“This podcast is guaranteed”



door-to-doorSalesmanMy email inbox is getting crowded with a lot of surefire offers lately.

So many people offer online courses to help me learn marketing so I can sell more books. Here are some examples from my inbox.

  • Nick Stephenson’s Your First 10,000 Readers
  • Bryan Cohen Selling for Authors
  • Joanna Penn, the Creative Penn—three courses, including “How to Make a Living with your Writing”
  • Juliet Dillon Clark of the Winsome Media Group has a number of courses and packages on “building your author platform” and using that to increase sales, and on how to launch a new book
  • Mark Dawson has Advertising for Authors courses as well as shorter tutorials and lots of videos.

These are just some of the online courses targeted specifically at marketing for self-published authors. They join a huge list of similar online programs:

  • Ray Edwards offers the Copywriting Academy, a series of online seminars on writing effective advertising—not just for writers, but for any business.
  • Rebecca Dickson, once a professional editor with a spicy vocabulary (she edited a book of mine, Army of Worn Soles), has the Entrepreneur Incubator program
  • Wilco de Kreij teaches e-commerce
  • The most recent to my inbox is Joei Chan’s branding blog and courses.

They may have different names and slightly different foci, but they have a lot in common, too. They claim to have found a formula for increasing book sales. The blog posts contain a tip that I usually know, but mostly they’re long ads for the courses, webinars, videos, books or other materials that make the same promises: more book sales for independent authors.

There are often videos, some free, some behind pay walls. The free videos and free webinars, however, are usually more drawn-out ads for the courses. What’s most annoying about them is that they always promise a free, bonus, sure-fire tip, one thing you can do to boost your sales, or your email subscriptions or whatever, if you watch the whole thing to the end. Some have disabled the fast-forward function (I hate it when TV shows do that in their on-demand versions.) And most of the time, when I do watch till the end, it’s not worth the wait.

The course is the whole point of all this stuff. It’s presented like a university-level program with several hours of video, whiteboard animations, info-graphics and support materials like workbooks in .pdf format. There are often downloadable videos, too, to help you remember some of the information (I guess).

What’s wrong with that? you ask

I suppose these must work, because more people seem to be doing them all the time, and the people already doing them seem keep publishing their teaser videos.

They remind me of late-night infomercials, with some sketchy guy or overenthusiastic woman hawking a product that, even with good lighting and photography, looks too flimsy to last more than day if used for whatever the hawker tell us to use it for.

Or like a timeshare salesperson, with a sales pitch that promises you a free TV or car just for listening. And goes on and on and on…

They’re expensive, too

But the worst part is the cost. Joanna Penn’s Self-Publishing Success course is one of the most reasonable, at under $300. And for the time and materials, and if it actually delivers results, it might be worth it.

Nick Stephenson’s Your First 10,000 Readers is even more expensive, at about $80 a month for a year. Ryan Deiss’s Digital Marketer courses are just under $1000. Others don’t tell you how much they cost until you already agree to give them your email address.

Do they work?

The marketers tell us they do. And they all provide testimonials.

But I signed up for one—I won’t say which—and soon dropped it, because I already knew most of the content: write a good book, know your audience, stay focused; use email to engage readers, make sure you have a full “author’s platform,” meaning a blog, website and a presence on just about every social medium.

I’m in a quandary. I’d like to know the secrets to selling books, but I just don’t see anything from these courses that convinces me that the authors know, either.

What do you think?

What’s your experience, if any, with online courses or programs that guarantee you the ability to sell to strangers? Leave a comment.

A sneak peek and a big giveaway just for you



Do you remember songs that made you think, “This tells a story that would make a great book or movie”?

There are a few from my youth that made me think that. Songs with great music and lyrics that evoke a story that echoes in my mind for decades.

So I finally did something about it—I wrote Echoes, based on two of those songs from my youth, songs whose lyrics immediately gave me a plot and gripping scenes.

A new Lei Crime Kindle World novel—yes, this time it’s a full-length novel—featuring FBI Special Agent Vanessa Storm, Echoes will be published on Amazon on May 12.

And I’m giving you a free sample, and a chance to win not only the full book when it comes out, but all of the Vanessa Storm e-books:

Torn Roots by Scott Bury

PTAS-800x500 Dead Man Lying - 529x800

What it’s about

Echoes is different from all my other books. Yes, it’s another Hawaii mystery featuring Vanessa, several characters from Toby Neal’s Lei Crime series, drugs, crime and action, there are several chapters that describe Vanessa as a young woman in her senior year of high school, and her first serious romance and her coming of age.

How to get your free sample

All you have to do is subscribe to my email newsletter, which comes out roughly four times a year so you won’t be drowning in Scott Bury emails. To do that, fill out the form at the top of the right-hand column of this blog and Click Subscribe.

Once you confirm your subscription, you’ll get a link that will allow you to download the prologue and first chapter of Echoes in the format of your choice: .pdf, .mobi (for Kindle e-readers) or .epub (for all other e-readers).

Of course, you can unsubscribe at any time—even immediately after downloading the free sample. But then you won’t get advance information about my new writing projects before everyone else, nor new contests and giveaways.

How to win four free e-books

Read the introduction and deduce which two rock songs from the 1970s Echoes is based on. There are plenty of clues in the text. Some of it is in the descriptions of Vanessa at 17, some of it in the depiction of her boyfriend and his homies. And some of it is in the dialogue, interior and spoken, of the characters.

There. That’s enough hints. Want more? Read the introduction.

When you think you’ve figured it out, send your response to me by email: contest@writtenword.ca. Every correct entry gets the four free ebooks, and one will also win a signed paperback of my first novel, The Bones of the Earth.

And if you have thoughts or questions about some of the hints, leave them in the Comments section.

Good luck!

 

Bringing history to life



As you, my faithful readers know, I recently published the third book in my Eastern Front trilogy about the experiences of my father-in-law, Maurice Bury, during the Second World War. Writing those three slim books took me more than 10 years. Not only because the story itself is dark and difficult, but also because it required a lot of research to get the details right.

ArmyofWornSoles-smallerUnderTheNaziHeel.jpgCover-WOOW-500x800 (1)

While there must be thousands of books and other sources about the Second World War, most of it, at least those in English, focus on the western part of it, with a British, American or, sometimes, Canadian perspective. There is relatively little in English about the Eastern Front, where Maurice was drafted by the Soviet Red Army.

My research for the books began with the subject, my father-in-law himself. While he had occasionally mentioned something about his time in the army, at one point in the 1990s I decided I would write a book about his story. So we sat down in his kitchen, and I took notes.

But before I could complete writing the book, Maurice passed away. Which meant that any information I still needed, I would have to find in other sources.

Trusting memory

When I began writing the story, I realized I would have to turn to history books for essential background information about the war, the politics, weapons, organization of the armies and so much more.

Maurice’s memory of his own experiences was excellent, but he did not remember the exact dates, nor the number of his unit. When he told me how he sustained his wound, he remembered the weather, the German fighter planes arcing in the sky. But he did not remember the exact date. I had to do some research to work out when the Germans got to Kyiv, and the extent of the fighting there in 1941.

I also had to research the weapons used. Maurice told me as a Third Lieutenant, he commanded eleven men in an anti-tank unit. When he described fighting against the German tanks, the Panzers, it seemed to me to require some precision. The shell had to hit the tank at just the right angle to penetrate the armour and detonate inside. The challenge was that the modern Panzers had sloping armour to deflect anti-tank shells. The Soviet tanks in the early part of the war, on the other hand, had straight armour, making it easier for an armour-piercing shell to strike at the right angle.

But I neglected to ask him to describe the Soviet anti-tank gun. When I came to write about it, I realized I had no idea what it looked like. The answer surprised me. I had thought of a kind of cannon, but the PTRS-41 and the similar PTRD were strangely delicate-looking. They looked more like long rifles with extended, slender barrels. My first thought was “That little thing can knock out a tank?”

Image source: 13thguardspoltavaskaya.com

It turns out, it didn’t manage to do that very often. The shells could not penetrate the Panzers’ front armour, so the Soviet anti-tank gunners would try to shoot at the sides or back of the tanks, where the armour was thinner. That was an extremely risky tactic, requiring the gunners to allow the Panzers to pass them before shooting.

Finding this information in historical sources brought me back to the notes I took when interviewing Maurice before he passed away. He once told me that his men destroyed a Panzer by shooting at the back, hitting the exposed fuel tank.

As a writer, this was a satisfying—to find confirmation of Maurice’s memories and stories in the history books and websites.

What’s your experience?

Have you ever found that kind of confirmation of a relative’s or friend’s memory or story in an official or historical reference? Share that in the Comments.

A new book walks closer



Cover-WOOW-500x800 (1)Walking Out of War, the third book in the true-story trilogy about Maurice Bury, the Canadian in the Soviet Red Army in World War two, launches in two days. I’m excited. It’s already received three excellent early reviews that you can read on Goodreads. and I’m giving you another free taste of what’s coming.

There are going to be several special online events on and around launch day:

  • Army of Worn Soles, the first book of the trilogy, is FREE on Amazon from February 21 to 25.
  • Under the Nazi Heel, the second book, is on sale at 99 cents for the same period.
  • launch event on Facebook will feature giveaways of electronic and print books from the trilogy as well as other works.
  • A blog tour will feature excerpts and images from Walking Out of War. Watch this space for details and links.

And now, your taste of Walking Out of War:

Donbass, summer 1944

“How did you learn to break down a rifle so quickly?” the drill sergeant asked.

“I grew up on a farm,” Maurice answered. “You have to have a gun on a farm.”

“A shotgun, yes. Not an automatic rifle. I come from a farm, too,” said the drill sergeant. He was a small man with a round face and earnest brown eyes.

Maurice shrugged, hoping the sergeant would not hear his hammering heart. “I guess I’m just a fast learner.”

The sergeant’s eyes narrowed, but he moved on to the boy beside Maurice, who was fumbling with his weapon. “Get that magazine back together in the next sixty seconds or you’re on double guard duty tonight!”

I have to be more clumsy. And more careful, at the same time, Maurice thought.

Compared to his experience as an officer three years earlier, this training camp for soldiers was brutal. In August 1944, the Red Army had reached the outskirts of Warsaw and was within sight of the Gulf of Riga. They had pushed the Germans out of Russia, Ukraine and Belorussia and were throwing every man they could find into the drive to destroy Hitler’s Germany.

In June, the Red Army had launched Operation Bagration. Two million men, thousands of tanks, heavy assault guns and airplanes, attacked in a coordinated series of attacks along a front that stretched from Estonia to Romania, accompanied by 220,000 trucks from the U.S., with tanks and guns from Britain, tonnes and tonnes of food and ammunition from the West. In two months, they pushed the Germans out of Belorussia.

The Soviets annihilated the German Army Group Center. Hundreds of thousands of German soldiers were killed, wounded and captured, including thirty-one generals—a quarter of the German strength on the Eastern Front gone in two months.

The Red Army’s losses, while not as severe, were still huge: 800,000 casualties, including over 180,000 killed and missing.

What Walking Out of War is all about

Ukraine, 1944: After the Soviets burned the Ukrainian city of Ternopyl to the ground to crush the stubborn Nazi occupiers, they rounded up every remaining Ukrainian man around for the Red Army’s final push on Germany. Maurice Bury, Canadian citizen, Ukrainian resistance fighter and intelligence officer, is thrust once again into the death struggle between Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s USSR.

Fighting across the Baltics in the autumn of 1944 is tough and bloody. Then the Red Army enters Germany, where they’re no longer liberators—they’re the long-feared Communist horde, bent on destruction, rape and revenge. The Communists are determined to wipe Nazism from the face of the earth. And the soldiers want revenge for Germany’s brutal invasion and occupation.

Maurice has determined his only way out of this hell is to survive until Nazi Germany dies, and then move home to Canada. But to do that, he’ll have to not only walk out of war, but elude Stalin’s dreaded secret police.

What the early reviewers are saying 

“Full of heart and indomitable spirit”—Joy Lorton 

Walking Out of War is a well-written and powerful read, and a difficult one. The violence and war crimes are startling, and Bury, being a master at his craft, effectively paints mental pictures. He doesn’t linger on vile acts, however; he isn’t gratuitous. But he is a vivid writer and skilled at choosing the right verbs and adjectives to bring his prose to life, where the reader can visualize scenes as if watching them on film. “—Elise Stokes 

“A very compelling read.”—Frederick Brooke 

You can pre-order Walking Out of War for a special price until launch day.

Walking Out of War: the countdown begins



Walking Out of War, the third book in the true story trilogy about the wartime experiences of a Canadian in the Soviet army, launches on Febraury 22—a little more than a week from now. You can pre-order it for a special price, exclusively on Amazon, and it will download to your Kindle account automatically.

In the meantime, here’s a taste:Cover-WOOW-500x800 (1)

The Red Army returns

Nastasiv, Ukraine, August 1944

Maurice stepped outside onto his mother’s front doorstep. He lit a cigarette, drew a lungful and turned his face upward. He closed his eyes to exhale and savoured the feeling of the sun on his face. It felt like the first day of peace after his nightmarish journey from Kalush.

We have to find somewhere else for Maria to stay. People will notice two extra residents in this house, and we don’t want anyone to ask questions. 

The air smelled sweet with hay and growing sugar beets. He looked out at his mother’s fields. They’re doing well, he thought. We’ll have a good crop this year. He crouched, digging his fingers into the rich black soil. He pulled a few weeds out from between the beets.

He stood again, leaned against the fence and closed his eyes. How much longer will this war last? Germany lost the war in 1941, when they stopped outside Moscow and Leningrad. Now they’re gone. And now, Ukraine has to fight Stalin’s USSR to be free.

The Soviets had pushed the Germans out of almost all Ukraine by the end of spring. In June 1944, they had launched Operation Bagration, which had swept the Germans out of Belarus and pushed them away from Leningrad. By August, the Red Army was on the Vistula River in Poland, and the Polish Home Army was fighting the Germans to control Warsaw. Meanwhile, the Americans, British, Free French and Canadians were penetrating deep into German-occupied France. Germany won’t just surrender, though. Hitler is too stubborn.

Maurice wondered about Ukraine’s chances of independence from the USSR. It would be a political question, he knew, dependent on the will of the countries of the West.

And Poland. A free Poland will claim western Ukraine, Russia the east.

Maybe I should go back to Canada when this is over.

Something clamped his left arm, and then something else grabbed his right. He looked up and felt cold terror when he saw the red stripes on the uniforms on the men holding him by the arms: NKVD, Stalin’s political police.

“Come with us, comrade,” said one as they pulled him toward a covered truck. They threw him in the back, where a handful of other fearful-looking young men sat on the floor under the watch of another soldier with a machine gun ready. The engine roared and the truck lurched. One of the young men fell face down as the truck jolted along.

Maurice knew what this was about. The Red Army needed more men to make up some of the incredible losses of men its victories brought.

Walking Out of War

Ukraine, 1944: After the Soviets burned the Ukrainian city of Ternopyl to the ground to crush the stubborn Nazi occupiers, they rounded up every remaining Ukrainian man around for the Red Army’s final push on Germany. Maurice Bury, Canadian citizen, Ukrainian resistance fighter and intelligence officer, is thrust once again into the death struggle between Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s USSR.

Fighting across the Baltics in the autumn of 1944 is tough and bloody. Then the Red Army enters Germany, where they’re no longer liberators—they’re the long-feared Communist horde, bent on destruction, rape and revenge. The Communists are determined to wipe Nazism from the face of the earth. And the soldiers want revenge for Germany’s brutal invasion and occupation.

Maurice has determined his only way out of this hell is to survive until Nazi Germany dies, and then move home to Canada. But to do that, he’ll have to not only walk out of war, but elude Stalin’s dreaded secret police.

“Full of heart and indomitable spirit”—Joy Lorton, reader and reviewer

“A well-written and powerful read”—Elise Stokes, Goodreads

“A very compelling read.”—Frederick Brooke, Goodreads

Walking Out of War is available for pre-order now on Amazon.

VALENTINES DAY MENU HOP from the Lei Crime Kindle World



LCKW-blogHopValentine’s is just over a week away, and anyone who knows me, knows how seriously I take Valentine’s Day.

(A quick Valentine’s question: what do women want for Valentines?

  • chocolate
  • fine wine
  • flowers
  • jewelry
  • lingerie
  • dinner out
  • mushy card?

The answer is below.

But if you want to do something really romantic, consider a recipe from one of the most romantic settings in the world. That’s right, Hawaii. Today, the Lei Crime Kindle World authors are sharing great recipes with you, our readers—and giving you a chance to win a $170 Amazon gift card!

Hop on this blog tour!

Get to know each #LeiCrimeKW book and author, read their recipes, comment on the posts with your choices of Valentine’s menu items, like each authors page, and hop on to the next one! Click the link at the bottom of each post, to go to the next author.

Here is FBI Special Agent Vanessa Storm’s favorite Hawaiian recipe: Kalua pork, which means a whole pig roasted slowly in an underground oven. While there are dozens of recipes, here’s one from Kitchen Hui of Maui.

Image courtesy Kitchen Hui.

Here is a simple recipe for kalua pork with cabbage you can make in your home.

1. 4-5 lbs. of pork shoulder fat on
2. Hawaiian sea or Kosher salt, rubbed over the pork generously.
3. 4 tbsp.liquid smoke
4. 6 cups of water
5. Preheat oven to 375 deg. f.
6. In a roasting pan, deep enough, place the water in it, then place the pork in to the pan.
7. Spread liquid smoke over pork, then cover with foil, and roast for about 3 hours. Let it rest covered.

8. Take a small head cabbage slice it into 1/2 inch strips and half it, then stir fry it in some vegetable oil to wilt it. Then in the roasting pan, drain the liquid, then shred the meat, next add in the cabbage and mix it well.

Serve with rice either brown or white, and macaroni salad.

FBI Special Agent Vanessa Storm will be back in May in Echoes: A Lei Crime Kindle World mystery. Until then, you can follow her Maui adventures in:

  • TORN ROOTS—beauty and danger reign on Maui’s rainforest south coast. Vanessa Storm is at the centre of a tropical storm of environmentalists, real estate developers and a rogue Homeland Security agent.
  • Snowflake takes on a new meaning in Honolulu’s drug trade, and it’s up to Vanessa Storm to stop the killings—PALM TREES & SNOWFLAKES
  • She knows when you’re lying …FBI Special Agent Vanessa Storm is back on Maui to catch a killer in DEAD MAN LYING.

Hop on to the next author: Shawn McGuire!

Answer to the Valentine’s quiz:

All of the above.

Happy Valentines!

 

A gripping thriller and a stunning writing feat



Independent review of Sugar for Sugar by Seb Kirby

SebKirbyLargerWith the first few pages of his latest novel, Seb Kirby seemed to have challenged his abilities as a writer by choosing two elements that many writers find difficult to pull off: the unreliable first-person narrator, and present-tense action.

It seems challenging at first, but within the first three chapters, you can see how clever Kirby is.

Sugar for Sugar begins with a prologue about a hit-and-run accident. But the story really begins with “I’m lost in a dark, dark place and, try as hard as I can, nothing helps me to understand.

“When I seek answers, I see only broken shards of my past, flashes lighting this darkest of places for an instant, shining bright then fading as soon as they appear.”

Gradually, we learn that Isobel Cunningham has no memory. A friend, Marianne French, has brought her to a hospital, concerned about Issy’s disorientation and confusion.

Issy doesn’t even remember being brutally raped. This fact is discovered by Dr. Jane Wilson, the physician who first examines Issy.

Amnesia: a clever device

The opening is simultaneously frustrating and compelling. Issy asks the same questions over and over because her short-term memory is less than a minute long. On the other hand, she can remember older facts about herself, like her name, age, address and employer. But she cannot remember the previous several days, nor her childhood. The repetition this characterization requires would seem frustrating, but at the same time, we readers are compelled to turn the page to find out more, especially what would induce this state of mind.

This device is a perfect way for the author to describe the first-person narrator, as she goes through the photos and messages on her smart phone to try to learn about herself. “Wavy blonde hair … grey green eyes.” It’s a book for the social media age, as Issy not only begins to reclaim her past through her online identity, but also uses the phone to keep notes as a workaround her faulty memory. They’re messages to herself:

Why did Colin need my help?

Mary is a good friend.

Thankfully, Kirby does not rely solely on Issy, the unreliable narrator. Subsequent chapters have the POV of two police officers, DI Steven Ives and DS June Lesley; Marianne French, the woman who brought Issy to the hospital, and occasionally gangster Justin Hardman.

The mystery

sugarforsugarDetectives Ives and Lesley are investigating the suspicious, sudden death of Mike Aspinal, the Senior Executive at Ardensis, where Issy works. Early in the plot, it turns out that Aspinal has been murdered by poison injected into his back. Medical evidence also shows it was Ardensis who raped Issy, giving her a motive to kill him.

Like the skilled mystery writer that he is, Seb Kirby logically links all these elements. While there are some red herrings, there’s not a wasted word. The pace is fast, the action tense, the details spare, just enough to keep you flipping pages—or swiping my iPad.

The ending is satisfying, sensible and logical, tying everything together.

Recommended

The publisher describes the book as “a gripping psychological thriller,” and every single word of that is true. Do yourself a favour and buy it now.

I highly recommend this book. 5 stars *****

Get it on Amazon

Visit Seb Kirby’s website

How you can win four mystery novels



But first, the third book in the trilogy looms

Walking Out of War, the third volume in the trilogy that began with Army of Worn Soles in 2014 and followed with Under the Nazi Heel in 2016.

ArmyofWornSoles-smallerRegular readers of this blog will know that I had promised to publish Volume 3 by the end of last year. But it just plain took longer than I anticipated.

The good news is that the outstanding editor, Gary Henry, has done his usual great work on it. The matchless David C. Cassidy has delivered another stunning cover concept and is now working on the final design.

It shouldn’t be much longer before you can read the final stage in the story of Maurice Bury’s war. In fact, the almost-final version is in the hands of some faithful, helpful beta readers, and if any readers want an Advance Review Copy (ARC) and are willing to write an honest review on Amazon, Goodreads or any other book review site, I’ll be happy to send one. Just use the contact button on this blog.

What took so long?

Maurice Bury after the war.

Maurice Bury after the war.

The journey to publication started many years ago, when I began talking to Maurice about his wartime experiences. I thought, “This would make a great book.”

Writing the story, though, took years. I ran into a real roadblock almost at the outset, when I was trying to create an outline. I thought for a while of writing parallel timelines, comparing various parts of Maurice’s journey by juxtaposing them in prose. I wrestled with the order literally for months, writing separ
ate chapters and then transitions that I ended up throwing away. Finally, a friend suggested that I just write it as it happened. In other words, linearly. First one thing happened, then the next, and so on.

It’s amazing how we need another party to tell us the most obvious things.

That was when I decided to break the story into three books, one for each phase of his experience:

  • Army of Worn Soles tells of Maurice’s experience as an officer in the Soviet Red Army officer
  • Under the Nazi Heel describes his time as an insurgent fighter against the German occupation of Ukraine
  • and finally, Walking Out of War is the story of Maurice fighting as a foot soldier, walking with the Red Army across Eastern Europe to Berlin for the fall of Nazi Germany.

Even though I had the whole outline completed before I published Volume 1, and had several chapters of Volume 3 complete, finishing it took longer than I thought it would. Months longer.

There were some little details that required more research, which was time-consuming—like what the machine gun that Maurice’s unit operated looked like. Or just when the Red Army reached the Niemen River on the border between Lithuania and East Prussia.

Maurice isn’t around to ask anymore, so I had to turn to history books, including Professor Orest Subtelny’s excellent Ukraine: A History, the Ukrainian Encyclopedia published by the University of Toronto, other books and, of course, Wikipedia.

tdbnletterAs those of you who read this blog will know, I finally found one little bit of evidence that somehow became a keystone: a letter of recommendation for Maurice and his friend, Basily, signed by a Lieutenant John Gardner. Brigadier General (Retired) Michael Joregensen of the Canadian Armed Forces interpreted some of the abbreviations at the top of the letter, which helped me identify the U.S. Army unit that Lieutenant Gardner belonged to: the 692nd U.S. Tank Destroyer Battalion. That little slip of paper, with its faded, misspelled typewritten message, put Maurice in a specific time and place. Suddenly, I saw how the stories he had told me, the notes I had taken and the historical information I had researched all fit together.

Finding that, I was glad I had taken longer to write this book.

When will it be done then, Scott?

As I mentioned, David Cassidy is working on the cover, and a few beta readers have the almost-final draft now. I hope to have their comments in my hands by mid-January, and then I’ll send it to some beta readers for feedback. And barring any disasters, I’ll be able to send advance review copies by mid-February for publishing on the anniversary of its predecessor, Under the Nazi Heel.IMG_0020.jpg

The next projects

Fans of my Lei Crime Kindle World stories featuring FBI Special Agent Vanessa Storm will be happy to learn I’m well on the way to a new Hawaiian crime story, and I think this will be my best yet.

A yet unnamed, this novel will reveal more of Vanessa’s youth and also an old flame with a huge problem, one that will make Vanessa choose between her old life and her new career.

Following that, I’ll be working on a new #SydneyRyeKW novella, featuring, once again, the irresistible Van Freeman and Earl LeBrun. I’m aiming to publish that on the next surge of Sydney Rye Kindle World books at the end of April.

How to get all the Vanessa Storm #LeiCrimeKW novellas FREE

Read the first two chapters of the new story, “Soft Summer Rain.” Watch for the clues that will tell you which two 1970s songs inspired it, and you’ll win four mystery novels. That’s right, I’ll send you all the Vanessa Storm e-books for free, including the upcoming volume. To get the story, all you have to do is subscribe to my advance information newsletter, Forewords. Once you fill in the information and confirm your identity, you’ll get a link to download it.

Don’t miss out—four e-books for making a good, informed guess and filling out an online form. You can’t go wrong!

Send your guess to me by email (contact@writtenword.ca)

  • Torn Roots

  • Palm Trees & Snowflakes
  • Dead Man Lying.

How to format your book for e-publishing



I have found that a lot of independent authors feel intimidated by the process of e-publishing. In the past few posts, I showed you how to use Styles to make formatting more efficient and consistent, and how Styles also help automate other processes you’ll need to publish your book.

Your word processor has a number of other nice features to make it simple to format a book, whether for print or electronic publishing. Here are some of my favourites, based on the word processor I know best: Microsoft Word.

Elements of professional formatting

Start by getting your favourite print book off your shelf. There are some elements that you have probably taken for granted all your life, but getting them right in your own book will make the difference in making sure it looks professional.

  • Title page—a pleasingly designed page that tells you the title, author and publisher of the book, and the city or cities the publisher is located in. It may also list the series, if the book is part of one, or a subtitle.
    Sometimes, print books have a “half title” or “semi-title” page preceding the title page. This usually just includes the title, in smaller type than on the main title page. The reason for including this has to do with the fact that the number of pages in a paper book has to be divisible by four, which is also why there are sometimes blank pages at the end of a paper book.

    half-titletitlepages

    The half-title (left) and title pages

  • Copyright page—on the back of the title page, listing the copyright notice, date of publication, the warning not to copy the book, the publisher’s address, Library of Congress or Cataloguing in Publication Data information, ISBN and other information. It may also list the editor, designer and other contributors to the book.
  • Acknowledgements or dedication page.
  • Table of Contents.
  • Headers and footers—information at the top (header) or bottom (footer) of every page. Often, the left-hand header will have the author’s name, and the right-hand will have the title of the book. Non-fiction books may have the title on the left (verso page) and the chapter title on the right (recto).
  • Folios—the page numbers, on the top or bottom of the page, in the middle or on the outside corner. One way to tell that a book has been properly formatted: left-hand pages have even numbers, right-hand, odd.
    Notice that the title, copyright, dedication, acknowledgement and any blank pages at the front of the book do not have folios, headers or footers. Often, tables of contents are numbered in lower-case Roman numerals. Also notice that the first page of every chapter, part or section has no header or footer, and the page number is usually at the bottom, centred, even if the folios are on the outside top margins of other pages. This is an old convention in English-language publishing.

How to make your elements look professional

Word has a number of neat features that allow you to easily format a professional-looking book.

Page set-up

You want the first page of every chapter to look different from the rest. Word makes it obscure to set this up.

Double-click in the top margin or header area (or the footer) of any page. The ribbon changes. Select Different First Page and Different Odd & Even Pages. This allows you to put the folio in a different place on the first page of every chapter or section, and also to put them in the opposite, outer corners (when it comes to print books).

The Page Setup menu, where you set the size. Don't forget to click the menu beside Apply to: to make sure the whole document has the same size of pages.

The Page Setup menu, where you set the size. Don’t forget to click the menu beside Apply to: to make sure the whole document has the same size of pages.

If you’re going to publish only as an e-book, don’t worry about margins or page sizes. But if you are creating a paper book, you have to know what the page dimensions are. Amazon’s CreateSpace service offers pages of 5 inches by 8 inches, 5.25 by 8, 6 by 9 and others. Choose one, and set up your pages. Click on the Page Layout tab in the menu, opening that ribbon, and click on the triangle under Size to see the options available. If the size you’ve chosen isn’t in the list, click More Paper Sizes and enter the Width and Height. Make sure you apply it to the Whole Document using the drop-down at the bottom left. Click OK.

Adjust the margins, now. Click the Margins button, and set them for smaller—probably half an inch, or maybe a little more. Don’t set them too narrow.

The Gutter measurement adds space where the pages come together at the spine. Have you ever noticed that your paperback pages curve there? Add a little more space to keep text out of the curved part, which is harder to read.

Make sure you Apply to Whole document again.

Design your title page, or get a qualified graphic designer to do it for you: a large, attractive font for your title, smaller for the sub-title or series, large but distinct for your name as the author. At the end of the text, as long as there is room, insert one more blank line (Enter or Return key), then click on the Page Layout tab in the word processor and click on the Breaks menu. Select Next Page.

Decide whether you want to have a half-title page or not. If you do, hit Enter for a blank line, then choose a page break. Then repeat the above process to create a new page for your main title.

Enter another page break. On this page, you’ll put all your copyright information. Insert another page break for your dedication and acknowledgement pages, and any other “front matter” you may have.

To find the breaks menu, click the Page Layout tab in the ribbon at the top of the Word window.

To find the breaks menu, click the Page Layout tab in the ribbon at the top of the Word window.

Do you want to have a table of contents? Go to the Page Layout tab. Under Section Breaks, select Next Page. This makes the next page the First Page of a new section, which means its page numbering, header and footer characteristics will be different from following pages.

Because the First Page of each new Section (in Word) is distinct, you can have no page number on the first page (the ancient standard), or place it in a different place compared to other pages. So, for example, if you put the page numbers in the bottom outside corners as described above, for the first page of each new chapter, you could put the page number in the middle of the footer (bottom margin).

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It can be tricky and confusing to get to this menu. The easiest way is to double-click in the header or footer area of the page. If that doesn’t work, do it again.

Double-click in the footer. The Ribbon will change. From the centre of the ribbon, unclick Link to Previous, so that what you do to this section does not affect the title page.

The Page Number button is third from the left. Choose Bottom of Page, then one of the centred options. The page number will appear there. If you want to use Roman numerals for the front matter, right-click on the number and select Number format.

Scroll down so that you can see the next page. You’ll notice labels called Odd Page Header -Section 2- and Odd Page Footer -Section2-. You can put your author name on the Odd/right pages and the book title on the Even/left pages, or whatever you want. Since you’re creating each chapter as a separate section, you can also put the title of each chapter in the header or the footer, as you see fit.

That’s enough for this post. If you have any questions, leave them in the Comments section.

Happy writing!

#Writing tip: Take your Styles to the next level



don-draperIn the last two posts, I explained how you can use your word processing application’s Styles feature to help make formatting your document more efficient, consistent and professional looking. But the Styles feature can do more than just apply several formatting choices to your text with one click. Today, I’ll explain how you can use Styles while writing to make it even more efficient.

Following Style

Microsoft Word allows you to specify the style for the following paragraph. Unfortunately, this only works when you specify the Style first, then type it and hit Enter/Return. It doesn’t change the Style of something that’s already in the file.

When you design your sub-heading, for example, you could specify the following paragraph to be your First paragraph. The following style for your First paragraph should be Body text.

Shortcut keys

Specify a shortcut key for each style, so that you don’t have to move the mouse to select your Styles from the menu. I use Opt-b or Alt-b for Body text, -F for First paragraph, -a, -b etc for chapter headings and sub-headings, and so on.

You can save all these styles in a template in Word. While this seems unlikely, you can start writing your book in this template. You could write the title of your first chapter, and before hitting Enter or Return, hit Alt-a to set it in your Chapter head style. When you do hit Enter, the next paragraph will already be set up as First paragraph style. Write that, and then the next paragraph will automagically be in your Body text style.

However, most likely you will write your book before you decide on the graphic design and format. Still, with these Styles set up and with shortcut keys, you can quickly go through the file. Because Styles in most word processing applications apply to paragraphs, you don’t have to select the whole paragraph. Just place the cursor anywhere in the line, hit the shortcut key, and voila!

On the other hand, you can select a series of paragraphs and set them all in Body text with one keystroke. (Okay, an option-keystroke).

Beau Brummel by Wikimedia Commons

The Styles you’ll need

When you write a long document, such as a proposal, a report or a book, you’ll need at least these styles:

  • Body text – the basic text for most of the document. This should be an easily readable font. See the earlier post about the type characteristics you have to decide on, but also, set up the Paragraph characteristics. Decide whether you want to double-space paragraphs (good for reports and other corporate documents) or to indent the first line of every paragraph (standard for fiction and non-fiction books). Never do both.
    Tip: Add some extra space between each line. This is the word processor’s equivalent of what typesetters called leading (pronounced “ledding.”) This will make your text easier and more inviting to read.
  • First paragraph – the first paragraph in each chapter, as well as after each heading or subheading, or after each sub-chapter break. If your body text has an indented first line for each paragraph, the first paragraph should not be indented.
  • Chapter heading or title

    chaptertitlestyle

    The window for setting up spacing for your Styles.

    Tip: Put more space above every heading and subheading than below it. Use the Spacing, Before setting. For example, for my books, I like to have the first paragraph of each chapter start about half-way down the page. For a 5 x 8-inch page, that means three and a half inches, or 252 typesetter’s points, below the top margin. In that space, I put the chapter title and subtitle, which in my case are 24 points and 14 points, respectively. After the main title I put 10 points of space, and after the subtitle, 12 points (one pica), equivalent to one line of body text. That’s a total of 60 points. That leaves 192 points of space, so in the Chapter title Style window, I can set 192 points of spacing before the heading.

  • Chapter sub-heading or section heading—not always necessary for fiction, but non-fiction such as reports, proposals and textbooks benefit from multiple subheading levels as signposts for your organization. However, you rarely need more than three levels of subheadings.
  • Visual headers—These display  the titles of your tables, graphs and pictures, if any.
  • Captions—the explanatory text below tables, graphs and pictures. It should be smaller than your body text, and ideally in a different typeface, as well.
  • Tables—If your document has a lot of tables or graphs, you will need a text style for labels, column and row headings and so on. This is where you’ll benefit most from the way that Styles enforce consistency.
  • Header—the text in the top margin of each page
  • Footer—the text in the bottom margin of each page
    Tip 1: Header and footer Styles should be smaller than your body text. You can also use a distinct typeface; for example, if your body text is Times or another serif font, use a sans-serif like Helvetica or Avant Garde for your headers and footers. If it’s a good deal smaller than the body text, you could also use boldface. However, I don’t recommend italics for a page header or footer. They’re usually too hard to read at small sizes on a screen.
    Tip 2: Word has a large number of pre-set styles for headers and footers that include folios (page numbers). These are useful for corporate documents. Choose a simple one. You don’t want to distract your readers from the body text.
    For fiction, stay with very simple folios. A number will do.

Explore

There is a lot more to Styles. Explore the options and tell me if you discover other useful tips.