To Italicize or Not to Italicize

So, my book woes continue. Now CreateSpace has rejected my interior file because the pages aren’t numbered correctly (a problem I had while I was formatting it, but I thought I had fixed it).

I just want a bleeding proof copy for my beta readers to read. I’m not done with my editing, so the blank pages and page numbers, etc. are all going to have to be dealt with again. At this point, I don’t really care; I just want something they can read so they can give me feedback.

So, question for the writers and editor-types out there:

In English, it is standard to italicize foreign words unless they have entered common parlance. So, you might see déjà vu without italics (although you might see it with; depends on the writer/editor), but when your characters throw out foreign words, like “Oui,” they get italicized

When I was writing Acceptance, and Marie was driven to curse in French, that was easy: it was all italicized. I was more iffy on Micah calling his father “Abba,” since that’s Hebrew for “father.” He used it as a proper noun, and you could make the argument that it was used like a title (titles are not italicized), but he also referred to Isaac as “my father” in English, so there was a definite difference between him  using the English word and the Hebrew word. I ended up italicizing it.

The problem is magnified in The Flames of Prague. The book is set in 14th century Bohemia. While I’m writing in English, the understanding is that all of my characters are speaking Czech. Alzbeta calls her father “Tata,” which is Czech for “dad.” Should it be italicized or no? She calls her mother “Maman,” which is French, and so is foreign to both English and Czech, and therefore should be italicized, but I think it might look weird if I italicize that word, but not “Tata,” since it’s not English either.
What are your thoughts?


Fireworks and “Flames of Prague”

Argh. The last several days have been very frustrating.


Ah, the old Tennessee Alabama fireworks stand in my hometown, Kimball. It’s still there, but they got cheap and redid their sign sans neon. It’s just not the same.

I did have a pretty decent Fourth of July weekend, although it rained the entire time. We had to miss out on a cookout with friends and the fabled fireworks displays in Marion County, the fireworks capital of the United States. (No, seriously. There are no less than 6 permanent, year-round fireworks stores in the county. I went to elementary school next to a fireworks manufacturing facility. When we were safely ensconced inside the building, they closed off the street with gates and shot off experimental pieces in the road.)*

What has me really frustrated (and silent on my blog for the past week) is the proof copy of The Flames of Prague.

I uploaded my file and cover, but the file was rejected for having too many consecutive blank pages in it.

I thought that was bizarre, considering I didn’t put more than one blank page between sections. But, after dredging up year-old memories about this process, and looking at the actual .pdf file (as opposed to the Word file), I remembered that, for some bizarre reason, extra blank pages get inserted into the .pdf file when it gets converted from Word. I have yet to figure out why this happens—although I spent the better part of a day trying to figure it out last year. The easiest, fastest thing to do is to convert the file, open up the .pdf, and then manually delete the extra pages. It’s still a pain in the ass—because you have to do it every time you make a change to the text—but it works.

The only problem is that I no longer have access to a full version of Adobe. Where I used to work had a copy, so it was no trick to just delete the pages. But Adobe Reader and Foxit Reader neither one let you delete pages. A full version of Adobe Acrobat is $140; Foxit is $90. I hate to pay that for a program I need to use three or four times a year to do this one thing.

I downloaded a free trial 30-day version of Foxit yesterday, installed it, and fixed my file problem. Now I’m ready to try uploading my book again. (All this work and it’s just the proof copy. I still have to let my beta readers read it and do all my proofing.)

I did hit on a good idea yesterday, though. My former boss is trying to close up her law practice. I’m going to go work for her Sunday, and I’m going to ask her if I can buy her copy of Adobe Acrobat, since she doesn’t have a need for it anymore. (In fact, I’m going to make an offer on the office computer, since I know it’s newer than mine. Mine belonged to my husband before it was mine, and he bought his new computer back when times were still good—no less than 5 years ago. So my current computer is probably 7-9 years old.)

So, note to people who want to publish their books on CreateSpace: you need to get a full copy of either Adobe or Foxit Reader because you’re going to need the ability to edit a .pdf file. Start looking for an older, used copy now, before you actually need it. (Having to hunt for one has put me a week behind.)

The other thing I learned from this experience: make a CreateSpace to-do list (I wisely made one for Smashwords/Kindle, but not for the print portion of this enterprise). A lot of the problems I had with formatting and uploading both the text and the cover were problems I had last year when I did the same thing. In other words, I had to reinvent the wheel. You can be sure, though, that I wrote a checklist this time.


An updated Gadsden flag for our times.


I think “they” know I’m trying to post this picture. Suddenly I can’t connect to Google anymore. I had to use Bing. And we all know that’s the first step towards a Communist takeover.

*You may ask yourself: what happens if a fireworks store catches fire? Well, it gives the volunteer firefighters all the way into Alabama something to do, I can tell you that.

Someone drove through the front of one fireworks store in Jasper and caught it on fire. But, other than melting the siding and roof off one end of the Western Sizzlin’ next door, it didn’t do any serious damage to anything but itself; it was eventually rebuilt. One building of the fireworks factory blew up one night, but it didn’t do any major damage to any of the other buildings or the surrounding homes or school (it may have blown out some windows, but that was it). It, too, was eventually rebuilt. And I seem to recall that the Stateline fireworks store burned down when I was very little. I think it rocked the neighborhood, but nothing more.

All in all, it’s better to live near a fireworks store than a fertilizer plant.

Name that Chapter?

When I started writing Acceptance, I named my chapters and made a hyper-linked table of contents in my document. This allowed me to skip around in my document with more ease.

I left the names of the chapters in when I printed a proof copy of my book. My husband noticed them immediately and said I should get rid of them because no one used them anymore. I hadn’t thought about it before, but J. K. Rowling was the only writer I could name off the top of my head who uses them, and when I started looking through my fiction collection, I noticed that the vast majority didn’t have titles.

I left mine in anyways. (Yay for self-publishing!) I don’t know why, but I wanted to have a table of contents in my book, and a table of contents made up of nothing but chapter numbers is just sad.

E-Books Are Special

In the age of ebooks, Jane Ayers wonders if it’s better to have titles for chapters. She said that she’s seeing better sales with one of her books which does have chapter titles, but she’s not sure if that’s a fluke or there’s actually a correlation there.

But it makes sense that ebooks will be more user friendly if they have titled chapters. Think about your favorite book—one you’ve read multiple times. When you pick it up, I bet you don’t always start at the very beginning. There are times when you just want to reconnect with a particular character or relive some bit of action, so you open it up to that place (you know the place: you may not be able to quote the exact page number, but you know by feel when you’re in the right place; your eyes even look at the right spot on the right page).

Guess what? You can’t do that with an ebook. You can open it to the last place you read or to a bookmark, but there is no opening it up in a semi-random place in the middle and starting in on it.

Enter the titled chapter and the table of contents. You can go to the table of contents in your ebook and you can follow the hyperlink to the start of a chapter. But do you need Chapter 15 or Chapter 20?

I know my book so well that I can almost always find any bit of dialog I want simply by looking at the title of the chapter and following the link. The name of the chapter applies to the major theme/scene that happens in it, and I know which conversations took place in which scenes.

I was thinking about not using chapter titles in The Flames of Prague (although they exist right now for my convenience), but now I think I am going to go ahead and use them. With 99.5% my sales coming from ebooks—a trend that is sure to continue—I think it’s best to plan for the ebook. (I could leave them out of the printed copy, but why?)


I am totally ripping off… erm… I mean, I am totally inspired by Michelle Proulx’s Unrelated Image of the Day, so here’s a non-sequitur image:

How We Rolled

While sitting in the park today, I noticed that the playground was oddly full of parents. And I don’t mean parents around the playground. I mean right there in the gravel, pushing swings and spinning carousels, like those big kids of theirs weren’t capable of 1) doing it for themselves, 2) doing it for each other in a little thing known as unscripted peer-to-peer interaction.

In my day, parents knew their place was on the other side of the rail, and they stayed there unless there was an accident involving blood and screaming.

Money! Money from Writing!

Click this picture for a link to a really well-designed blog.

I just received notice of my first royalty payment from Amazon: $12.60. That’s not theoretical money. That’s actually money direct deposited into my bank. (I don’t think that includes a sale of my print book and it definitely doesn’t include my Smashwords sales. But I’ve not received payment for either of those yet, so that’s still theoretical money.)

Now, I can’t spend that sum all in one place. I will have to carefully consider how best to use it. My husband thinks I need business cards just for my first book (I already have personal business cards).

Oh, and I did an interview for the local paper last week and it came out in the paper today. So hopefully that will fuel a few sales going into the next quarter.


16 Free Ways to Market Your Book

I’ve been spending some time the last couple of days working hard on marketing Acceptance

You should start marketing at least 6 months prior to your book’s launch (in the case of blogging, it’s better if you start a year or so in advance). And the general consensus is that you should devote a certain amount of time every day (30 minutes) or in a block of time once a week (3 hours) to marketing your book. You not only do this prior to publication, but also afterwards, until your book is selling enough copies every month to make you happy.

Here are some of the ways you can market your book:

1. Blogging. It takes time to build a blog readership, so you need to start this well in advance of the publication of your book. I think most authors (myself included) start out talking about what we’re writing (the blog-as-writing-diary), but if you really want to have followers who are not family members, you need to offer information or entertainment (or both).

Common blog posts for writers include the mechanics of writing (grammar, punctuation, etc. help), how to get published/self-publish, book reviews, author/blogger interviews, and/or free stories (like Bloodsuckers).

2. Blog Networking. In order to get people on your blog, you need to participate on other people’s blogs. Find people you want to follow and comment on posts. But don’t spam. Don’t mention your book unless it’s relevant to what you’re commenting on. And in most cases you should not put a link to your blog or book in the comment. Instead, it’s standard to provide your link when you log in to post (and it will be linked with your name and/or picture).

While you can certainly follow people’s blogs just because you like them, when you go looking for new blogs, think about the audience for your blog and for your book. Since most of my blog posts are about writing and publishing, and since my writing is, at the moment, mostly about vampires, I tend to hang out on the blogs of other writers and people who like vampires. Someone who is into contemporary literature isn’t likely to like either my blog or my book. Likewise, they’re not likely to be posting something I find interesting or useful (although you never know).

And once you start getting new followers, check out their blogs. More likely than not, they’re blogging about things that you like, so you can learn something. Maybe you’ll even want to post about something they’ve mentioned and share a link to their blog. They’re likely to reciprocate at some point in the future, so it’s like sharing your audiences.

3. Website. Some people prefer to have all their info on a blog, but I had so many extras associated with just Acceptance (that’s more common when you publish fiction than non-fiction), I felt it was really cluttering my blog, and it was just going to get worse as I added books. So I set up a website for my static information, like book info and extras that don’t change much. My blog remains fluid, with new content posted every week.  (My blog is also a form of social media, because people can leave comments.)

Having both a blog and website means you have two ways for people to find you on the internet.

4. Facebook Fan Page. Some people seem to get more mileage out of their Facebook fan page than I’m getting right now. But you’ll never know until you try it. (And, like a blog, it can be something that takes a while to build up.) Create a fan page and use something like NetworkedBlogs to automatically post on Facebook when you do a new blog post (you can also have it post to your personal Facebook page).

But, in addition to letting your fans know there’s a new blog post available, put some other content on it. It’s a good place to put info that’s perhaps too short for a blog post or share your favorite links or short book reviews. Regardless, make sure the bulk of your content is something that’s informational or entertaining for your readers. No one wants an endless stream of ads on their Facebook wall.

5. TwitterLike Facebook, only with even smaller amounts of info (160 characters, to be exact). It’s also like blogging, in that you should find other people to follow and try to interact with them. (I’m still working on the interacting part; Twitter is not my preferred environment.)  You can also use NetworkedBlogs to announce new blog posts on Twitter automatically.

I suggest using Buffer to help you time your posts on both Facebook and Twitter so you don’t end up sharing loads of info one day, then go quiet for several days. Steady, consistent amounts of info is the way to go with those. Right now, I’m making one post to Facebook per day and three on Twitter (not counting automatic blog notices). Some people tweet 5-7 times a day, but do be careful about tweeting and retweeting too much, because you can quickly drive people crazy (or at least drive me crazy).

6. Newsletter. I’ve seen newsletters touted by a number of people, but I will admit I don’t have one and have no immediate plans for one. I prefer to just use my blog to share my promotional materials (announcements, coupons, etc.). If my blog had a huge readership–and especially if my blog readership tended to be different than the sort of people who would like my books–then I might consider running a separate newsletter to make book announcements. But, as it is, it’s not worth my effort. However, it might be something that you want to consider–especially if you don’t want to blog. You can collect followers on a website and then use the newsletter to deliver the sort of active content that others deliver on their blog. Newsletters really shouldn’t be put out more than once a month. The minimum is 3-4 times a year.

Catherine Caffeinated recommends Mailchimp. It’s a free service that mails out your newsletter for you. (You do not want to mail out a newsletter to a large number of people from your regular e-mail address host, or they will shut you down because it looks like you (or a hacker) is spamming. As me how I know this.)

8. Forums. Figure out who your target audience is going to be, then find the forums where they hang out. Again, you are not going to spam the forums with ads about your book. Instead, you’re going to actually read the posts and make your own comments. Many forums allow signatures, and you can put a link to your book or blog in your signature. This is also a good place to do some market research for your next novel(s). What do people like reading? Who is the hot author in your genre? If you’re still in the editing phase of your book, this can also be a good place to run ideas by people (e.g. “Do you think X, Y, Z would work in a historical romance novel?) or even find people to be your beta readers.

I like to spend some time over on the NaNoWriMo forums, especially during November, when they’re at their most active. Having a good knowledge of history, and having been through NaNoWriMo and produced a book, I like to help others who are just getting started writing or who are researching history. I always learn something while I’m there, and some people will check out the link in my signature.

9. Book Reviews. Once you have your book published, you need reviews to help generate sales. There are two different kinds of reviews: the ones on your stores (Amazon, Smashwords, et al) and the ones on other people’s blogs/Facebook posts. It’s good to have both.

Most people don’t want to risk their hard-earned cash on a book that may suck a lot. Having a few good reviews on Amazon, Smashwords, etc. helps assure people that your book is not riddled with spelling errors and plot holes. Your  followers on your blog might be willing to read a copy of your book (send it to them for free or give them a Smashwords coupon) and give you a review at the store(s) of your choice. Not only does having a review help convince other people to buy your book, but it will help your sales ranking at most booksellers, which, in turn, will make your book easier for new people to find.

You’re going to have to hunt for the other kind of reviewer. Google book review blogs in your genre. The top results on Google are probably from bloggers/reviewers with a pretty large fan base, but look to see if they have their follower/view stats posted somewhere. If the blog is small, then I don’t think it’s wrong to ask the reviewer to give you a review on at least one store, in addition to their blog. Bloggers with a large audience, however, will probably only review on their blog. But if they’re getting a million page views every month, you don’t need their review on Amazon. Their review will reach more people and carry more weight on their blog. In short, it is a word-of-mouth recommendation.

A word of warning: make sure you read the instructions/about page and see if the blogger will read and review self-published work. Some won’t. Don’t waste your time or theirs trying to contact them. If your novel breaks through and becomes the shizzle, they’ll come find you.

10. Goodreads. I’ve heard Goodreads described as “Facebook for people who like to read.” You can post what you’re reading, see what your friends are reading, leave reviews, get suggestions from friends, and participate in forums.

Once you publish, you need to upload the info on your book and establish your author page. This way, Goodreaders can easily review your book, recommend it to friends (remember, word-of-mouth is by far and away the #1 way to sell your book), discuss it on the forums, or put it in their favorites list (which will help its popularity).

Once you’ve put your book info on Goodreads, you can “add ebook” from your book’s page and allow readers on Goodreads to 1) download your book from there, or 2) download a sample from there. I don’t know what (if any) tracking info Goodreads has on their website, so it might be hard to see how many people are looking at your book or downloading a free copy or sample, but they do make it easy to click through to a retailer, like Amazon, so the person can buy your book.

I put a 50% sample of Acceptance on Goodreads (you can get the same sample on Smashwords) and I’m going to upload The Bloodsuckers Volumes 1 and 2 for direct download.

11. Cross-Market Your Books. Don’t let one of your books go to market without using that opportunity to market your other stuff. Your first book should direct people to your blog, website, social media, newsletter, etc. Subsequent books (or short stories) should not only do that, but also tout a previous or new release. Kind of a “If you liked this book, check out my newest book, X” sort of thing. You can get a surprising amount of marketing info on 1-2 pages at the end of your book.

The beauty of ebooks is that they’re easily changed, so it’s not much effort to add sales info for your new books to your old ones. As any person with a business will tell you, you get most of your business from repeat customers. (You get most of your new business from word-of-mouth–i.e. those repeat customers telling all their friends.)

12. Pinterest. Have a board just for your book (or book series) and share pictures that are related to it.

13. YouTube. Make a trailer for your book and put it on YouTube. If you’re one of those people who is good on camera (definitely not me), then do some vlogs or otherwise share instructional material. Or you can do videos related to things in your book. For example, if your book is a contemporary romance and your heroine is a florist, you might make a simple video about flower arranging and mention your book once or twice. This way, people who come to see your video might end up picking up your book as well.

Pinterest allows you to pin videos, so don’t forget to cross-link your stuff by pinning your videos to your book’s board.

14. CafePress. I’ve found that CafePress has a definite learning curve to it, so I don’t have my store up and running yet, but I do intend to have Acceptance-themed merchandise available through it. That allows me to make a little secondary money from my book, and you never know; someone might see the shirt on CafePress and get curious about the book that inspired it.

15. Press Releases. Check out my previous post on how I did mine.

16. Real-Life Networking. Find local book or writer clubs. National Novel Writing Month is getting ready to start in November, and local groups are already starting to meet. While you’re not going to sell a lot of books for the time investment, you will meet people who have all sorts of connections in the book and writing worlds, and that can be worth more to you in the long run than selling a hundred books.

Also, get some business cards. I started out with some personal ones from VistaPrint (I think I paid $6 for them), but my husband and I were just talking about me getting some new ones which are specific to my book. That way, when I’m talking to someone about my book (be that at a writer’s get-together, synagogue, a re-enactment, Halloween party, work, etc.) I can give them a business card related to me and/or my book. Obviously it will have my name, a link to my blog and website, plus my e-mail address. For a book-specific card, I might use the short description of my book on Smashwords (you can get two-sided cards).


I’m poor (and you probably are too, if you’re just starting out), so I can’t afford to pay to market my book. I haven’t paid for anything except my website, which I funded through Kickstarter. But there are some decent, easy-to-build website packages out there for free, so even that doesn’t have to cost anything to start.

If you have some money to put towards advertising, don’t look at Google or Facebook ads; those are expensive and aren’t likely to hit many of the readers in your demographic. I’ve heard that Goodreads has good ad-targeting (at least everyone who sees it is going to be someone who is into books). You might also consider ads on some of those very popular book blogs that you found when you were looking for reviewers. You’ll know they’re being seen by people who like to read books in the same genre as yours.

Sending Out Press Releases

After tweaking my press release a little for each market, I submitted press releases to the following papers:

Eagleville – the town where I live now.

Lewisburg – the town where I work.

Marion County -the county where I grew up (they had one website for all the county papers and an online form that allowed you to submit a press release to all of them).

Knoxville – because part of the book takes place there.

Oak Ridge – because the second and third books take place there. (I would have also submitted to the Lenoir City paper, but their website apparently has a virus on it because Google and other filters blocked it)

Chattanooga – the largest city near where I grew up; it covers some news in my home county.

Murfreesboro – the closest city to where I live. (This included both the standard newspaper and an independent paper that covers just local arts and culture.) Here is my release on the Daily News Journal blog.

Nashville – covers Middle TN news.

I also submitted a more personal publication note to the alumni office/class reporter at my high school and college.

This just gives you some idea of where to send your own press releases. Not all papers will print book releases, or they may not cover them if the book is self-published. But it doesn’t cost anything but a little time and the worst than can happen is they tell you “no.”

Teenager Makes Flipping Big Wads of Cash on Her Vampire Novel

Teenager Abigail Gibbs just got a 6-figure book deal for her vampire novel that started off as Twilight fan fic.

Now, I’m not going to hate on Abigail, because if it was me, hell yeah I’d be taking that deal and celebrating (and probably crying from happiness).

But, really?

If you haven’t heard, Fifty Shades of Gray started out as a Twilight fan fic (the completed novel has no vampires in it, though) and it (and its sequels) are currently the best-selling book(s) in the world.

And here I spent all my time and effort making up unique characters and unique vampires–who come complete with 2,500 years of history and mythological origins (you can read all my background information on my website). Instead, I should have been using my time and energy writing about characters that already exist, or putting new characters into an existing fantasy universe.

Urgh. The only thing I see that’s mildly positive is that Abigail’s story started out as a serial novel and it attracted so many readers, it got the attention of an agent. So share The Bloodsuckers with more people! Baby needs a new pair of shoes. (No, really, I do.)