Entries Tagged 'learn to write' ↓

Man, They’re Not Makin’ It Easy! Sandy Kvetches as Contest Results Trickle In

Lady Grace, Book II of Tales from Earth's End

I wasn’t going to enter any book contests this year. Lady Gracemy new sci-fi, fantasy, visionary fiction novel, dribbled out of the publisher’s arms when most of the contests were within minutes of closing. But, like a compulsive gambler, I couldn’t leave book contests alone. I got the Lady in the IPPYs (Independent Press) Awards, sliding in just under their “drop dead date”.

The IPPYs are the oldest and largest book contest open to independent publishers and authors. It’s a great contest, and very prestigious. I’ve entered it many times and done well.

Never at the last minute, though. The management offers  nice discounts on entry fees if you get your entry in early. Unfortunately, I didn’t get mine in early. My husband growled at me as I put the book package together. “How many awards are enough?  How much are you going to spend this year?”

Answer: There is no “enough.” Ever. Anywhere. In anything. You spend what you need to go the distance. I mean, did they tell Secretariat his saddle cost too much or he ate too many oats?

Since the early-bird special had come and gone and my husband was still snarling about how much contests cost, I put Lady Grace in one class in the IPPYs––I didn’t hedge my bets entering two or three. The category I entered was Visionary Fiction.

Jenkins Group, sponsor of the IPPYs began announcing winners on April 27, six days ago. They seem to be announcing awards when the judging of a batch of categories is finished. As of this sitting, Wednesday, May 2 at 1:03 PST,  Visionary Fiction is practically the only category NOT announced.

Six days is a long time to hold your breath.

Talk about stretching my neurotic tendencies to the max. In the last six days, I’ve learned it’s as bad to go into something from a strong position as it is a weak one. My 2011 novel, The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy, WON the Gold Medal in Visionary Fiction at the IPPYs last year. YAY! Talk about a feel good moment. I’ve won Bronze and Silver Medals before, but never a Gold.

So I should feel confident, right? No. My inner self-talk goes like: “They probably will give it to someone else to spread the awards around. Also, you’ve done a bunch of touch ups to the cover since you sent the book––the ink was barely dry when you mailed it. It probably isn’t good enough. You don’t know what the other books in the category are like. They may be FAN-SUPER-TASTIC. Can I stand it if Lady Grace “only” gets a Bronze or Silver? What if it don’t get nada?  AHHHH!

This skillful manipulation of my inner state by repeated negative thoughts might be considered The Anti-Secret. This is the antidote to Rhonda Byrnes’ famous Secret.  Rhonda’s book goes like:  “If you wish for it hard enough, something will come.” Maybe not what you wanted, but something.

I do not consider myself particularly neurotic. I think of my self as the female, West Coast, Protestant version of Woody Allen.

I’m going to sit at my computer, fully experiencing my pain and heart palpitations (really) until the Jenkins Group posts those wins. Or losses.

Sayonara! I will let you know what happens, win or lose.

THE RESULTS JUST CAME IN: SOMETIMES YOU WIN, AND  SOMETIMES YOU LOSE.

THIS TIME I LOST.

Sandy Nathan, Award-winning Author

Sandy Nathan is the winner of twenty-one national awards for her writing. She’s won in categories from memoir, to visionary fiction, to children’s nonfiction. And more.

Sandy’s  books are: (Click link to the left for more information on each book. All links below go to Kindle sale pages.)
Lady Grace: A Thrilling Adventure Wrapped in the Embrace of Epic Love
The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy
Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money

Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could

Stepping Off the Edge: Learning & Living Spiritual Practice

 

 

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In God We Trust – Or Do We?

This Lightning-blasted Tree Reminds Me of God's Power.

This Lightning-blasted Tree Reminds Me of God's Power.

“In God we trust” appears on our currency. These words are controversial. They prompt some people to fight for their removal, while others insist that they belong on our money and everywhere else.

I ask: Do we trust God? If so, which one? I’ll explain.

I recently had a flamboyant lesson in paying attention. Paying attention to what I thought and believed–and what I worshiped. And also in paying attention to where I put my feet.

By May 2009, I was a mess. In 2008, I wrote manuscripts for three sci-fi books, got the first book of the Bloodsong Series, Numenon, into print and launched, and charged ahead with marketing activities.

In my spare time, I had major surgery on my ankle. My surgeon fused the foot bone to the leg bone, the only thing possible to fix the arthritis in the joint. (Yes, it hurt. Recovery has been slow.)

I added on-line book marketing to the mix in 2009-and began obsessing about my Amazon sales figures, posting on writers’ and marketers’ blogs, writing four of blogs of my own, and bringing out Kindle editions of my books. And Twittering! It worked: People learned my name. Kindle sales soared.

But I had to keep at it, working hard every day. If I relaxed, I’d fall behind the hordes of authors more dedicated to tweaking the system than me.

* * *

I was ready for a meltdown and knew it. I’m a long time observer of my inner state, or spirit. The first definition of spirit on my computer is “a vital force that characterizes a living being as being alive.” Being alive interests me.

Riding or walking through our Santa Ynez hills is a balm to my soul.

Riding or walking through our Santa Ynez hills is a balm to my soul.

Things weren’t all bad. When my fused ankle healed enough for me to walk, I had resumed (slowly and carefully) a ritual of many years. A circular path meanders around our ranch. I’ve walked that path every day, contemplating the world and the state of my soul. This walk is a form of prayer.

When I’m in good shape inside, I look at the golden hills around me, feel the breezes, and hear the birds’ cheerful calls. My heart opens and a blast of light and love bursts forth. I become a clear lens, open to the will of the unfathomable power that created and sustains the universe.

In this state, I can write words worth reading.

As May 2009 approached, my walks reflected my soul’s condition. Exhausted and trying to keep going, I tottered along, piling through every mental “to do” list I’d ever made.

Far from being a clear explosion of energy, my heart’s well was like some of the koi ponds I’ve seen: a scummy, turgid hole that no self-respecting fish would enter voluntarily. I swam in a nasty soup created by my thoughts and obsessive actions.

One day, I heard an an inner voice as I walked. It said,  “I believe in a shiftless god.”

I stopped on the path and laughed. What a great book title! But that was it: I was worshiping a supreme power that was unreliable, uncaring, and prone to quit when needed It most.

This shiftless god required ceaseless appeasing. I had to slave for every crumb of success, every review, radio appearance, and book sale. Nothing came from the bounty of an all-knowing being that loved me and wished me well.

I was worshiping a “god” reflecting my own state of mind.

* * *

I felt lousy, but knew what to do. I needed to make my way back to the real God, the benevolent Creator of heaven and earth, the fountain of love and mercy that I’ve experienced so often in my life. I also had to put the right Sandy in control of my life. The deepest Sandy, my own true Self.

I knew exactly how to accomplish the transformation: Go to New Mexico. The area around the City of Santa Fe is like spiritual catnip to me. A couple of weeks there, meditating and doing spiritual practice, and I’d be ready to hit Amazon and Twitterland like a linebacker. I’d be able to break the writer’s block that had me completely foiled in my attempts to work on Numenon’s sequel.

NOT. What we think is going to happen and what happens can be very different.

My husband and I headed off to our place near Santa Fe in early May. Unfortunately, I came down with the flu a few days before we left. The symptoms were so bad that I looked up Swine Flu on the Net. My flu lacked the high fever, but had all the other attributes of that nasty porcine virus.

The kidney infection that I got on top of the flu turned my body into a torture chamber.

No one gets a kidney infection and the flu. No one goes on vacation in the condition I was in.

* * *

The flu ran its course and the tons of antibiotics my doctor prescribed did the trick. Days after arriving in New Mexico, I was able to wobble around on my I-thought-healed, fused ankle. I felt better; the Santa Fe magic was working. A smile lit my face.

Until I stepped in the hole.

Actually, it wasn’t a hole; it was a rut. Not a big rut, such as a large truck might make. More of a slight incline from the tire of a small car. A patch of not too level dirt that I stepped on with my bad leg without noticing it.

All I felt was a little crunch on the outside of the fused ankle, not even a sound or a pain. Just a little sensation of doom. Having a bad back, I know all about such sensations. If I had felt that little twinge in my back, I knew I’d be flat on my back in agony for three weeks.

As it was, a purple, cucumber-shaped swelling lodged under the anklebone on each side of my foot. The swelling ran up my leg. When it got to my (previously totally replaced) knee, that joint ballooned, quickly resembling a cantaloupe. Hard, firm, and definitely not ripe, my knee bulged into a form I’d never seen.

All I wanted was my surgeon in Los Angeles, but I knew that I’d never make it through the airports to get to him. I hurt so much that I wasn’t capable of calling his office to ask for advice. I did what I knew he would say, “Rest, ice, keep your ankle above your heart.”

After a week I’d improved enough to call the doctor’s office. “Did you get it X rayed? The bruising sounds like you chipped a bone,” his nurse said.

* * *

I’m spilling all this not as a ploy for sympathy, but to tell you about my life. Physical illness and injury have been a large part of the challenges I’ve faced in this incarnation. Maybe I’m trying to get it all done so I don’t have to go through this stuff again in a future go-round. (This explanation serves if you believe in reincarnation. I’m not sure that I do.)

For whatever reason, I’ve had lots of really rotten physical stuff happen to me. It’s the learning I must process in this life. Your task is undoubtedly different, but I’m sharing “our vacation in Santa Fe” to illustrate the fact that dinner at your mother-in-law’s, or whatever bedevils you, may not be so bad.

The thing about the ankle cucumbers and cantaloupe knee is that they stopped me dead. I’m a work-o-holic. If possible, I would work 24 hours a day. But there I was, flat on my back, unable to move. In too much discomfort to do anything. That included obsessing about Amazon sales.

My experience is that God will do anything necessary to get you to listen. This case pulled out the stops: He/She/It had me powerless.

The meditation retreat portion of our vacation began in earnest.

And it worked.

Hitting bottom is the essence of spiritual healing as I have experienced it. As a burned out young mother and graduate student, a burned out doctoral student, a burned out author, and finally a burned out lady with vegetables for leg joints–all the times in my life I’ve wiped myself out–I found getting to a dead stop is the key to turning around.

This is not fun. One of the things that I realized as I lay with my leg propped up on pillows is that my days of riding horses are probably over. If I could hurt myself as badly as I did stepping on a tiny ridge of dirt, what would happen if my mare got silly going through a gate and whacked my foot into a fence post? What if she fell and landed on my injured leg? Doesn’t require much imagination to figure out the consequences.

I also realized that I probably can’t go to the Gathering, the Native American spiritual retreat that inspired my first book, Stepping off the Edge. The retreat is in Tennessee and I can’t see myself able to negotiate the plane changes of the cross-country flight, picking up a rental car, and finding my way out into the Cherokee National Forest to the retreat grounds. This almost killed me. I spent some time boo-hooing.

Sharing one’s insights with another person is key in healing. I told my husband what I’d realized and he was relieved. I’m a hard dog to make heel, and he was afraid of what might happen to me if I continued my bull-headed ways.

I’m not going to write a book on spiritual practice and how to heal your soul. I already have: Stepping Off the Edge: Learning & Living Spiritual Practice. I recommend this book to you. It’s got every trick I’ve learned earning my two Master’s degrees, my 34 year meditation practice, and lots of personal growth. This book shows you what happens in spiritual healing and how to do it.

After you bottom out, the real God can finally get through. Healing is a matter of listening to what’s presented to you. It may seem trivial as it happens.

For instance, I belong to a book club. The meeting was set for two days after we got back from Santa Fe. By purest happenstance, the book for that month was Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust by Immaculee Ilibagiza. I downloaded it onto by beloved Kindle and began to read. It’s the story of the author’s experience hiding in a 3 foot by 5 foot bathroom with seven other women. They were there for 3 months as rampaging Hutus stalked them just outside.

I feared that the book would be a nightmare of proselytizing and genocide. Forget my fear: This book is a miracle, the finest example of contemporary Christian mysticism I have read. Ilibagiza is Catholic and her faith shines in this book, as well at the living presence of Jesus Christ. She outlines miraculous experiences occurring time after time after time, as she prayed to God for physical as well as spiritual protection. She came out of her ordeal whole and inspired, stepping into a life she loves.

Flat on my back, with no resistance to anything, I cried through the whole thing. Left to Tell’s words kindled the flame of my own spiritual roots. By the time I finished, my soul was blazing. I was in touch with the real God, my Christian roots, and the power of prayer and meditation. My transforming journey began with reading Left to Tell.

Healing is about collapse of what doesn’t work, surrender to a greater reality (God, a Higher Power, Whatever), acceptance of one’s errors and a turning to a new way. That’s pretty well known and straightforward.

What’s not so well know is that healing and spiritual practice is a blast. The hallmark of spirit is bliss. Don’t buy anybody’s words if you can’t feel the bliss behind them.

Also–did you know that the Asian concept of chakras, those invisible energy centers aligned up your spine that spin when you’re inspired, is absolutely true? So is kundalini–the uncoiling spiritual energy that starts at the base of the spine and moves upward, striking the charkas as it goes.

Providing the original and ultimate meaning of “ring my chimes.”

Yep, once I got past the hard stuff like swollen ankles and exhaustion, the good times rolled. Spiritual energy started to flow and my charkas shone and spun in vivid colors. A spiritual seeker can lights, hear bells, and have visions, getting ripped out of his or her mind. This one sure did.

The trip ended up a glorious success. I’m home, feeling no pressure to do anything but write this blog piece. This is first on the agenda, then we’ll see what’s next.

I feel like a giant and very trustworthy hand has reached into my life and changed my direction. I don’t feel any compulsion or worry. I’m not concerned about my book sales. Certainly not Twitter or go on-line.

This will come in time, I’m sure, but I won’t act until told to by the real God, the one you can trust.

Sandy Nathan: "It's about the good times! May they all be good times!"

Sandy Nathan: "It's about the good times! May they all be good times!"

All the best,

Sandy Nathan

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Buy Stepping Off the Edge for 99 cents! Kindle version is less than a buck!

Stepping Off the Edge is a wild ride to sacred places.

Stepping Off the Edge is a wild ride to sacred places. Includes an exclusive interview with Bill Miller, award winning Native musician, artist, & speaker.

Now you can buy the Kindle edition of Sandy Nathan’s award-winning book, Stepping Off the Edge, for 99 cents! Vilasa Press offers the book at this great price for a limited time only. Click here and go to the Kindle store.

The Kindle edition of Stepping Off the Edge is absolutely gorgeous: The Native American themed interior and cover converted to the Kindle format better than we hoped. All of Sandy Nathan’s pen and ink drawings are included and look beautiful.

This is the book that proves spiritual studies do not have to be boring. Stepping Off the Edge is part memoir, part self help, part riding lesson (horses play a big part), and all amazing. This book was written duing a period of author Sandy Nathan’s life “that I’m glad is over. Though it provided great material and a way of illustrating everything useful I learned earning 2 master’s degrees and a life of spiritual practice.”

Join Sandy as she finds her roots in Missouri’s Ozarks, travels to Tennessee to a Native American retreat, and meets Bill Miller, multi-Grammy winning musician and artist. Lots more, including the meaning of the word “fault” to people from California.

Come on a spiritual journey with an award winning author!

STEPPING OFF THE EDGE WON SIX NATIONAL AWARDS!
* 2007 Benjamin Franklin Award Finalist in New Age (Spirituality/Metaphysics)
* Bronze Medal Winner in Self Help, 2007 IPPY Awards
* National Indie Excellence Awards 2007: Finalist in THREE Categories: Memoir, Self Help, & Spirituality.

FROM THE BACK OF THE BOOK:
When Sandy Nathan set out to write a book about her profound experience at the Gathering, a Native American spiritual retreat, little did she know it would guide her to chronicle a life of stepping off the edge. Again and again , she takes the risks needed for her soul’s growth and vividly presents her personal journey––one of growing into the courageous spiritual being she is. Sandy reminds us we all possess spiritual greatness: It is our birthright.

By walking with Sandy along her path we get more than a glimpse of a person. We get a revealing and inspiring view of her life. Her adventure and the understanding she adds as she writes help us use her experience to enhance out own development. This book does much more than tell about a life: It takes us by the hand (or sometimes by the nose) and leads us to the opportunity afforded by spiritual practice. And practice is the key word.

Stepping Off the Edge is alive with information and inspiration. It is a book about doing. It’s more than a book that describes chocolate cake or even one that tells you how to make chocolate cake. It is a book that gets your mouth watering for chocolate cake and then lets you loose in the kitchen stocked with recipes and everything you need to make your own chocolate cake. With fudge frosting. And chocolate chips if you want them.

In this fascinating narrative you will encounter the basics of prayer, meditation, worship, spiritual retreat, and how a life can become dedicated to the pursuit of experiencing the divine. You will even find how to domesticate your mind and make it an ally in your quest for inner knowledge.

It is said that the path to self-awareness is a solitary one. Stepping Off the Edge opens you to the possibility that it can be fun, challenging and rewarding.

Sandy Nathan & Bill Miller at the Gathering Book Signing

Sandy Nathan & Bill Miller at the Gathering Book Signing

WHAT DO THE CRITICS SAY?

“This is a dynamic book. It’s alive with Ms. Nathan’s passion, and her presence is in every line, teaching and learning with you, helping you when you stumble, because she’s stumbled too. It’s rich with energy and meaning.”
– Gerald DiPego, Screenwriter, Phenomenon

“Sandy’s book has got to be one of the most fun to read books about spirituality ever written. She takes the reader along on her adventures with a down to earth approach and style that keeps the reader in touch–with both reality and spirituality. Informative, entertaining, and enlightening.”
Natural Horse Magazine, Volume 8 Issue 5

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Numenon wins the 2009 Nautilus Silver Award––now it competes for the Gold!

Numenon, by Sandy Nathan, is a Nautilus Book Awards Silver Winner!

Numenon, by Sandy Nathan, is a Nautilus Book Awards Silver Winner!

By winning a Nautilus Silver Award with her book, Numenon,  author Sandy Nathan joins the ranks of  Deepak Chopra, M.D., Barbara Kingsolver, Thich Nnat Hanh, Jean Houston, PhD., Eckhart Tolle, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. All are Nautilus Award winners. “Joining the company of these people moves me to tears,” says Sandy.

As a Silver Award Winner, Numenon will pass to the highest level of judging for the Nautilus Awards, the Gold Award level. If Numenon wins at this level, it will be featured at the Book Expo America and win many other honors.

“As wonderful as it would be to win the Gold Award, what thrills me is what the Nautilus Awards are about,” says Sandy. “My writing and life are directed toward making this planet a better place. I feel like I’ve found a spiritual home with the Nautilus contest and the people behind it.”

The Nautilus Award was established to find and reward distinguished literary contributions to spiritual growth, conscious living, high-level wellness, green values, responsible leadership and positive social change as well as to the worlds of art, creativity and inspirational reading for children, teens and young adults.

The Nautilus Awards are dedicated to “changing the world one book at a time.”  Books are judged in a three-tier system using a carefully prepared list of notable characteristics. The judging process is laborious and long, carried out by three teams of highly qualified reviewers. They have successful careers in the book industry as well as the vision to pick out books that offer new options for a better world.  Each book is evaluated by at least two judges. Silver winners are selected from each category by the readers in Team #2, and these winning titles are then passed along to the third team where the Gold winners are chosen.  Two judges must agree on each Silver winner – and consensus is required for the Gold Winners.

Sandy Nathan, "one happy author!"

Sandy Nathan, "one happy author!"

“This blog is one way that I connect with my fellow writers and authors, as well as my readers,” says Sandy Nathan. “I have a request. I would appreciate your prayers, blessings, good wishes, positive thoughts, or whatever fits your personal beliefs for Numenon as it winds its way through the Nautilus judging process and the judging of the other contests in which it’s entered. It’s entered in four or five more. I believe in the power of prayer, and I always pray reciprocate. Actually, I just pray for everyone all the time. If you could cast a positive vibe in Numenon’s direction, I’d be very grateful.”

Please consult the Nautilus Book Awards web site for more information.

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Numenon Kindle Is .99 on Amazon!

The Kindle version of Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Mystery is available and priced at an unbelievable 99 cents!

Here’s a link to Numenon on the Amazon Kindle Store!

Am I crazy? Like a fox! When I last looked, Numenon was #8 in Religious Fiction (closing on The Shack), and #1 in Mysticism in two categories of Religion & Spirituality. JOIN THE STAMPEDE!

Buy the Kindle version of Numenon, and you can enter the world of Will Duane, the richest man on earth, and Grandfather, a great Native shaman, in less then a 60 seconds. Numenon won two national awards as an Advance Reading Copy. It’s entered in more contests. We’re waiting for results.

Here it is on my web site: Numenon on SandyNathan.com

Here it is as a print book on Amazon. Look at those Five Star Reviews.

Check out this video:

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Numenon A Tale of Mysticism & Money – A Video!

Here’s a video about Sandy Nathan’s new book, Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money. Click and be transported!

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Full Power Living with Sandy Nathan, hosted by Ilene Dillon MSW “The Emotional Pro.”

I discussed creativity and my novel Numenon with Ilene Dillon on February 12th. CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE SHOW .
At last, a video about Sandy Nathan’s new book, Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money. Click and be transported!

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I’M ON FULL POWER LIVING, THURSDAY FEBRUARY 12TH, 9AM PST

I’ll be discussing creativity and my novel Numenon with Ilene Dillon MSW. The Emotional Pro, Ilene is my favorite radio personality. CLICK HERE TO GO TO THE SHOW.  It’s live 9 to 10 AM tomorrow. Show will be archived on Ilene’s web site if you can’t make it.
An exciting video about Numenon. Click and be transported!

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NUMENON: A TALE OF MYSTICISM & MONEY A VIDEO!

At long last, a video flash of Numenon. What’s it all about?

NATIONAL AWARD WINNER: NUMENON won USA Book News' BEST BOOKS AWARD IN VISIONARY FICTION and THE INDIE EXCELLENCE AWARD for RELIGIOUS FICTION. "Five Stars! A fantasy set in the real world to draw readers in and never let them go, NUMENON is highly recommended to readers seeking modern fiction with fantastical elements." MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW NUMENON is available at sandynathan.com, on-line, & wherever books are sold. Get a free e-book by signing our mailing list: http://www.sandynathan.com/newsletter.htm

This is on animoto.com. The HTML is in there. If the link doesn't show up, CLICK HERE TO GO TO THE VIDEO.

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Self Publishers Clean Up Your Pages! Publish Books That Are as Well Produced as Books from the Majors!

Sandy Nathan, award winning author of NumenonSandy Nathan, before reading badly produced self pubbed book.

I’ve been reading self-published books lately, reviewing books for friends and on-line acquaintances. It’s moved me to write this MANIFESTO!

I ABSOLUTELY SUPPORT THE SELF-PUBLISHING, INDIE PRESS MOVEMENT. New technology, the drive to self expression,  and the difficulty of breaking into the traditional publishing industry have created the modern publishing scene. With print on demand digital presses, anyone can get published with a modest expenditure.

That’s the way I think things should be.  I want everyone’s creative urges to be expressed. Write those babies! Pump them words!

HOWEVER, after buying and reading several hundred dollars worth of self-published books, I’m on the warpath.

Self expression is one thing––but the minute someone slaps a cover on their ill-conceived mess and offers it for sale,  CONSUMERS’ RIGHTS and SELLERS’ RESPONSIBILITIES kick in.

IF I PAY $18.95 (OR $12.95, OR A LOUSY PENNY) FOR A BOOK, I EXPECT IT TO BE:

  • Proofread. Yes, get a professional to proofread your work before submitting it to your POD publisher. Not your dad, not your auntie Sue. Hire a real proofreader, and have it proofed again if you make a lot of changes after the first proofing.
  • Designed by a professional, or at least look like it was designed by a professional.
  •  Well-written in terms of construction and composition. The book should reflect the guidelines set forth in the Chicago Manual of Style. This means the way the pages are ordered, which side of the page stuff goes on, what the copyright page looks like, and thousands of other details should be correct, in addition to proper grammar and composition. Here’s the on-line version of the Chicago Manual.  You can buy it used on Amazon.
  • Well written in every other way: Study the craft of writing. Get in a writing group, get an editor, or go back to school and learn to write. Suck up your gut and take the feedback of those who know something about  writing. It takes years to write a polished manuscript and much more work to properly prepare it for publication. It is not enough that one of your professors said you might have a knack for creative writing and that you finished a book-length thing. Don’t put it through CreateSpace and offer it for sale, thinking you’ve written a book.
  • “Omit unnecessary words.” Improve your writing with those three simple words. The quote is from the Chicago Manual and Stephen King says it again in On Writing, one of my favorite writing guides.
  • If you do publish your masterpiece without doing any of the above, confine its distribution to your friends and family.
  • And if you do put the thing up for sale, don’t get your friends to give it ***** Five Star Reviews so that I end up buying it.
  • If you ask money for your work, make it worth what you ask.

If you don’t want to plow through the Chicago Manual, take any book by one of the major publishers and use it as a model for your book. (I’m using a softcover book in my example below. Hardback books are constructed a little differently.) Note basic facts about how a book is put together:

  • THE COVER: You should be able to read the title and the author’s name. Also the subtitle. If you want to sell the book in a bookstore, you should be able to read them at least 4′ away, some people say 6′ away.
  • THE SPINE: Should have the book’s title, author’s name, and imprint of your publisher. Don’t have a publisher? Create your own small press: Name it after your dog.
  • Open the cover. The half title page––that’s a page with ONLY the title of the book on it––is the first page you see. Either that or a page or more of testimonials and reviews. These begin recto, on the right side of the opened page (click to read about it on Wikipedia). You can have a few pages of testimonials, a map, info about the book that would have appeared on the hardbound flaps, things like that in the front matter–-but there’s always a HALF TITLE PAGE with the TITLE ONLY. It’s recto, on the right hand page, facing you as you look at the book.
  • The back of the half title page can have other works by the same author. It is verso (see Wikipedia again)  on the left hand page.
  • Then the TITLE PAGE appears. THE TITLE PAGE IS ALWAYS RECTO, right hand facing, looking at you when you open the book. Usually, designers lift the cover design onto the title page, copying fonts and motifs. The title page includes the title, subtitle, author, and the publisher’s name.
  • The COPYRIGHT PAGE IS ON THE BACK OF THE TITLE PAGE. It has the copyright information on it, the LCCN, ISBN, Library of Congress cataloging information or PCIP data blocks, SAN numbers, disclaimers, and other stuff. If you’re offering your book for sale, you should know what all this means.
  • Check the Chicago Manual or any book by the majors for the exact order of the front matter: the acknowledgments, dedication, prologue, TOC.  All of which are recto; they on the right hand side of the book, looking at you when you open it.
  • Keep looking through any book by the majors–look at the order of the front matter (the stuff before the main text) and the rear or back matter. Your book should be like Random House put it out even if you submit it to your POD publisher in Word.
  • If you follow these guidelines, the quality of your books should improve. If enough people follow these guidelines, the quality of self-published books  should improve overall. Literary agents and the rest of the publishing world won’t be so condescending about the poor quality of self-published books.

OK. I bought a real stinker. It was either write this post, explode, or send the book back to its author line-edited.  I am returning the book to Amazon.

All the best,

Sandy Nathan
Sandy Nathan, winner of seventeen national awards,
after reading poorly produced self-pubbed book. Made my hair turn gray.

Sandy’s  books are: (Click link for more information. All links below go to Kindle editions.)
The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy
Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money

Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could

Stepping Off the Edge: Learning & Living Spiritual Practice

Two sequels to The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy are in production with an early 2012 release date planned. If you liked  The Angel you’ll love Lady Grace and Sam & Emily.

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