Lessons Learned from Losing NaNoWriMo

author buried in tasks during NanowrimoI’ve been participating in National Novel Writing Month nearly every year since 2004. A couple of my favorite stories have resulted from it, including Don’t Tell Anyone. And since I had to overcome a ton of obstacles to “win” that first NaNoWriMo challenge, I felt a tremendous sense of accomplishment from pulling it off. I still have the certificate tacked to a bulletin board in my kitchen. Yeah, I know. After a certain age, that’s kinda-sorta pathetic, but it’s my kinda-sorta pathetic, so it’s staying.

Considering what was going on in my life during that first try — an uber-demanding full-time job, family stress, houseguests, a double mastectomy for my mother-in-law — I had no business taking on the added responsibility of hitting the daily word quota to produce something resembling a story. And while the writing was one of my more enjoyable tasks, and an opportunity to escape for an hour and a half or so every day, it took its toll on my health, and I spent half of December recovering.

But I learned from that lesson. Maybe that’s part of the reason the certificate is still on display. It’s a reminder to take care with my commitments. I’m pretty good at juggling — little round objects as well as responsibilities — but if I have too many balls in the air, odds are that one of them is going to succumb to the laws of gravity. Continue reading “Lessons Learned from Losing NaNoWriMo”

Almost Everything You Need to Know about ISBNs

ISBNOne of the most frequent questions I’ve heard lately from self-publishing authors is about ISBNs. Do you really need them? Do you really need to buy them? What are the pros and cons of buying an ISBN versus using the free or inexpensive ones offered by CreateSpace, BookBaby, Smashwords, and other online partners? Let’s see if we can clear that up some.
. Continue reading “Almost Everything You Need to Know about ISBNs”

Does (Book) Size Matter to Readers?

BookSizeReadersA quick spin through Mama Google tells authors and indie publishers pretty much everything they want to know about choosing the appropriate book size, usually called trim size. Sources mention that most self-published books range from 5″ x 8″ to 6″ x 9″, and often books that depend on images, like children’s picture books, cookbooks, and “coffee table” style books are larger, as are reference manuals and workbooks.

In choosing a book size, authors and publishers usually factor in cost, distribution limitations, and other technical matters. Authors are quick to offer their opinions, and our own Melissa Bowersock has written a helpful primer on formatting your print book. But what do readers want? What do they think is handiest, most comfortable for reading, easiest to carry around? So I asked a bunch. This report is by no means scientific, but I think I got to a decent cross-section of readers. Here’s what they told me. Continue reading “Does (Book) Size Matter to Readers?”

While You Were Writing: Tips and Tricks

IdeaIn case you’ve been too busy writing or watching cat videos to notice these small conveniences, I thought I’d round them up and bring them right to your eyeballs. Hopefully these tips and tricks will enhance your authorly productivity so you can go back to keeping up with the Kardashians and such. You’re welcome.

1. Google Chrome Tricks

Right-click on an image, and select “Search Google for this image.” Not only can you hunt for the original source of that image you intend to use on your blog, to make sure you have the necessary permissions, but you can try it on your book covers to see where else the image might be in use. It can avoid unpleasant surprises later, like finding out that image you’ve fallen in love with is being used on fifty other books in your genre. Continue reading “While You Were Writing: Tips and Tricks”