Tag Archives: Sylvia Cary

8 “Starter”Book Marketing Tools

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GUEST BLOG:

“The First 8 Things to Do to Start Marketing Your Book”

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by Catherine Auman, LMFT, Author of Shortcuts to Mindfulness: 100 Ways to Personal and Spiritual Growth, Publisher – Green Tara Press, www.greentarapress.com

8 “Starter” Books Marketing Ideas

You didn’t know that becoming an author meant becoming a marketer, did you? That’s okay; neither did I. The fact is, you’ll need to become actively involved in the marketing of your book because if you don’t, no one but a few friends and family will buy it. Then again, even they might not.

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Really, it can be fun. Here are 8 BRIGHT IDEAS you can get started on before publication:

1) First, gather the items you’ll need to market your book:

  • Author photos/headshots – professionally done, please
  • Author bios of varying lengths – 100 words, 200 words
  • Book synopsis, about 100 words, written to entice readers
  • A jpg of your cover
  • Your elevator speech – a 30-second verbal summary of your book for use at cocktail and other parties when someone asks you, “What’s your book about?”
  • If you don’t have a website, get one. If you do have one, redesign it to promote your books as well as yourself.

2)  Create an Amazon Author Profile. This establishes you as a legitimate author. You can link your website, blog, videos, the promotional tools above and the ones you will develop in the future. Go to authorcentral.amazon.com and it will walk you through the steps.

3)  Create a Facebook Page for your book. Invite all your friends to Like (or Love). Start posting the items above and anything you can think of to create buzz. People prefer it if you try to educate, enlighten, or amuse them rather than just sell.

4)  Create a Goodreads Author Profile. Goodreads is where the avid readers hang out. Go to the Goodreads Author Program tutorial which will teach you how. Later you will be sponsoring book giveaways as promotions.

5)  Go to Vistaprint.com and make some inexpensive postcards using the jpg of the cover of your book. You can use these in any number of ways: send out by snail mail, leave at coffee houses, tack up on bulletin boards, and many uses you will come up with as you go along. I always keep some in my bag – you never know who might want one.

6)  Start identifying people and places to ask for book reviews. You will want to get as many as possible, and you’ll be able to use the reviews later for further marketing.

7)  Identify local stores that are likely to sell your book – not just bookstores, but gift stores and specialty shops.

8)   Schedule and plan your Book Release Party. Congratulations! You’re a published author.

© 2016 Catherine Aumancatherine auman book cover sept 2015 guest blog

(c) The Therapist Writer Blog by Sylvia Cary, LMFT, author of The Therapist Writer: Helping Mental Health Professionals Get Published. Timberlake PressTimberlakePress.com.

 

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My Valentine to the Adirondack Chair

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Love Song to the Adirondack Chair

It’s VALENTINE’S DAY. Roses are nice. Chocolates are yummy. But what really makes my heart sing is the sight of an Adirondack chair.  Wood only, never plastic. They come in all colors, although white is my favorite — memories of Cape Cod summers as a kid and rolling green lawns with white Adirondack chairs plopped down in the middle of them. While I don’t happen to own a rolling green lawn at the moment, if I did, it would most certainly feature a couple of Adirondack chairs facing out towards the world.

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Two Rustic Adirondak Chairs in Vermont with Special Meaning

About a year before my sister Evie died of ovarian cancer, while she was in remission, we took a road trip to Vermont and stayed in a charming Bed and Breakfast run by friends of hers. Oftentimes during the day, we would sit out on the back porch in these two rustic Adirondack chairs (see below) and talk. And we would look out at the serenity of this view. That experience, that view, those talks, and those Adirondack chairs are precious to me still.

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A Chair “Stars” on a Book Cover

When I returned to California and wrote my book called “The Therapist Writer,” I wanted to use the Vermont photo (above) where my sister and I had sat and had our last lengthy sister-to-sister talk together. Unfortunately, my book cover designer said my photo didn’t have enough “pixels” to look sharp on a book cover, so she went searching for a replacement. I now had very specific requirements: “I want a photo of a single Adirondack chair, under a tree, facing away towards a lovely scene. I want a writer to be able to picture themselves sitting in the Adirondack chair, contemplating nature and coming up with a great idea for a book.” This is what my graphic designer came up with after she had to buy a photo first and crop it way down in order to focus on the chair and tree:

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The Therapist Writer by Sylvia Cary, LMFT

You Can’t Please Everybody

I loved my created-to-order book cover, but a therapist colleague of my said, “Oh, no, that’s all wrong. That’s bad ‘feng shui.’ You can’t have just one chair facing away. You have to have two chairs facing forward towards the readers, in communication with each other and with the reader!” I said no, this chair is for solo contemplation to allow the creative mind to pop out a book idea without distraction. I’m sure the writers among you will understand. Besides, I also find Adirondack chairs to be beautiful from the back.

Since my book turned out to be divided into four sections, I included a drawing in between each section — of guess what? an Adirondack chair:

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Another Loss and a Pair of Lavender Adirondack Chairs

In January 2014, on the first anniversary of the death of my husband of 28 years, Lance Wolstrup, I felt the need to get out of LA and find a quiet place to go for the weekend. I discovered the charming Lavender Inn in Ojai. From my window, I looked down into the garden and saw a pair of Adirondack  chairs in a soft lavender color.

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Oh, how Lance would have loved to have his morning coffee sitting in one of those chairs and read his computer magazines. So I took my morning coffee and pastry, and a notebook and mechanical pencil (favorite writing tool) and sat in one of the lavender chairs and tried a daring new writing experiment — turning an historical screenplay written years ago into a novel and, more daring still, using the first person which forces you into feelings. Had Lance been there I’d have asked his opinion, as I always did. This time I was on my own. And I’m still working on that novel!

Over the last few years I’ve given a lot of workshops on the subject of writing and publishing, especially self-publishing, and I’ve also led writing groups. A while back I marketing a small writing group using a photo of colorful Adirondack chairs that made my heart swell, it was so beautiful. I got it from morguefile.com (write that down; free photos to use for book covers and marketing).

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The photo caused one woman to email me to say that the picture alone was enough for her to sign up for the writing group. Another Adirondack chair lover for sure!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

* The History of the Adirondack Chair —The first Adirondack Chair was invented in 1903 by Thomas Lee in Westport, New York, a small town on Lake Champlain at the foot of the Adirondack Mountains. He wanted to be able to enjoy the view and not have to keep standing up. Using his family members as “test sitters,” he settled on a chair constructed from eleven pieces of wood cut from one single plank. It was a low-slung, spacious design with a high back and extra-wide armrests for that all-important summer beverage. The chair was originally called the “Westport Plank Chair.” Modern Adirondack chair manufacturers have at times created chairs that closely resemble these early creations, with modifications designed to increase comfort and durability. — from Wikipedia and other Internet sources

 

 

 

 

 

“It’s Too Nichy”^

Sylvia Cary to Get an IRWIN AWARD from the Book Publicists of Southern California Sylvia Cary, psychotherapist and author of 5 books, is to get an award for "Best Niche Campaign" for her book, "The Therapist Writer: Helping Mental Health Professionals Get Published" (Timberlake Press) The IRWIN Award, named for the Book Publicists of Southern California founder, Irwin Zucker, was introduced in 1995 as a way to formally and publicly recognize BPSC members who conduct the best book sales/ promotion campaigns. The Honorees present will share with the BPSC audience the steps they took that led to the success of their book promotion campaigns. The event takes place at the Sportsmen's Lodge in Studio City on Thursday Oct. 15th. Contact at: sylvia@sylviacary.com OR visit newly tweaked and updated website, www.sylviacary.com.

Sylvia Cary, LMFT, received an IRWIN AWARD from the Book Publicists of Southern California (BPSC)  for “Best Niche Campaign” for her book, The Therapist Writer: Helping Mental Health Professionals Get Published (Timberlake Press). The award is named for the group’s founder, Irwin Zucker, and was introduced in 1995 as a way to formally and publicly recognize BPSC members who conduct the best book promotion campaigns. Each honoree shared with the audience the steps they took that led to the success of their book promotion campaign. (See video clip of Sylvia’s acceptance remarks below.) The event took place October 15th, 2015, at the Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City, California, http://www.sylviacary.com.

Nailing Your Niche*

Definition of niche:  A French word meaning “a situation or activity suited to a person’s interests, ability, or nature.” 

“Nail your niche and own it.”   — Dan Poynter

In the old days of publishing, before digital, before the Internet, before Amazon, before Google, and before Kindle, big publishers didn’t want to touch books on small topics because most didn’t sell . Publishing them just didn’t pay off. Authors of books in niche areas were more likely to find homes with academic or university presses or with little publishers with no money for publicity or marketing.  The readers of these books often had to find out about them through obscure newsletters, specialty bookstores, or by word-of-mouth from other folks interested in the same subjects.

I went that route myself “back in the day” when I was researching my book called Jolted Sober: Getting to the Moment of Clarity in the Recovery of Addiction. I became a long-distance member of the Alister Hardy Research Centre in the U.K. (Oxford) in order to receive their snail-mailed newsletter which contained information of interest to me for my book. They were studying spontaneous healings and religious experiences. My book contained numerous stories about sudden “Aha!” moments of clarity in the addiction recovery. What they were researching was right up my alley. Today, niche publications like this one are easy to find. In fact, I Googled the Centre to see if it still exists — and it does, but with a new name. Now it’s the Alister Hardy Religious Experience Research Centre.

What all this means for you is that, as an author, you no longer have to be afraid that your topic or specialty is too narrowly focused (i.e. “too nichy”)  to write about. There are people out there looking for what you have to say. And while it’s unlikely that you’ll get a contract with a mainstream publisher where “No Niches Need Apply,” you may be accepted by a small press or you can self-publish on Amazon’s CreateSpace for free. You’ll find some buyers. Or they’ll find you. And they’ll be thrilled.

Tofu Takes Off

Here’s one of my favorite stories about writing a book for a niche market: For many years I’ve been running a free drop-in writers group at a bookstore in Woodland Hills, California. It is sponsored by the Independent Writers of Southern California (iwosc.org). One of our regular members, Lisa, told us how years earlier she’d accidentally stumbled upon an idea for a niche book while waiting in the check-out line at a local market. In her shopping cart she had a couple of packages of tofu. “How do you cook that stuff?” the woman behind her in line asked her. “Tofu is so tasteless.” Because Lisa really knows her tofu, she answered, “”It picks up the flavor of what you cook it in.” The woman was intrigued: “I didn’t know that.”  Lisa shared a few recipes with her; the woman was delighted.

This little conversation triggered an “Aha!” moment in Lisa’s brain. She went home and put together a cookbook on tofu, which included family cooking stories and, on each page, she placed a thought-provoking quote. She had copies made and sold them to friends, family and neighbors. She got requests for more. She had additional copies printed, this time bound with a plastic spiral. She took some of these to a local health food store. They bought a few, sold them, and ordered more. Then they ordered even more. By the end of the year the health food store had sold a total of 250 of Lisa’s tofu cookbook.

The following year, Lisa branched out to other health food stores and even a few pharmacies and it was the same story. They bought books, sold out, and ordered more. Next, Lisa bought her own spiral machine and printed copies at home for less money, and started doing a little local advertising. This resulted in a total of 5,000 cookbook sales, a decent number–  even if it had been a traditionally published book. But it was a lot of work! Had self-publishing on Amazon’s CreateSpace been available at the time Lisa started this project, who knows how many sales she’d have made as the result of people typing “cooking tofu” into their search engines!

Weightier Subjects

While it may still be possible to put everything that’s known about cooking tofu inside a single book, the body of knowledge in other fields is too vast for that. If you are, say,  a mental health professional and want to write a book on your specialty, you are probably going to have to “niche it down” so it’s not too broad and so it doesn’t repeat what’s already been done. In other words, you can’t just write “about alcoholism.” However, a book on alcoholism and the elderly is another story. By “niching it down,” you’ll be appealing to a few specific audiences, such as physicians, mental health professionals working with this population, and family members.  Try to think of another audience or two.

Here are just some of the subjects therapists have picked as specialties. Any one of them could be developed into a book:  Abuse, addiction, adoption, aging, anger management, ADHD, animal assisted therapy, anxiety, art therapy, Aspergers, autism, biofeedback, bipolar disorder, children/adolescents/teens, Christian counseling, cognitive behavioral, couples, creativity, depression, divorce and custody, eating disorders,  employee assistance (EAP), gay / lesbian/transgender issues, HIV/AIDS, Jungian analysis, Gestalt, grief recovery, learning disabilities, life coaching, meditation, mental illness, men’s issues, metaphysics, military culture, neuroscience, online counseling, parenting, phobias, play therapy, postpartum, private practice marketing, psychoanalysis, relationships, religious counseling, retirement counseling, rockstar therapy (yes, really!), short-term therapy, sex therapy, singles, sleep disorders, special needs – and hundreds more!

Start thinking about how you might give your special topic that special twist to make it different and unique. That’s how you get literary agents interested in representing you, publishers interesting in publishing you, and readers interested in buying you, whether it’s a traditionally or self-published book. Readers don’t care. They just want the information. The trick is to jump on a niche when it is still fairly new so, as the late publishing guru Dan Poynter said, you “own” it.

Finding a Home for The Therapist Writer

When I first came up with the idea for The Therapist Writer, I wrote a standard book proposal and started sending it out to literary agents. I kept getting back the same response: “It’s too nichy.” The agents didn’t think  there were enough mental health professionals who wanted to write who’d be interested in buying a book on the subject.  In fact, well-known literary agent Michael Larsen from San Francisco even phoned me to tell me this, and added that if I’d expand the focus from therapists to include other professions, he might consider it. That was tempting, but it wasn’t the book I wanted to write or felt capable of writing. I know my “tribe,” my fellow mental health professionals, very well, but I don’t know about other professional “tribes,” so I didn’t think I’d sound like I knew what I was talking about. I said no.

The Therapist Writer by Sylvia Cary, LMFT

The Therapist Writer by Sylvia Cary, LMFT

That’s when I realized I didn’t have a clue how big my market was. How many mental health professionals are there are in this country, anyhow, and how many of them want to write a book? I consulted the Occupational Outlook Handbook and came up with 750,000 mental health professionals, so I figured that if I could sell The Therapist Writer to just 1% of these therapists, that would end up being 7,500 books.  I also realized that while this figure might make me happy, it wouldn’t make me rich, and it wouldn’t impress a mainstream publisher.

I gave up on the idea of traditional publishing and self-published through Lightning Source (after first becoming a publisher — their rule at the time), and once the paper version was up on Amazon, I published it as a Kindle E-book.

Doc, What’s Your Line?

The conversation with agent Larsen made me really clear on the fact that I didn’t want to give up my niche audience (mental health professionals who want to write) and write for all writers. There were already plenty of books on writing and publishing for the general public. I also felt it was a plus that I was a licensed psychotherapist because I had chapters in the book on special issues that therapist-writers face, such as the important issue of patient confidentiality: How can a therapist write about a client’s case without getting sued? I talk in the book about “the art of disguise” in writing about others, which means a lot more than just changing names.

I now understood that by “niching down” my book I was probably limiting my readership and profits, but that’s just one of the many decisions an author must make. I also knew that when I started marketing my book, I’d have a chance to point out the benefits in the book for all writers, not just therapist writers. One big marketing shift I had to make was to treat therapist-writers as therapists, not writers. Most therapists don’t want to be writers, which is why they haven’t bought books on writing, and why they know less about the writing business than the average bear. They just want to keep on being therapists who have written a book. My book, I point out in my marketing, understands this and works with it so the therapists can reach their publishing goals in spite of their discomfort. The therapists who do want to be writers (and there are some!) already act like writers, and have read books and know about publishing trends. They are ripe and ready to press on.

The majority of the time, in marketing to therapists, I stress therapy careers, not writing careers. I  list the perks for therapists in being “the author of ” a book. It means instant credibility; being seen as an “expert in the field.” They might even become the “go-to” shrink for colleagues to refer to for specific psychological issues, like one therapist I know whose self-published book on his personal bipolar struggle has made him the therapist that other therapists think of as a referral resource. When I’d speak at therapy-related events and meetings, I’d take the same approach. I’d  talk to the audience as “therapists,” not “writers,”  and stress the career perks of getting published.

Becoming Niche Savvy

It’s important to know why your niche audience wants your book. For my niche audience, my book is business, not pleasure. Some therapists want to publish in order to have a carton of books in the trunk of their car to sell when they give talks or give workshops, or to have on hand for clients, clients’ families, and colleagues. Nothing more. They hate marketing.

I learned how to market The Therapist Writer (and I’m still learning) and how deal with a niche audience on the job, mostly by correcting mistakes —  such as starting out with no idea of the size, or whereabouts, of my audience! Next time out, I’ll know.

I didn’t get rich or famous marketing my book, but I learned a bunch and I got this award for my efforts. Cool experience. And the award  is pretty, isn’t it?

The IRWIN Award for "Best Niche Campaign"

The IRWIN Award for “Best Niche Campaign”

Below, FYI, is a video clip of my award acceptance remarks:

 

*Copyright 2015  Sylvia Cary, LMFT.  Portions of this blog post are taken from the chapter on “Nailing Your Niche” in The Therapist Writer.

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 Morguefile.com

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: Morguefile.com

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 

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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 www.greentarapress.com. © 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 www.catherineauman.com

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:

HOW TO SELF-PUBLISH WITH AMAZON’S CREATESPACE & LIGHTNINGSOURCE’S INGRAM SPARK

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

DATE Sat. Oct. 17th, 2015
TIME: 10 AM – Noon
PLACE: OfficeSlice Coworking, 15165 Ventura Blvd., #245, Sherman Oaks, CA 91403
PARKING: Free
FOOD: Snacks
COST: $60.00
REGISTER: www.eventbrite.com (You may have to cut and paste this link): (https://www.eventbrite.com/myevent?eid=17964495289)

For more information, CONTACT: sylviacary1@gmail.com

 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 Amazon.com, B&N.com, 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

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

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 http://www.nextchapterbooks.com. Phone: (818) 704-5864; info@nextchapterbooks.com)

(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.

Smile!

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.

picturekeeper.com — 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).

Forever.com — permanent photo storage in the “cloud.” You get your own personalized web address (ex: YourName.forever.com). $6.95 a month for 36 months or $250 for life.

DropBox.com – well-established storage and sharing site for photos and documents.

Flip-Pal.com – 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

shutterfly.com  – 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 Artisanstate.com, Blurb.com and Peekaboo.com.

Animoto.com – 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.

morguefile.com – beautiful photos for free to use for blogs, book covers, websites, etc.

dreamstime.com — 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.

Mextures.com – 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 Mextures.com. 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 www.copywrite.gov, 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 www.copywrite.gov 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 http://www.morguefile.com. 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 www.copyright.gov 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

15 Ways to Let the World Know Your Book Exists?*

My Favorite Bookshelf which contains my 5 books, books I've published through my publishing company, and book that I've edited for others -- each one with a separate and specialized marketing challenge.   Photo: Sylvia Cary

My Favorite Bookshelf  contains books I’ve published through my publishing company, books I’ve edited, books I’ve written and had published, and books I’ve read or used to find critical information about the business of books. Each book here no doubt presented the author or publisher with huge marketing challenges.    Photo: Sylvia Cary

The Challenges

* Have you had a book published and don’t know how to market it?

* Have you been surprised to learn that today even traditional publishers expect authors to market their own books?

*Have you finally realized that nobody is going to buy your book if they’ve never heard of it?

The Overwhelm

I know lots of authors. I grew up amongst authors. I know authors who have been published every which way, from traditional to indie to Ebooks. And for most of them, unless they’re seasoned, it has come as a shock to realize that finally getting to hold their published book in their hands isn’t the end of the story. Next comes the hard part — book marketing. That’s when the overwhelm sets in. Even if you’ve been lucky enough to have a major publisher and an assigned publicist (a rare luxury these days), marketing is still a chore.  One of the hardest working writers I know is a woman who was published by a big publishing house and did the full (often exhausting) book tour throughout the US and Canada. So there’s no escaping the reality of marketing. As Former President Bill Clinton is said to have commented about his first book: “I didn’t sell it because I didn’t promote it.” So you gotta promote your tail off.

To market, to market, to market.

Book marketing can be overwhelming. Even though my own book, The Therapist Writer: Helping Mental Health Professionals Get Published, contains forty-five pages of mostly DIY marketing ideas from A-Z, when I was faced with actually doing the things I wrote about, I didn’t know where to start.  Soon after the book came out, I’d been widowed. I’d grieved. I’d moved. I’d adopted a needy and difficult feral kitten. And whenever I reminded myself that I “should” be marketing my book, I’d freeze. Where to begin?

When it comes right down to it, there are entirely too many things you can do to market a book!  Well-known book marketer, Penny Sansevieri, author of Red Hot Internet Publicity, recently wrote a guest post on an agent’s blog called “50 Thing Under $50 Bucks to Promote Your Book.”  Then there’s the huge book called 1001 Ways to Market Your Books, edited by John Kremer. Yikes. That book always reminds me of why I like small food markets: Fewer choices.

Focus, focus

I knew I needed to zero in, so I decided to focus on only 15 ways to market a book — and that’s it.  And, since they say the best way to learn is to teach, I scheduled a workshop for next (as of this writing) Saturday Oct. 26th called DIY Yourself Book Marketing: 15 Ways to Let the World Know Your Book Exists. During this workshop I shall attempt to teach authors and wanna-be authors how to market their books. Ha! What the planning of this workshop has forced me to do is to concentrate on 15 marketing technique and put blinders on for the rest. I’ll get to them, or some of them, another day.

The Top 15

If I were to go into each of my 15 top book marketing methods in detail, this blog post would scroll down to the floor. So I’ll list them and then you should Google them and determine which book, blog, article,  website, or YouTube video gives you the best information. For example, my top pick in this list of 15 is Amazon.com because it’s the largest online bookseller, because it’s global, and because it offers authors a wide range of great marketing opportunities. Consider buying Penny Sansevieri’s Ebook, How to Sell Your Book by the Truckload on Amazon.com. Do this kind of research for each item on this list. It shouldn’t be that overwhelming if you keep in mind that it’s just 15 — not 1001. So here are my picks:

1) Amazon; 2) Blogging; 3) Bookstores; 4) Contests; 5) Elevator pitch; 6) Handouts; 7) Emailings; 8) Traditional Media; 9) Networking; 10) Press Releases; 11) Reviews; 12) Social Media; 13) Speaking 14) Videos; 15) Website.

You’ve Got to Start Somewhere with Something

Obviously, each item on my Top 15 list has sub-categories, and I know I’ve left things out, but you’ve got to start somewhere in order to get unstuck or unfrozen when it comes to book marketing. By keeping your focus on 15 instead of hundreds, you’ll see how one action can be used for multiple purposes (like your 30-second elevator pitch which you’ll end up using in many ways.)

Let me give/show you an example. Under #14, “Video,” videotape any talk or presentation you make, or set up an “interview” situation, and email it (or use Dropbox if the file is big) to a video editor and have them cut up your video into 3 or 4 short segments (under two minutes) and post the clip on Amazon, your website, your blog,  your email newsletter, or put it up on YouTube, perhaps on your own  channel. It sounds complex, but a good video editor can do it in a jiffy.

The clip below is one of five from a TV interview on I did on “Book Beat” about my book. It was swiftly edited, complete with titles and music, by L.A. area video editor,  Mallory Jackson (Jackson.Mallory@yahoo.com). But of course these days where a talent lives often doesn’t matter since most things can be done by email. I’ve edited books for people I’ve never met.  Here’s the clip:

*Workshop for Locals

If you live in the LA area and you want more details on these Top 15 marketing tools, you can sign up for my workshop on Saturday Oct. 26th, 9:30 am to 12:30 pm in Sherman Oaks, only $60.00.  Sigh up at: http://www.therapistwriter.eventbrite.com.

(c) 2013 by Sylvia Cary, LMFT

Video editor Mallory Jackson

“Don’t Go There”

Grief is a Scary Place to Go

GRIEF IS A SCARY PLACE TO GO

October. Bright colors. Halloween approaching. Very soon my grandkids will be going trick-or-treating in their cute costumes.  There will be funny-faced pumpkins on neighborhood doorsteps. I’ll trot along behind and take pictures. Halloween is very photogenic. There may even be a fall nip in the air so when I get home I’ll be able to “turn on” my store-bought fireplace (it has real-looking flames and real heat). I’ll enjoy that after so many hot Los Angeles days.

Anniversary Reactions

Yes, so many heartwarming memories associated with the month of October. And since this blog is primarily about writing, I was going to talk about my upcoming October workshop on “DIY Book Marketing.” I thought I’d give some pointers and tips on the subject for the many “indie” published authors out there who are facing the huge task of trying to sell their book.

Just not today. I just can’t write about marketing today. My good thoughts about October are being crowded out by sad thoughts, “anniversary reactions,”  memories related to the events that happened just a year ago which led up to the death of my lovely husband, Lance.  Those memories hurt.  But trying to write about “book marketing” when I’m thinking of something else hurts more.

October 8th (tomorrow, as I write this) would have been Lance’s 71st birthday. What a wonderful time we had one year ago on his 70th birthday when we threw him a huge surprise party at his favorite Italian restaurant, Maggiano’s in Woodland Hills, California.  His cousin Jorgen flew in from Denmark (where Lance was born) as a surprise.  And it was! In the restaurant, we all  sat at one  long table (tables pushed together) — family and friends, talking and laughing,  popping up and down to chat with those too far down the line to hear above the din.

Enjoying Lance's birthday party. Here, my daughter and son-in-law shake hands over the heads of my grand-children, with Lance (striped shirt) in the background across from his cousin and 11-year-old grandneice from Denmark.

Enjoying Lance’s 70th birthday party. Above, my daughter and son-in-law shake hands over the heads of their children (Lily and Lyle), with Lance in the background (right) across from his cousin, Jorgen, Danish flags stuck in a glass between them.

Towards the end of the dinner, Lance stood up. Forks clinked against glasses to get people to quiet down. He gave a touching speech. He has no idea he was sick.

Soccer Game Tickets 037My daughter, Claudia, gave Lance soccer tickets to a Galaxy game (the card was made by my granddaughter, Lily). That soccer game turned out to be  our “last date” together before Lance was diagnosed.

Turkey Day and “D” (Diagnosis) Day

After Lance’s birthday there was Thanksgiving.  It was great. My daughter Claudia and husband Roy hosted it because I was recovering from a back mishap. I wrote about it in my 2012 blog: “Mishmash: What I Love About Thanksgiving.”  After the meal, we all stood by the fireplace to take our annual Christmas photo. Lance, though “tired,” still didn’t know he was sick.

In early December, Lance did feel sick. He took to his bed and missed a week of work. Lance never missed work. When it turned out not to be the flu, he was treated at home for “pneumonia,” and when he didn’t get better he was admitted to the hospital where he got the bad news:  Stage 4  lung cancer.  Not fixable. Maybe six months left with “targeted chemo.”  He was sent home with oxygen and a boatload of equipment to await more tests and then get a pet scan to see where the cancer might have spread. The night before the pet scan, this man who’d always has such a strong heart , had a massive heart walking to the bathroom. It felled him. The paramedics took him back to the hospital. Eighteen hours in Emergency, then up to the ICU.

In ICU all the holidays ran together:  Christmas Eve. Christmas. Our 28th Wedding Anniversary. New Year’s Eve. New Year’s Day 2013.  Somewhere in there came strokes. It was increasingly difficult to communicate with him or make sense of what he was saying. And then on January 2nd, 2013, he died.

Stalker Grief

Grief is sneaky.  A month ago I was at Crown Books in Woodland Hills where I run a monthly drop-in writing group. It’s next door to the restaurant where we had that wonderful birthday party for Lance. I walked into the restaurant just to use the Ladies’ Room because the one in the bookstore was on the blink. I didn’t even think of the party. It wasn’t until I was on my way out and found myself in the area where the party had taken place that it hit me — POW! A sock in the gut. The tables were now empty, pushed apart. I looked at the empty tables and saw a brief “vision” — a fantasy re-enactment of the whole party. I rushed out.

Doing a Drive-By

Then there was the day I drove past the townhouse complex where Lance and I lived for 23 of our 28 years of marriage.The landscape was so achingly familiar.  On impulse I made a right turn into the side street, a turn I’d probably made a thousand times. Next I turned left into the alley, then another left into the driveway. I drove past all the garage doors and slowed down when I got to the one that used to be “our” garage door.

For a brief moment, like something out of a time-travel movie, I felt I could push the button on my visor and the garage door would open and I’d see all our familiar things, my filing cabinets, Lance’s computer stuff, our books. I could park the car, open the downstairs door and walk up the stairs — and right back into my old life. I’d find Lance at his computer, as usual, and the cat curled up nearby.

I just wanted to go home.

Grief involves wanting to go back, rewind, undo, and go home again.

Grief pushes you to try to go back, rewind the movie, undo, and go home again.

“Stop Going There!”

By the time I got to the end of the townhouse complex driveway, I was in tears. I pulled over and called my daughter so I could cry some more. Afterwards I called a friend, “Why did I do that?” I blurted out.  “Then stoppit. Don’t go there!” she told me. “It’s not true that time heals. Time just teaches you to stop going there.”  I didn’t tell her other things I did, like listening to Lance’s last two cheery messages to me on my cell phone, one calling me from Fry’s computer store, the other from home after the Galaxy had won a  soccer game. He was happy: “See you when you get home!” I saved those messages. When I got a new cell phone, I had them transferred over.  I still have them.

And sometimes I go there.

Danish flags brought to Lance by his Danish cousin for the birthday celebration

Danish flags brought to Lance by his cousin for the birthday celebration

As the onslaught of anniversaries hits me over the next three months, I know it will be hard not to “go there.” After the anniversary of Lance’s birthday tomorrow, there’s  going to be Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve (that’s when we used to celebrate Christmas — the Danish way), Christmas Day, our would-be 29th wedding anniversary on December 29th, New Year’s Eve (in 2012 I’d spent it at Lance’s bedside as he endured 100% oxygen being force-fed into his lungs just to keep him alive), then New Year’s Day (with goodbye visits from family and friends), and then the next day, Jan 2nd, 2013, the day that Lance died.

I’ve told people I don’t even want to be in L.A. for that anniversary, but where would I go? You can “go there” even when you’re someplace else.

Pictures

I have dozens of pictures of Lance in my little apartment — another easy way to keep going there and remembering back. Probably I should put some away. But for now they will stay where they are. I can only go so fast. If I’m still doing drive-bys five years from now, that’s a whole different story. Then stop me.

Anyway, of all my many pictures of Lance and me together, this is a favorite:

Dinner together at the same favorite restaurant . This was our 27th wedding anniversary the year before. The 28th was spent in the hospital. I love this picture of Lance. It's so -- "Lance."

Dinner together at the same restaurant  where we had Lance’s birthday bash. This was, I think, our 27th wedding anniversary on December 29th, 2011. Our 28th, on December 29th, 2012, was spent in the hospital. I do love this picture of Lance. It shows this warmth, kindness and love. It’s so — “Lance.”  It’s so what I miss.

(c) Sylvia Cary, LMFT.   Photo credits: Sylvia Cary, wwwMorguefile.com and the waiter at Maggiano’s Restaurant in Woodland Hills, California