Getting Self-Published is Actually Doable – A Guest Blogger’s Story

Compared to the way it used to be, self-publishing is easy. Photo credit

Compared to the way it used to be, self-publishing today is easy. Just imagine writing a whole book on this little gizmo!          Photo credit:

The story goes that Mark Twain bought one of the first typewriters ever made and hated it so much he traded it in for a buggy whip.

For those of you who think self-publishing is just too complicated to even consider — and are about to give up on it — hold it right there! Self-publishing gets easier every year and it has also become “cool,” so if you’ve got a book in you, or you have a tale or even a collection of tales to tell, or there’s a subject you know a little something about and you want to share it with others, then consider doing a book or e-book  via the two biggest and best, Amazon’s CreateSpace and/or LightningSource’s Ingram Spark. Besides. “Getting published is good for business — no matter what business you’re in.”

I’ve been giving workshops on the HOW TO of self-publishing for years, complete with a Power Point demonstration so you can SEE what self-publishing looks like. My next workshop (in Sherman Oaks, California) is coming up soon on Saturday October 17th, 2015 (see below for details). One of the people who took f my workshop a number of years ago and put what she learned to use is my guest blogger for this post — so let me introduce Catherine Auman, LMFT, author and publisher:

Becoming a Published Author with Sylvia Cary’s Help 


Catherine Auman, LMFT, author of  Shortcuts to Mindfulness: 100 Ways to Personal and Spiritual Growth

Little did I know when I attended Sylvia Cary’s self-publishing workshop that it would turn out to be a seminal day for my career and life. Sylvia’s calm demeanor and her enthusiasm made it all sound so easily doable, and while I wouldn’t say it’s been easy, I am now the author of a book that has sold over 500 copies, and a publisher with a small press helping other authors make their dreams come true.

My book, Shortcuts to Mindfulness: 100 Ways to Personal and Spiritual Growth, was rejected by two publishers, both of whom said that no one would be interested in a book of short essays. Of course, Chicken Soup for the Soul, one of the most successful books in history, is a collection of short essays, but I took no for an answer. To even try to get an agent for a non-fiction book requires writing a 40-page book proposal, and since writing is not easy for me in the first place, I decided I’d rather spend the time and effort working on my next project.

I had also recently attended a panel discussion on changes in the book publishing industry, in which I heard a speaker say that one’s chances of getting published as an unknown author by one of the Big Six (now Big Five) companies was equal odds to that of winning the lottery. The panelists also said that self-publishing has lost its poor reputation and is now the way to go, much like what has happened for musicians with the recording industry.

I set up my publishing company as Sylvia directed. This took a fair bit of commitment, as you have to decide on a name, get a DBA, open a separate checking account, and have a website made. After that, I had to find a book designer to do the layouts for print and e-book, design the front and back covers, and post to CreateSpace where it would be published-on-demand.

The mission statement that I wrote for my press is: “At Green Tara Press, we are dedicated to publishing works that promote compassion, healing and love, and awaken and inspire readers to enlightened action.”

We are now looking for authors whose work fits in with our mission to promote compassion and love in the world, so it could be any genre with this intention: self help, poetry, fiction, essays, biography, memoir, and nonfiction which helps people become more effective.

I learned all this publishing stuff the hard way, so it is my delight to take the guesswork out of it for authors who just want to see their books published. We don’t make any money from our authors; it’s a labor of love. Our authors only pay for the costs of the book designer who does the cover design and the layouts for print and e-book. Quality book designers who are easy to work with can be a challenge to find, and the one I chose for Green Tara Press had been a delight.

We help you set up your Createspace account where you can order print copies for yourself and your clients, or they can order themselves from Amazon. (It’s quite exciting when you first see your name and your book listed on Amazon!) You then are also able to receive royalties deposited right into your bank account. We also will have joint marketing options available, all optional. What you get is our experience and advice, a second opinion, use of our book designer, promotion on our website and Facebook page. We’d love for you to work with us. Check us out at © 2015 Catherine Auman

Mindfulness by Catherine Auman, published by her own publishing company;

Catherine Auman, LMFT is a licensed therapist with advanced training in both traditional and spiritual psychology with thirty years of successful professional experience helping thousands of clients. She has headed nationally-based psychiatric hospital programs as well as worked through alternative methodologies based on ancient traditions and wisdom teachings. Visit her online at

If Catherine’s blog inspires you to give it a go, then start by attending my next workshop on Saturday October 17th, 10 am – noon. Here are the details:


CreateSpace ( is Amazon’s publishing wing. Once you upload your formatted book and cover, your book goes worldwide. IngramSpark is LightningSource’s ( site for smaller publishers.

DATE Sat. Oct. 17th, 2015
TIME: 10 AM – Noon
PLACE: OfficeSlice Coworking, 15165 Ventura Blvd., #245, Sherman Oaks, CA 91403
FOOD: Snacks
COST: $60.00
REGISTER: (You may have to cut and paste this link): (

For more information, CONTACT:

 You’ll Learn…
  • What the self-publishing process looks like ON-SCREEN
  • The 7 Perks of Getting Published
  • All about formatting, fonts, trim size, imprints, covers, ISBNs, copyrights, E-books, and more
  • The differences between Amazon’s CreateSpace and LightningSource’s IngramSpark – pros, cons, costs, and why do BOTH!
  • How to market your newly published book: Top 15 ways to start.
  • You’ll leave feeling inspired and confident that you now have the skills to self-publish your book and get it up on, B&, and other online booksellers for sale. You might even make some money! Bring your questions.

Sylvia Cary, LMFT, is the author of The Therapist Writer and four other books. On October 15th she is to get the Irwin Award from the Book Publicists of Southern California for the category of “Best Niche Campaign.”

(c) 2015 Sylvia Cary

Field Trip with Nana to The Last Bookstore

The Last Bookstore. Supercool! Known as the largest (2 floors, vaulted ceiling) independent bookstore in the world. Breathtaking decor; many public events. 453 S.Spring, LA 90013. "As physical bookstores die out like dinosaurs from the meteoric impact of Amazon and e-books," the Last Bookstore may end up being just that. There's a back room with 100,000 books for $1 each!). Open daily. (The Last Book Store).

The Last Bookstore. Supercool!  Known as the largest (two floors, vaulted ceiling) independent bookstore in the world. Breathtaking decor; many public events, located in downtown Los Angeles at 453 S.Spring, LA 90013. As it says on their website, “As physical bookstores die out like dinosaurs from the meteoric impact of Amazon and E-books,” The Last Bookstore may end up being just that. There’s a back room with 100,000 books for $1 each! Open daily.  — Photos by Sylvia Cary

The Care and Reading of Little Book Buyers

My daughter and her husband have been reading to their two kids, Lily and Lyle, my grandchildren, since they were six months old, maybe younger. No surprise that they love books. Each has a bookcase jammed packed with them. So when I decided to take Lyle on a field trip with Nana to downtown LA to visit The Last Bookstore, I asked him to pick out 10 books he was no longer into because The Last Bookstore not only sells books, they buy them.

Lyle proudly shows receipt for selling three of his own books to The Last Bookstore -- and he then turned right around and bought $3 worth of new books!

Lyle proudly shows his receipt and $3 for selling 3 of his 10 books to The Last Bookstore (they are fussy about what they purchase). Lyle then turned right around and bought $3 worth of new books!

Once a bank, the Last Bookstore viewed from the second floor is truly awe-inspiring. A reader's paradise but perhaps a little depressing for writers -- with all these books, does the world need another?

Once a bank, The Last Bookstore, especially when viewed from the second floor, is truly awe-inspiring. It’s a reader’s paradise but perhaps it’s a little depressing for writers — with all those books, does the world really need another one?

Books are displayed in imaginative ways...

Books are displayed in imaginative ways…

Lyle has just walked through the Tunnel of Books

Lyle has just walked through the Tunnel of Books

If you want a RED book, they have red books. Ditto BLUE, GREEN, WHITE, YELLOW and BLACK.

If you want a RED book, they have red books. Ditto BLUE, GREEN, WHITE, YELLOW and BLACK.

You'll be inspired to pull out your typewriter and start your novel

You’ll be inspired to pull out your typewriter and start your novel…

Or sell a few books and replace them in here

Or sell a few books and replace them in here…

Dance on the Carpet of Pennies

Dance on the Carpet of Pennies

Stop in the yarn shop for a spot of color

Stop by the yarn shop for a spot of color

At the End of the Day…

And, finally, curl up in this chair and read one of your purchases. Obviously, a few others have done so before you!

And, finally, curl up in this chair and read one of your purchases. Obviously, a few others have done so before you!

Copyright (c) 2015 by Sylvia Cary, author of The Therapist Writer: Helping Mental Health Professionals Get Published (Timberlake Press)


STUFF by Sylvia Cary

This is what "stuff" looks like.     Photos: Sylvia Cary

This is what “stuff” looks like.   This happens to be mine all mine as I unpack from a recent move.                              Photos: Sylvia Cary

I love stuff. I love pretty stuff, practical stuff and decorative stuff.  I love stationary supplies, hardware store items, dishes, glasses, books, and containers of all kinds. I love cooking appliances even though I don’t like to cook — but how can anyone resist a brand new rice cooker for $4, even if you already have two others?

Where to Get Stuff

I don’t get my stuff at stores. I go to garage sales, Goodwill, Salvation Army, and the Discovery Shop (a chain of stores that raises money for breast cancer research), so at least my stuff is helping a good cause. I would never go to an actual store to buy some of the items I end up buying at Goodwill or garage sales. I do it “Forrest Gump” style – I drop in to Goodwill and it’s like a box of chocolates, “You never know what you’re going to get.” I’d sure like to take all my stuff with me when I leave this world, like those people who get buried with their sports cars. I’m going to be really upset if it turns out there’s no stuff in heaven. Hell? Hmm.

A Writer’s Stuff

My “writer” stuff is a story in itself. I have my laptop computer and the box it came in, which I’m keeping because it has information on it which I should probably read. I’m also keeping my very old desktop computer because what if there’s something on it I need? I have a bunch of removable hard drives, too, mostly back-ups of my old computer. I know I’ll never use them because they’re outdated. Newer desktops don’t even have slots for them. I have printers that don’t work — but they might if they were fixed.

And files – OMG – files! I have two 4-drawer file cabinets, a desk with three more file drawers, a single wood file cabinet that doubles as an end table, and I have a bunch of those files boxes with handles that you can carry around, plus two files on wheels that I can roll into another room. Worst of all are the wire baskets of paperwork “To File” and stacks of papers that haven’t yet made it to the “To File” basket. A perfect set-up for losing important documents.


And books, books, books! Many I’ve read. Many I’ve read and forgotten so I need to keep them to read again. Many of them I’ve read and have even taken notes  — but where are the notes?  The hardest thing for me to let go of as a writer is my research – boxes full of 3×5-inch cards and stacks of print-outs from the Internet along with typed notes on topics I’m writing about — or have written about. I can’t let go of them because maybe I’ll write about those topics again. And finally, drafts. I’m drowning in drafts – fourteen versions of a single screenplay. I’m hanging onto them all because each one is just slightly different from the earlier version.

Moving Your Stuff

Much as I love my stuff, it has its downside. When you have a lot of stuff it’s hard to move it from place to place. Recently I moved from a tiny one-bedroom apartment to a two-bedroom apartment to share with one of my adult daughters, herself a collector of stuff.

My Cat, Smokey, Makes His Way Through Box Canyon

My cat, Smokey, nervously makes his way through Box Canyon looking for the kitchen

Prior to the move I spent weeks packing boxes – books, papers, china and all the rest of it. When the movers arrived and saw all my boxes of books, one of them said, “Ever think about getting a Kindle?”

It took eleven hours for the movers to move my stuff to the new place, and cost a fortune. I probably could  have bought most of those books as Kindles for less than it cost me to box them and transport them.

Once I’d boxed up my apartment, I tackled my daughter’s one-bedroom apartment with her thirteen years’ worth of “stuff.” She has, for example, kept every greeting card ever given or sent to her, even if it’s just a gift tag — the “To”/“From” kind, as well as every stuffed animal since childhood, some falling apart at the touch, like pages of an old book, and VCR tapes by the hundreds, all numbered and alphabetized: “I’m OCD,” she explained to the movers.

Got Junk?

My Heroes of Got Junk. When They Drove Off With a Truckload of Stuff I Felt an Immediate Sense of Relief

My Heroes of Got Junk. When they drove off with the dirty white couch and a truckload of other stuff I felt relief

I called Got Junk, a service that removes the junk in your life, and we spent the next day putting signs “4 Got Junk” on things, starting with the dirty white couch and the four tall, swaying bookcases, and we took it from there. They came the following day and in only two hours they whisked away an entire truckload of stuff. As they drove off, I felt a huge sense of relief. A burden was lifted.

Once We Got Into the New Apartment, the Stack of Boxes 3 Deep Once Again Overwhelmed Me

Arrival: Once we got into the new apartment, the stack of boxes three-deep once again seemed overwhelming. We’d never get them unpacked!

Weeks later we’re still unpacking those boxes.  Now my back hurts.

The Solution to Overwhelm is Almost Always the Twelve-Step Method, "One box at a time!" Here are the opened boxes, piling up!

The Solution to Overwhelm is almost always the same — the Twelve-Step way — “One box at a time,” 5 or 10 boxes a day. Here are the opened boxes, piling up!

Lessons Learned about Stuff

Affording your stuff isn’t the issue. The “cost” of having too much stuff is high, no matter how much you paid for it.

Goodwill or Tiffany’s, it’s all the same. It’s stuff.

  1. Stuff gets in the way of writing;
  2. Stuff drains you of creative energy;
  3. Stuff is a ball and chain;
  4. Stuff means somebody else will have to clean up after you when you kick the bucket;
  5. Stuff is hard to move around, like those homeless people who’ve acquired too many shopping carts;
  6. Stuff needs too much personal attention – even if it’s only dusting it;
  7. Stuff just plain takes up too much time;

Last Saturday to test myself I “dropped in” to Goodwill and there was no stuff there I wanted. I left empty handed. It felt good.

Too bad you can’t put your whole life on a Kindle.

Almost There: One happy cat, Smokey, sitting on my lap with his tail up, is beginning to feel at home in our new digs, a Danish flag stuck in the bookcase to welcome my late husband's spirit.  Just a few more boxes to go, pictures up on the walls, books put away, photos put around, and we're home!

Almost There:  Smokey, now a happy cat, sits on my lap with his tail up to let the world know it’s beginning to feel like home again. There’s even a Danish flag to honor my late husband’s spirit stuck in the bookcase. Just a few more boxes to unpack, some pictures to put up on the walls, books and china to put away, framed photos to place around, and we’re done! And not an inch of space left for any new “stuff.”

Copyright 2015 by Sylvia Cary, LMFT, author of The Therapist Writer, Timberlake Press

Pocket Writing Guide: Brainstoming Book Angles

The right book

Getting the right “angle” or “hook” for your book makes all the difference. It determines whether or not the book “works” and is marketable. The answer is in there somewhere! You just have to find ways of getting to it. –photo by Morguefile

by Sylvia Cary, LMFT

Brainstorming (def): The uncensored offering of ideas or suggestions.

Angle (def):  To examine a problem from all angles; to give a specific bias, or point of view.

Writers say the hardest part of writing is knowing what to write. Once you nail down your topic, the next hardest part is zeroing in on your angle — i.e., figuring out what approach to take. For those of you who are mental health professionals, you may want to write a book about your area of expertise, such as addiction, post-traumatic stress, anger management, neuroscience, men’s issues, aging, eating disorders, abuse, bi-polar disorder, or depression.  I read somewhere that there are about 1000 specialties in the mental health field, so it’s not like the topics are going to give out!

However, since most of these topics have already been written about, some of them a lot, it’s not enough to simply write “about addiction” or “about abuse.” You’ll need to come up with a new twist/angle/hook in order to get the potential book buyer’s attention. For example, instead of writing “about depression” you might zero in on a niche aspect of it and write about depression in children.

Trend Tree
Think of the special topic that you want to write about as a branch on a tree, a rapidly growing, ever-evolving, living thing. What seems like a fresh, trendy, or “green” idea one year feels kind of old hat the next. The zeitgeist (or cultural atmosphere) just keeps on rolling along so you have to keep up by pushing out on your particular tree branch until you’ve come up with a fresh, new leafy take on your topic that makes others say, “Oh, I’d like to read that!”

Looking at a lovely scene often quites the mind and lets us push out further on our particular branch or niche. -- photo by Morguefile

Looking at a peaceful scene often quiets the mind and allows us to push out further on our particular branch or niche.  — photo by Morguefile

7 Ways to Brainstorm Angles
Writers use tricks to help them brainstorm their topics and tweak them into something fresh and appealing.

1. Cruise the Online Bookstores:  First, see what’s already out there. Search for your book’s topic online, go on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, look at the titles and subtitles, read the Tables of Contents when you can. The last time I searched for books on “alcoholism” (my specialty as a therapist), I found thousands of them! That’s pretty daunting and discouraging if alcoholism is what you really want to write about. Don’t fret. New books on alcoholism are still being published and are still selling, so the market obviously isn’t dead yet. Come up with a fresh angle, and you’ll have a chance. Look for “holes” in the topic that need filling; look for aspects that haven’t been explored yet. They are there.

2.  Cruise the Real-Life Bookstores: Though many bookstores have gone belly-up, others are still out there peddling books.  Go visit some. Looking through an existing book on your topic can be a great way to get ideas. Sometimes just a single paragraph from a book can trigger an idea in your head that you can actually turn into a quality book.

3.  Read / Talk About Your Subject:  Read everything you can on your pet topic. Ideas beget ideas. What’s hot? What’s not? What trends seems to be coming down the pike? Share your enthusiasm about your topic with others. Start discussions. Ask others for their opinions and views. Sometimes people ask a question that can lead you to a solution.  Ask, “If a book on X, Y or Z were to be published, would you want to read it?” And, “If not, why not?”

4.  Yellow Pad; Sharpened Pencil:  I must admit that my favorite brainstorming technique is writing things down on paper. I write down my topic and then I start scribbling down all the ideas that occur to me about that topic. It’s a free-association process that helps me decide if it’s a good idea or not. If I get lots of associations, it’s a good idea. If I get two and then run dry, it’s probably not, so I’m likely to drop it.  There are other times when I don’t know what my angle is until I’m already writing. I may think I’ve got a good angle or hook, and then a better one presents itself and I have to change horses in midstream.  Writing is easier if you have your angle in mind up front, but if a better one comes along, grab it and make the necessary adjustments in what you’ve already written.

5.  Shower Power:  There are writers (I don’t happen to be one of them) who get ideas while in motion (running, jogging, walking), or while being quiet (meditating, contemplating), or even while they are showering. My late husband, a computer programmer, got solutions to programming problems in the shower when the hot water hit the back of his neck. Other folks say they can “instruct” their brains to give them answers in dreams: “I want to write about Freud but I need a Fresh angle.”  So, whether it’s staring into space, meditating, walking, showering — or sleeping — the answers can obviously pop into your head at the most unexpected times.

6.  Professional vs Personal Perspective:  No matter what subject you know enough about to write a book, it doesn’t always have to be from the point of view of an expert or scholar. Maybe the best angle for you is the personal,  writing a memoir or taking the narrative non-fiction approach where there’s dialogue in the book so it reads more like a novel. Many therapists are “wounded healers,” people who have become professionals and have an area of expertise as the result of some personal or family experience. Numerous compelling and important books are by authors who have had personal experiences with addiction, child abuse, bipolar disorder, and so on.

7. The “10 Things” Angle: Think about your topic and ask yourself, “What are the top 10 things I’d like the world to know about this subject? What hasn’t been said yet? What’s missing?”  For example, “10 Things Your Clients Should Know About Obsessive Compulsive Disorder;” “10 Ways to Help People with Phobias” (or 7 Things or 15 Things); “10 Symptoms of Sex Addiction;” or “10 Misconceptions about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.”  Your list of 10 can grow into a unique and solid book. There can be an Introduction, then a chapter on each of the 10 things you came up with — and then a Conclusion.

So count to ten, and you’ve got yourself a book!

You can rest your mind anywhere.

You can rest your mind anywhere.

There are many other ways to brainstorm angles and hooks. Not surprisingly, there are even books on the subject of how to help your brain trigger an “Aha!” which gives you the angle you were looking for. Once you get that angle and write that book, there are people out there who will want to read it.

Do animals think -- do you think? photo credit - Morguefile

Do you think animals think?
photo credit – Morguefile

Copyright 2015 by Sylvia Cary, LMFT –  The Therapist Writer

“What Do You Mean You Don’t Want to Write a Book?”

Rick (Richard A.) Rofman’s declaration that he didn’t want to write a book took me aback.  He’s a regular at the monthly drop-in writers group that I run at Crown Books in Woodland Hills, California. It’s a satellite group sponsored by Independent Writers of Southern California ( Dismayed, I asked, “Rick, whatever do you mean you don’t want to write a book? Why not?”

A Career in Writing “Letters to the Editor”

He’d thrown me. But his comment made me think. Maybe I had been beating the drum for “How to Get Self-Published” a little too strongly in all my various writings, teachings, talks, presentations, and workshops. I’d almost forgotten that you can be a writer without getting a book published as your goal. Ever since the start of the self-publishing craze , I’ve been on the “get published” band-wagon and have talked about little else. “Rick, you know everybody’s got a book inside of them screaming to get out and that it’s only life that gets in the way. Even Dan Poynter says so. Isn’t that right, Rick?” Rick didn’t think so.

Rick Rofman, who teaches composition part-time at a number of LA area colleges, is seen here at a writers drop-in meeting at Crown Books in Woodland Hills, reading one of his over 475  “Letters to the Editor,” a form of writing that has turned out to be his specialty: “Because of these letters,” he states, “I have had contact with CBS’s Frank Stanton, journalist Connie Chung, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Disney’s Michael Eisner, Ronald Reagan, Joe Biden, Bobby Kennedy, and more — but that doesn’t make my life a book!”  When some of us in the writing group suggested that Rick put together a book (there I go again!) of his Letters to the Editors over the past few decades, which would allow him to make comments about the history going on at the time, he was once again adamant: “I don’t want to write a book.”   Photo: Sylvia Cary

The Right Creds

Rick Rofman certainly has the right creds to author a book, a Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Pennsylvania, a Master’s Degree in English Communication from Syracuse University, and a member of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. He has taught English in a bunch of places, and, back in the day, worked for NBC News, Westinghouse Broadcasting, and Universal — but still the idea of writing a book is painful for him,  especially a self-published book. “I just finished trying to read book called ‘How to Publish Your Own eBook,’ and it was like being in the 7th Circle of HELL for all eternity. You need an Engineering degree just to understand the terminology. I’m 71 years old and this is just NOT for me. If Random House or Penguin or Bantam Doubleday Dell were to approach me and assign an editor to me, and assume all costs of publication, that might be a different story. But to devote three or four years of my final years to self-publishing, buy a computer, go through the agonizing process of learning a machine that eludes me–when I can’t even work a mouse–then do book signings, and ruin my health, all for twenty-five cents in ebook royalties, just makes no sense. Instead, I can edit other people’s manuscripts, re-read Shakespeare and Greek tragedies, bone up on my French and Russian, and get involved in community and cultural activities. I’m now reading Sandberg’s Life of Lincoln.”

It's said that Mark Trwin bought a new-fangled typetwriter and hated it so much ihe traded it for a buggy whip. Rick Rofman, in a similar frame of mind, bought a new-fangled iPad and took it right back.   Photo: Morgurfile

It is said that Mark Twain once bought a typewriter and hated it so much he traded it for a buggy whip. Rick Rofman, in a similar frame of mind, says he bought a iPad and took it right back.   Photo: Morgurfile

And What Kind of a Writer Do You Want to Be?

In a letter to me (what else!), hand-written (not on the computer since he doesn’t own one), Rick continued his stand against publishing a book: “There are many ways to be a writer without writing a book.” To make his point, he enclosed a brochure he’d picked up from Mount St. Mary’s College in Los Angeles about their Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Program. “They had writing careers listed I’d never even thought of,” Rick said. Among the career paths listed for MFA graduates are: Teaching composition and creative writing at the college level, publishing (at least that’s mentioned! – SC), copywriting, copyediting, manuscript editing, marketing, greeting card author, comic book writing, novelist, creativity coach, writing coach, advertising, songwriter (lyric), freelance short fiction writer, creative writing instructor (give your own workshops), legacy writer (write people’s bios and family histories), ghostwriter, travel writer, freelance essayist/article writer, columnist, video game writer, personal poet for others, playwright, blogger, creative writing consultant, screenwriting.

And, of course, let’s add to the list Rick Rofman’s own specialty,  writing Letters to the Editor.

It works for him. It might work for you.

(c) Sylvia Cary, 2014

Happy Birthday Dear Dan Poynter

"Hot" Publishing Panel sponsored by Publicity Association of Los Angeles (PALA). Left to right, Dan Poynter, "publishing guru; __, Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author, and Robin Quinn, book-doctor and moderator for the evening.

THE BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING panel on Sept. 17, 2014, at the Culver City Veterans Memorial Auditorium, sponsored by the Publishers Association of Los Angeles (PALA). Panelists (left to right): DAN POYNTER, self-publishing pioneer and author of The Self-Publishing Manual (and dozens of other books); CONSTANCE ANDERSON, Director of Pacific Coast Regional, a small business development center (with classes on such things as how to write business plans); CAROLYN HOWARD JOHNSON, author of the HowToDoItFrugally series of books to help authors; and Moderator, ROBIN QUINN, book-editor and coach. (NOTE: This blog post will focus just on what Dan Poynter said. After all, it was his birthday!     — photo: Sylvia Cary

“Global Dan”

It may not surprise you to learn that on September 17th, 2014, Dan Poynter, self-publishing movement pioneer and author, spent his 76th birthday in a room full of writers and wanna-be writers talking about–guess what?–publishing. “I haven’t retired,” he said. “I’ve never met an author who was retired.”

After we all sang “Happy Birthday Dear Dan” and shared some homemade fudge, we quieted down and leaned forward so as not to miss a single word of what this man had to say. We all know that Dan Poynter knows stuff.  When a man travels 6000 miles a week to different places around the globe in order to share with people about publishing, and then he listens to what they say back, he obviously has his ear to the ground and it’s smart to pay attention.

Learn to Love Amazon was Poynter's message for the evening. "There's a book published every five minutes, which is 3500 a day, 3.4 million a year and most are on Amazon. So be there, too!

Learn to Love Amazon was Poynter’s message for the evening. “There’s a book published every five minutes, mostly on Amazon. So be there, too!

“Amazon is Your Friend”

Dan Poynter usually has a specific theme when he talks, and on this particular night his topic was, the world’s largest online book-seller. He addressed himself to the fact that Amazon is constantly being maligned by segments of the book-industry world, especially bookstores and publishers, which Poynter seems to find irritating.  “Publishing hasn’t changed the way they do business since 1947, so they should stop complaining and start marketing.” He points out that readers are now reading books on their iPhones, yet back before Border’s went belly-up, one brick and mortar store in California was paying$32,000-a-month rent. “You have to sell a lot of books to pay that.” Dan said. “Don’t expect the book business to change anytime soon,” he added. “It’s really too late for most of them to catch up.”

While traditional publishing was taking pot-shots at self-publishing and Amazon, Amazon started giving customers what they actually want. (What a concept!) He recommends a book called The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone (2014) because it tells you all about what Amazon can do for you, the self-published author. (Or how you can buy a toaster).

Product Details

“Amazon Does More for Authors”

Poynter listed just some of the things that Amazon does for authors:

  •  Amazon leveled the playing field so everybody can play. Anybody can publish their book for FREE.
  • Amazon makes it easy for self-publishers to market their books, including their own “page” where they can put photos, videos, links to blogs, and more.
  • Amazon lets you have real people review your book and tell you want readers really want and don’t want. (And buyers actually read these reviews before buying).
  • Since bloggers are the new book reviewers, Google for bloggers in your area to write reviews. Type in “your subject + book bloggers.”

Poynter’s Conclusions

  • Thanks to Amazon, you can now be in charge of your writing career
  • Learn the rules
  • Don’t put out shoddy work –it hurts all self-published authors
  • Support our industry–buy books as gifts
  • Amazon is the only dog in the fight
  • Amazon is a fact of life
  • Keep buying Amazon stock!

Dan Poynter has three free newsletter you can sign up for — one on publishing, one of marketing, and one on speaking. Go to and sign up on the top left side of the front page.

The Joy of Swimming Upstream

This sign in the window caught my eye, so I went inside...

This sign in the window caught my eye, so I went inside…

I began writing this blog three years ago on the 4th of July, 2011. My first post was called “Celebrating Writer Independence.”  Basically, that has been the theme ever since. My husband was still alive then and on the big night of July 4th, he stood behind me as I sat at my computer, his hands supportively on my shoulders, and with the fireworks literally going off outside, he asked, “Well, are you ready?” “I’m ready,” I said and with my heart pounding as I clicked the “Publish” button — and my blog was born!

“I’m a blogger!” I shouted. It was exciting!

What a country!

I’ve been fully immersed in “indie” ever since. I became a publishing company; I “indie” published my own book, The Therapist Writer, as well as the books of two other authors, and I’m about to publish two more. I’ve been reading about “indie,” talking “indie,” teaching “indie,” and breathing “indie” ever since.  I run a writer’s group and all we do is talk about indie publishing and mourn the closing of bookstores all around us. We meet at CROWN Books in Woodland Hills, California, and it’s our third bookstore.  The others we once met at have blown away.

So, imagine my delight one day as I was walking along Sherman Way in nearby Canoga Park and glanced into a store window — and found myself eye-level with the above sign: “I Refuse to Participate in a Recession.” It was then that I realized that I was looking into a bookstore. Not an old dusty bookstore that was on the verge of going the way of the others, but a new-ish looking bookstore, neat and tidy and bright blue with two cozy arm chairs right up front.  And I could see a man behind a counter — reading a book.

Next Chapter Books in Canoga Park, California

Next Chapter Books in Canoga Park, California

“This I gotta see,” I said to myself, and I marched in.  I just had to find out the story behind that sign.

Boyd T. Davis, the very independent owner of Next Chapter Books in Canoga Park, California

Boyd T. Davis, the very independent owner of Next Chapter Books. He sells “Quality Used Books” — mystery, fiction, music, photography, children’s books, theater, Vietnam, the Civil War, and his favorites, military and aviation.

Here’s the Story

After thirty-eight years in the corporate world, Boyd Davis told me, “I realized I was in a financial position to do what I wanted, so I opened a bookshop in Woodland Hills. Then I needed more space so I moved here.”  That’s it. That’s the story. While other men his age in a similar financial position may be out there golfing, traveling, or going on cruises, Davis is in his shop, reading.

“How do you start a bookshop?” I asked.  I’d never really thought about it before. After all, if you’re a Barnes & Noble or Costco they probably send you books from a distributor, but how do you start off when you’re on your own?

“At first I contributed my own personal collection of books, and then I bought some from library sales, and I also had book scouts hunting for books. Then people started bringing in books.” While Davis doesn’t ordinarily take books on consignment, he is open to talking to local authors about carrying their books on a case-by-case basis. (Crown Books in Woodland Hills also takes kindly to local authors who may display their books and set their own prices.)

You're looking at somewhere between 25,000 and 40,000 books: "I never actually individually counted them," Boyd said.

Boyd Davis estimates that he has somewhere between 25,000 and 40,000 books: “I never actually set out to individually count them.”

A section of the children's section

(Above) A section of the children’s section.

And his favorite section, military and aviation

The owner’s favorite section — military and aviation

What’s the “Next Chapter” in Publishing?

It’s hard to say what’s on the horizon in the publishing industry. Will more publishers tank? Will “indie” publishing fill the gap? Will more bookstores bite the dust? Are we all swimming upstream? Possibly, but those of us who are “into indie” don’t care. Being in charge of the game is what’s fun!

In fact, the day before the July 4th holiday I drove past Next Chapter Books and glanced inside. Boyd Davis was in one of the big, cozy armchairs — reading.

(Next Chapter Books is located at 21616 Sherman Way, Canoga Park, CA 91303. The website is Phone: (818) 704-5864;

(c) 2014 Sylvia Cary, LMFT

Photography for Writing

All Ye Photographers Who Also Write, Enter Here

All Ye Writers, Enter Here — and Learn How to Take Good Pictures!                                      –Photo credit Sylvia Cary

If you’re a writer, you’d better start  1) learning how to take good pictures, or, 2) learning where you can get good pictures for free — because you’re going to be needing them.

If a picture is worth 1000 words, then I’m out of a job —  I’m a writer.  But as luck would have it, I also like taking pictures. That’s a good thing because today the Internet (which is now where most of us writers hang out) is all about photos and videos. Consider Instagram. Pinterest. Twitter. YouTube. Consider 152 million blogs. Consider 1.11 billion Facebook users. And they all upload photos. Millions and millions of photos. Every single day.  Just try Googling for “photo apps” or “photo enhancements” and it will be clear to you immediately: Photography is hot! And, of course, the more photographs there are, the more photo-related business spring up, from photo organizing to photo storage to professional speakers who give talks on photos.


I’ve loved photography since I was a little kid.  Beautiful photography makes my heart swell. I’d rather go to a photo exhibit than a painting exhibit. In grade school and high school, I usually ended up being the unofficial class photographer, and on paying jobs in adulthood, I often ended up being the newsletter editor/picture taker.  Ditto when I became a psychotherapist and joined a local chapter of a mental health professional association: Newsletter editor and picture-taker.

AWE -- This is one of my favorite photos of my granddaughter. It moves me.

AWE — This is one of my favorite photos of my granddaughter. It moves me beyond 1000 words..

I’ve always had some kind of camera handy, from my Kodak Brownie, to a second hand double-reflex (which I wish I’d kept — it might be worth something on Ebay!), to a string of ordinary picture-snappers, to a series of progressively improved Polaroids (black & white gooey to color non-gooey), to throwaway cameras from the drugstore, to a heavy Nikon with a motor drive (when I was actually working in a photo studio), to a couple of Canon Elphs (increasingly small and light), to regular cell phones with cameras (I never used the cameras), to my current iPhone 5 (which I use as a camera every day — more than I use it to talk on the phone.)

Jeff Bezos: “A Picture a Day”

About thirteen years ago I watched a TV interview with Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos. During the interview he mentioned taking a picture a day.  I had one of those Eureka moments. I loved that idea.  So much so, in fact, that I decided to do the same thing.  It was a way to keep track of how I was spending my life. I did this “picture a day” thing faithfully for about eight years, printing out the pictures on my little photo printer, and putting them in albums marked “2003, 2004, 2005…” until about 2010 when the style of the particular photo albums I’d been using became unavailable, and that was enough to throw me off-track. Another reason was too much repetition. My life was probably not as exciting as  Jeff Bezos’ — meaning I didn’t have different things to take pictures of every day. After all, how many times could I take a picture of my manicurist, or my cat, or my computer. So I gave up on “a picture a day.” But I didn’t give up on photography. I’m into it more than ever. That’s why I attend events like the Big Photo Show.

Well, this hasn't changed! Men love taking pictures of pretty girls!

One thing that hasn’t changed in the world of photography is the fact that men still love taking pictures of pretty women!  (I don’t know what was going on with the blond women in the blue sparkly thing, leaning over. A contact lens problem?). This was at the LA Convention Center May 17th-18th.     Photo credit: Sylvia Cary

There were also men playing with a drone

While some men were taking pictures of pretty women, other men were having a great time playing with a drone. I started taking pictures of them — when suddenly the drone was right in my face…

Yikes, my first face-to-face drone sighting! This is what you don't want to see outside your window. This isn't the kind of photography I'm talking about here!

Yikes!  My first face-to-face confrontation with a DRONE! This is probably NOT what you want to see hovering outside your bedroom window.

“256 Shades of Gray”

One speaker at the Big Photo Show, Mark Camon, a longtime photography instructor, used the above phrase to make a point:  ” Don’t forget about shooting in black and white.”  I agree.  There are some things that are just made for black and white. Ansel Adams in color? I don’t think so.

When you shoot in black and white, you have to see and think differently. -- photo credit Sylvia Cary

When you shoot in black and white, you have to see and think differently. — photo credit Sylvia Cary

One fun thing about the iPhone is that you can switch from color to black and white just by sliding an icon. Back in the old days, I’d have to carry two cameras — color film in one, black and white in the other.  How things have changed.

Hints, Tips and Apps FYI

photo apps — On your own, you can check out all those thousands of photo apps I mentioned above just by going online and Googling for them. But here are a few things I heard recommended by speakers at the Big Photo Show and by a member of the Association of Personal Photo Organizers, Nancy McFarland, an expert I heard speak two days after the Big Photo Show. — a thumb drive that picks up the photos off your computer, as many as 4000 of them if you are using the smaller thumb drive, but it does not pick up duplicates, which is great. If you need a second thumb drive, it takes up where the first one left off. $30 on up. (I just ordered one because I’m going crazy with all the photo duplicates on my computer). — permanent photo storage in the “cloud.” You get your own personalized web address (ex: $6.95 a month for 36 months or $250 for life. – well-established storage and sharing site for photos and documents. – a hand-held scanner for scanning photo prints in place without removing them from the albums. You can also scan larger prints by doing sections at a time and the program “stitches” the photos together into one. Cost: about $150.00  – one of many such photo sites. You can upload groups of photos and have them made into books, small to large. Other sites (some more expensive) include, and – create your own “videos” from still photos, or use real videos – free up to 30-seconds; annual fee of about $30 if you want longer videos. Comes with various design styles and public domain music. – beautiful photos for free to use for blogs, book covers, websites, etc. — photos for blogs, covers, etc., but they charge a fee so you need to be careful and check out the details of each choice. Many photos are really cheap — just a few dollars. – a photo app that adds textures and moods to your photos. (See below)

Compare this with the same picture above, except this one uses an app called Mextures. Pretty cool, huh?

Compare this version of the photo with original above. To create this version, I used a photo app called Pretty cool, huh?

(c) 2014  Sylvia Cary

Author of “The Therapist Writer: Helping Mental Health Professionals Get Published.”


Literary Agents: Rules of Engagement Still Basically the Same

IWOSC (Independent Writers of Southern California) Annual Agents Panel for 2014 (l to r) Telly Davidson, Moderator; Eddie Pietzak, Renaissance Management; Dana Newman, Dana Newman Literary; BJ Robbins, BJ Robbins Literary Agency; Greg Gertmenian, Abbot Entertainment. Standing: (on left) Gary Young, Director of Professional Development, and (on right) IWOSC's President, Flo Selfman

IWOSC (Independent Writers of Southern California) Annual Agents Panel for 2014 (left to right) Telly Davidson, Moderator; Eddie Pietzak, Renaissance Management; Dana Newman, Dana Newman Literary; BJ Robbins, BJ Robbins Literary Agency; Greg Gertmenian, Abbot Entertainment. Standing in back: (on left) Gary Young, IWOSC’s Director of Professional Development; (on right) IWOSC’s President, Flo Selfman. Photo: Sylvia Cary

Once a year, I attend the Agents Panel presented by IWOSC (Independent Writers of Southern California) in order to get a refresher course in what’s going on in that “other” world known as Traditional Publishing. I’ve spend so many years now as an editor and book doctor helping authors (especially therapists) get self-published that I almost forget that traditional publishing still exists, that there is still a world out there where terms such as “book proposals,” “query letters,” and “rejection letters” are used on a daily basis. I speak “indie publishing” now which utilizes an entirely different vocabulary.

However, since I have a couple of author clients who still hope to be traditionally published, even though they know their chances are slim, I want to help them with their dream as best I can, so I need to keep up.

Every year, the huge room for the Agents Panel is always energy-filled with book people buzzing about publishing. Much as I love sitting at my computer, this event is always a high for me.

Every year, the room for the Agents Panel fills up with book people buzzing about publishing. Just being there is a high for me. — Photo: Sylvia Cary

Rules of Engagement Still the Same

While traditional publishing has gone through some huge and hurtful changes over the last decade and while self-publishing had become “hot,” what’s clear from panel discussions like this one is that traditional publishing is still alive and kicking, even though wounded, and there are still authors who want to go the traditional publishing route (look at the crowd!) and they want to know the best way to approach literary agents who are the gate-keepers to the publishing houses they want to approach.

As the moderator Telly Davidson went up and down the line of agents and asked them questions about how authors can best approach them, it turns out the rules of engagement are basically the same as they’ve always been. But they are worth repeating.

Keeping in mind that there are probably “two schools of thought” on every issue, here’s a brief run-down of the basic hints, tips, do’s/don’ts and advice from the IWOSC Agents Panel of 2014:

  • authors should do their homework!
  • authors should research the agent and agency they plan to approach. (Check websites, directories, etc.)
  • authors should know that different agents have different tastes and want different things (e.g., panelists Dana Newman and BJ Robbins both like narrative non-fiction)
  • pet peeve: not getting the appropriate material from authors
  • pet peeve: authors who spell the agent’s name incorrectly
  • every query letters should show the author’s “voice”
  • authors should make it clear in a query what they are trying to say
  • if an agent asks for 50 pages don’t send 100 pages
  • hook readers with a  “grabber.”
  • “I want to be sucked in,” one agent said.
  • in fiction, “I want a strong character with a good arc and a mission.”
  • if the author is asked to send a book proposal, “write good chapter summaries”
  • “a long synopsis of a book I haven’t read is a killer and a bore”
  • go easy on Prologues or Introductions: “People skip them.” (However, some say a prologue works well for an E-Book or when using Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature)
  • if accepted by an agent, ask questions: “What’s your strategy going to be?”
  • most agents prefer emailed queries and submissions — but check
  • always check agent’s website for submission guidelines first
  • about memoirs: “It can’t just be you had an interesting life; it has to be more than that. You have to have some kind of connection to the rest of the world so you touch several audiences.”
  • If an agent says, “It’s too small,” it means the book doesn’t have a large enough audience
  • agents want to see that the author has a built-in platform (audience)
  • agents are busy and it might take anywhere from one hour to six months to get back to the author
  • marketing is daunting and today’s it’s up to the author!

“Secret Password”

One big “perk” of going to these writer events in person is that often the panelists and speakers give attendees their email address and tell them what to write in the subject line which lets the agent know you are special because you were there in the room when they spoke. That means they’ll read your query before queries from “those other writers” who weren’t there in the room.

So what’s the secret password to put in the subject line? That’s for me to know and you to find out — when you go to IWOSC’s Agents Panel next year.

(c) 2014  Sylvia Cary, LMFT

10 Things Therapist Writers Worry About

Publishing a book can be scary. But don't let your fear keep you out of the game. Forewarned is forearmed.  Avoid these 5 mistakes can keep you safe(r).  -- photo by Morguefile

Publishing a book can be scary. But don’t let your fear keep you out of the game. Forewarned is forearmed. Here are ten things therapist writers worry about and what to do about them.                    — photo by Morguefile

Loose lips sink ships.  — World War II poster

All writers, not just therapist writers, should pay attention to the legal side of publishing, and concern themselves with the possible consequences of what they say in print. Blabbing off and not heeding the rules can get anybody in trouble. No writer benefits from getting sued. That’s definitely not a perk.

Writers who also happen to be licensed mental health professionals and write about their work with clients have to be particularly vigilant because they are bound by a number of legal and ethical restrictions (such as maintaining patient confidentiality) which can inhibit and impact what they say.

Now, I don’t know if it’s just that therapist writers are worry warts, but when it comes to writing a book, here are 10 things therapists seem to worry about, have the most questions about , and need the most help solving:

Help is on the way.

Help is on the way.  Photo credit: Morguefile

1. Should I copyright my book idea?  It’s mostly new writers who worry that somebody is going to steal their book idea. News flash! You can’t copyright an idea, even a good one. You can only copyright the execution of an idea, i.e., how that idea is expressed in writing. The minute you put it down, you are protected. You don’t even have to officially register a copyright, but it’s still wise to do so just in case you get involved in a legal case. Then, you’ll have an official copyright date on file. Go to, read the instructions, and email a digital book file and $35 to get your “placeholder” copyright (while you are finishing the book). When your book is published and available for sale, go to again, follow the instructions, fill out two copies of a form, and then mail the two copies of the form, a check ($65.00 as of this writing), and two copies of your book to the Library of Congress, Copyright Office, Document Recordation Section, 101 Independence Ave SE, Washington, D.C. 20559-6000. (Always double-check the website for any new information and instructions). One copy of the book goes to the Library of Congress. (Yes, you can go there and check out your own book!); the other copy gets stored somewhere.

Don't worry if there are other books on your topic. Tweak your book into something new and fresh.

Don’t worry if there are other books on your topic. Tweak your book idea into something new and fresh.        Photo credit: Morguefile

2. What if my book idea is already taken? So what? Unless your topic is unique, there are probably hundreds of books on your subject already in print. Search Amazon. You’ll be astounded at how many authors have beat you to the punch. But that doesn’t matter. Your challenge will be to tweak your idea so it’s “better and different” than the rest. If you want to write “about alcoholism,” and you note that thousands of others have already done so, then tweak it. Write about “high IQ alcoholics” instead. That will be your niche. That will make most of the competition go away and make your book stand out. Next, look only at the books in your niche that were published in the last five years. Read the customer book reviews. Read the “Look Inside” feature. How do competing books handle the topic? What’s missing? Note the Tables of Contents. You’ll learn what to focus on, what to add, what to leave out, and you’ll get ideas about how to market your book – the hardest part.

3. What if my book title is already taken?  Same answer as #1 above. You can’t copyright a title. For example, there are many books called “The Gift.” Some are differentiated by their subtitles. There’s was also a movie called “The Gift” and a TV show called “The Gift.” You can still call your book “The Gift” if you want to, but why would you? Don’t you want it to stand out? The only titles and words you can’t use are trademarked — like Hell’s Angels, Hello Kitty or Harry Potter.

4. Can I write about my patients? Yes, you can write about your patients, but you know the drill. As mental health professionals, we are legally bound to protect their identities. This means you have to learn the “art of disguise” to the point where friends, family and even the patient themselves won’t be able to tell who you are writing about. This actually shouldn’t cramp your style too much because the details of a patient’s life are rarely critical to the story you are trying to tell, or the message you are trying to convey. Of course, you can side-step this by getting signed releases from the patient and perhaps recognizable others in the story, but that’s not always foolproof. The other way is to change everything — dates, ages, places, details about looks, jobs, family members, even therapy issues (if uncommon enough to be recognized). It’s the core of what you are writing that’s important. Focus on that.

When you're writing about friends and family, be kind.

When you’re writing about friends and family, be kind. Photo credit: Morguefile

5. Can I write about friends and family? Authors rarely get sued for saying something nice about somebody. It’s when you get critical or expose gossip and hurt someone’s reputation in the world that makes people cranky – or litigious. In my first book I said that my sister, during her high school years, looked “scruffy.” I didn’t think that was such a big deal, but she was hurt. And I learned something. It wasn’t necessary for the sake of my story to use a critical term. Did you ever see the movie “Tea & Sympathy?” It’s about a male student at a boarding school who has an affair with the head master’s wife. When the boy leaves the school, the wife tells him, “When you talk about this – and you will – be kind.”  So unless you are a journalist and writing a killer exposé about, say, the mistreatment of the elderly in a nursing home (and your facts better be right!), then, as a general rule, “be kind.”

Saying unkind things in your writing not only hurts people but makes them cranky.

Saying unkind things in your writing not only hurts         people but makes them cranky.                                          Photo credit: Morguefile

6. Can I quote from other experts in my field? Being able to quote from thought leaders in our area of expertise is critical. How could we progress without referring to those who have gone before us? The tradition of “Fair Use” allows authors to quote other people – up to a point. The law here is “fuzzy “and vague. It all depends on what’s being quoted. You may have heard that you can “quote up to 50 words,” but that’s a myth. Perhaps you can quote 50 words from a scientific document, but you probably can’t quote even five words from a song or poem. According to Jonathan Kirsch, a Los Angeles based attorney specializing in intellectual property and publishing law, when it comes to substantial quotes you need to get “permission” (see below). “If you rely on ‘Fair Use,’” Kirsch added during a talk for writers I attended (I’m not an attorney myself so I go hear them speak), “you are taking a risk.” Being published traditionally doesn’t protect you either. “The publisher wants the author on the hook, as in, ‘Author shall indemnify, and hold harmless, the publisher.’” In other words, guess who is considered the “deep pocket” in this scenario? YOU are! One workaround is paraphrasing and giving credit to the original source, but you have to be careful that you don’t get accused of misrepresenting what the original author said. Another “quoting” issue I run into as an editor is over-quoting. Mental health professionals, especially when they are new to book writing, are insecure and tend to fall back on quoting others instead of putting their own opinions out front. I have to scold them: “Don’t keep quoting other people. You are the expert here because this is your book, so quote yourself!”

7. Can I write about myself?  Some mental health professionals are skittish when it comes to writing about themselves. It makes them feel exposed and vulnerable. “What will my patients think?” I know traditionally-trained “blank screen” therapists who wouldn’t dream of disclosing personal information to patients, including the fact that they write. Sadly, it keeps many from writing at all. On the other hand, I know therapists who blog, share opinions, and have Facebook pages filled with family photos and events. Often these therapists who are at ease with self-disclosure are in recovery from the same conditions they are treating their patients for — addiction, over-eating, bi-polar disorder, divorce. They experience sharing and writing as helpful to their clients and vice-versa.

8. Can I use a painting or photograph for my book cover?  If you painted it or snapped it yourself, or hired a graphic artist for the job, yes, if you think it would make a good book cover. But if it’s something from the Internet, probably not, unless you’ve bought it and have the rights. Or it’s from a free photo site, such as Paintings and photos, like books, poems, and song lyrics, are often under copyright protection — unless they have fallen into the public domain (meaning the copyright has expired). Written works fall into the public domain 70 years after the death of the author. This means thousands of books are up for grabs every year. That’s why anybody can make a movie of Hamlet or reprint Sense and Sensibility through their indie publishing company. You don’t need to get permission from Shakespeare or Jane Austen.

As they say, "It's easier to ask for permission than ask for forgiveness." Photo credit: Morguefile

As they say, “It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.”                           –Photo credit: Morguefile

9. How do I get permission to use quotes in my book?  You’ve probably heard this cute little line: “It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.” Unfortunately, when quotes don’t fall under the “Fair Use” umbrella, or are not in the public domain, or are not properly paraphrased with credit to the original author, then you’ll have to get permission. How do you do this? You ask. The hard part is finding out who to ask. Check to see who has the copyright. (By the way, this information is sometimes dated or wrong.) Track down the author if he or she is still alive. Write a letter to the author via The Writer’s Guild because they’ll sometimes forward a letter on to authors. Contract the publisher who may do the same. Check Facebook even if the author is dead. When you do find somebody who can say yes — they may say no. I wanted to use a poem in one of my books, but the poet told me she still gets paid speaking gigs based on that poem, so she wasn’t going to let me have her cash cow! In most cases, once you manage to track down the author, they are happy to be quoted if you quote them correctly, give them credit, and are “kind.” (Warning: Sometimes there’s a fee involved.) In your book, either on the page where you use the quote or in a special section, you say “reprinted by permission.”  Getting those “permissions” is an achievement!

10. What if my book is a best-seller?  That’s a problem!? Well, I guess it could be since it’s usually just famous authors who make money who get sued. Unknown self-published authors who sell 100 copies or less rarely get sued. But don’t count on things going either one way or the other. Don’t blow off the legal side of publishing. The best advice I got was to hire an attorney read a book I wrote to make sure there was nothing libelous or slanderous in it. He had me get a release letter from one person, which I did – just in case. With another book, I deleted one of the twenty-one interviews in which a man said something “not kind” about somebody else. That “somebody else” threatened to sue if the book was published, so I replaced the interview and avoided a potential problem. Rule of thumb: Prevention trumps litigation! Now you can go ahead ad tell your tales without fear.

May all your writing puzzles be solved.

May all your writing puzzles be solved.                     Photo credit: Morguefile

(c) The Therapist Writer: Helping Mental Health Professionals Get Published by Sylvia Cary, LMFT, available on Amazon and Kindle