Monday, June 13, 2011

Summer Vacation - Relaxed and Structured Time

Summer vacation has begun for my children.  For me, it actually means a little more work around here.  I have two extra bodies to feed, entertain, and keep in clean clothes for a couple months.  In addition to that, I will be subjected to extra sibling rivalry, and the typical comments made out of boredom, like, "There's nothing to do.  Will you play with me," and of course, "I'm hungry."

Despite all that though, I LOVE summer vacation.  I get to see my childrens' bright sunny faces all day long every single day.  That's great insurance for me that the sun will always shine at Lisa's house even when clouds loom and rain is inevitable.  We get to relax a little bit on tight bedtime schedules, and things do not have to be quite so planned out. 

Our days will actually have a little structure though.  I like to do meals and snack times at specified times.  It really helps to eliminate the "I'm hungry" complaint.  They know there's no point in asking for food because the time has not yet arrived, thereby diminishing that gripe - at least most of the time. 

Later today, I will also sign them up for the summer read program at our local library.  It's great.  It makes reading and learning fun and exciting -- and teaches responsibility at the same time.  Even three-year-old children can grasp the fact that a book does not belong to them so we must take good care of it and return it when we are done.  And of course, just think of all the stuff that they get to learn between the covers! 

For me, it serves one more great purpose.  Bringing them home from the library with all those great books to read will give them something to do and give me some extra time to write.  Trips to the library will be in the morning.  We will come home, have lunch, baby will go down for nap, children will read quietly, and mama will get in some good writing time, right? 

Well, it sounds like a great plan, but I realize sometimes life has other things in mind.  I can bend if necessary, but have every intention to keep at it.  Well, baby girl is up from her nap so off I go.  Hope you are all enjoying a beautiful day!  Take care!      

Monday, May 30, 2011

Happy Memorial Day!

I don't have a family member who is a soldier, nor do I have a real close friend who is in the service right now, yet every time I watch one of these videos, I sob.  I ball like a baby.  Seeing that mother greet her son, or the little girl crying when she unexpectedly realizes that her very own hero is standing in the room with her is at once heartbreaking, yet poignant and beautiful.  The mother in me completely relates to the emotion from both the perspective of a mother (because I am one) and a daughter (because I have four).  

Watching videos like these reminds me of another experience in my life.  There is an army base established right on the outskirts of our town.  Last year, troops came home by the busload.  Hoards of people stood out on sidewalks waving flags, holding their hands to their hearts, and saluting these men and women who sacrificed so that we (and the rest of America for that matter) could stand on those sidewalks and wave our flags.

It was incredible, momentous even, and in that very instance, I felt so proud to be an American - so proud that we have men and women who are willing to sacrifice their very lives.  Not only are they willing to literally give up their life at any moment to a rogue bomb, or gunfire, but they are also willing to give up moments of their life that are truly fleeting.  Some of these men and women have babies and then boom, they are gone for a year or more.  They lose some of the most precious moments of parenthood because they love their country.

The day those men and women came home loaded on buses, I cried too.  How could I not?  All those soldiers, all their sacrifices, and all our love for a country where freedoms and privileges abound.  If you haven't already, take a moment and remember what's been forfeited for you.

Thank you, to the servicemen and women for giving up so much of their lives for us!  Happy Memorial Day.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

"The Author To Her Book" by Anne Bradstreet

THOU ill-form’d offspring of my feeble brain,
Who after birth did’st by my side remain,
Till snatch from thence by friends, less wise than true
Who thee abroad, expos’d to publick view,
Made thee in rags, halting to th’ press to trudge,
Where errors were not lessened (all may judg).
At thy return my blushing was not small,
My rambling brat (in print) should mother call,
I cast thee by as one unfit for light,
Thy Visage was so irksome in my sight;
Yet being mine own, at length affection would
Thy blemishes amend, of so I could:
I wash’d thy face, but more defects I saw,
And rubbing off a spot, still made a flaw.
I stretcht thy joints to make thee even feet,
Yet still thou run’st more hobbling then is meet;
In better dress to trim thee was my mind,
But nought save home-spun Cloth, i’th’ house I find.
In this array, 'mongst Vulgars mayst thou roam,
In Criticks hands, beware thou dost not come;
And take thy way where yet thou art not known,
If for thy Father askt, say, thou hadst none:
And for thy Mother, she alas is poor,
Which cas’d her thus to send thee out of door.  

                                                                     ~Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Parenting and Writing: Five Tips to Help Get More Writing In

"Mommy, I'm bored. Will you play with me?"
"Mamma, I'm thirsty."
"Mom, can we go shopping?"
"WHAAA," which translates into something like, "My diaper is dirty, Mommy!  Come change it NOW!"

Do any of these sound familiar to you?  Maybe your title is actually Daddy, Nanna, Auntie or Uncle.  Regardless, if you're here, chances are you're a writer, too.  It's these very questions and those like them that sometimes make it challenging to work at home and be a parent at the same time.

As a writer and mother of four children I usually get one of two perspectives from friends and family.  The first is, "Well, you are a stay-at-home-mom so you have lots of time to do the things you enjoy."  Hmm...No comment.

Yet other more perceptive people may ask, "Wow!  You have four children!  How do you find the time to write and keep up with everything in your life?"  Unless I'm in one of those incredibly rare moments in my life where I feel I've got it together, I reply by saying that I really don't keep up with everything.  There is always something that suffers, and that for me it's choosing what is ok to let go for that day.

Despite that, there are some things I try to do to help me stay as productive as possible.  The following are five tips that enable me keep it together enough to make me feel as though I've accomplished something good for my day.   

(1)  Prepare your children for their day and for what you need to get done.  If they're dressed and ready for their day, fed, and they've even had some one-on-one time with you reading a story or playing with some toys, then they're more likely to allow you to spend a few minutes on your writing.  Usually my girls understand when I tell them "Mommy's going to spend some special time with you, but then I need to work for a little while."  Most of the time they are content with that because they know what to expect, and their physical and emotional needs have been satisfied for a while.

(2)  Make lists and stick with them.  Are you familiar with the "handy dandy notebook" that Steve or Joe use on Blues Clues?  Well, I have one of those, but instead of writing down clues, I make lists.  I work far more efficiently on everything in my life if I have a list going of what I need to accomplish.  That list includes house related chores, errands, appointments, and all things writing related.

The list motivates and focuses me, but there's one critical element regarding list-making that keeps it useful: I don't put too many things on it at once.  I keep it simple and limit the number of things to do to five or six items.  Once I cross everything off, then and only then do I add more.  I find that if I put too much on at one time, it's counter-productive and overwhelming.

(3)  Utilize nap time as efficiently as possible.  I don't mean your nap (although a quick 20 minute nap can rejuvenate the most exhausted of caretakers), but rather your kiddo's nap.   I know that my writing time is extremely limited.  This is not the time to be checking up on my friends on Facebook, reading email forwards, or surfing the web (unless it's writing related).  Instead, try to decide what the priority is for the day and then focus a specified amount of time working on that project.  It is wonderful how much you can get done in a focused period of time. 

(4)  Multi-task, multi-task, multi-task.  When I work on house chores, I try always to be as efficient as possible.  My children are young, so tubby time still requires my presence.  This is when I try to quick clean the bathroom.  It's amazing how quickly I can get the sink, mirrors, and toilet cleaned as they sit, splash, and play in the tub.  While dinner is cooking, I fold and put away laundry or vacuum the floors.  Ask yourself what you can easily slip in while you have something else going.

(5)  Get your children involved in housework.  This is actually one of my favorites.  It took me a long time to realize that I can't do everything on my own and that it's ok to have my children help.  I'm not depriving them of playtime by having them work.  I'm instilling a good work ethic, teaching them how to do things they otherwise would not know how to do, and helping them to understand how families work together to get things done.  If I'm not doing all the chores by myself, then I can spend that much more time on my writing.

There are lots of solutions to managing our families and the other responsibilities we have in life.  What do you struggle with and what have you found that works?  

Monday, May 16, 2011

Stuffing it All In!

Pardon my absence over the last week.  I've been out walking, taking bubble baths and buying new stuff!  Obviously, I've been seeking some inspiration!  Just kidding.  Actually, I've been super busy with life.  Some of you saw and commented on pictures of my daughter as she went off to dance the night away at her first prom.  Believe me, that brought a couple tears to my eyes.

Other than that, there's been the typical illnesses that seem to always linger in my house, and as for me, I have a couple confessions to make.  First of all, I've been stricken with addiction - a gardening addiction, that is!  Last week's stretch of gorgeous weather had me out digging in the dirt and planting the very perennials that will reward my toil with beauty for years to come.

As for writing, that's the other confession.  Obviously, I wasn't here posting, nor did I work on my book or any of my other self-assigned writing projects.  I did, however, work on a project for a client, so at least that's something, but since it's not pressing I didn't complete it yet.  Naughty me!!!

So the personal struggle now is to not be too hard on myself.  During times like these - periods where I am less productive with my writing -  I try to remember that I am still a mother of young children and they must, and always do come first.  I try to be patient with myself and my goals (and believe me that's hard to do sometimes) while keeping in mind that these little ones won't be little forever.  Before long, they will all be in school and I'll have more time to focus on writing.

In the meantime, I continue to challenge myself to do all  the things in my life that I enjoy: parenting, writing, gardening, drawing, knitting, yoga/pilates and the list goes on and on.  I guess that's what living life is about, isn't it?  It's about stuffing every little thing into your day that you possibly can and enjoying it to the max.  It's living life with abandon, but not abandoning the things we are passionate about.   

So here I am writing again, refocusing myself without beating myself up over the things I didn't get done.  If I keep at it, I'll get where I want and need to be in time. 

What about you, do any of you ever get sidetracked with life?  Are you stuffing it all in and keeping focused?  How do you do it?

Monday, May 02, 2011

Renew Your Writing Inspiration with These Simple Tips

Some people would argue that there's no such thing as writer's block.  I guess I agree with that.  A lot of times, it's mind over matter - it's the sitting down and doing it that's difficult.  But I know without a doubt, there are times when my own writing feels a bit stifled and inspiration isn't exactly right around the corner.  The blessing for writers, and creators of all artistic forms, is that taking action in fun ways will help reapply a fresh approach to your creative spirit.

Get out of the house

Last week, I went on a field trip.  My husband took two of our children, Danielle took the baby, and I went to the library.  For two-and-a-half hours, I worked diligently, and uninterruptedly developing a magazine article idea, and then even managed a significant amount of time on my book.  It was wonderful.  No sippy cups to fill, diapers to change or sibling disagreements to mediate.  Did somebody say Heaven?

Seriously though, sometimes inspiration comes in the form of a break from the norm.  For parents who stay at home, it can be hard to juggle everything - housework, parenting, and everything else in our lives - and try to write too.  It's overwhelming at times and coming up with fresh ideas amidst all of that is hard to do.  Getting out of the house isn't always an option for everyone, but when the opportunity strikes take advantage.  One or two getaways a week can do wonders for your muse. 

Re-inspire by doing something enjoyable

Do something you enjoy to reawaken your creative spirit.  It doesn't have to be writing related.  Go for a walk and take note of the fresh green foliage bursting from buds in trees.  Feel the wind blowing gently on your face.  Listen to the spring birds singing.  Watch them flitting about as they prepare nests for future babies.  Use all of your senses like a child would.  Enjoy the experience.   

If that doesn't get the juices flowing for you, do something else that gets your mind off of life's worries - the things that really block inspiration.  Draw up a warm bubble bath, light a few of your favorite scented candles, and grab up that magazine that came in the mail three weeks ago (or three months ago). Treat yourself to a freebie spa in your own home.

Whatever you enjoy that's deeply relaxing, give it a try.  You work hard and you deserve it.  You'd be amazed what a few moments of quiet doing something you enjoy can do to stir up new ideas.  

Buy yourself something new

For me, there's nothing quite as motivating as buying new exercise clothes to get me to go for a run.  It's the same thing with writing.  Having new stuff to use - sticky notes, pens, or a pretty journal - inspires me to write something new.  If you're on a tight budget, don't worry.  These items can be found at affordable prices at your local Dollar Store, and if it ends up being enough inspiration to land you an assignment, it might just be worth it.   

Remember that all writers have periods of great creativity and those that are not quite as productive.  It's ok.  When the less industrious times come, take an active approach.  Follow these suggestions or come up with your own to get yourself back on track.

What are some of your best tips for renewing your writing inspiration?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Grammar Trivia: What is a Gerund?

Last week my family and I had a fun time quizzing each other with trivia questions.  My husband stuck it to us with his geographical and historical knowledge.  I admit I was floundering at times, but also able to get him with a couple grammar questions.  It made me think that it might be fun to offer occasional grammar questions here. 

As writers, most of us are familiar with the basics of grammar.  We have a good grip of what a noun, verb and adjective is, but there's a lot more to grammar than that. 

I especially appreciated my teenage daughter's guess at what a gerund is.  If you will refer to answer number three, you might get a chuckle.  Cute as Danielle's answer was, gerunds actually belong to the verbal noun family.  A verbal noun is a word or phrase created from a verb and used as a noun. 

I already defined a gerund in the above trivia question - a verbal noun ending in "ing." 

Examples of gerunds:

Running every day is her passion. 
Playing with toys keeps most three-year-old children entertained. 

Another kind of verbal noun is an infinitive.  An infinitive is usually preceded by the word to.

Examples if infinitives:

To err is human.   
The best way to learn grammar is to practice.   
Verbal nouns may also serve as a predicate noun after a linking verb, or as the direct object of a transitive verb. 

Example of predicate noun:

The most common mistake is missing the important details. 

Example of direct object of a transitive verb: 

Babies love to cuddle

So that's the lowdown on what a verbal noun is and how it functions in a sentence.  Fairly simple, but not quite as cute as a small, fuzzy animal. 

I hope everyone is having a wonderful day!  Until next time! 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Sunshine and Time Away

Today was spent finishing up a writing project in preparation for our trip.  My family and I will be leaving the not quite frigid but definitely dreary PA in search of warmer and sunnier lands.  We are actually heading to North Carolina and will return early next week. 

For me, I will be tending to small children in a new and more exciting location, but I will also be taking time to grow closer to the Lord, and bask in the glory of what our Savior did for us.

If I don't get a chance to post here while I'm away, I truly hope that you all have a wonderful Easter weekend and get to enjoy some extra time with the special people in your lives.   

Happy Easter and take care! 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Survival Tips for the Sane Freelancer

When some people think of the typical freelancer, they envision the carefree days of a writer sitting at home, clad in cozy fleece pajamas while sucking down expensive cups of Starbucks coffee.  But anyone who freelances knows that, although there are certainly advantages (like wearing the cozy fleece jammies all day), it can also be extremely frustrating at times.

The problem is you never know what a new day is going to bring.  Sometimes your day can be moving along right on course and seemingly perfectly when all of the sudden something goes wrong.  Terribly wrong.   Like for example, your internet connection dies or worse yet, your computer crashes along with all of your files - right before an important deadline.

We all hope nothing that drastic ever happens to us, but even minor setbacks can slow down the most efficient of freelancers.  Difficulty finding the proper resources for a project, minor technical difficulties or a bad case of writer's block might be enough to get your writing goals off course for the day.     

Fortunately, there are a couple things you can do as a freelancer that could save you hours of time and frustration in the event of all things unexpected.

Plan for unexpected inconveniences by not procrastinating

Some people really do work better under the gun, but in the professional world, and especially in a career that relies heavily on sometimes unpredictable technology, waiting until the last minute to complete a project is not an advisable thing to do.  Losing your internet or any other such unpredictable difficulties might prevent you from completing a project that wouldn't otherwise have taken you very long to do.

Plan completion of your projects ahead of time - before the deadlines you and your client agreed upon.  This way, you are not taking any chances with potential technology woes, or any of the other aforementioned little inconveniences that might pop up.  Your clients are your bread and butter.  They're counting on you to stick to your word and deliver when you said you would. 

Save, save, save

It sounds a little silly to mention, but save your work on a regular basis.  I know I'm really harping on the technology aggravations, but if you've ever lost all your work at a crucial moment, or after spending hours on a project, then you understand why.  All it takes is a click of a, of a mouse, or a tap on the finger save yourself a lot of frustration and heartache.  

If simply saving to your hard drive doesn't offer enough security for those extra special projects, then you might want to consider free online backup sites like Dropbox, or Mozy.  Most offer 2GB of free storage with an option to purchase more if necessary.  Plus, for those who have Gmail, Yahoo, or Hotmail, you can always attach your files to an email and send it to yourself.  A lot of times, I even do this instead of file sharing when I'm going from laptop to PC or vice versa.   

A little extra planning and a few extra precautions with your work might literally save your projects, your business, and quite possibly even your sanity.

What little things do you do as a freelancer that helps keep your sanity intact?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Inspiration for the Muse

Right now my windows are wide open and one of my favorite sounds fills the house: it's the song of spring sung by so many birds belting out their beautiful chorus.  I am thankful for our taste of spring yesterday.  By late afternoon, it was nearly 75 degrees, and although it's supposed to get chilly again, it's still warm enough to have the windows open.

I love spring.  It's one of my favorite times of the year.  Waking up to fresh air and the sound of birds on days like today really is a pleasure.  But what I love most is the transformation.  I love watching the grass go from brown and listless to vibrant green and lush in a matter of days.  I enjoy seeing the daffodils and tulips grow taller every day.  I know that before long, they'll be erupting in color all over the country - along with new foliage on once naked trees.

It's new life, and like the birth of a baby, it's always remarkable.  Forever inspiring.  In fact, I think I'll let it inspire my muse today, and try to get some good writing in.  I hope you all had an amazing weekend and find some inspiration in your own day!    

Friday, April 08, 2011

Surmountable Barriers

The other day, I was surfing around on some of my favorite blogs when I came across an entry by Lori Widmer at Words on the Page about what she accomplished in the month of March.  The 38+ query letters that she sent out was enough in itself to impress me, but that was only a drop in the bucket of her freelancing accomplishments for last month. 

What Lori's post got me to wondering was what are the barriers in my life that keep me from that level of productivity.  Although the last couple months have been the most productive I've had in a while, I've definitely not sent out nearly 40 query letters.

What I'm working on now
  • Posting on my blog on a regular
  • Researching markets and querying magazines for articles (I say again, not 40.  I promise you!)
  • A couple small freelance projects
  • Networking/marketing
  • Always stretching myself by reading and learning about my craft
  • Outlining and beginning my first book
As for barriers, I can give you a list of 40+ of them with ease.  Family (children, spouse, pets), chores, lack of time, hobbies and other interests, but when it comes right down to it, I think I've learned what my ultimate barrier is: myself.

I know that I'm not sitting around making excuse after excuse to not write.  I'm getting "stuff" done, just not quite as much as I'd like.  I must not make excuses.  Do you think Lori is?  I sincerely doubt that!

One of my biggest problems is that I always worry I'm not giving my children enough of my time.  After all, being with my girls and giving them my best is the reason I am home right now.  But what I've learned is that sometimes giving them "my best" looks different than I expect. Instead of thinking I am depriving my children of my time, I must keep in mind that I am doing more than something I enjoy.  I am showing them that mama's goals and ambitions are important, and so are theirs - they can accomplish anything they put their minds to.  I must continue to press on and reach all my writing goals.  

Yes, it's a juggling act.  No, it's not impossible.  Those barriers are surmountable and so are yours.

What are some of  the barriers in your life? 

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Book Review: Heaven is for Real

The last couple weeks of my life have been consumed with caring for sick children.  Of course, in a household of multiples, sickness doesn't usually occur all at once, but rather it drags out slowly - one feverish, sometimes whiny, drippy-nosed child at a time.

Experience has shown me that holding a sick baby or toddler on my lap while trying to tap away on my laptop is difficult to do.  Reading a book while tending to babies is not as complicated. I resolved to do some extra pleasure reading during my temporary "time off" from writing and I had the perfect book in mind.

A couple weeks ago, my mom surprised me by ordering and having delivered to my home Heaven is for Real, by Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent.  Thanks for a great read mom!  Friday night I began reading it and I finished it up Monday. 

Heaven is for Real is the true story of a three-year-old boy's experience of going to Heaven.  The first half of the book describes how Todd and Sonja Burpo almost lost their precious son, Colton, to a life-threatening case of appendicitis.  Todd Burpo's description of his child's sickness leaves readers on the edge of their seat. While doctors initially struggle to figure out what's wrong with their child, Burpo very heart-wrenchingly captures the emotion of a parent whose child is dying right before their eyes.  The pain, frustration, anger, and helplessness he and Sonja felt during that period of their lives was described in such a way that any loving parent could to relate to it.    

The remainder of the book was a description of the period of years following that traumatic experience.  Colton's account of going to Heaven casually emerged in honest conversations with his parents.  He revealed personal family and Biblical facts that no one had ever shared with him or that he couldn't possibly have known otherwise.

A prime example of this occurred when he offhandedly mentioned to his mother that he met his sister in Heaven.  This was the baby Sonja had miscarried one year prior to giving birth to Colton.  Because he was only three, they never shared that loss with him, and because Sonja was only two months along in that pregnancy, they never even knew the sex.  Imagine their surprise when their three-year-old son says he met her.     

Colton shocked his parents time and again with his simple expressions of what he learned, things he saw and the people he met in Heaven.  He shared details that matched scripture on the simplistic level of a child.  Although at times overwhelming to Todd and Sonja, details like what Jesus and Heaven look like, and who else was up in Heaven filled them with wonder and amazement.

"It dawned on me that maybe we'd been given a gift and our job was to unwrap it, slowly, carefully and see what was inside," said Todd when he realized that Colton's experience was not just the wild imaginings of a creative three-year-old.   

My Thoughts:

Overall, I think Heaven is for Real is a memorable read for both Christians and seekers alike who want to catch a glimpse into Heaven.  Really, who among us has never wondered what it would be like to look into the loving eyes of Christ, or even daydreamed about whether the streets of Heaven really are paved in gold?  I remember wondering about those things when I was a very little girl. 

One of my favorite passages takes place in the chapter where Colton describes what Jesus looks like.  Colton talks of his hair color and mentions a beard, and then says, "...And his eyes...oh, Dad, his eyes are so pretty." 

I can only think that all the love in Jesus' heart must have been conveyed through the beauty of his eyes to that small child.  It only makes sense.  After all, it was Jesus who said, "The eyes are the window to the soul." Matthew 6:22.  Whose soul could be more pure or perfect than that of Jesus? 

Don't get me wrong though.  I didn't exactly read this book with an open mind all the way through.  After finishing the first half (which I felt was very compelling), I began to feel some amount of skepticism as I then read about Colton's experience in the second half.  Questions popped into my head like are the Burpo's feeding this information to their child in order to make a capital gain?  Are they twisting it ever-so-slightly to suit the needs of the story and what would their motivation be to share this story with us? 

Forgive me for my "humanness."  Even as a believer, it's sometimes difficult to understand all the questions I have about God and Heaven.  Blind faith is hard.  Faith is not tangible.  It can't be seen, touched, smelled or experienced through any of the senses.  But all that aside, for me, it still makes sense.  God is in the small stuff - in the miracles that surround us, the birth of a baby, the budding of new life in spring- and the big stuff, like as in Colton's survival and experience. 

But to answer my questions above, I really believe the answers are no, no, and for question number three, the Burpo's motivation seems genuine.  Their desire is to give others - those who believe and those who still seek - a sense of security that there really is a God, and as the name suggests, Heaven is for Real.


Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Gotta Love a Good Quote!

This takes me back to eighth grade English class.  Very basic, yet incredibly useful.  How can a writer of any genre go wrong when keeping this in mind?

"I keep six honest serving men
They taught me all I knew;
Their names are What and Why and When
and How and Where and Who."

                                                                                                        ~ Rudyard Kipling

Thank you Mr. Kipling.   

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Guest Post from Lillie Ammann: Subsidy Publishing? Self-Publishing? It’s All Beginning to Blur

Part IV: Subsidy Publishing? Self-Publishing? It's All Beginning to Blur

I'm thankful that my friend and fellow blogger, Lillie Ammann, was able to take time out of her busy schedule to contribute the following article - and the last part of my series on publishing.  Her first-hand experience and perspective as a professional editor as well as writer and publisher of her own books, truly shows in the following article.  I hope you enjoy it and find it as useful as I found it to be:

Not long ago, authors had three distinct choices in publishing: traditional publishing (either a NY House or a small press as described in Lisa’s earlier post), subsidy publishing (often called vanity publishing), or self-publishing. Today, lines between subsidy (other than vanity) publishing and self-publishing are beginning to blur. In fact, authors who self-publish and authors who publish with a subsidy publisher now call themselves “indie authors.”

In subsidy publishing, authors pay a company to publish their work. Many people call subsidy publishing “vanity publishing” because it appeals to authors’ vanity—to their desire to see their name on the cover of a book. Some say that authors who pay to have their books published “have more money than talent or sense.”

Vanity publishing is always subsidy publishing—because authors pay a company to publish their work. However, not all subsidy publishing is vanity publishing. If the subsidy publisher provides the services authors need with good quality at reasonable prices, subsidy publishing can be a legitimate choice.

Vanity publishing can be very expensive with little return for authors. Everything costs money—editing, cover design, interior layout, printing—either as part of a package price or as individual charges. If authors are able to choose the services provided, many skip editing to save money because they don’t realize that without editing, the quality of the book will end up somewhere between awful and mediocre.

In the days when all printing had to be done on offset presses, authors often paid exorbitant prices to have 1,000 or even 5,000 copies of their books printed by a vanity publisher and shipped to the authors’ homes, only to sit unsold, gathering dust.

Self-publishing used to mean that authors did all the work and paid all the costs to publish their own books rather than paying one company to do it all. The authors still ended up with thousands of copies of books with no way to get them into bookstores—distributors and booksellers wouldn’t even consider self-published books. In addition to being great writers, self-publishers had to be exceptional marketers and find innovative distribution methods if they hoped to become successful.

In the last few years, the advent of print on demand (POD) has changed the publishing landscape. POD publishers can print one copy of a book from a digital file for the same unit cost as they can print 1,000 copies. That cost is generally higher than the unit cost for 1,000 copies of an offset press run, but the advantages of POD can compensate for the slightly higher cost. 

Authors can pay a POD company for the services they want or need, such as editing, custom cover design, and interior layout. They can use cover and interior templates provided by the POD company to design their own cover and interior. Or they can do what self-publishers have always done and contract with different providers for the services they need, using the POD company simply as a printer.

Now the lines between subsidy publishing and self-publishing begin to blur. Authors who hire their own editors and contract with their own interior and cover designers certainly qualify to be called self-published, even if they use a POD company as their printer. On the other hand, authors who simply pay a POD company for a package of services and have no further input into the production of their books might be considered subsidy published.  But what about indie authors who hire freelance editors but create their own covers and interior layout using templates provided by the POD company? Or authors who pay the POD company for editing and interior layout but provide their own book covers? The distinctions are no longer quite so clear. Indie publishing better describes the spectrum of subsidy publishing, self-publishing, and the blurry space in between.

The two most popular POD publishers are CreateSpace (a subsidiary of and Lightning Source (a subsidiary of the book distributor Ingram). These companies and others like them enable writers to publish their own work much easier than old-fashioned self-publishing using an offset printer.

Lightning Source Inc. (LSI) is used by small, medium, and large publishing companies to print and distribute books. The company charges a setup fee for each title published. Publishers (including self-publishers) can order books in any quantity to sell themselves as well as opt-in to distribution through the Ingram catalog to booksellers (for a fee).

CreateSpace offers a range of services from printing only to full service, including editing, cover design, and interior layout. Printing only is completely free—authors pay only for the books they buy, and they receive royalties for the books CreateSpace sells through its site,, and other retailers. Authors can provide their own ISBNs, making the authors the publishers of record—true self-publishers, or CreateSpace will provide ISBNs, making CreateSpace the publisher of record. Many indie authors find CreateSpace easy to use and cost-effective.

Just a few years ago, all my self-publishing clients did a print run of 1,000 or 2,000 copies with an offset printer. Today, I recommend to most of my clients that they use a POD printer. Typically, I edit and layout the books, and the authors contract with a cover designer. However, for memoirs and family histories that are written primarily for family and friends, my clients may generate covers from the POD company’s templates. Everyone has been pleased with the results.

Subsidy publishing with a POD publisher may be most appropriate when some or all of the following conditions apply:
  • The author has no desire to get involved in any aspect of publishing
  • The target audience is a small group, such as family and friends of a memoir write
  • The author doesn’t expect to write additional books

Self-publishing with a POD publisher may be most appropriate when some or all of the following conditions apply:

  • The author wants control of all aspects of publishing, including the cover and interior design 
  • The target audience is the general public
  • The author plans to write additional books and wants to build readership for future titles
And then there’s the vast blurry middle—in which authors pick and choose what they do and what the subsidy publisher does, making indie authors truly independent.

There is no one best way to publish. As Lisa has pointed out in earlier posts in this series, each type of publishing has advantages and disadvantages. Authors must weigh the pros and cons, evaluate their goals, and determine which publishing method is best for them and their work.
Lillie Ammann is a writer, editor, and book midwife. She is the author of three romance novels, including the romantic mystery Dream or Destiny, and several how-to e-books. She edits manuscripts and works with self-publishing authors to deliver their bouncing baby books. Lillie blogs about writing, publishing, books, and more at A Writer’s Words, An Editor’s Eye.

Friday, March 18, 2011

NY House Publishing Versus Small Press

Part III:  NY House Versus Small Press

Picture this.  After a satisfying dinner out, you and your spouse decide to while away the rest of your evening at Barnes and Nobles.  You walk in the door and there, conveniently located by the registers is the loveliest piece of reinforced cardboard you’ve ever seen.  It’s the book display designated for your very first published number one bestseller.  Oh what a feeling!  

What writer doesn’t dream of becoming a household name?  Exactly how does that happen anyway?  Well, there are a lot of contributing factors, but certainly the odds of achieving this status are much greater if you go with NY House Publishing.  As I said in the first part of my publishing series, NY House is any one of a number of publishers located in NYC.  Popular names include Random House, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster and many others.  

The advantages of having your book published through NY House are numerous.  They are:
  •   Larger cash advances
    • The publisher helps market and sell the book - resulting in bigger sales. 
    • Your book ends up in bookstores and supermarkets everywhere.  This is really a part of what the publisher does to market and sell your book, but it's significant.  Greater exposure helps sell your book and even make your name familiar among readers of your genre.
    • Greater royalties from your book.

    As with most things writing, publishing with NY House isn’t easy and there are drawbacks to this method as well.  

    The problem is NY House publishers tend to be very unapproachable for new writers.  Many times they won't even deal with a writer without an agent.  Plus, it's uncommon for them to accept unsolicited manuscripts.  Even after a manuscript has been accepted, it can take up to two years before it actually hits the shelves.  That's a long time.  

    Other drawbacks include the fact that there's little control over the outcome of your book, and you relinquish all rights to your book.

    In light of the fact that traveling the publishing road to NY House is so difficult, many authors choose to go with small press.  Not a bad choice at all.   There is an estimated 50,000+ small or independent presses in the US, making them a much more viable option for new writers.  And even though they may not pay the huge advances that the major publishing companies pay, there are certainly great advantages to going this route.

    One of the biggest benefits is that since small press publishers usually only publish ten books or fewer a year, their schedules aren't cluttered with meetings, deadlines, and other time constraints.  For you, that means more one-on-one time, more input on details like what your cover will look like, and a faster turnaround for your book.  Furthermore, they are far more likely to take a risk on new authors or books that are considered "out-of-the box."

    The cons are that it's harder to have a huge success when going with small print.  They are much more limited in finances and what they can do for you in terms of marketing.  Here are a couple more disadvantages. 
    •  Due to the huge expense of printing, it isn't uncommon for publishers to print fewer than a couple thousand books at a time.  Consequently, if few books are printed, it’s harder to get distributors to purchase them. 
    • Smaller and shorter print runs also make it harder (albeit not impossible) to hit the bestseller list.  
    • Smaller advances – if any at all, and lower royalties.

    So there’s a brief breakdown of the pros and cons of NY House v. Small press.  Both paths are difficult, yet with hard work and diligence, and of course, a great book the potential for amazing results is great. 

    Be sure to be watching for the final post in this series when my friend and fellow writer Lillie Ammann from A Writer's Words, An Editor's Eye contributes the last post in this series on subsidy/self-publishing. 

    Wednesday, March 09, 2011

    Advantages and Disadvantages of E-Publishing

    Thanks to Lillie Ammann at A Writer's Words, An Editor's Eye, I know that March 6-12, 2011 is officially Read An E-Book Week.   In light of that fact, I thought it would be ideal to continue my series on publishing on the advantages and disadvantages of publishing "e-books," or in other words "e-Publishing."

    Perhaps one of the most surprising facts about "e-books" is that they are celebrating their 40th birthday this year.  Michael S. Hart created the first "e-book" as part of Project Gutenberg back in the early '70's, before the internet had really taken hold.  Initially, he manually typed the text of the Bible, Shakespeare and many other classics in an attempt to encourage literacy and give as many e-books to the public as possible. 

    Today, electronic publishing, or e-Publishing is growing like wildfire.  It is defined as the digital publication of e-books and other reads like short stories or collections via the internet.  Files may be viewed online, loaded onto CDs and electronic readers, or even emailed directly to your computer.  There are an amazing number of advantages to e-Publishing.  Here are a few:
    • From a financial standpoint, it is often a great option.  Because there are fewer overheads for the publisher, as in printing and distribution costs, the writer can often make out better with royalties - sometimes making as much as 70%.  Also, due to lower overheads, a publisher will many times be more willing to take a risk on an unpublished author or even a book or character idea that might be a little dicey.
    • The actual time it takes for a book to get published is much faster than in traditional publication.  Where going the "old-fashioned" way might take up to two years, e-publishing can be as quick as three weeks to only a few months after acceptance. 
    • Storage in itself is a great advantage to this form of publishing.  Unlimited space on the internet makes it easy for everyone to maintain files.  Plus, since most e-publications are sent via PDF files, or compatible word processing docs, it's even quick and easy to go in and make changes to a publication.  Traditional publishers are often unwilling to make changes to a manuscript because it involves so much extra work.  
    • Where paper publishers usually try to obtain as many rights a possible, the e-Publisher usually retains none.  That means the writer keeps the rights to his work and even has the option to take it to a paper publisher at a later date.  
    • It's a great way for a new writer to build a platform or create a following before going to paper.  
    • e-Published docs can be sent all over the world in a matter of seconds.  This is a huge advantage to both the writer and to the reader who does not like to wait. 
    As with anything, there are also disadvantages to e-Publishing. 
    • There is a lot more responsibility resting on the writer to market his own work.  With paper publishing people can visit libraries, bookstores or even see a book in a storefront window and make the purchase.  Not so with this method.  
    • Even though royalties can be better, there is no advance in the beginning.
    • It's true that the overheads are lower for the publisher, but that doesn't mean the cost of the book itself is less.  An expensive e-book might not always seem appealing to potential buyers.
    • Some might argue that the quality in writing of an e-published book doesn't compare to that of a paper book. 
    • Sales for e-books are not as great as they are for paper.  In the e-book industry, a writer is considered successful if his e-book sales hit 500.    
    • Online publications may review e-books, but newspaper and magazine reviewers tend to stick with paper.  This is just one more reason why the writer must work harder at promoting himself. 

    Despite the disadvantages of e-Publishing, it's certainly a worthwhile consideration for new writers, or for those who've been published and are looking for additional ways to build on their platform and get their name out there.  Oh!  And if you haven't had the experience to read an e-book yourself or you'd like a chance to win your own reading device, be sure to check out the Read An E-Book Week link!  

    Wednesday, March 02, 2011

    Book Publishing: What Are Your Options?

     Writer’s Digest recently ran an interview with one of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott.  In it she touched upon the positive and negative changes she’s seen in the publishing industry over the years.  She felt that an ever growing online community has had an incredibly positive impact for writers or anyone looking to share their lives or histories on the internet.  There’s no disputing that.  There’s quite literally an online community for every person with every plausible interest out there.

    On the negative side though, Lamott notes how the publishing industry has grown the “big time” publishers to the point that the numbers of small-press-run books are beginning to decline.  Her comment made me think about publishing companies.  Most people know that if a book is bound and set to print, a company somewhere must have published it.  Come to find out, there are several kinds of book publishers, each serving a different need or purpose.

    Vanity or Subsidy Press:  A vanity press/subsidy press is a publisher or publishing house that puts out books at the total expense of the author. Most often the author has no say on details like paper color or binding style, but he retains all rights to his work.  These companies do little to no editing or promoting and often inflate all of the costs for what minute amount they do.  Vanity or subsidy presses are usually not taken very seriously and should never be mentioned as a source of credibility in the writing world. 

    Self-publishing:  Self-publishing is when an author essentially becomes his own publishing company and takes on the responsibility of proofreading, editing, promoting, and all other activities that go along with publishing a book for sale.  It is done entirely at his own expense and often done with print-on-demand technology.  It’s especially ideal for niche markets like regional cookbooks or histories, how-to and other books of the sort.  There is certainly something to be said for the hard work and perseverance that go into making a self-published book a success.  

    E-Publishing:   E-publishing is relatively new and certainly one of the most up-and-coming methods of having a book published.  E-publishers offer their books in several different formats including those that can be downloaded to computers, phones, readers and other devices.  Some also use digital technology to make books available in print.  This is an ideal option for anyone who seeks to promote themselves, their business, or even to keep a book circulating that is no longer sold in print. 

    Small Press Publishing:  Small press publishers, also known as “indie publishers” or “independent press” usually print a limited number of bound books and have annual sales below a certain level – in the US it’s $50 million.  Many times they do not publish more than ten titles per year and they usually cater to a niche market like library market, nonfiction, or mystery.

    Small press publishers don’t pay very high advances, but are more enthusiastic about promoting their authors’ works than larger companies, have more flexible schedules, and are well-informed in the area of social media marketing – which can help a lot with promotion. 

    NY House:  Anybody who knows anything at all about book publishers has heard of Random House, Penguin, Simon & Schuster and several other big names like these, including some independents like Dorchester.  They are located in New York City (hence the term “NY House” or simply “New York”) and they are the crème de la crème of the industry.

    NY publishers can pay million dollar advances and get an author’s book in every bookstore, library, or supermarket imaginable.  Of course, going with NY House doesn’t necessarily mean that this will happen. 

    In the following weeks I will write a series of posts, each one breaking down the advantages and disadvantages of going with each approach to publishing.  Until then keep in mind that all of these methods (except Vanity or Subsidy Press) are credible ways to get a book out there and available to the public.  Excellent writing, hard work, perseverance and impressive promotion are sure to get it on the best-sellers list.

    Friday, February 25, 2011

    So You Think You're A Writer?

    Many times in my life I have wondered if I could legitimately call myself a writer.  I've always struggled with the belief that you have to do something "grand" like write a book in order to accept that title.  I don't feel that way anymore.  Time and a little bit of wisdom have transformed those beliefs, and now I know that writing comes in many shapes and sizes.  Here are just a few thoughts I have that might help you realize if you are a writer or not.

    • If you have a burning desire in your heart to string words together in order to create a written piece of work you might just be a writer.  This work can be anything from a resume, to a press release, to a book.  These are all creative expressions and are thoughtful and artistic in their own way - they are created by writers.
    • If you find yourself reading articles, books, or anything else of that nature, and you are suddenly stricken with an idea to write then you might just be a writer.  These ideas don't always come while reading though.  Sometimes it's while you are doing the mundane tasks of every day living like washing the dishes. 
    • If you often find yourself running for a scrap of paper, a napkin, or something that you can write an idea down on before you forget it, then you are quite possibly a writer.  Of course, then finding these scraps in all locations around your house is also a good indication.  
    • You might especially be a writer if you are one who has ideas, but forgets them before you get a chance to write them down.  It is so frustrating when this happens. Of course, it's always those ideas that would have been your best story yet - maybe even your Pulitzer Prize winner!
    • If you sit down to write, but then become immobilized by your fear of what might or might not happen - like failure, success, or the fear that someone might actually read it - and instead you do a load of laundry, then you might be a writer.
    • If you find yourself reading blogs, books and magazines on writing all the time, then you better get on it because a writer is surely living inside of your heart. 
    • If you write anything, even if it's only journaling, and what you write is coming from your heart, then you are a writer!

    These are only a few examples that popped into my head - things that I often experience or feel.  It's different for everyone.  For many it's a very private and personal thing, and for others there's nothing quite like seeing their own creations in print.  What defines being a writer in your eyes?   

      Tuesday, February 22, 2011

      Readers, Readers Everywhere

      This week's Sunday paper had an article in it about Borders' financial woes.  This popular book store has been in business for over 40 years and at one point was booming above all others in the book business.  In fact, according to the article, they were even leaders in book sales for a short time because of the great deals they offered their patrons.  Now like so many other businesses today, they are facing bankruptcy and maybe even closure because of an apparent inability to keep up with the times.

      For Borders and even smaller book stores, competition is undeniably rough right now.  The options for reading enthusiasts out there are endless.  Not only do you have websites like, who sell books at great prices, but every day new technologies are popping up that make book buying and reading simple, inexpensive, and extremely convenient.

      Popular reading devices like Amazon's Kindle or even Barnes and Nobles Nook enable people to purchase great reads right from the comfort of their own home.  Many downloads are free, and online competition  for book sales allow customers to find prices suitable to their budgets.

      Of course, on the spot downloads are not the only advantage to owning one of these great little pieces of equipment.  Many come with all sorts of neat features.  For example, for those who enjoy the learning curve of reading, words with unclear meanings can be highlighted, clicked and then instantly defined - never even having to leave your seat to grab a dictionary.

      I have to admit, I don't have a Kindle or a Nook, but I do have a Sony Reader.  My sweet husband bought it for me for Christmas.  It doesn't have all the fancy bells and whistles of the aforementioned devices, but it is awesome.  I love it and as much as I enjoy the feel of a new book in my hands, or the smell of an antiquated classic, I certainly enjoy the convenience of being able to get a new book the second I finish one.  Let's face it, with four children, simply hopping in my car to go to the bookstore or library is not always an option for me.

      Of course, these reading devices are only a drop in the bucket of new technologies in the reading world.  There are now downloads for iPods and MP3 players, the fancy new Apple iPad e-readers, and of course, who could forget e-books?  Without a doubt there's something as simple or as fancy as any individual's preferences out there.  

      For loyal Borders customers, there's good news.  Most of their stores will remain open for a while.  Hopefully, they can jump in on the technology bandwagon and boost up enough sales to make it through these tough economic times.   And of course, for those who love to read, the sky is the limit!

      Friday, February 18, 2011

      Three Ways to Become a Better Writer

      For some people, like my husband for example, the act of writing is about as enjoyable as cleaning the bathroom toilet, yet for others it exhilarates - it's the very breath of their life.  Ever present thoughts of writing invade their head at convenient and inconvenient times alike.  But the question is, how do great writers do it?  How do they become successful?  Do they possess a secret that's only revealed to a chosen few, or are they simply born with the talent?  Over the years, I have learned a few pointers that have helped me improve my craft.

      The first thing is to remember, especially for those who are just starting out, that writing doesn't always come easy.  It's a common misconception to think that the great writers of our time, and even those of our past, simply put pen to paper and wrote great pieces of literature.  This isn't so.

      Yes, occasionally ideas will pop into your head and it all flows from there.  More often an idea will come, but finding the right words is done with great difficulty.  Yet at other times you find yourself staring at a blank screen or piece of paper with no ideas or anything. 

      Good writing takes time, practice and hard work - sometimes many hours of hard work.  You can guarantee that a nicely crafted article or book has spent its fair share of time in the revision bin.   

      Another way to improve your writing may almost seem too good to be true - if you like reading that is.  With the fast-paced life that many of us live, it may be hard to carve out extra time for reading, but if you can neither you nor your writing skills will regret it.

      Reading goes beyond the obvious learning that you obtain from studying the latest self-help book.  What happens is an interesting transformation that can be likened to moving to a new region.  When a Northerner moves down South, he takes his own accent and dialect with him.  After living down there for a while he begins to take on the Southerner's drawl - without even realizing it. 

      Reading books helps you absorb styles, ideas that you might not have thought of prior to, and even vocabulary in much the same way as the Northerner absorbs his changes in speech. 

      In her book Bird By Bird, Anne Lammott says of reading, "What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die."

      It's these very worlds that she speaks of that broaden our horizons, that give us new insights and perspectives - new understandings to the human emotion, and even ideas for our own stories.  Just consider it grist for the  mill.  

      Finally, and perhaps most importantly, one of the best pieces of advice I could give is to write, write, and write some more.  The most productive times in my life as a writer have always been when I was writing a lot.  Ideas actually were popping into my head out of nowhere.  Articles were coming together and writing felt as though it was coming from my heart, not just something I had to do. 

      The more you write, the better you get, the more passionate you feel.  The more passionate you feel, the more you want to write.  It's a cycle that breeds not only productivity, but also the kind of practice that makes an excellent writer.  

      Writing can be many good things to many people.  But remember, it is hard work, there's always more to learn, and practice does make perfect.  Keep those points in mind and if writing is the desire of your heart, you are sure to be destined for greatness!

      Monday, February 14, 2011

      Happy Valentine's Day!

       What better day to start blogging again than on Valentine's Day!

      This last year has been very busy for me.  On May 19th I gave birth to our fourth (and final) child, Giana Rose.  The name Giana means God is Gracious, and let me tell you, He really is!  She is the light of our lives - just like our other girls - but such a pleasant nature has she!  I always say her name fits her because God knew that a nice disposition for a fourth child would serve me well on many days! 

      With a 15-year-old and an almost three-year-old, our house always has plenty of tantrums and drama to spare, yet it's also never lacking in fun, humor, and most of all LOVE.  Life is interesting.  Life is busy.  Life is good.

      Having all these babies has definitely changed the trajectory of my writing career.  I have kept up with my a degree.  I have done whatever writing that my full-time commitment to raising my girlies and my sometimes lacking energy levels have allowed. 

      Of course, I would like to say that I have been very productive with my writing, but that would be a flat-out lie, and even a tad-bit unrealistic.  I know that now is the time for me to enjoy my family.  Having a 15-year-old, I know all too well how quickly children grow.  This period in my life is fleeting and my first and most important priority and obligation is to them.   

      Until life slows down a bit, I will continue to give writing whatever remains of my time and energy - like posting here, even if it is just occasional - and keeping up with my writer friends who are always an inspiration to me. 

      As for Valentine's Day, remember that having someone special doesn't have to be a spouse or a significant other.  Our lives are filled with friends and family who are there for us during the good and bad times in our lives.  We should remember them daily and count our blessings for them, but since they make a special "love day" take a few moments to tell them how much you care - and a few moments to remember how much you are loved too!

      Happy Valentine's Day to you all!