Wednesday, December 7, 2016

What Would I Tell a New Author by Mark Spivak

12:00 AM 0 Comments

What Would I Tell a New Author
I’m actively involved in mentoring beginning writers. For the past year I’ve been hosting a Meetup group in my home base of South Florida. Participants send me samples of their work via email, and they receive an intensive, one-on-one critique at the session.
I usually start out by trying to get a sense of the person’s background, their life experience and literary training (if any). I try to discover how
much time they have to devote to writing, and whether their literary aspirations are hampered by real-life considerations such as jobs, families and economic pressures. I want to find out if they are someone with a particular story they feel compelled to tell, or whether they want to make writing a career. Either way, my role is the same: to help them master the craft and find their own voice.
At some point, I usually ask them if they are writing to express themselves, or if they want other people to read their work. Either situation is fine, but they require different decision-making processes.
I normally suggest that they pick one piece of work and stick with it until it is as polished as it can possibly be. This is particularly difficult for many people to accomplish. Part of the problem is the current popularity of self-publishing, where you can print anything whether it’s ready or not.
Speaking as someone who has a degree in literature, I think life experience is more important than formal education. If someone is lacking skills in grammar, sentence structure or composition, they can easily take a course at a community college or online.
When I started the group, I was dreading the process of delivering criticism to people. Part of the hesitancy stems from how difficult it was for me to accept criticism at many points in my career, but the truth is that becoming a writer is a long journey filled with criticism and rejection. What I discovered was that in cases where a piece of work was seriously flawed, the writer knew it. They had really come to the group to get a realistic idea of what they needed to do to go forward.
Many beginning writers are yearning to be told that they have talent. I have no problem telling them that, since most of them are indeed talented. Talent, though, is only part of the equation. Most of the process consists of hard work, which is something people tend to resist hearing.
The most important thing I tell beginning writers? Don’t give up. I never did, and I finally succeeded despite a long and difficult journey. With enough determination, it can be done.
About the Author
Mark Spivak is an award-winning author, specializing in wine, spirits, food, restaurants, and culinary travel. He was the wine writer for the Palm Beach Post from 1994-1999, and was honored by the Academy of Wine Communications for excellence in wine coverage “in a graceful and approachable style.” Since 2001 he has been the Wine and Spirits Editor for the Palm Beach Media Group, as well as the Food Editor for Palm Beach Illustrated; his running commentary on the world of food, wine and spirits is available at the Global Gourmet blog on His work has appeared in National Geographic Traveler, Robb Report, Men’s Journal, Art & Antiques, the Continental and Ritz-Carlton magazines, Arizona Highways and Newsmax. From 1999-2011 Spivak hosted Uncorked! Radio, a highly successful wine talk show on the Palm Beach affiliate of National Public Radio.

Spivak is the author of two non-fiction books:  Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History (Lyons Press, 2012) and Moonshine Nation: The Art of Creating Cornbread in a Bottle (Lyons Press, 2014). Friend of the Devil is his first novel. He is currently working on a political thriller set during the invasion of Iraq.
For More Information

Friday, November 11, 2016

Writing is Hard but Publishing is a Nightmare by Robert Wideman

6:33 AM 0 Comments
This story begins in 1973. I had just come back from spending six years as a Prisoner of War in Vietnam. The U. S. Navy had sent my wife and me to Monterey, California, so I could go to the Naval Postgraduate School. One of the professors introduced me to a local journalist and freelance writer. He wanted to write my story. We sat down and he interviewed me for over thirty hours. When we finished, we had fifty audiotapes. Next, he wrote a two hundred and fifty two page manuscript about my experience as a POW in North Vietnam. The Navy required me to send the manuscript to the Naval Investigative Service for clearance because I was on active duty. The Navy returned the manuscript four months later and told me not to publish it. At the Same time, the Navy permitted other POWs to publish their book, because those books supported the opinions of senior American POWs and the U.S. government. Not only that, the Navy Investigative Service sent my book to senior American POWs and some of my roommates for their comment and approval. The Naval Investigative Service never sent other POW books to me for my comment and approval. I am thinking there was a huge double standard in those days.
Six years ago, I decided to write another book on my experience as a POW. I did this, because I wanted my story on paper for my two sons and six grandchildren. Four years later, in 2014, I had only written one hundred pages. At that rate, I began to think that I would die before I finished my book. I contacted Mark Graham at Graham Communications in Denver, Colorado. He introduced me to Cara Lopez Lee.  I took the thirty hours of audiotapes that I did in 1973 and transcribed them into seven hundred pages of transcripts. I gave those seven hundred pages of transcripts, along with the one hundred pages that took me four years to write, to Cara. She finished my book two years later and did a great job.
I then went to Colin Graham at Graham Publication Group in Denver. He designed the front and back covers as well as the interior of my book. He also designed the kindle version. We sent those to Ingramspark.  This is where it gets weird. When I received my first sales invoice I only received $.74 profit on each book sold through amazon. Amazon took 55% off the top of the retail price of $15.95. That is the industry standard. Next the printer took $6.44 per book. I thought that was outrageous, because the whole idea of self-publishing was to beat the 10% profit traditional publishers give you. Mark Graham told me that I could print my book for $5.00 and sell it for $15.00. That is true if you order the books yourself and sell them out of the trunk of your car like John Gresham did on his first book. If you sell online through IngramSpark and amazon, however, you only get $.74 a book unless it is a kindle. If it is a kindle, you receive 60% profit on a every kindle sold, which is pretty good.
Colin Graham replaced Ingramspark with Createspace. The return on each book is much better. Now I get $4.25 for each book sold through amazon. That is pretty good too. However, Createspace only deals with amazon. For all other retail outlets I only receive $.74 per book. You can reduce the 55% Amazon gets off the top to 30%, but then other retail bookstores will not carry your book. You are caught between a rock and a hard place!
What does this all mean? It means that the publishing industry set itself up for the benefit of book publishers, book printers, and book distributors. The publishing industry did not set itself up for the benefit of authors. You know, one of the great things about growing old is that you learn something every day. I am seventy-three and I did not have a clue as to how the publishing industry actually operates.
Despite this, it has still been worth for to me to write this book for my sons and grandchildren. I have met some great people during the course of this journey, and that makes it worth it too. Finally, our government and the senior American POWs have presented a story to the world about the treatment of American POWs. That story is incomplete and full of omissions! I have attempted to present a more complete story by telling you what was not said about the POW experience in North Vietnam.
The title of my book is Unexpected Prisoner.


 Title: UNEXPECTED PRISONER: Memoir of a Vietnam Prisoner of War
Genre: Memoir
Author: Robert Wideman
Publisher: Graham Publishing Group
Find on Amazon
About the Book: 
When Unexpected Prisoner opens, it’s May 6, 1967 and 23-year-old Lieutenant Robert Wideman is flying a Navy A-4 Skyhawk over Vietnam.  At 23, Wideman had already served three and a half years in the Navy—and was only 27 combat days away from heading home to America. But on that cloudless day in May, on a routine bombing run, Wideman’s plane crashed and he fell into enemy hands. Captured and held for six years as a Prisoner of War in Vietnam, Wideman endured the kind of pain that makes people question humanity.  Physical torture, however, was not the biggest challenge he was forced to withstand.  In his candid memoir, Unexpected Prisoner, Wideman details the raw, unvarnished tale of how he came to understand the truth behind Jean-Paul Sartre’s words: “Hell is other people.”
A gripping, first-person account that chronicles the six-year period Wideman spent in captivity as a POW, Unexpected Prisoner plunges readers deep into the heart of one of the most protracted, deadliest conflicts in American history:  the Vietnam War. Wideman, along with acclaimed memoirist Cara Lopez Lee, has crafted a story that is exquisitely engaging, richly detailed, and wholly captivating.  Unexpectedly candid and vibrantly vivid, this moving memoir chronicles a POW’s struggle with enemies and comrades, Vietnamese interrogators and American commanders, lost dreams, and ultimately, himself.
With its eye-opening look at a soldier’s life before, during and after captivity, Unexpected Prisoner presents a uniquely human perspective on war and on conflicts both external and internal. An exceptional story exceptionally well-told, Unexpected Prisoner is a powerful, poignant, often provocative tale about struggle, survival, hope, and redemption.

About the Author: 
Robert Wideman was born in Montreal, grew up in East Aurora, New York, and has dual U.S./Canadian citizenship. During the Vietnam War, he flew 134 missions for the U.S. Navy and spent six years as a prisoner of war. Wideman earned a master’s degree in finance from the Naval Postgraduate School. After retiring from the Navy, he graduated from the University of Florida College of Law, practiced law in Florida and Mississippi, and became a flight instructor. Robert Wideman holds a commercial pilot’s license with an instrument rating, belongs to Veterans Plaza of Northern Colorado, and lives in Ft. Collins near his two sons and six grandchildren.
Connect with the author on the web: Facebook / Twitter / LinkedIn

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Finding a Publisher: The Right Fit by Gabriel Valjan

2:50 PM 0 Comments

“…the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity.”
You know the sentence from Charles Dickens. What most people who quote that famous sentence forget is that someone has his head chopped off at the end of the story. You don’t want to be that guy when it comes to finding a publisher.
A quick aside – I was asked to judge fiction submissions for a literary contest. What do you think was the number one problem? It wasn’t the writing. Drum roll please while mounting the scaffold. The problem was as blatant as the glare from the guillotine’s blade. Most writers did not, could not, and would not follow simple directions. Seriously. The directions were in plain view. Your mom may have told you that you were gifted and special, but I hate to break the news: you are not a special snowflake, so, like it or not, here is the shiny, sparkly advice: follow directions.
The best way to find a publisher is not online or consulting a reference book. That is too easy. The best way is to get thee to a bookstore or a local library and be practical about the matter. Get your hands on a book, several books if you can, of your intended publisher. Do you like the font, the page layout, the way chapter breaks are done, the back cover blurb and the cover art? In a word, do you like their ‘shop’? None of these things is superficial because many an author finds out that that they have no say in the editing or cover art. Find a publisher whose colors you would want to wear. Write down the name of the publisher and play Sherlock behind the keyboard and found out what the house is looking for in a Call for Submissions.
Follow directions on font, margins, and spacing.
Once you have primed your eyes on a publisher, then ‘stalk’ authors in the publisher’s stable and see how they promote their books. While an author’s platform is an individual thing, you can learn a lot about a publisher from their authors. Are they supportive of each other? Most publishers do not have budgets for PR, but they do impart ‘guidelines’ to their authors. The ultimate question is: Would you want to be associated with these people?
Keep all your communication short, simple, and professional, whether it is a query or an urge to respond to a rejection. Risk sounding almost atonal because emails are subject to interpretation. Good manners never go out of style. Need to vent about a rejection? Write it all out and burn the piece of paper. Rejection sucks, I get it, but none of this is personal. Time is money and this is a business. Resist the urge to make snarky comments online about agents, editors, or other writers. Your story wants a forever home. Editors and agents love to read and they want to find the next great reading experience.
The publishing world is small and any malodorous comments to an editor will get aired somewhere. I can’t emphasize this enough. True story here: a writer flamed the sender of a rejection not knowing that the person who had sent the polite rejection was the owner of the publishing press. You guessed it: that snowflake was forever consigned to virtual hell. The point is people know each other. One person may not accept you but that person may direct you to someone who will.
Track your submissions, so there are no painful blunders. Careful research may reveal that the small label you thought was indie might be a small imprint of a larger firm. You don’t want to stumble in front of the same editor with the same story. Submittable is a great online tool for tracking your submissions.
Network. If you attend readings or conferences, you may hear or learn about new agents or editors in search of new authors. Editors are the gatekeepers. Be polite and strive to make a good impression. It is a job interview.
If you do not succeed, try again and, most importantly: keep writing.

Title: Corporate Citizen: Roma Series Book Five
Genre: Mystery-Suspense/Thriller
Author: Gabriel Valjan
Publisher: Winter Goose Publishing
Purchase link:
A call for help from an old friend lands Bianca and the crew back in Boston. On a timeout with Dante, due to revelations in the aftermath of the showdown in Naples, Bianca is drawn to a mysterious new ally who understands the traumas of her past, and has some very real trauma of his own. Murder, designer drugs, and a hacker named Magician challenge our team, and Bianca learns that leaving Rendition behind might be much harder than she thinks.
About the Author:
Gabriel Valjan is the author of the Roma Series from Winter Goose Publishing as well as numerous short stories. He lives in Boston, Massachusetts, where he enjoys the local restaurants, and his two cats, Squeak and Squawk, keep him honest to the story on the screen.
Connect on the web:
Twitter: @GValjan

Monday, October 10, 2016

Behind the Cover by Laura Foley

2:48 PM 0 Comments

The cover of Night Ringing is a photo of forked lightning, over a mountain, illuminating a broad river. It speaks to the idea of the book and the title poem, the phone call one receives in the middle of the night, the "hard to assimilate" news: a mother has had a stroke, a younger sibling has died suddenly from an aneurysm, a parent has had a heart attack. The phone ringing, and we are startled awake.

The news is like lightning breaking through the night sky, carving a human shape across the darkness. It rips us open, rips us apart, and is the reality of our existence; we are always perched on the edge of death, our own or our loved ones. It is a terrible truth, and inescapable. And the image is also beautiful. There is that contrast, the terror and the beauty.

As it happens, I took this photograph myself, from the porch of my house overlooking the Connecticut River. I wrote most of the poems in Night Ringing while living at that house, the river a constant source of inspiration. For these reasons the photo seemed appropriate for a cover, and my publisher (Mary Meriam of Headmistress Press) was enthusiastic. After poetry, photography is for me a compelling source of creative expression.

Buy Links:      Amazon  / Norwich Bookstore / B&N
Author Info

Laura Foley is the author of five poetry collections. The Glass Tree won the Foreword Book of the Year Award, Silver, and was a Finalist for the New Hampshire Writer’s Project, Outstanding Book of Poetry. Joy Street won the Bi-Writer’s Award. Her poems have appeared in journals and magazines including Valparaiso Poetry Review, Inquiring Mind, Pulse Magazine, Poetry Nook, Lavender Review, The Mom Egg Review and in the British Aesthetica Magazine. She won Harpur Palate’s Milton Kessler Memorial Poetry Award and the Grand Prize for the Atlanta Review’s International Poetry Contest.
Author Links:  Website | Goodreads 

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