A BLOG DEDICATED TO PROFESSIONALS WHO WANT TO WRITE BOOKS

Why take notes?

If you said memoir is a form of fiction, you would be half right. It is “based on a true story,” as Hollywood says. But even most memoir writers who plan to stick with the gospel truth have to admit that what they’ve written is usually partly fictionalized. Why can I say this with certainty? [...]

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Connecting in your lead

When you set out to write a lead paragraph, one question faces you above all: How do you connect with the reader? And how do you do it right away? Whether you’re writing a book, article, blog, or op-ed, that isn’t just a question you need to answer. It’s the question. How can you write [...]

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One unlucky bird

This is a story that has no moral, other than “bad luck happens.” It took place eight years ago. It’s about the marketing of my third book, Nature’s Keepers: The Remarkable Story of How the Nature Conservancy Became the Largest Environmental Organization in the World. The priority in marketing during a book launch is to [...]

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Factual time bombs

There’s an old saying in journalism: “If your mother tells you she loves you, check it out.” In other words, don’t believe anything you hear until you go to a second source and check your facts before publication. I’ve covered the hazards of giving short shrift to fact-checking in an earlier post. My purpose here [...]

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Take it up a level

Authors often come to me for help in developing a book about a topic they know from years of experience. They’ve talked about this topic countless times with students and clients and colleagues. They are preeminent experts. And they want to capture the treasure of their ideas in an insightful trade book. As we start [...]

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Writing to think

I regularly urge authors to work separately on two forms of composition: “writing to think” and “writing to deliver.” Writing to think is journaling, stream-of-consciousness style, to air and shape thoughts. It is part of “prewriting.” Writing to deliver is composing for publication, the actual words that will go into print. The quickest route to [...]

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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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