-mail newsletters and across our online Web community touting the day and what it celebrates. We recognize that most stores already do wonderful promotions on their own throughout the year, but we want to enhance those efforts by banding together and thereby building visibility nationwide on a single day. If just 10% of independent bookstores participate in National Bookstore Day, there will be over 200 celebrations across the country. PW is also sending a personal letter to the heads of the national bookstore chains to request their involvement. If they see value in this idea and choose to participate, so much the better.

We have created a logo that you see here, and formatted it onto bookmarks, window signs and posters that you can download or insert into your customer print and e-newsletters. These are customizable PDFs that you can use to promote special discounts, contests and offers available to your customers only on November 7. Consider hosting a raffle for a bundle of books or a store gift certificate. Perhaps you may want to partner with local nonbookstore retail outlets to create a basket of prizes in appreciation of your customers' support.

In addition, PW will be contacting publishers to ask them to promote special bookseller discounts on selected titles in recognition of National Bookstore Day (stay tuned for a list of titles).

While we'll handle the industry promotion and coverage, we're looking to you to join us with the kind of event or promotion for November 7 that you feel is most appropriate. If you do plan to participate, please e-mail us at so we can add your bookstore's name and URL (please provide us with the link) to our Web site. Any authors interested in participating can also contact us through the Web site as well; distributors, wholesalers and commissioned reps who may want to take part in promoting the event are invited as well. Share the wealth! Let us know your plans or any unique promotional ideas. We will be tracking and reporting on activity so be sure to watch this page and PW for updates.

Together we can make a difference!

Thank you,
Ron Shank
Group Publisher
Publishers Weekly

Monday, September 14, 2009

Self-Promotion or Death: PR Tips from Sara Dobie

This goes for big publishing houses, as well as self-published authors. For me, it’s review copy time. We just received bulk shipments of our final fall release (Baby Owl’s Rescue), and I’ve sent out over a hundred review copies in the past three days. As wonderful and exciting as review copy submission is, it’s more than putting a book in an envelope and taping a label on the front. It’s about prep work and follow up. When you’re submitting review copies, you first prepare. You email your reviewers to say “HEY! Don’t forget about me!” and ask if they have an updated address or anything else that might affect your mailing. Then, once you’ve mailed the book, you send them an email that says, “HEY! The book is coming! Can’t wait to read your review!” Then, there’s the follow up. About a month after you’ve sent the review copy, you need to email your reviewers again and say, “HEY! Did you receive my book? Whatdya think?” I don’t want you to harp on your reviewers or stalk them. I do want you to keep them informed. The more informed they are, the more familiar they’ll be with you and the more likely it’ll be that they will write a positive review for your new title.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Reviewers Tip - Submission Guidelines

"Please follow Submission Guidelines"- sounds simple, doesn't it? But we're always amazed at how many authors fail to do just that. Every review site gets plenty of submissions from authors who don't bother to read the instructions. We're guessing they must simply find the address for review sites and then do a mass mailing. At Feathered Quill, we have simple, but specific, guidelines. For example, we say, "DO NOT send unsolicited manuscripts or books" (and yes, 'DO NOT' is capitalized in the directions). Still, we get plenty of unsolicited submissions. Perhaps the author/publicist/publisher missed that point or maybe they figured once we get a look at the great book, we'll just have to review it. Nope. These books go directly to the recycle bin, even those that look fantastic.

Our guidelines say to select the book's genre from our list and if the genre you need does not appear, then PLEASE contact us before submitting your book. We want to make sure we'll have a reviewer capable of reviewing that book and giving it the attention it deserves. But again, time after time, we get submissions with the genre listed as "other."

It really is simple - read the guidelines for each review site and then follow them! Your book will get reviewed quicker and you'll keep the reviewers happy.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

New Book Reviews

It's been a busy few days at Feathered Quill, with several new reviews being posted from a great selection of genres. Check them out - there's sure to be a perfect book for you:

U.S. Register of Copyrights Slams Google Book Search Settlement

U.S. Register of Copyrights Slams Google Book Search Settlement

By Andrew Albanese -- Publishers Weekly, 9/10/2009 9:40:00 AM

In testimony before the House Judiciary subcommittee this morning, Marybeth Peters, U.S. Register of Copyrights, in her first detailed comments on the subject, blasted the Google Book Search Settlement as “fundamentally at odds with the law.” In a blistering assessment of the deal, Peters told lawmakers that the settlement is in essence a compulsory license that would give Google the ability to engage in activities, such as text display and sale of downloads, that are “indisputable acts of copyright infringement.” Most damaging, however, was Peters’s insistence that only Congress—not the courts—could enact such licenses, and her repeated assessments that the settlement deprived Congress of its role. “By permitting Google to engage in a wide array of new uses of most books in existence the settlement would alter the landscape of copyright law,” Peters said. “That is the role of Congress, not the courts.” She said that by allowing out-of-print works to be swept into the settlement, the deal “makes a mockery of Article I of the Constitution.” Only Congress, she stressed, after a full public debate, can set such new rules.Peters also testified that the settlement would jeopardize Congress’s efforts for more meaningful orphan works legislation, which she noted Congress has been working on for years. The deal “undermines the efforts of Congress to enact orphan works legislation that would benefit all users,” she said. She also added concerns about foreign works included in the deal that could breach international treaties.While the day’s other witnesses reiterated their well-known views on the deal for the subcommittee, Peters’s testimony stands as a disastrous development for the settlement parties, just weeks before its October 7 fairness hearing. Peters’s strong views could now put Congress and the courts on a collision course, as Judge Denny Chin, in approving the settlement, would have to essentially ignore the Copyright Office’s assessment of the deal’s legality. While that may be in Chin’s purview, Peters's testimony suggests Congress could seek some legislative redress were that to happen.
By repeatedly stressing that the settlement infringed on Congress's sole discretion to enact changes to copyright law, Peters's testimony could have a strong effect on Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers, who has a history of protecting Congress's role in copyright matters. In 2008, for example, Conyers railed against the National Institutes of Health's open access mandate, a measure passed via an appropriations bill. He lashed out at the House Appropriations Committee,
telling CongressDaily that he was frustrated by its refusal to engage repeated questions from his committee about the copyright and intellectual property implications associated with the NIH mandate, fuming that appropriators acted “summarily, unilaterally and probably incorrectly” in enacting the NIH mandate without his consultation, and suggested the mandate encroached on his committee’s “sacred turf.”

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Tales from the Editor's Desk - Query Letters

You’re Your Own Book Cover - From the Desk of Barbara Ardinger

Welcome to my blog column. As a published author (seven books) and experienced freelance editor (more than two hundred books), I’ve worked with authors who haven’t had an English class since, say, sixth grade but have good ideas and feel driven to write a book. Sound familiar? As we go through the year together, I’ll be giving you tips that will help you write better.

Let’s assume for now that you’ve got what you think is a book and someone tells you to find a literary agent or a publisher. This is when you write a query letter. Nowadays, that’s usually an email. I also receive numerous queries from authors like you. What does your query tell a literary agent, an acquisitions editor, or a freelance editor about you? If your query looks like the one below (which my agent received), it means you can’t spell and probably can’t think clearly, either. This does not make a good first impression!

Here’s the query:

Hello ther,
My name is [redacted ] and i liv in [redacted]. Im 25, almost 26, and ive written three fiction novels. One sci-fi and the other, what ive been told is, “horror fantasy.” i am looking for a literality agent, as i’m in this for the long hall. i don’t want to write just one fiction novel, i want to write as many as i can in my life time. This is my passion, this is what i live for. this is what i am.

Tips: Always be sure to spell check everything you write. Don’t write in “text-speak.” If you need help to write a good query, get help.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Self-Promotion or Death: PR Tips from Sara Dobie

Tip of the week: Don’t get an ear infection, because you will never get it to go away. (Sigh.) Okay, seriously, let’s talk Twitter. I’m a baby Twitter user. I just started to master this 140-character power tool a month ago. However, there’s one thing I’ve learned, and if you want to become a Twitter guru, you should know about it. The first thing you need to do when you sign up is find your local media. Sounds obvious, but we forget. In the publishing world, we daydream about CNN, Oprah, and Publishers Weekly. We forget about our local newspapers, TV stations, and radio announcers. And yet, these are the people who build your fan base. You have to start somewhere; I suggest you start local. So as soon as you get into the Tweets, start following your local media. Often, they will return the favor. And then, if you’re interesting and clever enough (and of course, you are), they’ll see how interesting and clever you are, and they’ll set up an interview. Case in point: within three weeks of being on Twitter, our company co-founder was fielding a phone call from our city paper. This is the city paper that seemingly had no idea we existed. And yet, thanks to Twitter, they heard about the good stuff we do in the community and beyond, and we had a story in the newspaper four days later. Tweet on.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Great Reads for September

Here are several new releases to start your Fall off right:

Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder

Strength in What Remains is an unlikely story about an unreasonable man. Deo was a young medical student who fled the genocidal civil war in Burundi in 1994 for the uncertainty of New York City. Against absurd odds--he arrived with little money and less English and slept in Central Park while delivering groceries for starvation wages--his own ambition and a few kind New Yorkers lead him to Columbia University and, beyond that, to medical school and American citizenship. That his rise followed a familiar immigrant's path to success doesn't make it any less remarkable, but what gives Deo's story its particular power is that becoming an American citizen did not erase his connection to Burundi, in either his memory or his dreams for the future. Writing with the same modest but dogged empathy that made his recent Mountains Beyond Mountains (about Deo's colleague and mentor, Dr. Paul Farmer) a modern classic, Tracy Kidder follows Deo back to Burundi, where he recalls the horrors of his narrow escape from the war and begins to build a medical clinic where none had been before. Deo's terrible journey makes his story a hard one to tell; his tirelessly hopeful but clear-eyed efforts make it a gripping and inspiring one to read. --Tom Nissley

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer

Discarded motor parts, PVC pipe, and an old bicycle wheel may be junk to most people, but in the inspired hands of William Kamkwamba, they are instruments of opportunity. Growing up amid famine and poverty in rural Malawi, wind was one of the few abundant resources available, and the inventive fourteen-year-old saw its energy as a way to power his dreams. "With a windmill, we'd finally release ourselves from the troubles of darkness and hunger," he realized. "A windmill meant more than just power, it was freedom." Despite the biting jeers of village skeptics, young William devoted himself to borrowed textbooks and salvage yards in pursuit of a device that could produce an "electric wind." The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is an inspiring story of an indomitable will that refused to bend to doubt or circumstance. When the world seemed to be against him, William Kamkwamba set out to change it. --Dave Callanan

September’s Pick for Kids: The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo

Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo--author of The Tale of Despereaux and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane-- has crafted another exquisite novel for young readers. The Magician’s Elephant tells the tale of Peter Augustus Duchene, a ten-year-old orphan who receives an unbelievable piece of information from the local fortuneteller. Peter learns that his fate is tied to an elephant that has inexplicably fallen from the sky when a magician’s trick goes terribly wrong. Why did it happen? And, how can an elephant possibly change the course of Peter’s life? This darkly atmospheric, yet hopeful tale, demonstrates that when the answers to life’s big questions are opaque or unforthcoming, all is not lost. DiCamillo’s rhythmic writing, combined with Yoko Tanaka’s mysterious black-and-white illustrations, enchants and calls out to our sincerest wishes and dreams. --Lauren Nemroff

Friday, September 4, 2009

Reviewers Tip - Interior Layout

Your manuscript has just gone through the editing process and now it is ready for the next stage in pre-production: interior layout. There are three ways you can go with your layout.

  • Hire a professional who uses a program such as InDesign to create a finished, professional look.
  • If you know InDesign or are a quick learner of somewhat complicated design programs, do it yourself.
  • Again, do it yourself, but using Word or WordPerfect.
Hiring a professional is the best way to go as the finished product will have a great look, with headers, footers (if needed), fancy chapter headings (if desired), proper line spacing, hyphenation, and many other text styles that accompany books from the big publishers. However, a professional can be expensive and many self-publishers can't afford one. What should you do? Unless you're very comfortable with InDesign (or other programs used for book layout), it can be a daunting task. Many self-publishers, therefore, decide to use Word or WordPerfect. They work hard to create a nice look, save the manuscript as a pdf file and send it off to the printer. It can work, and the majority of customers won't notice the difference, although any book professional (and that includes book store buyers and reviewers) can pick out these books instantly.

Word is notorious for messing up headers, footers, and other text styles that are found in a long document. Other times, it may look great in Word but when you convert the file to a pdf, strange things can happen, text gets moved, headers go away, reappear pages later, etc. It can become quite frustrating. If you do decide to do the internal layout yourself, please avoid these pitfalls that we've seen in books we've reviewed:

  • Use a font that's so small most readers have to squint
  • Use a font that's so big it looks like the publisher is trying to cover up a short book with large text
  • Make your margins too small/too big
  • Use different fonts for dialog vs. narration
  • Use italics for a large portion of your text. We recently had a book in which the main character wrote a significant amount of text in his diary. Those entries were all in a tiny, italicized font. It was impossible to read.
If doing the layout yourself, go to a book store and study other books in your genre. Note what they do. Don't try to be so different/unique that you wind up ruining your book. There's a reason those books are fairly standardized - it's easier on the eyes.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Feathered Quill Wins Award!

Feathered Quill Book Reviews is pleased to announce that we have won the 2009 Writers Choice Award sponsored by Writer Watchdog. This award is given to those organizations that receive the most positive comments/votes from authors/publishers/publicists who have used their services. We've very excited and proud of being selected for this honor.

FREE Book for September

The book for our monthly giveaway contest this month is Shadow: The Curious Morgan Horse by Ellen F. Feld. Read the review here. If you'd like to try your luck at winning this book, simply fill out the email form on our contest page. Good luck!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Tales from the Editor's Desk

We're very excited to announce a new weekly column for our blog. Every Wednesday, beginning September 9, 2009, Barbara Ardinger, a freelance editor will be offering her wisdom on editing books, the mistakes she has seen authors make (and that you can avoid) in writing/editing their own books. In Barbara's words:

"In addition to having earned a Ph.D. in English, I have worked, off and on, as a freelance editor and authors' co-conspirator for 20-odd years. Translating "engineerese" into "gooder English," I have taken engineers' user-hostile rough draft and turned it into user-friendly manuals and proposals on subjects like "special nuclear material" (plutonium) containment, computer operating systems, and incomprehensible new inventions.

As a published author, I've also been on the other side of the editing process. My own books have been edited. (Yikes!) As a book reviewer and magazine columnist, I've also had my work edited by other professionals. I also know how skillful editing helps make good ideas clearer and more accessible."

Barbara will be relating tales of what to do/not do with your book manuscript by relating stories of what she's had to deal with during her freelance career. We're excited to have Barbara join Feathered Quill's blog and hope you enjoy her posts. Learn more about Barbara at:

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Self-Promotion or Death: PR Tips from Sara Dobie

Tip of the week: Don’t get strep throat. It sucks, and it makes you miss deadlines, as evident by my Tuesday, as opposed to Monday, post.

Okay, seriously, PR Tip of the Week. Make your signings into theatrical events. I don’t care if you’re in children’s books or YA or adult novels. You have to make your signings and events entertaining, informative, and showy, because that is how you develop a fan base. That is how you get random people in Barnes and Noble to come up to your lonely book singing table, even if they don’t know who you are. For example, have a book signing costume—an outfit that brings attention your way and highlights something about your book. Have an ambience. Set a scene. Have table decorations. If you’re permitted, bring extra media—a stereo playing music that “feels” like your book, a computer that plays your book trailer no repeat, or even just a huge poster with your eye-catching book cover. Anyone can sit there and sign books. It takes innovation, creativity, and passion to make your book signing into an event, but making it into an event will make it into a book sales phenomenon.