A BLOG DEDICATED TO PROFESSIONALS WHO WANT TO WRITE BOOKS

Titling your bestseller

What’s the secret for titling a serious nonfiction book? There is no secret. A host of writers—in books, blogs, and articles—give you the recipe without hesitation. And many of them are full of confidence that their titling formula will create a bestseller. One blogger proclaims “the five proven ways to create a bestselling book title.” [...]

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Mind the contract nits

In a once-in-a-decade event, the Authors Guild just released its new “Model Trade Book Contract” last month. Though Guild members alone are privy to the document, the Guild’s lawyers recently held a conference call to discuss highlights. The big topic, of course, was digital rights. The Guild still believes authors should receive 50 percent of [...]

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Pencil power

If you search the web, you’ll find a miniboom of articles on the benefits of doodling. Triggering this interest was an Applied Cognitive Psychology article by Jackie Andrade in 2009, which found that doodlers recall 29 percent more than non-doodlers when quizzed on a list of names they heard in an earlier voice call. Andrade [...]

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Beware permissions

If you’re thinking about quoting material in your book from someone else, think again. Although “fair use” provisions in copyright law do allow some “free” borrowing, the amount of borrowing is more limited than most authors think. Say you want to spice up a chapter with a stanza of Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind.” [...]

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Write for the future

Most books, from idea to print, take at least two years to finish. How do you know what the market will be like when your book launches? How do you know what your readers’ state of mind will be? Or to put it more practically: Is there any way to know how to write today [...]

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The main thing

The late management-consulting guru Stephen Covey was fond of saying, “The main thing is keeping the main thing the main thing.” I don’t know if Covey was ever referring to writing—he did plenty of that as a bestselling author—but his point certainly applied. That’s because staying on message remains one of the hardest parts of [...]

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The human touch

Authors often come to me to help them write because they want to spice up their book with anecdotes. What better way to take the dryness out of a conceptual topic than adding the human touch. That usually raises the question, though: Do you have the complete stories needed to condense into good anecdotes? Complete [...]

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Tool Obsessed

In my book-writing workshops, I offer many tips about the process of producing a winning manuscript. But more often than not, the questions people most want answered are those about tools: Beyond a word processor, what software do you use to keep track of your research? What do you use to brainstorm ideas? And what [...]

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Three’s the charm

The world’s best authors often make comments that suggest that rewriting is more important than writing. Hemingway’s classic line was this: “The first draft of anything is shit.” He said he rewrote the ending to A Farewell to Arms “39 times before I was satisfied.” I believe this kind of thinking inspires quotes of lesser-known [...]

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Your crappy best

A computer designer in Tracy Kidder’s venerable Pulitzer-Prize winning book, The Soul of a New Machine, was fond of saying, “Not everything worth doing is worth doing well.” He was talking about product development, and he was on track to produce a commercial megabit in computer technology. But that notion of doing less than your [...]

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