Writers’ advice on self-publishing

There is a lot of advice about writing and self-publishing. A recent tread from the kboards Writers’ Cafe, Time to Hang It Up, tackled the problem of a writer with academic credentials and several years of self-publishing experience, who, despite of being prolific and writing in popular genres, is unable to get any traction selling their stories. In retrospect, I wish I could have read some of the comments on the thread before I self-published. Finding them still relevant, I summarized pieces of advice worth keeping in mind.

  • “Here is the truth that most hopeful authors have to face:
    Anyone can write books and publish them on Amazon.
    Not every book published on Amazon will be purchased and read…
    The odds are high that any given author will not make much money selling their books. How does an author defeat those odds?
    Amazon’s algorithms try to understand a customer’s buying preferences based on their past purchases and show them books similar to what they have purchased before. The algorithms ACTIVELY try to sell books to customers…BUT… and there is always a but:
    A new book has to find its first readers in order for Amazon’s amazing algorithms to see it, categorize it as something customers will want to buy. In other words, that book has to become visible before those algorithms will put it in front of new potential readers (aka Amazon customers). That means that a new book has to capture some readers on its own before Amazon algorithms will start selling it.
    To capture those first readers, a book needs: Cover. Blurb. Categories and Keywords. Preview. Product quality aka a cracking good story and characters.
    The reader buys the book on the assumption that they will get a certain kind of reading experience. If the author fails to provide it, the reader will put the book down, may return it, and not pick up another by that author again.The biggest killer of book sales is a slow start.
    If a book has all of the above in place, the book, once released, goes into the new release lists and there are hungry Amazon customers out there searching the new release lists every morning. That’s how a new release gets traction right out of the gate. Amazon algorithms see that a book is selling right out of the gate and takes notice. It perks up. Ahh, this book is selling itself. WE CAN SELL IT EVEN BETTER!
    Amazon WANTS to sell books. But it isn’t going to waste its time on books that won’t sell, for whatever reason. YOU, dear aspiring author, must do the work to get your book visible on Amazon. It’s not easy and it’s a long shot, but it is done EVERY SINGLE DAY.
    Amazon is not a meritocracy based on literary quality. It is a market based on what customers want to spend their hard-earned money on. If a book does not appeal to those customers, for whatever reason, they will not buy it and Amazon will not try to sell it.
    I would also advise sending your book out to reviewers in your genre. This involves some legwork on your part and is time-consuming, but if you send out review copies, you will get reviews eventually, if your book is good enough, and that will help.” Sela
  • Everyone — everyone — who can write, can write a book.
    If you want to write your book for love of writing and don’t care about being read or making money or making a living as a published author, great! You have done what most humans never accomplish. You have written a book. Congratulations! You have expressed yourself in an artistic pursuit and that is one of the greatest experiences a human can have.
    If you want to write that book and you also want it to be read by actual people, and you don’t care about making money or making a living as a published author, great! You can post your book online at Wattpad or on your blog, or any number of places where people may run into it and read it for free. Congratulations! You have written a book and it is being read. That is great.
    If you want to write that book and you want it to be read and you want to make money selling it, but you don’t care about making a living as a published author, great! You can write your book, publish your book at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks and Google Play and you can hope to sell it. Even if you only want to make a bit of money, part-time money, now is when the marketing part comes in. Why?
    Because Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks and Google Play are all markets. They sell products. They have customers. Selling products to their customers and making money requires some degree of marketing.” Sela

More nuggets of wisdom:

  • “Readers don’t need to have “academic reasons” for liking or disliking a book.” dianapersaud
  • “You need to write books people actually want to read not what you think they should read.” NeedWant
  • “Some books will never sell, no matter how much advertising you throw at them.” Nicholas Erik
  • “If your goal is to make money, being “good” isn’t important. Writing books that people want to read is.” valeriec80

And if one finds that self-publishing isn’t for them?

  • “It’s okay to give up. It’s okay to mourn a dream you have spent years trying to achieve. And it’s okay if you don’t know what else there might be out there if not this thing. But there might be something else for you and if you feel like you’re done with this, you’ve given it your best shot and it just didn’t happen, it absolutely might be time for you to give yourself permission to dream another dream.” Link5

Happy writing!

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Île d’Orléans

“Île d’Orléans had long been inhabited by the indigenous tribes. The Huron called it Minigo, the enchanted island. In 1536, explorer Jacques Cartier renamed the island Orléans, in honour of the Duke of Orleans.
The island’s fertile soil attracted French settlers, yet its colonization proceeded slowly. During mid seventeen century, it was ground to fights between Huron and Iroquois tribes. According to the census conducted in 1685, the island’s population consisted of 1205 people and 917 heads of livestock.
Until the bridge to the island was inaugurated in 1935, the island’s inhabitants were relatively isolated in the middle of the St. Lawrence. The only way to reach the mainland in the summer was by boat, and in the winter, by crossing the ice bridge formed when the river froze up.
Summarized from tourisme.iledorleans.com and Wikipedia

Île d’Orléans is no longer isolated.

Quebec City is clearly seen from the island:

but looking around, one sees wildlife:

and farms and fields:

and flowers:

The island is known for its produce and food-tourism.
There is a place for lovers of chocolate,

and for those who want a meal with a view on the river:

Yet, for the freshest food, pick your own:

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Where the river narrows

“The name “Québec”, which comes from the Algonquin word kébec meaning “where the river narrows”, originally referred to the area around Quebec City where the Saint Lawrence River narrows to a cliff-lined gap.”  Wikipedia

Our next leg of the “lazy vacation” was Quebec City. Imagine a city built on a cliff, narrow streets and the river…

Château Frontenac – extravaganza, many years before Disney World:

The marina:

The farmer’s market at the marina:

Pretty in the day and glamorous at night:

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A lazy vacation

What it was that was actually the matter with us, we none of us could be sure of; but the unanimous opinion was that it – whatever it was – had been brought on by overwork.
“What we want is rest,” said Harris.
“Rest and complete change,” said George. “The overstrain upon our brains has produced a general depression throughout the system. Change of scene, and absence of the necessity for thought, will restore the mental equilibrium.”
From Three Man in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog!),
by Jerome K. Jerome

Harris and George almost nailed it. Almost, because change of scene from where I live requires at least a few hours of driving. And in the heat of the summer, the destination should be somewhere peaceful, with a variety of scenery and the benefit of good food. A leisurely trip along the banks of the great St. Lawrence river was almost the obvious choice – another country and language, only a day of traveling from home, and since this would not be our first visit, we could, with good conscience, skip some museums. Picturing chocolate eclairs in Montreal, quaint streets in Quebec City, and lazy food-truism in-between, we crossed the Canadian border.

Montreal met us with construction:


Old edifices:

Even older houses with gables:

The old port:

And houses one actually would want to live in:


A meditating gargoyle (is he thinking about food?):

Fresh pastry

at Atwater market

Next stop: Quebec City

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George Green’s birthday

When one is asked to name prominent English scientists who forged our understanding of electricity and magnetism, the two giants that immediately pop to mind: Michael Faraday (1791– 1867), who established the basis for the concept of the electromagnetic field, and James Clerk Maxwell (1831 – 1879), who formulated the classical theory of electromagnetic radiation. (That theory unified electricity, magnetism, and light, showing that they are manifestations of the same phenomenon). The name of George Green (1793-1841), who was the first to attempt to devise a theory of electricity and magnetism, is usually forgotten. So, who was he and why would anyone care?

George Green was born on 14 July 1793, near Nottingham. Green’s father, a wealthy baker, recognized his only son’s mathematical aptitude and, having the financial ability, enrolled young George in Robert Goodacre’s Academy. At the age of nine, Green’s school days were over. He spent the next five years in his father’s bakery, then at fourteen he was apprenticed to his father’s mill manager. The next known milestone in George Green’s life was his becoming a member of the Nottingham Subscription Library at the age of thirty.

In 1828, at the age of thirty-five, Green published An Essay on the Application of Mathematical Analysis to the Theories of Electricity and Magnetism. In the essay for which Green is most famous today, Green generalized and extended the electric and magnetic investigations of the French mathematician Poisson, introduced the term potential and what is now known as Green’s theorem, which is widely applied in the study of the properties of magnetic and electric field potential.

We can only speculate what would be the impact of Green’s work if he published it through one of England’s established journals. Without academic qualifications and contacts with the scientific establishment, Green published it privately at his own expense. The Essay was sold on a subscription basis to 51 people, most of whom were friends and probably could not understand it.

Members of the Nottingham Subscription Library who knew Green repeatedly insisted that he obtain a proper University education. In particular, one of the library’s most prestigious subscribers was Sir Edward Bromhead, with whom Green shared many correspondences; he insisted that Green go to Cambridge.

In 1832, aged nearly forty, Green was admitted as an undergraduate at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. He graduated BA in 1838 as the 4th highest scoring student in his graduating class. Following his graduation, Green was elected a fellow of the Cambridge Philosophical Society. The next two years provided an unparalleled opportunity for Green to read, write and discuss his scientific ideas. In this short time he published an additional six publications with applications to hydrodynamics, sound and optics.

In 1840, an ailing Green returned home. He died at the age of forty-seven, just about the time when his work was about to be recognized.

After Green’s death, his Essay of 1828 was practically forgotten. It was rediscovered by William Thomson, the future Lord Kelvin. In 1845, Thomson showed Green’s Essay to leading French mathematicians. The Essay was re-published between 1850-1854. By 1900, Green’s functions were well known to German mathematicians. William Thomson did more than re-discover the Essay. He developed a life-long admiration for Green and did much to establish his posthumous reputation. He further developed Green’s theories in his own research in electromagnetism. His friend G. G. Stokes likewise developed Green’s work on wave theory in his own studies in hydrodynamics.

On a visit to Nottingham in 1930, Albert Einstein commented that Green had been 20 years ahead of his time. Green’s theorem and functions are important tools in classical mechanics. Schwinger used Green functions in work on quantum electrodynamics that led to his 1965 Nobel prize (shared with Feynman and Tomonaga). Green’s functions also proved useful in particle physics and in condensed matter.


Green’s Mill

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Ricketts Glen is a state park in Pennsylvania. It is a National Natural Landmark known for its old-growth forest and 24 named waterfalls. (Wikipedia).

Here are pictures from a trip taken on the Memorial Day weekend.

Above the waterfalls, the view of Lake Jean:

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Who said it? Jude or Jane?

“Some people want to believe that the only difference between achievement and failure is luck. They like to sit on their couches and say that some sort of predetermined fate was why others made it and they didn’t. They never want to admit that hard work did it.”
From The Girl from Summer Hill, by Jude Deveraux.

“Her performance was pleasing, through by no means capital. After a song or two, and before she could reply to the entreaties of several that she would sing again, she was eagerly succeeded at the instrument by her sister Mary, who having, in consequence of being the plain one in the family, worked hard for knowledge and accomplishments, was always impatient for display.
Mary had neither genius nor taste… Elizabeth, easy and unaffected, had been listened to with much more pleasure, though not playing half so well;”
From Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen.

In the world of inherited wealth and privilege, working hard isn’t the best recommendation either for a young man or a woman. A “very fine young man, with family, fortune, everything in his favour,” does not need to work or even have a profession to be allowed to “think highly of himself.” The expectations from a gentlewoman are even stranger to our modern sensibilities. “A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, all the modern languages…and to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.” And why would she make such an extensive effort? The only “career option” for a woman of certain social class was to attract a man who would marry and consequently support her. Sounds like a relic of a bygone era, not something relevant to the contemporary American society that glorifies hard work. Continue reading

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