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How to Write An Acknowledgments Page: An Example

Posted by Donald Bastian

Thank you

An earlier blog responded to a reader’s request for tips on writing an acknowledgment page. In follow-up to that, here is a good example of an acknowledgments page from a book BPS Books recently published, Finding Matthew: A Child with Brain Damage, a Young Man with Mental Illness, a Son and Brother with Extraordinary Spirit by Donna Kirk. Note how she avoids turning it into a thudding list of thank-yous!

Acknowledgments

Finding Matthew took me forty years to compose. However, I only started to write things down at age fifty, when my hot flashes started. I’d heard rumours about failing memory, and I didn’t want to lose any of the details of Matthew’s remarkable life. Twenty years later, two years after his death on July 6, 2010, I finished the book. 

I wanted the story to honour Matthew by telling the truth about his life and our life as a family. I wanted the story to reflect the valuable experience I had as Matthew’s mother. Experiences are truly appreciated only if you’ve overcome obstacles, solved problems, and learned to compromise. You can never do that alone. And I learned I could never have written this book without the inspiring help I received. 

For many years, I didn’t tell anyone I was writing a book. Then I signed up for creative writing classes, and Brian Henry, my teacher, encouraged me to get serious about the project. His persuasive critiques and the more direct opinions of classmates, and, in particular, my critique group Fiction Highway Writing Guild, helped mould my words into a cohesive tale.

But no one has been able to teach me how to spell! Not my agent, Susan Walker, my editor and publisher Don Bastian, my husband Ed, whose spelling is always perfect, or my friends, Ann Veale, Vice Principal of St. Mildred’s Lightbourn School for many years, and Joyce Wayne, Professor of Journalism at Sheridan College.

Our children Kelley and Joseph, and Joseph’s wife, Crystal, spontaneously supported Matthew’s talents and trials. They continue to be proud to talk about their sibling and brother-in-law.

All these people read the evolving manuscript and offered advice. And because of their help, I am content with the final result. 

Through this book, I want my two granddaughters, Sloane, age three and a half, and Reese, two, to know their uncle Matt as a real person, not just as someone who, as Sloane describes it, is flying up in the clouds, perhaps in an airplane that doesn’t come down. 

Matthew’s life would not have been as full and as rich as it was without Lisa and Bernie Hennessey, Marguerite Rouleau, Beverley Langley, Michele Lowe-Shaw, and Brampton Caledon Community Living – nor as long as it was, without the commitment and dedication of Miss Violet Gayle and of his doctors, particularly Dr. Ted Graham, Dr. Gerald Taylor, Dr. L. P. Voruganti, and Dr. Barry Stanley.

Don BastianDB

Photo credit: comedy_nose (via flickr.com)

Topics: Writing tips, Writing an Acknowledgment

How to Write a Dedication: A Few Pointers

Posted by Donald Bastian

Book pages

A reader of this blog has asked for advice in writing a dedication to a book. As you will see below, dedications vary a great deal in content, length, and style. Nowadays, most dedications are short. About the only advice I would give is not to use “Dedication” as a title on the dedication page, or “I dedicate” in the wording of the dedication. A simple “To” plus a name will suffice, or a “To” plus a name and a short “for line” -- an indication of why the person is the dedicatee.

I can’t resist quoting some examples of fun dedications (yes, some of them do use “dedicate” in one form or another and some are quite long). 

Tad Williams, author of the Otherland series, obviously had a lot of fun with the task of writing dedications.  

 

Book 1 / City of Golden Shadow:

This Book is dedicated to my father Joseph Hill Evans with love.

Actually Dad doesn’t read fiction, so if someone doesn’t tell him about this, he’ll never know.


Book 2 / River of Blue Fire:

This Book is dedicated to my father Joseph Hill Evans with love.

As I said before, Dad doesn’t read fiction. He still hasn’t noticed that this thing is dedicated to him. This is Volume Two – let’s see how many more until he catches on. 

 

Book 3 / Mountain of Black Glass:

This is still dedicated to you-know-who, even if he doesn’t.

Maybe we can keep this a secret all the way to the final volume. 

 

Book 4 / Sea of Silver Light

My father still hasn’t actually cracked any of the books – so, no, he still hasn’t noticed. I think I’m just going to have to tell him. Maybe I should break it to him gently.

“Everyone here who hasn’t had a book dedicated to them, take three steps forward. Whoops, Dad, hang on there for a second ...

 

The great British novelist P.G. Wodehouse penned these elegant (and fairly concise) words for the dedication page of his novel The Heart of a Goof

To my daughter Leonora without whose never-failing sympathy and encouragement this book would have been finished in half the time.

But Wodehouse was an irrepressible writer who could create humor out of thin air. Here’s what he came up with for his book Bertie Wooster Sees It Through, drafts and all:

Dedication

TO

PETER SCHWED

(Of the firm of Simon and Schuster)

DEAR PETE,

I have rather gone off dedications these last forty years or so. To hell with them about sums up my attitude. Today, when I write a book, it's just a book, with no trimmings.

It was not always so. Back at the turn of the century I and the rest of the boys would as soon have gone out without our spats as allowed a novel of ours to go out practically naked, as you might say. The dedication was the thing on which we spread ourselves. I once planned a book which was to consist entirely of dedications, but abandoned the idea because I could not think of a dedication for it. 

We went in for variety in those days. When you opened a novel, you never knew what you were going to get. It might be the curt take-it-or-leave-it dedication:

TO J. SMITH

the somewhat warmer 

To My Friend

PERCY BROWN

or one of those cryptic dedications with a bit of poetry shoved in underneath in italics, like

TO F.B.O.

Stark winds 

And sunset over the moors. 

Why? 

Whither? 

Whence? 

And the sound of distant drums...

J. FRED MUGGS

Lower-Smattering-on-the-Wissel, 1912.

or possibly, if we were feeling a bit livery, the nasty dedication:

TO THE CRITICS

THESE PEARLS

It was all great fun and kept our pores open and brought the roses to our cheeks, but most authors have given it up. Inevitably a time came when there crept into their minds the question What is there in this for me?”  I know it was so in my case. What is Wodehouse getting out of this?”  I asked myself, and the answer, as far as I could see, was, Not a ruddy thing.” 

When the eighteenth-century writer inserted on Page One something like

To

THE MOST NOBLE AND PUISSANT

LORD KNUBBLE OF KNOPP

From

HIS VERY HUMBLE SERVANT

THE AUTHOR

My Lord. 

It is with inexpressible admiration for your lordship's transcendent gifts that the poor slob who now addresses your lordship presents to your lordship this trifling work, so unworthy of your lordship's distinguished consideration

 

he expected to clean up. Lord Knubble was his patron and could be relied on, if given the old oil in liberal doses, to come through with at least a couple of guineas. But where does the modern author get off? He plucks—let us say—P. B. Bitten from the unsung millions and makes him immortal, and what does Biffen do in return? He does nothing. He just stands there. If he is like all the Biffens I know, the author won't get so much as a lunch out of it.

Nevertheless, partly because I know I shall get a very good lunch out of you but principally because you told Jack Goodman that you thought Bertie Wooster Sees It Through was better than War and Peace I inscribe this book

TO PETER SCHWED

TO MY FRIEND PETER SCHWED

TO P.S.

Half a league 

Half a league 

Half a league 

Onward 

With a hey-nonny-nonny 

And a hot cha-cha


P. G. WODEHOUSE 

Colney Hatch, 1954

 Don BastianDB

 

Photo credit: Horia Varlan

Topics: Writing tips, Writing a Dedication

Debunking the Myth of the Self-Publishing Lottery

Posted by Donald Bastian

Lottery ticket

Self-publishing is often touted as a ticket to a good living, perhaps even stardom. Indeed, some self-published authors have become extremely successful, going on to earn lucrative book deals with large publishing houses. 

A notable example in Canada is Mary-Ann Kirkby, who in 2007, having been rejected by numerous publishers, self-published her book I Am Hutterite: The Fascinating True Story of a Young Woman's Journey to Reclaim Her Heritage. By 2008 she had sold 15,000 copies. By 2010 she had signed a worldwide publishing deal. By 2011 she had sold 75,000 copies. (Trust me: These are big numbers in book publishing, no matter what anyone tells you.)

But if you're an aspiring writer, how should you view success stories like this one? Is it simply a matter, once you have completed your manuscript, of buying a ticket and waiting to win the self-publishing lottery?

Some self-publishing companies would have you believe that. They sometimes imply that to win fame and glory, all you've got to do is part with a few dollars, upload a file to a server, choose a layout and front cover from a selection of templates, and sit tight.

It's fair to say that I don't agree with this self-publishing lottery approach. 

So what's wrong with it?

Many people are happy to acknowledge that the best-selling self-published author is one in a million. But it seems that most of them fail to understand why the best-selling self-published author is one in a million. It's not because huge numbers of well-written books are ignored. Rather it's because there are very few well-written and well-marketed books, whether they are self-published or “other-published.” To hit the big time, you need much more than luck. You need a book with genuine merit and a way to get it to market (i.e., into people’s hands). Achieving both of these tasks is the real challenge.

 

LET ME REPLACE the lottery analogy with what I believe is a more helpful, and more accurate, one. 

An Olympic gold medalist might be one in a million, but that doesn't mean she has won some kind of lottery. A lot more than luck is involved. To be successful, she must have an exhaustive knowledge of her event, and she must study other essentials, such as what successful athletes have done in the past, what Olympic athletes eat, and how they train. And then do all of these things.

However, even though Olympic athletes are knowledgeable about what they're doing, they still enlist expert help -- a personal trainer or coach to motivate them, to observe and refine their technique, and to find a diet and training regimen to fit them and their goals. 

These people didn't just get lucky. They didn't just submit an application to compete on their way into the stadium. And they didn't achieve what they've achieved alone. 

The years of learning and training and thousands of hours of preparation that made victory possible include a partnership with a coach and mentor.

The same applies to writing good books.

When you read about the Mary-Ann Kirkbys of this world, know that they didn't just strike it lucky. Before she hit the big time with her self-published book I Am Hutterite, Kirkby worked as a journalist. She honed her craft by reading, writing, and rewriting for years. And, as with Olympic athletes, she also had a coach, in her case, Arvel Gray. 

Kirkby credits Gray in her book as the book’s spiritual guardian. She acknowledges that Gray spent hours weeding, watering, and nurturing [the] manuscript, and that she skillfully knit the story together. At the publishing conference of the Manitoba Editors' Association in May 2010, Kirkby offered some valuable insight on the importance of an editor: I am very fond of editors. They are under-appreciated and under‐lauded … Editors are midwives; they nurture a story, and give writers hope. They let writers use their own voice.

Kirkby also offered these words of wisdom: Do not send your manuscript to the publisher when it’s really an editor you need.

I'm all for innovation, and am fully aware that publishing is opening up and becoming more of a bottom-up affair, but let's not throw the baby out with the bath water. Self-publishing need not mean publishing with no input from skilled, professional editors. The work of professional editors remains an essential part of the publishing process as authors and the publishing industry move forward.

 

MY COOPERATIVE APPROACH to publishing, through BPS Books, allows authors to enjoy many of the benefits of publishing outside a traditional publishing house, while retaining perhaps the most important benefit of traditional publishing -- working with a professional editor. It’s important, in a climate in which publishers are increasingly being seen as little more than greedy industry gatekeepers, to note that publishers do, in fact, add a significant amount of value to a book. It is a timeless truth that every book, no matter how well written, needs a good editor. 

Writers like Mary-Ann Kirkby understand how publishing is changing -- in fact, they're playing a significant role in facilitating that change. But they also understand exactly what hasn’t changed -- that writing and publishing require an editor. Kirkby might be one in a million, but she's no lottery winner.

Don BastianDB

 

Photo credit: Robert S. Donovan

Topics: Self-publishing

The Book Editor’s Seal of Approval

Posted by Donald Bastian

Gork

He gawked. Literally.

I like the concept of writers taking their work through a pre-editing process, a process that is well described in a recent Wall Street Journal piece

I feel a little ambivalent about this, because I earn a living as an editor. However, I needn’t worry. The English language is rich but unkempt; very few writers, no matter how skillful, can produce consistent and clear work without the help of an editor. Self-editing helps, and writers can become more skillful in editing their work, especially if they work with a good editor, are alert to what the editor does to help them, and implement as much of the editor’s approach as they can in the next writing they do. 

Allow me a few reflections on the author-editor relationship.

Nine out of ten of my authors are grateful for my help as an editor. Here’s an example from the one in ten who aren’t. 

Recently I had to explain to a writer, let’s call him John Doe, why I deleted the word literally” from his construction, “I literally gawked.” (He wanted me to put it back in.)

“John,” I said, “I would like to describe to you how people literally gawk.”

“OK,” he said.

They gawk.

Fortunately, he smiled. (As opposed to gawking.)

This author is interesting, because he is capable of describing scenes poetically and even novelistically; however, he then snaps the reader out of the spell he has created because he can't resist adding his own judgment. 

For instance, after describing, in compelling detail, a piece of art, he adds, “It was beautiful.” As I have explained to him, its much better to delete such phrases -- it’s better for a writer to describe things in a way that prompts readers to come up with their own judgments. This a classic example of a writer telling, instead of showing. (More on showing, not telling here.)

Our conversation on this point went like this: 

“John, do people like to be told what to do? Do they like to be told what to think?” 

“No.” 

“Do you like to be told what to do and what to think?”

“No.” 

“Then why are you telling readers what you want them to think and feel?” 

I see writing and editing as the process of working with an author to achieve a “lock” between the writer’s intentions and the reader’s perceptions

No, wait. All analogies are weak, and this one is disintegrating before my eyes. “Lock” seems stifling and deterministic, whereas, in fact, readers “add value” when they read. Maybe “seal” is a better word. 

My job is to help the writer feed content to the reader in a way that creates a seal between intention and perception. Ideally, the writer's readers will lose any sense that they are reading words on a page, so complete, and involving, is their perception of what the words describe.

When this seal is achieved, reading is a liberating experience. Readers interact with characters and scenes, or with non-fiction descriptions or arguments, uninterrupted. 

What’s happening here? The author has written in a way that shows respect to readers. In a sense, the author has invited readers to be part of the writing of the book.

Authors who insinuate themselves into the reader’s consciousness to make sure each paragraph elicits the correct imagery or emotional response end up hectoring the reader. Which is self-defeating: Readers give up on books that don’t let them think for themselves or use their own imaginations. 

My job as an editor is to help authors strip out anything from their writing that restricts their readers’ own creativity. The key to achieving the seal between writer and reader is to respect the reader: leaving room for them to breathe, to engage with the text, and thus to inhabit a new world.

Don BastianDB

 

Photo credit: Orin Zebest

Topics: Book Editing

The Secret to Getting More People to Read Your Blog Posts

Posted by Donald Bastian

Newspaper

Widely credited as being the father of modern-day advertising, David Ogilvy brought research-based method and insight into an industry that had long been shrouded in mystery. He revolutionized the advertising world.

Never heard of David Ogilvy? When Fortune ran an article about him entitled “Is David Ogilvy a Genius?” he promptly asked his lawyer to sue the editor for the question mark. That tells you all you need to know about the man.

Here are some of his words of wisdom concerning advertising headlines. Because these rules are rooted in the human psyche, they continue to apply just as much today as they did thirty years ago.

I want to encourage you to apply these tried-and-true principles to your blog writing and social media posting. Do so and you’ll see a much higher percentage of people clicking through to read your content. (Quotes from Ogilvy are in italics and headline examples are taken from Victor Schwab’s famous 1958 advertisement 100 Good Advertising Headlines – and why they were so profitable.)

1. People are more likely to read your body copy if your headline arouses their curiosity; so you should end your headline with a lure to read on.

Always write blog posts for your reader, not yourself, with at least one clear deliverable to improve the life of your reader. The trick is to convey to the reader right there in your headline enough information to pique their interest. If the reader is confident they'll learn something worthwhile, or be entertained, they'll click through and read on.

Example:

A LITTLE MISTAKE THAT COST A FARMER $3,000 A YEAR

2. Some copywriters write tricky headlines -- puns, literary allusions, and other obscurities. This is a sin.

In the average newspaper your headline has to compete with 350 others. Research has shown that readers travel so fast through this jungle that they don’t stop to decipher the meaning of obscure headlines. Your headline must telegraph what you want to say, and it must telegraph it in plain language. Don’t play games with the reader.

Try to sympathize with your reader. She is bombarded with marketing messages all day long, and not just in the print media and TV, as in Olgivy’s time, but also from the Internet, her emails, and even her phone. She has had to become a master-filterer in order to make the best use of her time.

Help her make a quick and informed decision whether your blog post is for her by keeping your blog headlines, and your Tweets, simple and descriptive. Also, make sure your headlines are a true reflection of what she will find when she clicks through, or she won’t entrust you with her time again.

Example:

FREE BOOK — TELLS YOU 12 SECRETS OF BETTER LAWN CARE

3. Avoid blind headlines -- the kind which mean nothing unless you read the body copy underneath them; most people don’t.

Again, you’ve got to put yourself in the shoes of your reader. During the course of her day, she has to conserve time and energy. She cannot afford to click hundreds of links on Twitter and in Google search results just in case there is gold beneath the surface. She has to make informed judgments about what will benefit her and what will not. Make sure your blog post packaging tells the reader what’s inside, otherwise she’ll always go with a safer bet.

Example: YOU CAN LAUGH AT MONEY WORRIES — IF YOU FOLLOW THIS SIMPLE PLAN

Notice how familiar the example headlines I’ve used in this post are. That’s because 60 years on bloggers are still using the same headline-writing techniques day in, day out. They’re still using them because they work.

So next time blogging inspiration strikes and you find yourself searching for the perfect blog title, be sure to keep David Ogilvy’s wise words on hand as a point of reference. After all, the man was a genius!

Don BastianDB

 

Photo credit: Alex Barth

Topics: Social Media Tips, Social Media, Blogging

How to Write an Acknowledgments Page: 5 Quick Pointers

Posted by Donald Bastian

Thank You

Recently one of our blog readers posed a question about writing the acknowledgments section of her book. In response, here are five pointers that may help authors get to grips with their own acknowledgments section. If you have any other questions on this topic drop us a line in the comments.

1. Acknowledgment pages are by their very definition personal and therefore are often written less formally than the rest of the book they reside in. However, be careful to thank people in a way that is not too different in tone from the tone of the rest of the book. Readers of what purports to be a serious book may be put off the author's jovial appreciation of friends and family.

2. Be judicious in the number of people you thank. Don't stray too far beyond the people who actually helped you in terms of writing your book. Be parsimonious in your praise of animals, too. (So many authors thank their faithful friends of the quadruped variety.)

3. Find ways to break up the repetitiveness that tends to enter these pages -- "And I'd also like to thank ..." You can do this by categorizing the people you're thanking. For example, you can divide your thanks into expressions of gratitude to those who helped you with research; those who reacted to early drafts of the manuscript; and the support team who kept you sane throughout the process. That's three thank-yous instead of possibly ten. Jim Beqaj, the author of How to Hire the Perfect Employer, cleverly thanks those who helped him get started down the field, those who got him over the goal line, and those who cheered him on throughout the game.

4. Be aware of privacy issues. If your book is an exposé, the people you thank might feel exposed, too.

5. Make sure you spell names correctly. It's more than a little ironic to misspell the name of someone who means so much to you.

Hope this helps!

If you have questions about writing or publishing drop us a line in the comments below.

Don BastianDB

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Photo credit: vistamommy (via flickr.com)

Topics: Writing tips, Writing an Acknowledgment

Social Media: Fad or Permanent Fixture?

Posted by Donald Bastian

Network

Perceptions of social media are changing. What used to be considered a fad -- just another obsession for teenagers with too much time on their hands -- has become an integral part of the marketing efforts of some of the biggest brands in the world.

Authors and publishers are taking note. The largest publishing houses and the most successful authors are seeing the necessity of having a significant presence on social media platforms.

It is undeniable that social media offers a whole host of new opportunities for authors and publishers to connect with readers and relevant groups of people. That's why here at BPS Books we coach our authors on how to use social media to connect with readers and enter into mutually beneficial conversations with individuals, businesses, and online communities.

If you are an author or a publisher and are one of the few remaining doubters, take a look at some of the stats in the video below. You might just be surprised!




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Topics: Social Media, Social Networks

BPS Books Titles Now Available via Espresso Book Machines

Posted by Donald Bastian

Espresso Book MachineThe Espresso Book Machine

BPS Books is excited to announce that it has extended its reach to Espresso Book Machine customers. BPS Books titles are now available for purchase via the revolutionary Espresso Book Machine.

Espresso Book machines are situated in selected bricks and mortar bookstores and they allow those stores to offer around a million titles that are not held in stock, or on site.

With the new Espresso machines readers select and purchase the book of their choice from an extensive digital catalogue. Then they stand back and wait for it be printed and bound right before their eyes.

The EBM can print a three hundred page book in a around four minutes -- the time it takes to line up and buy a book at a bookstore counter.

All BPS titles will continue to be available through online bookstores such as amazon, chapters.indigo.ca, barnesandnoble.com and borders.com.

Find out more about the Espresso Book Machine on the On Demand Books website.

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Topics: Espresso Book Machine

Why You Must Be a Good Reader in Order to Become a Good Writer

Posted by Donald Bastian

Reading

Some writers absorb the books they read into their own craft. It is instinctive and subconscious on their part. As gifted artists, they take the given into the workings of their own creativity. They are not fully aware of how books are put together or at least cannot verbalize their knowledge.

Other writers are keenly conscious of the form books take and how the writers of those books attained that form.

Most writers, (whether of fiction or nonfiction) however, would do well to become more conscious of literary form. It shouldn’t hurt their creativity for them to step away from their writing of a novel, for instance, and examine other similar novels. How are they structured? How long are they? How are the plots constructed? How is dialogue handled?

This kind of analysis is a must for writers of genre fiction: mysteries, thrillers, horror novels, science fiction, etc. Why? Because these novels follow strict formulas in terms of style, length, and even plot. The best genre fiction writers learn to follow the formulas while bringing a unique voice to bear.

Writers should also research the publishing history of the type of books they wish to write. How have they been published? As hardcover or quality paperback originals? By which publishers? Were they reprinted and sold as mass market paperbacks? By which publishers?

So before you put pen to paper again, pick up your favourite novel or nonfiction book and try to figure out just what is so likeable about it. Remember, you should be absorbing books that absorb you!

Don BastianDB

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Topics: Writing tips, Fiction writing

Social Media Tips For Authors

Posted by Donald Bastian

Too many megaphones
Are you using social media the wrong way?

In addition to our usual focus on writing tips and publishing, we'll also be chiming in every so often with our musings and tips about online book marketing. This short post will get the ball rolling.

Whether you're a published author, or an aspiring one, you'll be aware that social media platforms have taken on a huge role when it comes to marketing books online.

My guess is that you've already come to the conclusion that it is necessary to develop your online presence using social media. But if you're already active on social media platforms, there's an important to ask yourself: Am I using them the right way?

I came across this great video recently, and I thought it worthy of a mention on the blog. It's a very short interview with online marketing guru Chris Brogan, in which he offers some great tips on how authors can use social media effectively. Hint: two-way communication!

 

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Topics: Social Media Tips, Book Marketing