Even Famous Authors Self-Publish

Lawrence Block is an award-winning best-selling author of several book series and short stories. Block is most famous for his Burglar mysteries. Block’s Burglar books feature Bernie Rhodenbarr. Bernie is a bookseller by day and high-class thief by night.

This series of ten books began in 1977 with Burglars Can’t be Choosers, and seemed to end in 2004 with Burglar on the Prowl.

Then nearly ten years later, in 2013, The Burglar Who Counted Spoons came out as a self-published book by Block.


Walter Benjamin – Storytelling vs. Fiction

Walter Benjamin’s essay “The Storyteller” in Illuminations: Walter Benjamin: Essays and Reflections (English translation 1968), will be thought-provoking for anyone who loves to write or read fiction.

Most of us think of fiction as storytelling, but it isn’t really. I can attest to this from experience.

Back on a September day in 2004, my drumming mentor, Barbara Borden, gave me a day pass to “The Healing Power of Art” at Moscone Center in San Francisco. On my way to Moscone I passed an intriguing stranger.

What caught my eye at first was a large patch of burnt-looking skin on his face. I recognized it immediately.


Don’t Lie to Your Readers

One of the most egregious errors authors can make is creating a title that doesn’t deliver on what it promises. This can kill sales and/or leave the purchaser quite disappointed. In regard to the latter reaction, even if you don’t intend to write another book, keep in mind that the very best way to sell any book is by word-of-mouth endorsements of it. A vague or a misleading title won’t get talked about in the way you want! Let’s look at one example of this sin. The Joy of Signing: A Dictionary of American Signing (third edition) by Lottie L. Riekehof, PhD (Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 2014, 3rd ed.) The navy-blue cover of the 3rd edition of this bound book announces “Over 1 Million Copies Sold”. The book has several useful appendices and an informative preface. It’s a great textbook for both Signed English (used by hearing people) and American Sign Language (used by deaf people). But… There’s no joy in signing in The Joy of Signing. Certainly not like there is in paperbacks like Learn to Sign the Fun Way: Let Your Fingers Do the Talking with Games, Puzzles, and Activities in American Sign Language by Penny Warner (NY: Three Rivers Press, 2001) Worse, The Joy of Signing: A Dictionary of American Signing isn’t even a dictionary! What is a language dictionary? First of all, you may wonder if American Sign Language (ASL for short) is a language. Yes, it is. Linguists have officially classified ASL as a language. ASL uses a different word order than spoken English, and it has its own grammar. Even its way of communicating the plural forms of nouns is different. But, when we pick up almost any other language dictionary we expect to find two parts: an alphabetical list of foreign words with English equivalents and an alphabetical list of English words with foreign equivalents. However, American Sign Language, like Chinese, is not based on letters of an alphabet. Chinese people use symbolic characters to indicate words; deaf people use symbolic hand shapes, some of which involve movement, along with facial expressions. Still, one half of this book could be in alphabetical order. That half would be an alphabetical list of English-speaking people’s words followed by the equivalent ASL hand signs. Is that what The Joy of Signing includes? No! Instead, this book uses broad categories, such as family relationships, time, emotion and feeling, etc. followed by diagrams of each hand sign...

Indexing – Plan to Do-It-Yourself?

If you are not an indexer, I beg you – don’t try to index your own book – even if you do have a PhD! Yes, you know your subject better than anyone else. After all you’ve written a book about it. Yes, you are just as intelligent as any indexer. But do you know how to index a book? “But why not?” you ask. “Because indexing is an art”. The importance of failure Even with training, rarely does an indexer create a good index on their first try. For example, my first index was for independent study in library school. I created an index for the first years of the Mother Earth News, a popular new magazine that encouraged the back-to-the land movement. And no, i hadn’t studied indexing. Library schools in the United Stares didn’t teach indexing back then. My advisor finally admitted he knew nothing about indexing either. He felt my project was OK, but he couldn’t tell me why. Still, I was positive my index was good. I offered it to the magazine for free. They said, “No thanks”. I’m glad it was rejected. After library school, I took a year long correspondence course in indexing from the British Society of Indexing, the only organization that offered a course in indexing at that time. Still, I graduated with a B, and had no clear idea how to pick out subjects, especially as the exercises used British English and referred to British royal family history. Both threw me for a loop. How do you know what to index? Before actually doing an index for money, I joined the American Society of Indexers. I religiously read every issue of its magazine, KeyWords as well as the British Society’s journal, The Indexer. I read every single book written in the English language relating to indexing – even rare ones I had to get on loan. Beginning with the ASI chapter in St. Paul Minnesota and ending with the Bay Area, California chapter, I frequently attended workshops and continuing education programs on indexing. After decades of working as a reference librarian taking questions from patrons and as a back-of-the book-indexer, I can now quickly spot the discussions in a book that are and are not needed in the index. But could I tell you how I do that? Not really. Here’s what I can tell you. (1) An important part of indexing is knowing what not to index, (2) what...

Largest Libraries of the Future

We’ve seen The Littlest Libraries of the Future. Now, what do the largest libraries look like? And what will changes they’re making mean for books? Check out this short video from Mansueto Library at the University of Chicago. Careful! One glimpse of these new-fangled library stacks may give you vertigo! The Mansueto library in Chicago houses three and a half million books underground by using an automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS). ASRS systems organize materials in bins rather than bookshelves. As its video shows, the bins at Mansueto are stored in arrays of racks 50 feet high. Giant robotic cranes can locate and deliver books to patrons “almost instantaneously”. Caption: An ASRS storage bin SOURCE of photo: Video from the Miller Nichols Library at the University of Missouri at Kansas City Advantages of an automated retrieval system Speed of book retrieval is an obvious advantage of these systems. If you’ve ever used a library that contains “closed” stacks,” you know your wait for library materials can run from half an hour to an hour or more! Not so at ASRS libraries. Here are some other pluses: Maximum Flexibility. By incorporating the retrieval system into the building design, the library achieves the maximum capability to house, protect, and access library materials well into the future. Greater Holding Capability. While much of the library collection will be on open shelving, the retrieval system accommodates an additional 750,000 volumes onsite. Earthquake Safety. The retrieval system was designed to exceed standard earthquake building standards. Expansion. The retrieval system is designed with advanced technological capabilities that can be upgraded and expanded. Cost savings. The retrieval system eliminates the need and cost for offsite storage facilities. SOURCE:  Sonoma State (CA) Library web site Why is Automated Storage and Retrieval important for you to know about? ASRS systems may literally change the shape of print books! Implications of ASRS for authors and book lovers Non-automated book storage (library book shelves) In my guide Marketing Your Book to Libraries: An Insider’s Guide for Authors,  I discuss the way library bookshelves have impacted the size requirements for print books. All libraries use standardized sizes of bookshelves. If your book doesn’t fall within the height-range of a standard library bookshelf, it will be classified as “oversized”. This isn’t a good thing! in general “over-sized” print books in libraries are things like gazeteers and atlases, books of maps which in print format need to be much larger...

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