Thursday, October 28, 2010

The recent widespread use of incorrect grammar and spelling is commonplace among TV spokespersons, and particularly noticeable on the Internet. It is hard to say whether these lapses are being caused by the urge for haste while posting, or simple ignorance, or a wider consequence of the general decline in education standards.
It might seem tiresome to make a long list of such errors, so one recent example might serve for now.
The word "problematic" does not mean something that is a problem. Problematic means something that is doubtful or questionable of success. An example of correct useage: "Whether the initiative will be successful is problematic for now."

Monday, October 18, 2010

Next time you need to come up with writing something new, follow these steps and they will lead you easily to completing a full article or piece of advertising copy in record time.
1. Start by picking a word that broadly covers your topic -- any word that relates to your topic or product will do for now.
2. Go online to the Overture Keyword tool, and type in your word. Sift through the results, and choose five keyword phrases that best describe your idea most clearly.
3. Sit back, relax, and think over it for a while, maybe muse over a cup of coffee. The important thing now is not to try and rush the writing. If you do, you will just have to start all over again, so have patience.
4. Now, jot down some further ideas that relate to your subject, then scramble the phrases you wrote.
5. These phrases – however disjointed they may seem at this stage -- will eventually become the seeds of your writing outline.
6. Now, open Google Search and click on the Advanced search. The reason for using Advanced search is that it will return more definitive results, unlike an ordinary web search where you have to filter through numerous pages before you get to what you are interested in.
7. Trying to write about a topic straight off without preparation is not likely to be productive, when you are facing the need to write an 800 word article about it.
8. Type each of your main words or keyword phrases into the Advanced site. Set it to show 10 results. Open the sites one by one and first determine how closely what you see is relevant to what you want to write. If so, read through the content once or twice and select the main elements or ideas you find to be important to your article.
9. Go through all ten phrases. You will likely find that only about half will be relevant to you. You will also come across ideas or information you never even thought of in the first place.
10. As you research, write down the headings for ideas in your document. Don't worry what it looks like at this stage; just keep going.
11. Once you have finished with the research, give yourself a break just to clear your mind. If you still feel stuck, best push yourself away from the keyboard and take a break by going outdoors to do something physical. Maybe a brief jog around the block, or take a walk with the dog, anything to break let your subconscious go to work.
12. This break will get you back to your computer refreshed, more able to start sorting the information you wrote down. Don't rewrite yet, first cut and paste in the page until you have a rough article that will makes sense. Now is the time to form the piece into having a coherent beginning, middle, and end.
13. Once you have completed this process, start rewriting your information in sentences and paragraphs into easily readable form.
14. Overly simple as this procedure may seem, it is a sure-fire method of overcoming so-called “writers block” and quickly getting the final words down on paper.

“Copywriting is 80% research, only 20% writing the actual copy.”
Ad agency adage.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Despite what is being claimed everywhere on the WWW, e-books are not the absolute be-all-and-end-all of published format. There is still a huge buyer demand for information printed the "old-fashioned way" -- on paper. The very technology that spawned the WWW also provides the ability for individual self-publishers to produce top-quality books that can be readily sold for a handsome profit.
Strange to say, that can be a problem in itself. Many would-be self-publishers of books seem dazzled by the variety of impressive production features that are possible with new print on demand [POD] technology. They visualize their name on fat full-length novels printed with perfect-bound spines, elaborate text formatting, varnished covers, and four-colour artwork.
Unfortunately, this yen for heft and glitz is not only expensive, it overlooks the fact that every self-published book is very difficult to market and sell, no matter how handsomely packaged or aggressively promoted.
Instead, entrepreneurial authors could be far more successful by producing modestly-sized publications that require only ordinary word processing software, simply printed on typewriter paper held together with staples or spiral binding. Millions of these little-known special interest printed publications are published yearly, enjoyed by individuals who buy them regardless of finished appearance; valued for content that, while simple, is not available elsewhere.
The "information market" comprises what is probably the largest, and certainly most lucrative, segment of self-publishing today. It meets an enormous on-going demand for fact-filled booklets, folios, reports, guides, manuals, and directories – short compilations of specific information on a variety of everyday subjects: "how-to" instructions on everyday subjects, and guidance on health, hobbies, finance, or romance. It's much easier than authors might guess to start profiting from information they possess already. People crave written knowledge and advice that somehow educates or enlightens them, and pay for it readily, regardless of format appearance. Demand for practical information is so large and diverse in topics and interests, it offers unlimited opportunities for self-published authors.
Subject matter varies widely. For instance, Julia Griggs Havey parlayed her self-published Awaken The Diet Within into a lucrative career on the lecture circuit. Don Massey wrote a 64-page manual about buying and selling used cars, and has made well over $150,000 from it already. J. Conrad Levinson, now the wealthy author of Guerilla Marketing books and seminars, started out in 1974 selling a 30-page booklet for $10.00. Half a million people bought Ted Nichols' instructions on How To Form Your Own Corporation. My own 90-page Military Publications International Directory is now in its 23rd annual edition, continuing to be a steady and popular perennial.
Other successes are legion, with short folios on thousands of topics ranging from folk medicine, pet care, and sex manuals, to money-making plans, genealogy, and cookbooks. So if you have published similar informative topics as e-books, grasp the opportunity now to maximize your profits by converting the electronic material to printed form as well.
By Sidney Allinson.
“Hundreds of self-published books keep flooding into my office, in hopes of getting a review” says Liz Pogue, Books Editor of the Times Colonist newspaper. “But they seldom do. We simply haven’t the time to read them, nor enough free page-space available.” Despite that, Pogue does manage to occasionally include brief summaries of a few self-published titles, but she is forced to re-cycle most to the blue-box. “We can’t even give them away!”
These facts of editorial life seem to baffle many self-published (SP) authors all across Canada who frenetically pursue reviews in newspapers as publicity for their books. Many cannot for the life of them understand why most of the time that does not happen. After all, it costs periodical cash money to have a review written, either from a staffer’s salary or to pay a freelance reviewer. A conscientious review can take an entire day to write, not including the time also needed to thoroughly read the book first.
The recent explosive urge for author blurbs stems from computer-generated print-on-demand (POD) technology that has the power to transform manuscripts into book form, and enable anyone to become an instant Gutenberg. The greatest advantage of POD is that an author-publisher no longer has to gamble her savings in advance on hope that the book will become a bestseller. Its other big plus is the push-button ability to print one or a thousand copies whenever required, which avoids being stuck with the dreaded garage-full of unsold books. No more need to be continually packaging books and humping them to the post office or courier service, either, as POD suppliers also fulfill orders and deliveries. Maybe best of all, self-publishers are freed from the hassle of collecting money owed by slow-paying buyers.
Dazzled by this easy speedy print production, many author-publishers pay scant attention to learning the various other vital steps involved in the publishing process, such as writing ability, editing, marketing, financing, and distribution. So thrilled are they by holding their own finished book and dreams of instant bestsellerdom, their next reaction is the urge to immediately share the news of its literary perfection and availability via glowing reviews.
Judging from the experiences of a few typical SP authors’ quest for reviews, there are equally slim chances of editorial mention whether for novels or non-fiction. One author, Bill Branley, told me, “I started my own publishing company to produce my midlife romance novel, “Seachange” in July, 2006. Following the trade rules of the game, I printed galley proofs six months in advance of release and mailed them to the major reviewers: Kirkus, Publisher's Weekly, Booklist, and other book review publications. But despite all this, I did not hear back from a single one of them, not even an e-mail, and none reviewed my book.”
Motivational counsellor Timothy Warneka has a similar story. “To help promote my “Leading People The Black Belt Way” and two other books on leadership techniques, I mainly approached print media -- newspapers, magazines, and their on-line versions, contacting editors and reporters who write on my topic. I contacted these folks by e-mail, snail mail, and phone calls, offering complementary review copies. About one quarter of the media pros that I contacted refused to even look at a self-published book, though many others did ask for a free review copy. But I got zero media coverage from all these attempts.”
Some SP authors are prepared to put up serious cash to support their promotional efforts, as Brandon Christopher explains. “After ten years of submitting manuscripts to traditional publishers -- and collecting hundreds of rejection slips -– I decided to try self-publishing my first novel. The actual publication process was simple, but I found that the marketing and promotion of a self-published novel is literally a full-time job. I sent out 80 signed copies to every newspaper, magazine, and website reviewer I could find. Between the cost of the books, shipping fees, and return postage, I spent about $1,800. Additionally, I bought advertisements in local newspapers, announcing the release of my novel, which cost me another $2,000. Since its publication, I have spent over $4,000 promoting it, and all I have to show for my hard-earned money and time is one bad review and 79 missing sample books.”
Professional reviewers are bombarded with thousands of requests from authors, making them understandably selective about what they decide to review. So do not be disappointed if you get a rejection, or even more commonly, no reply at all. During my time in the public relations business, I learned it is much more effective to get a newspaper reporter to do a story about the author herself, and plug the book incidentally during the interview. However, the most effective marketing of your book still demands some face-to-face selling.
It may seem obvious to make your first approaches to local bookstores, but do not hold your breath expecting much of a welcome there. Author-publishers are anathema to most bookshops, whose staffers usually look down their noses at SP books as being without literary merit, because of the genre’s reputation for unprofessional writing. Another reason for refusal is that retailers are used to being able to return any unsold stock to mainstream publishers. Even if a store does take a small batch of your books, it will require a discount of 40 to 50 percent discount, and only on a consignment basis. Meaning, you will not get paid until after they have been bought by customers, and it will be left up to you to keep calling back to check. Public libraries are more congenial prospects to approach, but even they are leery of author-published works, with the notable exception of local histories.
These hard realities make it more rewarding to instead concentrate your time and sales efforts on some more lucrative non-traditional outlets related to your topic. These non-book trade markets include specialty retailers, museum bookshops, chain-stores, local schools, fund-raisers, professional associations, university departments, export markets, military base libraries, and government agencies. Compared to traditional bookstores, selling to these specialty outlets can be a pleasant experience. They often buy in larger quantities, pay promptly in 30 days, seldom haggle for unfair discounts, and rarely demand refund agreements.
Still, despite all odds, some Canadian self-publishers have made astounding profits with their books. Ontario writers Janet and Greta Podleski's “Looneyspoons: Low-Fat Food Made Fun!” quickly sold over 800,000 copies, becoming one of the fastest-selling books in Canadian publishing history. Kitchener-born David Chilton’s “The Wealthy Barber” has sold over two million copies, and is claimed to be the most profitable book in Canadian publishing history.
Another spectacularly effective promoter of a self-published book lives right here in Victoria. Michael Losier is author of the best-selling self-help book, “Law of Attraction.” Since he first produced it as a 142-page paperback in 2003, it has been regularly selling 600 copies a day on Amazon, and there are now close to 250,000 copies in print. Much of this also comes from back-of-the-room sales during the inspirational seminars that Losier presents to audiences world-wide. His positive message led to Oprah Whimphrey inviting him to be a repeat guest on her radio show four times.
Losier’s advice to ambitious self-publishers is: “Remember, recognized experts are the ones who make money. To establish yourself as one, write ‘how-to’ non-fiction. Create books that provide practical advice applicable to personal growth, life skills, or business success. Present your material in a form that appeals to all learning styles. Use short chapters that include personal anecdotes and real-life examples, with helpful charts, graphs, and illustrations to clarify your information.” The wide popularity of Michael Losier’s book recently gained the attention of media conglomerate Grand Central Publishing, which paid him a high six-figure deal for rights to “Law Of Attraction” in a new hardback edition translated into 28 languages.
Dazzling financial successes such as these are rare, but Brandon Christopher probably sums up the real motivation of many self-publishers by saying, “Although I haven't gotten any real reviews or sales yet, publishing my novel myself was still the best thing I've ever done. Seeing your book on the shelves of a bookstore is more than enough payment for a decade of trying.”

Resource Books:
Self Publishing in Canada, Suzanne Anderson
How To Publish Yourself, Peter Finch
The Self-publishing Manual, Dan Poynter
Self-Publishing For Dummies, Jason R. Rich
The Complete Guide To Self-Publishing, Tom & Marilyn Ross
1001 Ways To Market Your Books, John Kremer
A Writer’s Guide To Book Publishing, Richard Balkin

Famous Authors Whose First Book was Self-Published:
Margaret Atwood
John Grisham
Virginia Wolff
Jack Canfield
Ernest Hemingway
Beatrix Potter
Deepak Chopra
Rudyard Kipling

Some Originally Self-Published Bestsellers:
The Bridges Of Madison County, by Robert J. Waller, 50 million copies
What Color is Your Parachute?, by Richard Nelson Bolles, 5 million copies
The Beanie Baby Handbook by Lee and Sue Fox, 3 million copies
The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield, 6 million copies
In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters, 10 million copies
The Wealthy Barber by David Chilton, 3 million copies
The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans, 5 million copies

Thursday, October 14, 2010


David Ogilvy founded one of the largest advertising agencies in the world, Ogilvy & Mather International. I had the privilege of working with him for six years as a creative director. Everyone associated with David learned a great deal from his vast knowledge of copywriting and human nature. He synthesised much of his advice in his book, Confessions Of An Advertising Man. Yet even he praised another great advertising genius, Claude Hopkins, who wrote an enduring classic of his own. Ogilvy once said of this book:

"Nobody should be allowed to have anything to do with advertising until he has read this book seven times. It changed the course of my life."

Here are some excerpts from Claude Hopkins’

On Salesmanship In Advertising.

Advertising is salesmanship. Its principles are the principles of salesmanship. Successes and failures in both lines are due to like causes. Thus every advertising question should be answered by the salesman's standards.

The only purpose of advertising is to make sales. It is profitable or unprofitable according to its actual sales.

It is not for general effect. It is not to keep your name before the people. It is not primarily to aid your other salesmen.

Advertising is multiplied salesmanship. Therefore every ad should be a super-saleperson.

"There is one simple and right way to answer many advertising questions. Ask yourself, 'Would this help a salesman sell the goods?' 'Would it help me sell them if I met the buyer in person?'

On the lenqth of your ads:

Some say, "Be very brief. People will read only a little." Would you say that to a salesperson? With a prospect standing there, would you confine him to use only a certain number of words? That would be an unthinkable handicap.

So in advertising. The only readers we get are people whom our subject interests. No one reads ads for amusement, long or short. Consider them as prospects standing before you, seeking information. Give them enough to get action.
On the proper attitude:

When you plan and prepare an advertisement, mentally keep before you a typical buyer. Then in everything be guided by what you would do if you met the buyer face-to-face.

The advertising writer studies the consumer. He or she tries to place themselves in the position of that buyer. Success largely depends on doing that to the exclusion of everything else.

On offerinq service:

Remember that the people you address are selfish, as we all are. They care nothing about your interest or your profit. They seek service for themselves. Ignoring this fact is a common mistake and a costly mistake in advertising.

On the lessons of mail order advertisinq:

Mail order advertising tells a complete story if the purpose is to make an immediate sale. You see no limitations there on amount of copy.

The motto there is, 'The more you tell, the more you sell.'

It is far harder to get mail orders than to send buyers to the store. It is hard to sell goods which can't be seen. Ads which do that are excellent examples of what advertising should be.

Mail order advertising is traced down to the fraction of a penny. The cost per reply and cost per dollar of sale show up with utter exactness.

The most common way of comparing one ad with another [used to be] by use of a coupon. We offer a sample, a book, a free package or something to induce direct replies. Thus we learn the amount of action which each ad engenders.

But those figures are not final. One ad may bring too many worthless replies; another brings replies that are valuable to our final conclusions are always based on cost per customer or cost per dollar of sale.

On the proper use of headlines:

The purpose of a headline is to pick out people you can interest. You care only for those people.

People will not be bored in print. In print they choose their own companions, their own subjects. There may be products which interest them more than anything else in a magazine. But they will never know it unless the headline or the picture tells them.

The vast difference in headlines is shown by keyed returns. The identical ad run with various headlines differs tremendously in its returns. It is not uncommon for a change in headlines to multiply returns from five to ten times over.

Don't think that those millions will read your ads to find out if your product interests them. They will decide by a glance -- by your headline or your pictures.

On psycholoqy:

Competent advertising people must understand psychology. The more they know about it the better. They must learn that certain effects lead to certain reactions, and use that knowledge to increase results and avoid mistakes.

On the need to be specific:

Platitudes and generalities leave no impression on people whatsoever.

One expects ads to exaggerate. But just for that very reason, general statements count for little.

So a definite statement is usually accepted. Actual figures are not generally discounted. Specific facts, when stated, have their full weight and effect.

On tellinq your full story:

When you once get a person's attention, then is the time to accomplish all you ever hope. Bring all your good arguments to bear. Cover every phase of your subject. One fact appeals to some, one to another.

On art in advertising:

Pictures in advertising are very expensive. Not in the cost of good art work alone, but in the cost of print space.

Anything expensive must be effective, or else it involves much waste. So art in advertising is a study of paramount importance.

Pictures should not be used merely because they are interesting. Or to attract attention. Or to decorate an ad.

Use pictures only to attract those who may profit you. Use them only when they form a better selling argument than the same amount of space set in type.

On tryinq to chanqe people's habits:

Changing people’s habits is very expensive. But great successes have been made by going to people already educated and satisfying their created wants.

On the need for information when writinq an ad:

To have a chance at success, an ad-writer must gain full information on the prospect. A painstaking advertising writer will often read for weeks on some problem which comes up.

Genius is the art of taking pains. The copywriter who spares the midnight oil will never get very fat.

Thus an advertising campaign is usually preceded by a very large volume of data. Even an experimental campaign, for effective experiments cost a great deal of work and time.

The uninformed would be staggered to know the amount of work involved in creating a single ad. Weeks of work, sometimes. The ad seems so simple, and it must be simple to appeal to simple people. But back of that ad may lie reams of data, volumes of information, months of research.
So this is no lazy person's business.
On developinq an effective strategy:

Advertising is much like war, minus the venom. We need strategy of the ablest sort, to multiply the value of our forces.

Sometimes, a campaign depends on the product's name. Sometimes a price must be decided.

Competition must be considered. What are the forces against you? What have they in price or quality or claims to weigh against your appeal? What have you to win trade against them? What have you to hold trade against them when you get it?

On the proper uses of samples:

The product itself should be its own best salesperson. Not the product alone, but the product plus a mental impression and atmosphere which you place around it. That being so, samples are of prime importance.

A sample gets action. The reader of your ad may not be convinced to the point of buying. But he is ready to learn more about the product you offer. So he cuts out a coupon and mails it in, [or responds to an URL.]

Then you have the name and address of an interested prospect. You can start him using your product. You can give him fuller information. You can follow him up.

Putting a price on a sample greatly retards replies. It also prohibits you from using the word "Free" in your ads. And that word, "Free", will generally more than pay for your samples.

Don't ask your prospects to pay for your selling efforts. Three in four will refuse to pay.

But we do not give out samples promiscuously. The product is cheapened. It is not introduced in a favorable way.

Give samples to interested people only. Give them only to people who exhibit their interest by some effort.

Samples sometimes seem to double advertising cost. They often cost more than the advertising. Yet, rightly used, they almost invariably form the cheapest way to get customers. And that is what you want.
On qettinq distribution of your product:

We usually start with local advertising. We get our distribution town by town, then change to national advertising.

Sometimes,we name the dealers who are stocked. It is often possible to get most of your dealers by offering to name them in the first few ads.

If the samples are distributed locally, the coupon names the stores. Enough demand is centered there locally to force other dealers to supply the sample. Dealers don't like to have their customers go to competitors, even for a sample.

When a coupon is used, good at any store for a free full-size package, the problem of distribution becomes simple. Tell the dealers that each coupon presented means a cash sale at full profit. No average dealer will let those coupon customers go elsewhere.

Such a free-package offer often pays for itself this way. It forms the cheapest method of getting general distribution.

On the need for test campaiqns:

Almost any question can be answered, cheaply, quickly, and finally, by a test campaign. And that's the :way to answer them -- not by arguments around a table. Go' to the court of last resort -- the buyers of your product.

There are many surprises in advertising. A project you will laugh at may make a great success. A project you are sure of may fall down. All because tastes differ so much. None of us know enough peoples’ desires to get an average viewpoint.

We establish averages on a small scale, and those averages always hold. We know our cost, we know our sale, we know our profit or loss. We know how soon our cost comes back. Before we spread out, we prove our undertaking absolutely is safe. So there are today no advertising disasters piloted by people who know.

On dealers vs. advertisinq:

Most of the time, making a sale without making a convert does not count for much. Sales made by conviction -- by advertising -- are likely to bring permanent customers. People who buy through casual recommendations from dealers do not often stick. Next time someone else gives other advice.

Your object in all advertising is to buy new customers at a price which pays a profit. You have no interest in centering trade at any particular store.

On the importance of individuality:

A person who desires to make an impression must stand out in some way from the masses. And in a pleasing way. Being eccentric, being abnormal, is not a distinction to covet. But doing admirable things in a different way gives one a great advantage.

Try to give each advertiser a becoming style. Make each distinctive, perhaps not in appearance, but in manner and in tone. Give each an individuality best suited to the people it addresses.

Then we take care not to change an individuality which has proved appealing. Great pains are taken never to change our tone.

We also don't want people to think that salesmanship is made to order. That our appeals are created, studied, artificial. They must seem to come from the heart.

To create the right individuality is a supreme accomplishment.

On neqative advertisinq:

To attack a business rival is never good advertising. Don't point out others' faults. The selfish purpose is apparent. It looks unfair, not sporty.

With your product, show the bright side, the happy and attractive side -- not the dark and uninviting side of things. For instance, don't show the wrinkles you propose to remove, but the face as it will appear. Your customers already know all about the wrinkles.

On the key to effective letter writing:

In a letter, the same as in ads, the great point is to get immediate action. Offer some inducement for it. Or tell what delay may cost. Note how many successful selling letters place a time limit on an offer. It expires on a certain date. That is all done to get a prompt decision, to overcome the tendency to delay.

On selecting a good name for your product:

There is great advantage in a name that tells a story. Some names are almost complete advertisements in themselves.

A serious fault in coined names is frivolity. In seeking uniqueness, one can get something trivial. And that is a fatal handicap in a serious product. It almost prohibits respect.

When a product must be called by a common name, the best auxiliary name is a person's name. It is much better than a coined name, for it shows that some human is proud of this creation.

On good business:

We see countless ads running year after year which we know to be unprofitable. We see wasted space, frivolity, clever conceits, so-called “entertainment.”

Many advertisers have little or no idea of the results of their advertising results.

You see other ads which you may not like as well. They may seem crowded or verbose. They are not attractive to you, for you are seeking something to admire, something to entertain. But you will note that those ads are keyed to trace results. The advertiser knows that they pay.

Monday, October 11, 2010

by Harold Courlander.  

Review by Elizabeth Abbott

"The African," first published: in 1967; is a literary milestone. First, it is the classic story of African-American roots. Second, some of it also appears in the 1974 book "Roots," Alex Haley’s bestselling saga of his forefather, Kunta Kinte. That extensive “borrowing” cost Haley $650;000 in the out-of-court settlement, that ended his plagiarism trial, and forced him to acknowledge in future publicity that parts of "The African" had found their way into "Roots."
The African is Hwesuhunu, a Fon child kidnapped from his tribal village in Dahomey, sold into American slavery and transformed into Wes Hunu, "the thing known as a nigger." This is the story of Wes's conflict between the African world order and the white-supremacist vision of Christian salvation as he struggles to understand life, "the knowledge of things" and also man, "he who gains the knowledge."
On the first leg of the Middle Passage, on one of the infamous slaver ships transporting stolen Africans to the West Indies for "seasoning," the slaves obsessively debate the nature of Fa -- Fate. Chained beside them in the filthy, stinking, suffocating hold, Hwesuhunu listens.
A storm and shipboard mutiny land Hwesuhunu and others on St. Lucia, where they unite in brief freedom. "We are of different tribes,” one man said. "But as of today, we are one village. We are many heads with a single stomach.”
In freedom, the Africans recreate their own ways of life, and sing constantly of their homeland. To survive, they raid plantation storehouses and receive gifts of food, tools, and weapons from sympathetic slaves. Finally, avenging slave-owners massacre most of them and ship the survivors, including Hwesuhunu, to Georgia, USA.
Renamed, Wes Hunu quickly learns that, in his new world, slaves are not persons. "In Dahomey, a slave was taken as an act of vengeance, a consequence of anger or policy, or the need or the whim of a king … [but] still acknowledged as men and women."
The nature of slave work is another dilemma. To excel is to enrich the master, but to shirk is to embrace incompetence. Ultimately, Wes rejects both strategies, and decides to escape. “The task was to refuse to accept what others were seeking, to find ways of accepting; to reject the authority that was a denial of life, even though it was clothed in the waistcloth of a king.”
Free again, Wes recalls a Fon parable about a mythical hunter and at last understands his own Fa – “another long journey of Ategon, the hunter, searching for release from the land of the No Name People and the talking skulls… Every story is true for one man," he muses. "I think this story belongs to me." Even Agagonay, a tender and beautiful Afro-Indian maiden, cannot deter him.
"And what did he have on his side? One thing only. He was Hwesuhunu the Fon." Free, on the threshold of maturity, the young man accomplishes his greatest feat; he reclaims his identity as Hwesuhunu.
The republication of "The African" does more than dredge up sordid memories. It also underscores the hollowness of the current vogue against "cultural appropriation," by which literary/artistic protectionists categorize human experiences as cultural phenomena reserved only for bona fide members of that culture to explore.
Such a monopoly would consign Courlander's Afro-oriented books to oblivion, because the now 85-year-old U.S. novelist, author of 35 books, including such internationally recognized classics of Caribbean and African culture as "Haiti Singing, The Drum and The Hoe Hoe: Life and Lore of the Haitian People," is a white man.

Reviewer Elizabeth Abbott is Dean of Women at Trinity College, University of Toronto, and author of ‘Haiti: The Duvalliers and Their Legacy”.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

by Sidney Allinson.

Face it, writing and printing your self-published book are relatively easy tasks, compared with all the other requirements for marketing it successfully. The selling process can be so daunting, you need to be sure first whether you are even cut out to be a self-publisher.
So most importantly, ask yourself: honestly, what is your real reason for publishing a book? Is it to make a lot of money, or for public recognition, ego gratification, a need to communicate an important message?
Identifying your motivation up front can either dissuade you from taking the plunge or help you enormously to succeed. The emotional and creative satisfaction of producing your own book can be uniquely satisfying, so long as one realizes in advance what the process entails.
Expect it to involve five serious factors:
1. commitment
2. time
3. money
4. selling
5. persistence
Any self-publisher who simply goes to a neighborhood printer with a manuscript in hand to get a book produced is in for a long and arduous experience. That way, the hapless author must be prepared to do virtually everything for him or her self; all the cover design, text-formatting, editing, and proof-reading before, as well as the sales promotion afterwards.
A slightly easier route is via print-on-demand service companies like Booklocker, Lulu, Xlibris -- or the 100s of other POD publishing service firms readily available on line. Even they are still technically not publishers; being actually just printers, producers, and distributors of writers' works. It is their author-customers themselves who must still perform every one of the necessary sales-promotion and publicity actions that conventional publishing houses provide for authors.
The marketing of a self-published book is such a drawn-out and complicated process, it can virtually take over an author's entire everyday life for a while, so it demands a very strong commitment. You alone will be responsible for every step -- print quality control, buying copies, inventory, storage, publicity, selling, processing orders, accounting, packing, shipping, mailing, handling returns, invoicing, and bill collecting. Whew! Small wonder that many author-publishers commonly put in 80-hour work weeks.
As for hopes of making pots of money, the brutal fact is very few, if any, first time author-publishers even break even. And all the hyped dreams of easily tapping the Internet for huge book sales on-line with minimum effort are just that - dreams - and seldom materialize without the author getting out there to personally SELL.
Unless you are a "name" author, significant royalty profits from printed books are no more likely to occur on Web sites than in bricks and mortar stores. For instance, even a major POD player like Xlibris is reported to have never exceeded sales of 2000 copies for any individual title.
So, as all sales depend on you, modestly scuffing your toe in the dust has no place in a self-publisher's style. Unabashed publicity and aggressive promotion are vital to your book's success. By necessity, you'll soon learn how to blow your own horn, mainly because nobody else will do it for you. Study the sort of people who are your most likely prospective readers, and devise publicity that will appeal to them.
Pave your way by writing brief half-page news releases about your masterpiece and distribute them to appropriate media. Offer to speak on radio call-in shows, and try to arrange readings at local bookstores and libraries. You'll likely be pleasantly surprised at your own ingenuity and the receptiveness of people you approach for free publicity.
For some other useful hints about low-cost promotion, read John Kremer's excellent "1001 Ways To Market Your Books," or Jay Conrad Levinson's "Guerilla Marketing" series.
Nevertheless, in-person direct selling is about the only reliable method you have to get your books onto store shelves. Which means making personal sales-calls on bookstores. And be aware in advance that many bookstores have an inherent reluctance to accept self-published titles -- sight-unseen.
But encourage yourself by remembering that long before anybody ever heard of him, mega-bestselling author John Grisham started out selling copies of his self-published first novel from the trunk of his car. Be equally determined and imaginative. Always offer to leave batches of books on consignment, to be paid for after discerning customers buy them.
Keep up your personal selling efforts, come what may. Persistence is the one quality that every author needs more than anything else. It's what gets the manuscript written to completion in the first place, and stick-to-it-ive-ness continues to be the only thing that builds your self-published book's final success.

Copyright © Sidney Allinson 2008.

Sidney Allinson is a professional business writer and novelist, with over 30 years' experience as an advertising copywriter, and was creative director at Ogilvy & Mather International. He is author of six published books, plus countless advertisements, TV commercials, and direct mail campaigns.

Friday, October 08, 2010

As I have said often before, non-fiction "self-help" and informational books are the most likely types to be successfully self-published. Useful practical knowledge is always in demand and so the genre is easier to sell. But this should by no means discourage fiction authors from bringing out their own novels.
After all, a myriad of literary classics were originally self-published; such as, Lady Chatterley's Lover, Ulysses, Huckleberry Finn, War and Peace, Spartacus, The Wizard Of Oz, and Remembrance Of Things Past. Famous authors who first went the self-published route include Rudyard Kipling, Mark Twain, D.H. Lawrence, James Joyce, Walt Whitman, Anais Nin, Upton Sinclair, Zane Gray, George Bemard Shaw, and T S. Eliot. Beatrix Potter first wrote The Tale of Peter Rabbit to entertain an ailing child, then submitted her illustrated story to several publishing houses. All refused to go along with her idea of a small format to fit little children's hands, so she self-published it, and her stories went on to become perennial favourites to this day.
Contemporary poet Rod McKuen published his own Listen To The Warm, and personally sold 40,000 copies before his talent was recognized by Random House, which has since sold over a million copies. University instructor Robert James Waller wrote a book from his heart, The Bridges of Madison County. No publishing house was interested, so Waller printed it himself; selling copies to stores on consignment with a money-back guarantee. Response was so positive, nobody wanted a refund. After the book rose up the bestseller lists, movie rights were acquired to star Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood.
You probably know that James Redfield's The Celestine Prophecy became one of the best-selling books in recent history (despite it being possibly the worst-written book ever.) Yet, Celestine began as a modest self-printed item that Redfield and his wife gave away as free samples to hundreds of New Age-type stores. After a book salesman brought it to the attention of publishing giant Warners, the firm purchased world rights for $800,000, and it stayed on Publishers Weekly's top-fiction list for 64 weeks.
Richard Paul Evans' 87-page parable about parental love, The Christmas Box, was originally self-published just as a gift for his family. He printed only 20 copies, but word-of-mouth soon caused people to ask local bookstores for it. Believing he was on to something, Evans tried to find a publisher, but in vain. After repeated rejections, he self-published, starting with 3,000 copies. After he'd sold 700,000 copies personally, Evans' book eventually wound up in a bidding war won by Simon & Schuster, and it is now a multi-million copy continual seller.
Wildly successful courtroom novelist John Grisham used to peddle copies of his first one, A Time To Kill, out of the back of his car before catching the eye of New York publishing giant Doubleday. But even well-established authors are sometimes still forced to go it alone. Though Jill Paton Walsh was already a recipient of several prestigious literary prizes, no publisher in Britain would accept her religious allegory, A Knowledge Of Angels, so she published it herself and it was promptly short-listed for the Booker Prize in 1994.
The award-winning dramatist Snoo Wilson had three previous novels published by big imprints, but could find no takers for his The Works of Melmont, a fictionalized version of the life of Robert Maxwell. So Wilson decided to publish it himself. He said, "There is a part of me that sees self-publishing as an admission of failure, but then Harry Potter got turned down by lots of publishers. And advances in technology today have made it so easy to produce a book."
Australian best-selling thriller writer Matthew Reilly started out as a self-publisher at the tender age of 19, because his first novel, Contest, was turned down by every publishing house he approached. He personally placed copies of his book in every store he could, until finally gaining the attention of a major firm and his novel has sold two million copies up to now.
Reilly said something particularly astute about one detail all self-publishers should remember, "I've noticed that self-published books don't have imprint logos." He held up a copy of his latest success, Scarecrow, and put his finger over the publisher's logo on the spine to demonstrate. "See, it looks weird. People use visual clues too detect what is a real book and what is not!'
The growing acceptance of such books has launched the modern no-publisher revolution, so-called "crossover titles," where subsidy books are being bought by big-name publishing houses. Self-published authors everywhere could take heart from this new phenomenon, as your novel could well become the next blockbuster title.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

A furniture company attempted to collect some overdue bills by sending delinquent customers this letter:
"Dear Mr. Jones: What would your friends and neighbours think if our truck pulled into your driveway some afternoon, and our men came into your house to pick up the items of furniture for which you have not yet paid us? -- Shelby Furniture Company."
Back came this prompt reply from a customer:
"Gentlemen: I have talked over this with my friends and neighbours and they all think it would be a pretty lousy trick. -- Harry Jones."
Your department head calls you in and pouts, "I can't understand why the media don't publish our news. Other outfits like ours get coverage all the time."
Sound familiar? Can't understand what you're doing wrong? If so, listen up:
"Did you send your news to the right editor?"
"Yes, we checked their names carefully."
"Do you follow up by telephone?"
"Yes, but the editors aren't always available."
"Hmm... Have you met the editors you send releases to?"
"Well, no. If they can't answer my phone calls, I assume they aren't interested in seeing me in person."
One of the biggest mistakes in trying to use news releases as a public relations tool is a failure to recognize the value of personal contacts. Some PROs who'd laugh at the idea of selling their product or pressing their cause only by e-mail or telephone somehow expect to "sell" publicity to editors without taking the trouble to establish personal contact with them. If that's the situation with you, make quick steps to get acquainted with media contacts in the flesh.
First Step: send a letter to the editor of the biggest paper in town inviting the editor to a get-acquainted luncheon meeting with the president of your company, deputy minister, programme head, or appropriate senior whoever. Make a point of mentioning that lunch would be at the best club in town, to show the editor that the company/ministry considered the meeting an important one. (E-mail is fine, but if you want to really get noticed, compose a letter printed on paper, delivered by the Post Office.)
Second Step: make a telephone call to the editor as follow-up to the letter, so as to get the editor's in-person acceptance of the invitation. (Don't be surprised if the editor comments something like, "We got the impression you people must have gotten pretty busy. Up to now, the only contact we ever had with you are those news-releases -- often too late, or on subjects we can't use." That's useful PR feedback, itself.)
By the way, if your head honcho (president, DM, or such) is mistakenly shy of making such media contact in person, arrange to visit the editor yourself. You should meet him/her anyway, as a matter of course. Whichever representative of your outfit connects with an editor, you can count on greatly improved response to PR efforts afterwards. But, establishing face-to-face contact does not mean you must wine and dine editors. Nor should you pamper, toady to them, or act beyond common courtesy. It does mean that if you want to learn how to give editors the kind of information they need, in the form they prefer, and at the time they want it -- the best way is to sit down across the desk, or the restaurant table, and ask them. Try this personal approach and see how more effective your publicity efforts become in future.
“If writing can't be read aloud, it's no good" -- John Brains.
Poor listening is a common problem in business today. The ability to listen well is a rare skill, and among the most valuable. Here are 10 bad listening habits and suggestions for overcoming them:
1. Considering the subject uninteresting.
Good listeners make an attempt to find something useful even in apparently the dullest subjects.
2. Criticizing the speaker's delivery.
The message is always more important than the delivery, and a good listener concentrates on content, not style.
3. Criticizing the speaker's appearance.
Even the most unprepossessing speaker warrants courteous attention. Sneering mentally could cost you a good deal; not only in lost information.
4. Getting over-stimulated.
Try not to get fired up, first-off. No matter how impressive-looking the speaker is initially, a good listener withholds final evaluation until the message is complete.
5. Listening only for facts.
Good listeners concentrate on trying to grasp the main idea.
6. Faking attention.
If you find your attention drifting, remember you owe it to yourself to really hear what other people have to say.
7. Easily distracted.
Instead, take pride in being able to filter out other noise or actions so that you concentrate on the speaker.
8. Blanking out difficult information.
If this is your problem, make a conscious effort to listen more closely and exult in how well you can grasp the topic.
9. Allowing emotional words to disrupt.
Don't allow your hearing be turned off by unwelcome or offensive words; the entire message is what's important.
10. Wasting the speed advantage of thought over speech. Because thought is four times faster than speech, poor listeners use it to take a mental holiday. Instead, good listeners use the gap to analyze what's being said.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Where good business writing is concerned, there are, indeed, many roads to Damascus; more than one 'right way' of doing things. However, here are some guides to better writing of letters and documents:
1. Whatever your job, business, or ministry -- avoid using cliches and jargon.
2. Avoid hackneyed phrases, fad expressions, and "buzz words"..
3. Use short words, short sentences, short paragraphs, often. Only use long words, long sentences, long paragraphs, sparingly, and only when the effect is good.
4. Let your writing be lean, stark. Avoid fuzziness. 5. Let your writing be simple, brief, direct.
6. Avoid double passives. Use the active form of the verb whenever possible.
7. Select the basic, plain, English word most often. Seldom use words of Latin derivation.
8. Remember grammar is a tool, not an end in itself. So, avoid using pedantry for the sake of it.
9. Use the paragraph as a unit of meaning. Headings and point form often make reading easier, but do not overdo them.
10. Use block capitals and underlining sparingly, and only with good effect.
11. Remember that much of what you read is badly written. So you should consciously disinfect yourself from the same condition.
12. Almost everything you write can be improved by you yourself after the first written draft. Revise! Revise!
"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend.
Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."
-- Groucho Marx.