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The Write Question is a weekly video podcast all about writing. Today’s question focuses on how to assemble a book launch team. If you have a question you’d like me to answer you can email me at daphne@publicationcoach.com, tweet me @pubcoach, or leave a message for me at the Skype account, The Write Question.

The Write Question #61: How to create a launch team for your book - YouTube

Transcript:

Welcome to The Write Question, I’m Daphne Gray-Grant. Today I’m talking about how to assemble a launch team for a book.

I have a question from reader Christine Currie who is based in east Missouri. Here’s what she’s asked.

“Have you ever addressed the issue of how to put together a launch team for a new book? I’m in the middle of editing my crappy first draft and I want to be better prepared for the book’s eventual release.”

Thanks for the question, Christine. I’m glad you’ve asked me this right now because I’m getting close to completing the editing of my own next book and I need to be thinking about a launch team as well.

First, let me give some definitions for those who are unfamiliar with the terminology. A launch team is a group of 50 to 100 volunteers who agree to share your book with their own networks and help you promote it.

Sounds simple, right? Before you start, there are some things you should keep in mind. Don’t start forming this team too early. Otherwise, people are likely to lose their enthusiasm. If you are just  in the first edit of your crappy first draft, it’s too soon to start contacting these people. Sure, think about your launch team. Make plans for it. But don’t do any talking about until you are four to six weeks before your release date.

Here are some of the plans you might want to consider:

Create a list of names. This might start with family and friends but it should also include the names of  people who’ve bought previous books from you. Or it might even be a subscriber list if you have a website that collects emails. To get 50 to 100 readers you probably need to invite five to 10 times that many people so you should be looking for a list with a minimum of 250 to 1,000 names. That’s a lot, I know!

On the other hand, if you do have a really big email list, consider ways of winnowing down the numbers. You might want to ask applicants a bunch of questions to try to figure out the best matches for you. Or, alternatively, you could make it a random draw.

By the way, you might want to send your invitation as a video, if you have the means to produce one affordably. I’m including a link on making videos in the description below.

Next, create an ongoing way of communicating with your team. You could use a Facebook group if you like or set up your communications via an Autoresponder, if you have one. (I use Aweber.) Or just make it an email list.

The main item you need to give your team is an  advance copy of your book. Make it electronic if you like but if you’re able to send them a print copy, be sure to write their name on it and sign it.

It might also help your team to have an  exclusive webinar or group call with you and VIP access to your book launch party, if you’re having one. The team will also need some concrete suggestions from you about how to promote, ideas for tweets and where to send reviews.

Also, be sure to keep in regular touch with your team so they know how you’re doing and they stay motivated.

Creating a launch team is a fair bit of work, Christine, but it’s worth the effort because it’s going to reward you with increased sales.

Finally, let me wrap up with a quote from American writer Emlyn Chand: “I’ve said it before and by gosh I’ll say it again, don’t be afraid to toot your own horn”

As authors, we’re sometimes shy about the necessity of self-promotion. But if we don’t have any readers, what is the point of our writing? Get some help in rounding up more readers, Christine, by calling upon your own custom-designed launch team.

Links: 

Making video for your website

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Reading time: Less than 2 minutes

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about a series of metaphors and similes from Jonathan Franzen….

I’ve never been a huge fan of Jonathan Franzen. I found his 2001 novel — a satirical family drama — The Corrections, to be overrated. Nevertheless, I resolved to read his 2015 novel, Purity, the story of a young woman struggling to make a life for herself in the age of the internet. I was surprised to discover Franzen’s deft hand with metaphorical language.

Here are my favourite examples:

  • The skin on the back of [her hands] wasn’t pink and opaque like her own skin. It was as if the bones and veins were working their way to the surface; as if the skin were water receding to expose shapes at the bottom of the harbor.
  • Speaking the word sister again was like tossing a match into an often full of unlit gas, the ready-to-combust anger that she walked around with every day; it was a kind of whoosh inside her head.
  • Like her mother, Pip was coming to preferred drizzle and heavy fog, for their absence of reproach.
  • A drawback of email was that you could only delete it once: couldn’t crumble it up, fling it to the floor, stomp on it, rip it to shreds, and burn it.
  • Texans looked down on the other forty-nine states with a gracious kind of pity.
  • Her guilt was so large that it was gravitational, warping space and time, connecting through non-Euclidean geometry to the guilt she hadn’t felt while wrecking Charles’s marriage.
  • Walker bent down closer to her. His face was like a stained map of somewhere densely populated.
  • Screeching acid-green parakeets executed group dives from cliff faces, their wings hissing loudly as they swooped past.
  • Obscene amounts of pollen were in the air, the trees burdened with the bright dust of their own fertility, the swollen nests of their leaves.
  • The New Jersey sky was a low-hanging steam bath of churning flocculants, darkening and then yellow only brightening in random places that gave no clue about the sun’s actual location or, thus, about what time was or where East and West might be.
  • It was a forest of big grey sticks, the same metallic color as the sky.
  • I was still so thin in 1991 that I didn’t really have a body at all. What I had was more like an armature of coat-hanger wire with a few key sensory parts attached to it… I was like a thing drawn by Joan Miró.
  • All we ever argued about was nothing. As if by multiplying zero content by infinite talk we could make it stop being zero.
  • The moon above us, in the Philly haze was a dissolving beige lozenge.
  • Dreyfuss’s garage door was loose in its frame and weakened by dry rot. Even the hardest-hit balls hopped back from it with a puppyish lack of aggression.
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Reading time: Less than 1 minute

Increase your vocabulary and you’ll make your writing much more precise. That’s why I provide a word of the week. Today’s term: Belisha beacon…

When I read a juicy novel, I particularly enjoy the way it sends me scurring to the dictionary or the internet. Recently, Julian Barnes new book The Only Story did that for me. Barnes has a stupefyingly large vocabularly and his writing is peppered with Englishisms that are unfamilar to me, even though I’m 1/4 English. (Two of my grandparents were Brits.)

The phrase I enjoyed most in his recent book was Belisha beacon. Here is how he used the term:

There was a Greenline bus stop; a zebra crossing with Belisha beacons; a post office; a church unoriginally named after St. Michael; a public, a general store, chemist, hairdresser; a petrol station which did elementary car repairs.

“Now, what on earth is a Belisha beacon,” I wondered, while sitting reading on a beach. I quickly reached for my smartphone to find out.

Belisha beacon is an amber-coloured globe lamp (see photo, above) atop a tall black and white pole, marking pedestrian crossings of roads in the United Kingdom, and other countries historically influenced by Britain. They were first erected in London in 1934 and were rolled out nationally in the following year.

The beacons were named after Leslie Hore-Belisha a minister of transport who was highly successful in modernizing the British road system prior to the Second World War. He  added beacons to pedestrian crossings, marked by large metal studs in the road surface. These crossings were later painted in black and white stripes, and are known as zebra crossings. Legally pedestrians have priority (over wheeled traffic) on such crossings.

And, apparently, there is some controversy over the value of the beacons, according to some cyclists.

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The Publication Coach by Daphne Gray-grant - 4d ago

Reading time: Just over 3 minutes 

Do you understand how many of the blogs you read and the podcasts you hear earn their money through advertising and sponsorships? In the world of the internet, it’s a case of buyer beware…

How do you feel about advertising on the internet? And what about ethics?

I ask these questions after listening to another podcast where the host — in this case, Malcolm Gladwell — has narrated a creepy, personalized advertisement. Here’s, in part, what he said, in his ‘this-is-an-advertisement’ voice:

[You] know that I have a rule about liquids: I only drink five: coffee, red wine, milk, tea and water. It’s one of my weird little neurotic acts of self-denial. But lately I’ve been thinking about turning my liquid rule into an act of extravagant indulgence. What if I only drank Fiji Water? It’s tropical rain water from Fiji! Filtered through volcanic rock! Bottled at the source! How can I go back to New York city water after that?

I found his tone of voice off-putting (I’d call his enthusiasm ‘fake news’) and the content even worse. In fact, I had the distinct sense that he was inventing feelings to appease his sponsor. If you want to listen to the whole thing, here’s a link. The “ad” starts at the 18:06 minute mark.

Less overtly offensive, but more troubling to me, however, is the style of another podcaster, Adam Grant, a Wharton business school professor who is well known for a popular TED Talk  and for co-authoring the book Option B with Sheryl Sandberg. Here’s how he handles advertising in his podcast:

This is going to be a different kind of ad. I’ve played a personal role in selecting the sponsors for this podcast. All have interesting cultures of their own. Today we’re going inside the workplace of Warby Parker…. Many companies claim to have cultures of learning but Warby Parker takes that to a whole new level….At Warby Parker they believe everyone is capable of mastering more than one role…

And what follows is a story that, for all intents and purposes, sounds like regular journalism. But it’s not. It’s a paid ad! The dishonesty of this type of approach rankles me. What assurance do we have that Adam Grant (or anyone else) is going to be diligent and objective if the people they’re interviewing are paying for the privilege? If you want to hear Grant’s words directly, here’s a link to his podcast. The “ad” starts at the 15:28 minute point in the episode titled: “Your Hidden Personality.”

But I know that podcasting is a relatively new medium and I assume it will take some time to establish standards and sort out best practices. In the short-term, I’m prepared to label Gladwell, Grant and others as ‘newbies’ and forgive them for what I consider to be beginners’ mistakes.

There is another approach to advertising, however, that I find even more deeply troubling. A few years ago, I learned that a popular blogger whom I’m not going to name charges a hefty fee to review books on her website — something she has never disclosed to her readers. She also does the same with products. I had taken a course with her and she admitted this action — bragged about it, really — during one of the training sessions. Her attitude horrified me!

My 20 years of work in the old-fashioned newspaper business taught me that it’s supremely important to separate advertising from editorial. In my many years in a variety of newsrooms, we always took pride in never catering to any advertisers. For this reason, I generally don’t accept “freebies” — programs, services or goods given at no charge. Once or twice in my early years as a blogger I made an exception, but I always alerted my readers that I’d received a freebie. And no more exceptions! I no longer even participate in Amazon’s affiliate program, which gives website owners credit for books or other products they mention and then sell via a hyperlink.

This principle allows me to review products or make statements that readers can trust come from my honest opinion alone. I wrote two of my more popular blog posts — one evaluating whether it’s worth paying for Grammarly and the other on the merits of voice activation software  — without any freebies and without a single nickel from any sponsor. This allowed me to express my views without worrying whether I was going to alienate someone who’d given me a gift. How many other bloggers can say the same? Do you know the policies of the bloggers you read?

I don’t have an ethical problem with clearly labelled ads, but I don’t accept those for my website either. I don’t want to be beholden to corporate interests in any way.

So how do I make my money? I sell my products and services through my website. This newsletter and all the posts on my blog don’t earn me a cent, per se, but they allow you to see my writing style, my knowledge and my commitment. If that causes some of you to buy my products, terrific. If it causes you to walk away with disinterest, no problem!

I try to be utterly transparent and I wish more internet vendors and social media influencers were able to say the same. The blurring of the lines between advertising and editorial (never mind the blurring of the line wrought by companies such as Facebook, which quietly sell your attention to advertisers) makes me acutely uncomfortable.

You always get what you pay for. Do you know what you’re buying and when you’re buying it? Let every buyer beware.

How do you regard advertising and sponsorship on the internet? Does it make you more careful about what you buy? We can all learn from each other so, please, share your thoughts with my readers and me in the “comments” section below. Anyone who comments on today’s post (or any others) by July 31/18 will be put in a draw for a copy of the non-fiction book The Golden Spruce by John Vaillant. Please, scroll down to the comments, directly underneath the “related posts” links, below. Note that you don’t have to join the commenting software to post. See here to learn how to post as a guest.

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Reading time: Just over 1 minute

This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss a blog post about computer keyboards….

We recently had our back door repaired and I’ve been amazed at the difference it’s made to my life.

Instead of having to slam the door with a hearty thwack I now can let it gently slip closed with the barest of effort. We had had some dry rot in the frame surrounding the door and this had caused the problem.

But it’s fixed and now I have a question for you: Is your computer keyboard something like my formerly broken back door?

Most writers work at our keyboards many hours each day. Have you ever thought about whether it’s doing a good job for you? I reflected on that question recently after reading a blog post by Joel Friedlander headlined “Writer’s Tools and the Forgotten Keyboard.”

The post examines the keyboards we use and here is what Friedlander says:

If I asked you to describe the keyboard that’s sitting in front of you right now, would you be able to? Did you actually choose this keyboard because it particularly suited you?

I’m betting the answer to both questions would be “No” for most people.

Painters take great care in picking their brushes, musicians can be fanatical about their instruments. The list goes on and on. So don’t you think it’s a bit odd writers pay so little attention to what they are typing on?

He then goes on to explore the benefits of the modern mechanical keyboard. These devices have individual switches with springs and mechanisms for each key. They give more “tactile feedback” while you are typing, and also produce more noise.

I am intrigued enough by Friedlander’s suggestions that I’m considering spending $145 on my own mechanical keyboard. I learned to type on a typesetting machine — an enormous, noisy beast with keys the size of gumdrops. (There’s a photo of one at the top of this post.) I think I’ll enjoy the noise and tactile sensation of a more responsive keyboard.

Perhaps I’ll even get as much pleasure out of it as I do out of my back door that now closes ever so quietly.

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Reading time: Less than 1 minute

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about the figurative language (and other writing skills) of novelist Julian Barnes…

As a longtime fan of the superb British writer Julian Barnes, I was thrilled to receive a gift of his 2018 book The Only Story: A Novel in time for a recent beach holiday. I sat on the sands of Galiano Island and gobbled up Barnes’s fine prose and skillfull storytelling.

Barnes is an Oxford grad who worked briefly as a lexicographer before becoming a a reviewer and literary editor for the New Statesman and the New Review. In the early 1980s, he worked as a television critic and, following that, released a string of bestselling books including the Man-Booker prize winner The Sense of an Ending.

Sadly, I didn’t enjoy this recent book — which tells the story of a young man’s first love affair, and one with a much older woman, to boot — as much as I’d enjoyed previous Barnes novels. (Sense of an Ending remains one of my favourites.)

Nevertheless, I was able to discern some fine figurative language. Here are my favourite examples:

  • The second match was harder, against a couple who kept breaking off to have quiet tactical conversations, as if preparing for marriage.
  • My father was milder, and less given to judgement. He preferred to allow things to blow over, to let sleeping dogs lie, not to stir up mud; whereas my mother preferred facing facts and not brushing things under the carpet.
  • The truth was that nobody ever arrived without invitation, and all that tidying and wiping was performed out of what struck me as deep social atavism.

In truth, however, Barnes’s writing skill is not primarily revealed in his figurative language. I think it comes from his ability to examine human motivation and to dissect it with elegance and grace and, frequently with a gentle sense of humour, as well.

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The Publication Coach by Daphne Gray-grant - 1w ago

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

Increase your vocabulary and you’ll make your writing much more precise. That’s why I provide a word of the week. Today’s word: sehnsucht…

I was being lazy when I read the novel The Italian Party by Christina Lynch. It was an easy, unchallenging book described by The New York Times Book Review Podcast as, “deeply funny.” I’m not sure I’d go that far. But it was an amusing enough novel for whiling away a few hours on the beach.

More commendably, it also gave me my word-of-the-week, sehnsucht. Here’s how author Christina Lynch used it:

Carlo told her about something called Sehnsucht. It was a German word that he said had no real equivalent in English or Italian.

I love German words! Freudenschade — which means taking pleasure in the misfortune of someone else — is one of my favourites. But I’d never before heard of sehnsucht.

It turns out that it means “longing,” “pining,” “yearning,” or “craving.” Psychologists have identifed the  six core characteristics of the word as follows:

  • utopian conceptions of ideal development
  • sense of incompleteness and imperfection of life
  • conjoint time focus on the past, present, and future
  • ambivalent (bittersweet) emotions
  • reflection and evaluation of one’s life
  • symbolic richness

Do you spot any of these feelings in the photo of the sculpture — called Sehnsucht by Susanne Kraißer — shown at the top of this blog post? I know that I do! “Sehnsucht” is also the name of a poem by Friedrich Schiller that inspired composers like Franz Schubert and Siegfried Wagner. In contemporary times, Sehnsucht is also the title by the second album of the German metal band, Rammstein, published in 1997.

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Reading time: Just over 4 minutes

Do you want to speed up your writing process? Who doesn’t? That’s precisely why you should dictate rather than write with your hands…

Back in the era of Mad Men, secretaries went into the offices of people like Don Draper (photo above) and took shorthand while he dictated. Now, however, you don’t need a secretary to be able to dictate.

I am writing this column by speaking it aloud to my computer.

This process is called voice command or voice activation. You speak and your computer records your words — not as an audio file — but as a text one. Likely, you may have already used such a feature on your cell phone to record texts or emails to family, friends and colleagues. But the same process operates just as well for longer writing on your desktop or laptop computer.

I was reflecting on voice activation software recently, because I have a client — a university professor — who is working with a very bright PhD student who has a hard time expressing himself in writing. “I bet he has a learning disability,” I said. My advice was to get him to use voice activation software.

I first tried voice activation about six years ago on the urging of my doctor who thought it might help my back problems. I have difficulty with my thoracic spine and the theory was that reducing my typing would help reduce my pain. I went out and bought Dragon Dictate and gave it a try. Sadly, I found the number of errors the software made so infuriating that I couldn’t continue with it.

A few years later, I decided to try again. This time, however, I hired a consultant to help “train” me — along with the software. Smartest move I’ve ever made. In only an hour, the consultant had me operating Dragon like a pro, and helped me understand why it hadn’t worked for me before. Let me share those reasons with you:

  • I have a Mac. Until recently, the Mac version of Dragon has been vastly inferior to the PC one. (As a long-time Apple user, I’m more accustomed to the reverse being true.) If you’ve already tried Dragon on a Mac and found that it doesn’t work for you, check to see which version you’re using and upgrade to a later one if necessary. Dragon for Mac is now on version 6; version 5 or later works well for Mac. (If you have an earlier version, be sure to upgrade.) If you’re on a PC, you’re already good to go. Dragon was built for PCs.
  • I used to use Dragon with any software — Word documents, email, text files, websites. Now, I’ve learned that it works best inside of Word and can be finicky inside of email. As a result, I do all my dictating in Word, then I copy and paste it to wherever I want it to go.
  • The training isn’t as onerous as I thought. My consultant gave me a handy-dandy “cheat sheet” with reminders about how to quickly correct errors as I see them. It’s always better to direct the software to correct mistakes — rather than fixing them yourself — because that trains the software in how to better capture your voice and pronunciation.
What are the benefits of voice activation software?

I see three main ones:

1 – It helps you write a whole lot faster. I’m a pretty quick writer now, but I’m much, much faster with voice activation. I think this is because:

  • I can speak a lot faster than I can write by hand or type. When I use a pencil and paper, I can produce no more than 40 words per minute. And although my typing speed is very respectable — about 85 to 90 words per minute – it’s a lot slower than my talking, which, like most people’s is about 150 words per minute.
  • Even though I’m diligent about trying not to edit while I write, my inner editor still wrestles for control. I use all sorts of tricks to keep my inner editor at bay, but speaking the words, rather than writing them, makes the biggest difference of all.

2 – Voice activation eases the strain on my back and wrists. Now I can write more quickly with much less physical pain. If you find that it takes a full weekend for your back or wrists to recover from the typing you do, voice activation would be a good tool for you to try.

3 – Voice activation allows me to walk more easily while I write. As you may know, I have a treadmill desk, and I find it an enormous boost to my creativity and my productivity. Of course I can type while I walk (it’s not nearly as difficult as most people imagine), but it’s easier to use only my voice. And if you don’t have a treadmill desk, then — with voice activation, and a wireless headset — you will be able to stroll around your office while you’re writing your next article or report.

And what are the downsides?

I see only two, and one of them is temporary.

1 – The error rate is about 5%. The only difficulty is that many of these mistakes are really hard to see. This is because our brains have their own built-in autocorrect function: typically, when we see a mistake in something we’ve written ourselves, our brains read the words they expect to see rather than the words that are actually written. When using any voice activation software, it’s important to proofread extra carefully. See my tips for proofreading, here. Note one super-smart idea recommended by one of my readers (below). Have your computer read your writing back to you. That way you’ll be able to hear any errors.

2 – If you’ve written on a computer for many years, expect it to take some time for you to become accustomed to dictating. When I first started dictating, I used to say that I “didn’t know where to put my brain” when I was writing. It felt as though I had more brain than I had things to do. It was awkward and uncomfortable. It reminded me of the feeling I had 30 years ago when I switched from writing by hand to writing directly on a keyboard. In both cases it took me about three months to get used to the transition. (You also have to learn to speak your punctuation — e.g. say “comma” when you want a comma and “period” when you want to end a sentence — but I’ve never had any difficulty with that.)

The software program Word has built-in voice activation. I’ve never used it myself but most of the reports I’ve read suggest it’s not terribly effective. The small investment in specialized software, like Dragon, and a good microphone has been worth every nickel. I can both write faster and do it more happily.

If you want the name of my voice activation software consultant, who works via Skype, send me an email and I’ll share it with you.

Have you ever tried voice activation software? How did you find it? We can all learn from each other so, please, share your thoughts with my readers and me in the “comments” section, below. Anyone who comments on today’s post (or any others) by July 31/18 will be put in a draw for a copy of the non-fiction book The Golden Spruce by John Vaillant. Please, scroll down to the comments, directly underneath the “related posts” links, below. Note that you don’t have to join the commenting software to post. See here to learn how to post as a guest.

*This post first appeared on my blog on Nov. 1/16.

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Reading time: Less than 5 minutes

Looking for some recommended books in time for summer reading? Here’s my semi-annual roundup of books I’ve read this year.  

I aim to read 52 books every 12 months, and my habit is to post a complete list of the names of them for you, in July and December. Here is a description of the 27 books I’ve enjoyed so far this year. Yes, I really do read more than a book a week! I give you this list close to the North American summer solstice to help you with plans for your own summer reading. 

Please note I don’t generally read mysteries, sci-fi or fantasy. I pass no judgment on those who do; my tastes don’t usually run in those directions.   

FICTION (in order of preference) 

1-Fowler, Karen Joy. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. An exquisitely crafted coming-of-age story placed on the set of a dysfunctional family. I read it on my Kindle without knowing anything about the story, so a charming plot twist (revealed at about the 25% point) took me completely by surprise. Fowler is a skilled writer who is able to blend humour with other, darker emotions in a highly readable book.

2-McKoen, Belinda. Tender. The story — a coming-of-age drama about a young woman in Dublin — is so deeply felt and exquisitely explained (almost dissected), I felt as though I’d lived through it. Richly rewarding.

3-St. Aubyn, Edward. Never Mind. (A Patrick Melrose story.) St. Aubyn is one of those rare writers who has great wealth, incredible talent AND the ability to work hard. An exceedingly unusual trifecta. I was particularly impressed with the way he was able to capture the voice of a six-year-old. The fictional story (based on the author’s own tragic life) is rather bleak, but it is beautifully told. (The Patrick Melrose books have recently been turned into a SHOWTIME series starring Benedict Cumberbatch.)

4-Best, Gillian. The Last Wave. I loved this richly written novel, focusing on a woman who successfully swam the English Channel nine times and the complex threads of her adult life.

5-Ward, Jesmyn. Sing, Unburied, Sing. An almost unrelievedly grim story — about a black family in Mississippi — this book has some of the most beautiful writing I’ve encountered in many years. It appeared on a number of “best-book-of-2017” lists.

6-Strout, Elizabeth.  Anything is Possible. I’ve been a big fan of Elizabeth Strout ever since I read her Pulitzer-prize winning 2008 book, Olive Kitterage. Once again, Strout creates a series of linked short stories in which she thoughtfully explores the everyday lives of people living in the fictional rural town of Amgash, Illinois. I consider Strout to be the American Alice Munro.

7-Ko, Lisa. The Leavers. Set in New York and China, this book offers a beautifully written story of the challenges of immigration. Displays superb figurative language, was a National Book Award Finalist and was named a best book of 2017 by NPR.

8-Rosenstiel, Tom. Shining City. Pretty good political thriller based in Washington DC, telling the story of a political fixer who is brought in to vet the president’s nominee for the Supreme Court. (Particularly timely given last week’s resignation of Justice Anthony Kennedy.)

9-Johnston, Wayne. First Snow, Last Light. Didn’t like this one as much as his previous novels, such as The Colony of Unrequited Dreams and The Navigator of New York. The plot seemed forced and the characters, with the exception of Sheila Fielding, seemed unrealistic and hard to believe. Excellent writing, though.

10-Roth, Philip. The Human Stain. I read this some four months before the death of the acclaimed author. The third book in a trilogy, this one explores the topic of race relations in a university setting. The plot is clever and well expressed, although I frequently found myself distracted by Roth’s “rants” (others have described these as “virtuoso passages”) about crows, dancing and big band music.

11-Khong, Rachel. Goodbye Vitamin: A novel. This is a novel about a woman who moves home at the age of 30 to help care for her father who has Alzheimer’s disease. Surprisingly funny in spots, and some fine figurative language, but overall her writing seems a bit immature.

12-Urrea, Luis Alberto. The House of Broken Angels. Pretty good book with some exemplary writing, telling the story of a Mexican immigrant family. Terrific characters and some great humour. The story goes slightly sideways towards the end but otherwise is very worthwhile.

13-Redhill, Michael. Bellevue Square. The book jacket describes it as a “darkly comic literary thriller,” I’d call it more of a ghost story. Well written but also frustrating and, at times, hard to follow.

14-Jones, Tayari. An American Marriage. This is the story of what happens to a young black couple when the husband is wrongly imprisoned for five years. Wish I had liked it more. Felt like mediocre chick-lit despite a few moments of some very fine writing and a surprisingly sophisticated ending.

15-Harris, Robert. Munich. A fictionalized retelling of the Munich Peace Agreement, negotiated between British PM Neville Chamberlain and Adolf Hitler in 1938, just a year before the Second World War. Flawlessly researched and interesting but not as gripping as Harris’s other books, Conclave and Enigma.

16-Horowitz, Anthony. Magpie Murders. The first half of this book really didn’t impress me, but it picked up considerably in the second. Sort of a murder within a murder (like a play within a play). Quite Agatha-Christie-ish. Not quite to my taste, though.

17-Egan, Jennifer. Manhattan Beach. An engaging plot and a good read (and Egan’s usual fine figurative writing) but I was disappointed by the ending. Not enough change in many of the characters. What was the point of this book?

18-Itani, Frances. That’s My Baby. The story of a woman who was adopted as a baby in the 1920s and who struggles to learn her birth story. The plot should have been engaging enough but I couldn’t get past the writing, which struck me as awkward and distancing. Too much passive voice. Characters too thinly developed.

19-Hawley, Noah. Before the Fall. Pretty good page-turner focusing on a plane accident, although it often devolved into cliché. The writing style is slightly more sophisticated than John Grisham. Might be a good beach read.

20-Jaswal, Balli Kaur. Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows. The title is the best thing about this book. Funny concept — a writing teacher is brought in for Punjabi widows, but what they want to write is porn. But the writing of the book is lifeless and cliched.

21-Slimani, Leila. The Perfect Nanny. I don’t often read “hot” books, but I was about to climb on a plane and I had heard excellent reviews of this novel. And, to boot, it had won France’s most prestigious literary prize, the Goncourt. I’m not spoiling the plot when I tell you the nanny murders her charges. (You learn this fact in the book’s first sentence.) But I had hoped for better writing and more sophisticated psychological analysis. Instead, I found the book very thin and either poorly written or, perhaps, poorly translated. Many reviewers loved this book, however.

Not recommended

22-Lynch, Christina. The Italian Party.

NON-FICTION (in order of preference)

23-Vaillant, John. The Golden Spruce. Beautifully written book about the destruction of a 300-year-old Golden Spruce tree in British Columbia. Reads partly as an environmental work, filled with lots of detail, but also appears almost as a novelistic thriller, exploring the backstory of the mysterious man who took a chainsaw to the tree and then disappeared.

24-Westover, Tara. Educated. This is the story of a young woman raised in a large isolated family where scavenging in the family scrap yard and making herbs into medicine were the only sources of income. Tara escapes and goes on to win a fellowship from Cambridge university and graduates with a PhD. She is also a remarkable writer.

25-Doroghy, Dave. The Accidental Apiarist. This book has not yet been published (I read the author’s manuscript) but I have no doubt it will be. It’s a funny and charming memoir about the life of a part-time beekeeper. Keep your eye out for it.

26-Hendricks, Gay. The Big Leap. Interesting self-help book (on how to have a better, more successful life) from a New York Times bestselling psychologist. I dislike his fondness of cute language (e.g.: The “Upper Limit Problem”) but I found his chapter on time particularly helpful and insightful.

27-Marzano-Lesnevich, Alexandria. The Fact of a Body. The book is a pretty interesting examination of a New Orleans murder case, woven, strand-like, into the author’s own memoir. Didn’t work 100% of the time, but she’s a graceful writer and has interesting reflections on the law.

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My video podcast last week aimed to help writers with their self-motivation.  Or, see the transcript, and consider subscribing to my YouTube channel. If you have a question about writing you’d like me to address, be sure to send it to me by ,  Twitter or Skype and I’ll try to answer it in the podcast.

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What books have you particularly enjoyed this year? We can all learn from each other so, please share your thoughts with my readers and me in the “comments” section, below. And congratulations to Abby, the winner of this month’s book prize, Between You and Me: Confession of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris for a July 26/18 comment on my blog. Anyone who comments on today’s post (or any others) by July 31/18 will be put in a draw for a copy of The Golden Spruce, by John Vaillant. To leave your own comment, please, scroll down to the section, directly underneath the “related posts” links, below. Note that you don’t have to join the commenting software to post. See here to learn how to post as a guest.

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The Publication Coach by Daphne Gray-grant - 2w ago

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss a blog post on book marketing by Penny Sansevieri… 

Have you written a book and then struggled with marketing it? I get regular emails from readers in this situation. Many of them, it seems, are allergic to book marketing.

Even though I’ve left Facebook, I know that I can’t escape social media altogether, so I’m still active on Twitter. Plus, I blog five times each week. And my book, 8 1/2 Steps To Writing Faster, Better, is still selling well.

But if you’re struggling with book marketing, take some advice from expert Penny Sansevieri (pictured above). In a detailed and thoughtful blog post, headlined, “Get the Most from Book Marketing Services,” she provides a useful checklist.

Most of all, she gives an important warning:

Collaboration is a good thing. With 4,500+ books published every day, you needn’t stress about duplicating efforts. Consumers often need as many as seven exposures before deciding to make a purchase.

Were you aware that  4,500 books are published every day? Those are staggering odds. To deal with the competition, Penny suggest that authors begin with a rock-solid website — but that’s far from the final step. She suggests we also use social media, get reviews, run promotions and giveaways and start working on our next books.

For those who are especially fearful of social media, she even provides a rather neat social media personality quiz that will reveal whether your best option is: Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or video. Book writing is not the only job facing authors. Book marketing is another essential task.

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