The Book Professor, Author at Write a Nonfiction Book with The Book Professor

Author Archives: The Book Professor

  • 0

Dignity of All People-Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

Tags : 

In 1987, President Ronald Reagan declared March as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. Because holidays like St. Patrick’s Day are also in March, the awareness about people with disabilities can get overlooked. This month, we want to take a moment to reflect on its importance and highlight the dignity of all people.

The 70s and 80s paved the way for social change for those living with disabilities. With the support of President Reagan, “programs to provide career planning, job coaching, and employment for those living with disabilities began to increase. The idea that individuals with developmental disabilities could become productive members of the workforce was new to many people, and entrenched preconceptions had to be overcome.” (Source)

According to the Developmental Disabilities Act, the term developmental disability means a severe or chronic disability that happens before age 22 that is likely to continue and affects three or more of the following areas: self-care, receptive and expressive language, learning mobility, self-direction, capacity for independent living and economic self-sufficiency. Many of us are unaware of the challenges that those with special needs endure on a daily basis. While I have never raised children with special needs, I have friends who have. I will never know the challenges they face, but their strength, courage, and perseverance to endure and advocate for their child is commendable. I admire them greatly.

Developmental Disabilities Recommended Reading

Reading is a great way to get a look at something that you might not have experienced firsthand. Books, both fiction and nonfiction, can help you get closer to the issue. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards is an incredibly moving story in which a man decides to send his newborn daughter, who suffers from Down Syndrome, away to an institution. The nurse tasked with taking the baby to the institution decides to raise the baby herself, and the novel takes you along for that journey. Another great read is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon, a novel that centers around the detective adventures of a boy with an unnamed condition but that has indicators for developmental disabilities such as Asperger syndrome, high functioning Autism, or possibly Savant syndrome. Mark Haddon later noted in a blog that “”Curious Incident is not a book about Asperger’s….if anything it’s a novel about difference, about being an outsider, about seeing the world in a surprising and revealing way. The book is not specifically about any specific disorder” (Source). That, in itself, is a beautiful sentiment, as it focuses the book on the story, not simply a disability.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer is also told through the eyes of a boy with Aspberger’s syndrome who is navigating an emotional and confusing time after his father died in the September 11th terrorist attacks. This book would bridge nicely into our 117 Solutions in 2017 theme for next week: stories from survivors of terrorism.

Dignity of All People

Every person deserves respect. Every life is precious and has purpose and value. I am reminded of this quote from Pope Francis:

“Things have a price and can be for sale, but people have a dignity that is priceless and worth far more than things.”

I hope you can spend some time reflecting on the challenges that those living with disabilities face. Our country has come a long way in supporting them, but there is still so much more work to do. If you or someone you know has a solution to the challenges that those who live with disabilities face, please don’t be silent. Your story could be the hope and help that someone needs. Join us to find 117 Solutions in 2017.


  • 0
nonfiction writer tool

Nonfiction Writer Tool: Structure

There are a lot of things to think about when you start to write your nonfiction book, and one of them is its structure. Without structure you have chaos, and with chaos comes confusion. That’s why structure is such an important nonfiction writer tool.

Nonfiction Writer Tool-To become a nonfiction writer and not just someone who has a story to tell, you will need organization. Before you put pen to paper, your book percolates in your head and chaos reigns, doesn’t it? Unorganized thoughts, stray threads, and important principles are all slammed together without structure. You have something to say, but how will you communicate it?

Your job as a nonfiction writer is to communicate. You must lead the reader through your story, your concept, or your process and help them make sense of what you present.

In a sense, you are a tour guide. You are taking your readers on a journey, and it’s up to you to plot the route.

Start with your Purpose Statement.

The purpose is the final destination on your tour, and you want to take your readers along the path of least resistance to reach the ultimate purpose of the book. Don’t let your readers get lost!

A good nonfiction writer uses structure to keep their readers’ attention

I recently watched a brilliant preschool teacher move fourteen squirming, easily distracted, practically-like-puppies little ones down a hall, past a flight of stairs, and to the gym at the far end of the building without one child stepping out of line. Not even one.

How did she do it? She simply gave them something to grab onto. This brilliant woman had fashioned a six-foot piece of rope like a lion’s tail, and each child grabbed the tail and followed as she guided them along the path to the gym. Not one child let go, not even one.

Of course, your readers aren’t preschoolers. They’re intelligent men and women, but they, too, need something they can grab as you guide them to the purpose of your book.

They need to grab onto you for this journey. It’s your job to get them from point A to point B, and the best way to do that is to let them hang onto your tail.

So what is your tail? It’s your tale, your own story. Structure is the writing tool that will wrangle your readers and keep them following along with you. Your story is the tie that binds all parts of your book together, it’s you from end to end, and in the middle, too. Your book needs to be completely infested with your own story from start to finish. That’s what provides the structure for your book. It’s your story, and only you can tell it. Get organized and tell your tale.


  • 0

Client Profile: Craig Hughes – Teaching You How to Grow Your Small Business

Tags : 

If you’re an entrepreneur looking to grow your small business, you’ll definitely want to read this book written by the owner of a taxicab company. We know what you’re thinking: Why would the owner of a cab company ever write a book, and what could I possibly learn from reading it? This man started out with a small taxi company and battled his way up to building a multi-million dollar business.

Meet Craig Hughes, Founder and Chairman of Total Transit, Inc., in the Phoenix, AZ area.

grow your small business

Craig knew nothing about the taxi business when he purchased an unsexy, dilapidated cab company in 1984. Since that time, he has grown that business to be the busiest taxi dispatch in the United States. Total Transit does $140 million in business each year and has enjoyed a 35% growth rate over the past 7 years. That is success by any standards!

Learn how to grow your small business

When Craig first came to us, he had an idea for a book that would help entrepreneurs get over the hurdles of moving from the start-up stage to the expansion phase. The purpose of Craig’s book is to inspire small business owners who are cash strapped, spread too thin, and feel trapped by their business to take action that moves them from their current all­-consuming, hands-­on approach to the freedom of a self-­sustaining enterprise. His book aims to teach you how to grow your small business so that you can enjoy true success, and not just wear the title of “small business owner.”

 

 

Craig understands the frustrations that small business owners face. There comes a time when they become the biggest obstacle to their company’s growth. Everything comes to a halt until they can solve the problem, call the customer, send the invoice, perform the service, etc. They feel trapped and want the business to start working for them, rather than continue working for the business.

His book, Get Out Of The Way: How To Grow Your Small Business From An All-Consuming, Hands­-On Approach To A Self­-Sustaining Enterprise, shows business owners and entrepreneurs a way to grow their business while gaining more freedom from its day-to-day demands. The book will be available in August 2017. Mark your calendars. You won’t want to miss this one!

If you are someone you know has always wanted to write a book, reach out to us, and we can help you make it happen!

 

 


  • 0

The Importance of Reading: Celebrate Read Across America Day & Dr. Seuss’s Birthday

Today, March 2nd is Read Across America Day, as well as the birthday of the beloved children’s author, Dr. Seuss. It’s a great day to celebrate and discuss the importance of reading. We’ve written before about why good readers make good writers, but the importance of reading stretches to everyone, writers or otherwise. Reading is important throughout all stages of life, from childhood into old age.

The importance of reading for children

Read Across America Day was created to get more kids excited about reading. The idea behind the celebration was to create the same sense of enthusiasm for reading as schools do for sports and spirit weeks. It’s a wonderful initiative that shows children just how fun reading can be. Reading can be a challenge for some children, and that challenge can cause them to shy away from books and proclaim that reading simply doesn’t interest them. However, it is imperative that all children are given the guidance and encouragement they need to work on their reading skills.

For children whose minds are still actively developing, the importance of reading goes far beyond the enjoyment of books. Proper reading skills help children develop better communication skills as well as improved comprehension across all school subjects. Many studies show that children that read or are read to often in preschool and kindergarten perform better in other subjects such as math and science than students who have had less exposure to books.

Finding the right book is essential. Children need to have access to books that they enjoy, so that they can also come to enjoy the act of reading itself. Dr. Seuss books are a great place to start!

The importance of reading for adults

A child’s mind needs stimulation in order to develop, and the same is true for the mind of an adult! Books can serve so many purposes for adults and can truly help expand their minds. Here are just a few benefits to reading:

Learn new things

Books can teach you so much, whether it be how to perform a specific task such as building your own furniture, or how to guide yourself through a difficult time, such as a divorce. There are direct ways of learning through books that are written with the intent to teach the reader a new skill, but DIY and Self Help books are certainly not the only types of books that can teach the reader something. The beauty of reading is that each reader experiences the book in his or her own way. You might read a novel and learn something new about yourself. Nonfiction books can expose you to a facet of history you didn’t know before because life is nonfiction, after all. Books make excellent teachers.

importance of reading

Relate to others

Reading books can also help you relate to others on a deeper level. While reading a painful story that was written with brutal honesty, you might start to see yourself within the pages. You may even feel as if the writer put into words what you yourself could not.

Of course, the importance of reading as a way to relate to others isn’t just about relating to people who have had experiences similar to your own. Stories, fiction or nonfiction, can allow you to see through the eyes of someone else and give you a better understanding of a situation, experience, or perspective that you had never explored on your own. Books expand your mind by allowing you to reach outside your own life and take a look at something new.

Get exposed to different experiences

You are only one person. You cannot see every place or experience every situation firsthand. You can, however, expose yourself to an incredibly diverse variety of people, places, and experiences through books. Reading may expose you to a hobby that you had never considered but, after reading about it, find that you might really enjoy it. Stories can give you some perspective when it comes to tough topics and choices that people are faced with every day, even if you yourself have never had to make those difficult decisions. Books expose you to worlds outside of your own, which is why reading is so incredibly important.

Read Across America Day may have been created with children in mind, but I urge you to honor this day by picking up a book and re-dedicating yourself to reading.

 


  • 0

Black History Month — Start by Celebrating National Freedom Day

Tags : 

Today, February 1st,  is the first day of Black History Month. It is also National Freedom Day. With fun and silly National “something” Days like National Talk Like a Pirate Day and National Popcorn Day, it’s easy to overlook important commemorative days like National Freedom Day. This year, I want to appreciate National Freedom Day and everything it stands for throughout Black History Month.

National Freedom Day commemorates “the signing by Abraham Lincoln of a joint House and Senate resolution that later became the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. President Lincoln signed the Amendment outlawing slavery on February 1, 1865, although it was not ratified by the states until later.” (Source)

It’s an excellent way to begin Black History Month. It’s a day to celebrate freedom for all people, particularly for African-Americans. Black History Month highlights those who contributed to our nation, before and after the abolition of slavery. And what is history other than the stories of people who suffered, fought, and persevered? It’s a time to remember the incredible stories of those who helped make our nation what it is today. Stories are important. They connect one generation to another, and I particularly like the famous Black poet, Maya Angelou’s opinion about stories:

Do you have an untold story inside of you? Even if you’re not a writer, you can still tell your story. You’re the only one who has your story. You’re the only one who can tell it.

I’m particularly fond of Maya Angelou, partly because she was born in St. Louis, Missouri, where I live. But what really draws me to her is her wisdom. She has depth and speaks truth that we need to hear. This is one of my favorite quotes of hers:

“History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.”

Stories, more often than not, involve pain. Experiences are not always easy or pleasant, but they make us who we are. They shape us and the world around us. The world can be a scary place, but we can find comfort in shared experiences, shared stories. Stories build bridges and create connections.

I encourage you to spend National Freedom Day and Black History Month reading stories about black Americans and thinking about your own story. Your story could be the voice of hope and help that someone needs. Join us to find 117 Solutions in 2017 , so we can find 117 Solutions this year to some of our most pressing problems. It’s your story and only you can tell it.


  • 0

Your Online Reputation And Author Brand

Tags : 

This article was originally guest posted to BookBaby by Caroline Black

Your online reputation can be your most powerful marketing tool and beacon for your author brand, as long as it’s properly monitored.

Once upon a time, authors could hide behind the pages of their books with no one knowing much about them aside from the name on the front cover. We now live in a very different age.

Many readers want to know as much about the person writing the story as they do about the content. For better or worse, the Internet has provided a platform for exploration that makes it easy for fans to delve into your background, and if you aren’t properly vetting what a Google search of your name brings up, it could lead to disaster for your career.

Representing your author brand

Representing your author brand covers more than just going on book tours and signings. A plethora of online platforms can be harnessed by authors as promotional tools. However, sloppy practices when producing websites, working on social media, or messaging your mailing list could cause more harm than good.

If a prospective new reader, or even a long-term fan, doesn’t like the way you present yourself online, it’s highly likely she won’t pick up another copy of your work ever again. The author brand you chose to promote is up to you, but there are questions every author should ask when considering his or her online reputation.

1. Are you marketable?

Even though the product you’re looking to sell is yourself – or at least your talents as a writer – it’s still important to consider the marketability factor of the personality you’re promoting. To begin with, it’s essential to have a comprehensive grasp of yourself as a writer; consider what themes, ideas or message you’re trying to portray with your work and what emotional response you’re trying to elicit.

After this has been established, it’s time to check whether your online reputation reflects these ideals. Consider colors, graphics and font type when setting up webpages, and be stringent about the wording and emotional weight of the things you post.

2. Are you authentic?

There’s no rule stating your online reputation has to be a positive one; plenty of public figures have found notoriety through controversy and scandal. However, if you are endeavoring to be a provocative online figure, it is important to ensure that your author brand has been properly planned and considered.

It might seem fun to play the femme fatale or outspoken critic on the Internet, but if that sort of personality is far detached from who you are, then it’s only going to be a matter of time before your readership sees through this. “Fake” is a buzzword that pops up regularly on the Internet, usually inspiring a cutthroat response.

While your online presence as an author may be more carefully fabricated than your personal social media profiles, you’re still trying to present an authentic front. Audiences want to know who you are, not who you are pretending to be.

3. Are you engaging?

It’s not enough to post a single tweet or only update your website around the time of your book release or other significant event. The key to growing a fan base is to provide regular, engaging online content. This is why so many writers have set up personal blogs.

Writing relevant posts about topics related to your work or your goal as an author means your name and face are potentially popping up in the feeds of your fans and new readers. Staying active in this way also does a lot to increase your Google ranking. Both of these things are essential to a good online reputation and continued success in your career.

Look into Google Adwords or other SEO strategies in order to better structure your blog posts to attract more traffic.

4. Are you trustworthy?

For anyone who religiously uses the Internet, there’s a constant balance of trust and risk. You’re sharing your personal information with people you don’t actually know, so, by default, a presumed level of faith between you and those you are interacting with has to be established. However, this is fickle and can easily be broken.

There are many harmless hacks that are common for regular users of social media and blogging platforms. Most often, they manifest as spam links sent without your knowledge to your followers. Although they pose no real threat, many Internet users will avoid an infected domain once they’ve seen a problem.

There are lots of simple strategies to overcome this – password management, use of secure networks, etc. – but by far the best solution is the use of a Virtual Private Network (VPN). As one of the leading security programs on the market, a VPN encrypts all of your data and makes it very difficult for hackers or malware to gain access to your accounts. Secure Thoughts provides reviews of some of the best options on the market for those who want more information.

Your online reputation can be your most powerful marketing tool and beacon for your author brand, as long as it’s properly monitored. Ensuring you always have the questions outlined above in mind when setting up online accounts means you are positioned to get the biggest promotional benefit.

If you’ve had any insights related to an online reputation you’d like to share, be sure to leave a comment below. We’d love to hear your ideas!

 

About BookBaby

Based in the Philadelphia-area, BookBaby is a team of authors, poets, bloggers, and artists — so they know the thrills and challenges of bringing a book into this world.

Since 2011, BookBaby has helped thousands realize their publishing goals by offering the largest eBook distribution network, including Amazon, Apple, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and many other popular retailers in over 170 countries around the globe.

Learn more at www.BookBaby.com.


  • 0
comfort books

Find Your Comfort Books and Start Reading

Tags : 

I’ve written other articles about why good readers make good writers, but reading is so much more than a tool to improve your writing skills. Books provide comfort in so many ways. But what exactly makes a book a “comfort book?” The truth is, it depends on the person and their current circumstances or mood. A comfort book could be something that allows you to escape into a new world for a little while, or a book that makes you laugh. For some people, comfort books are novels that whisk them away into a fictional world, while others prefer to delve into a memoir for real-life inspiration. If you are unsure of what book to grab for your next comfort read, consider a few of these options.

Re-reading

Re-reading an old favorite is a great place to start. Since you have already read the book, you’ll be familiar with thecomfort books characters and the plot, and familiarity is always a good thing to look for when you are in need of comfort. Re-reading also gives you a chance to experience the book in a new way, and makes it possible for a book that you didn’t previously consider a “comfort book” to become one. This BBC article points out that there is actually a science behind the comfort of re-reading:

Scientists have weighed in, too, citing the mental health benefits of re-reading. Research conducted with readers in the US and New Zealand found that on our first reading, we are preoccupied by the ‘what?’ and the ‘why?’. Second time round, we’re able to better savour the emotions that the plot continues to ignite. As researcher Cristel Russell of the American University explained of re-readers in an article published in the Journal of Consumer Research, returning to a book “brings new or renewed appreciation of both the object of consumption and their self.”

Allow yourself to get reacquainted with characters you love or a page-turner you tore through the first time. Try re-reading a series like Harry Potter or revisiting a classic such as Little Women. You can even head back to your childhood with favorites such as A Wrinkle in Time or Matilda.

Inspirational nonfiction books

Inspirational reads make great comfort books. Many people find that reading nonfiction helps them take a step back from their own life to see the world through someone else’s experiences and struggles. Stories of overcoming obstacles and survival could give you a new perspective on your current struggles. Self-help books and stories of big life changes can bring you a sense of calm and motivate you to improve your own life. Inspirational books become comfort books when the reader finds a story they need to hear.

Emotional rollercoaster fiction

Books that focus on tragedy, stressful situations, or dark topics may not seem like obvious choices for comfort books, but for many people, the gritty, dark stories are exactly what they need, especially when the books are fictional. Author Kameron Hurley discussed why when she feels overwhelmed by real-life problems, she turns to fictional books full of stressful, anxiety-inducing issues,

“But a fictional problem?

Somebody else is dealing with that. You’re just along for the ride.

It means you get to spend the whole ride actually feeling things, instead of buttoning it all back up so you can live.”

She goes onto say,

“Reading tragedies, I realized, connecting with characters who persevered in the face of grim odds, and certain ends – were actually comfort reading for me. They put me into high-stress situations with no personal stakes, so I could actually feel the fear and discomfort and rage and horror without having any skin in the game.”

Many people feel the same way as Hurley. For many, knowing that the book is fictional and will have to have some form of resolve is incredibly comforting. Escaping through a fictional tragedy can bring a strong sense of comfort and calm.

Find your comfort books

There is no set definition for a comfort book. It is simply a book that works for you at the particular time when you read it. When on the hunt for a good comfort read, consider what you want to get out of the book and what sort of story might be helpful for you in the moment. Let yourself get lost in a great book.


  • 0

Seven basic – but important – questions about eBooks

Tags : 

This article was originally posted to BookBaby.

Even though they’ve been around for almost 10 years, a lot of folks are still trying to understand the world of eBooks. Our BookBaby publishing specialists field dozens of questions about eBooks every day, and any question, no matter how basic, deserves a good answer.

“There are naive questions, tedious questions, ill-phrased questions, questions put after inadequate self-criticism. But every question is a cry to understand the world. There is no such thing as a dumb question” –Carl Sagan

Even though they’ve been around for almost 10 years, a lot of folks are still trying to understand the world of eBooks. Our BookBaby publishing specialists field dozens of questions about eBooks every day.

I agree with the opinion of that famous astrophysicist – any question, no matter how basic, deserves a good answer. In that spirit, let’s go to the most basic level of eBook knowledge, starting with:

1. What is an eBook?

Electronic books – or eBooks – are digital versions of a manuscript. An eBook can consist of text, images, or both. An eBook requires special dedicated files to be created from digital files like Word or PDF. (See below for more information about these eBook files.) eBooks have been around since 2007, when Amazon introduced the Kindle, followed by the Barnes & Noble Nook and the iPad from Apple.

2. How do people buy and read eBooks?

eBooks are downloaded directly to all kinds reading devices. They can be read on almost any modern computing device including dedicated eReaders like the Kindle or Nook. These devices are mainly used to buy and read eBooks. Many people read eBooks on smartphones – all iPhone and Android devices have eBook reading apps available as downloads. Others use multipurpose devices – tablets like the iPad and Surface – to consume eBooks.

Readers can buy eBooks from thousands of online retailers around the globe, including Amazon. The Kindle BookStore is the world’s largest online eBook store, with hundreds of new titles added each day. Other popular eBook retailers include Apple’s iBookstore and Barnes & Noble. In addition, authors can sell eBooks directly to readers from their own websites.

3. How do I turn my book into an eBook?

It starts with having your content on one of the popular digital file formats, such as Word or a PDF. These source documents will then be converted into two special eBook files. One file type, .mobi, is used in the Amazon Kindle device. The other file, called an ePub, is used in all other eBook reading devices, apps, and programs.
Some authors can convert their files themselves using third-party software applications. But for most writers, eBook conversion is a complicated process and can be difficult to do correctly. The coding can get very intricate and complex.

That’s why many authors turn to a company like BookBaby for professional eBook file conversion. At BookBaby, we inspect your Word or PDF document to make sure it conforms to eBook file specifications and then convert it into both .mobi and ePub files for all eReader types. BookBaby then sends a format proof of the eBook files that you can load and view on your own device. At this stage you can still make changes or corrections to your book.

4. What kind of books can be eBooks?

Just about any kind of book can be made into an eBook. Most text-based books work very well as eBooks because they have a simple layout. This is called a “dynamic” layout, because the book’s appearance will change depending on the screen size of the eReader. (More information here and below.) Books that have a lot of pictures or graphics often need a different conversion process, called “fixed layout”. We recommend this kind of conversion for children’s books, cook books, photography, and art books. (Note: BookBaby performs fixed layout conversions for books destined to be sold in Apple’s iBookstore only. For more information about what kind of conversion you’ll need, go to the BookBaby website.

5. Will my eBook read and look just like my printed book?

All of the content of your printed book will be in your eBook, but it won’t look exactly the same. Why? Think of it this way: A printed book stays in one format, for instance a 6×9 trade book. Each page stays exactly the same – forever! But an eBook page can and will change based on several factors including the screen size of the reading device being used and the reader’s personal preferences. For more information about why eBooks don’t look like printed books, I invite you to read “Why Doesn’t My eBook Look Like My Printed Book?” on the BookBaby Blog.

6. How long will it take to create an eBook?

There is no simple answer to this question, it all depends on your book files and the time spent reviewing your eBook proof. Here’s the process:

  • When you send your Word or PDF book file to BookBaby, we’ll inspect all of the contents to make sure everything is right.
  • Next we convert your file into both a .mobi and ePub, and send you a digital proof. Your first proof will arrive in about 6-8 business days.
  • Then the ball is in your court! You’ll need to review your proof and contact BookBaby with any changes. This can take five minutes… five days… or five weeks.

Most eBook conversions take two rounds of proofs. How long does the “average” conversion take? You can generally expect this part of the eBook creation process to last between 12-15 business days. Please note: If you’re doing both a printed book and eBook at the same time, BookBaby will work on your printed book file first and then your eBook. That way we make sure both versions of your book are exactly the same.

7. What do I need to do to get started on my eBook?

First, you should have your book professionally edited. That goes for any kind of book, printed book or eBook. There’s just no substitute for another set of eyes combing your manuscript to eliminate typos and grammar issues.

When you send us your edited book file in Word or PDF format, I recommend you keep everything very simple. Because there are so many kinds of eBook readers and devices, a simple book file is best for the sake of consistency. Avoid any kind of special fonts or type treatments. Remember It’s the content of your book that’s most important – not a fancy typeface. For more instructions how to prepare your file, download BookBaby’s free guide, Preparing Your Document For eBook Conversion.

About BookBaby

Based in the Philadelphia-area, BookBaby is a team of authors, poets, bloggers, and artists — so they know the thrills and challenges of bringing a book into this world.

Since 2011, BookBaby has helped thousands realize their publishing goals by offering the largest eBook distribution network, including Amazon, Apple, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and many other popular retailers in over 170 countries around the globe.

Learn more at www.BookBaby.com.


  • 0

Gifts to give others: time, authenticity, and focused attention

Now that the holiday season is in full swing, gifts are certainly on your mind. As you rack your brain for the perfect gift ideas for everyone on your list, remember that the best presents aren’t flashy and expensive. The most memorable gifts involve giving your time, authenticity, and focused attention. The best gifts show that you put time and thought into the selection and had the receiver’s unique personality in mind.

gift for writers

Gifts for writers and readers

These are just a few ideas for the writers and readers in your life. Be creative! Remember, the true gift is your time and attention. It is not simply about the act of giving, but also about being present in the moment. Give the people in your life the gift of your time and company and your gift will surely be well remembered.

Personalized pen

A pen may seem like a boring gift, but it could make the perfect gift for writers. There are many ways you can personalize this standard item. You might purchase a wooden ballpoint pen with a quote from the writer’s favorite book or author. You could also get the writer’s name engraved on a metal pen. If you know the receiver is prone to misplacing their pens, buy them a pack of pens in bulk and dress it up with ribbons and a hand-written note about never having to search for a pen again!

Journal or notebook

Writers need to write somewhere! While many writers do the bulk of their writing on a computer these days, a small journal or notebook is a great thing to keep around in case inspiration strikes them while they are away from the keyboard. Many writers also find that scribbling things down on paper actually helps them clear their head and narrow in on good ideas. You can further personalize this item by inscribing it with a heartfelt note that encourages the receiver to keep writing, no matter what.  Take the time to show the writer in your life that you value their words and ideas; that you believe in the story they need to tell.

Coffee and Tea

Readers and writers alike can find comfort in a mug of hot coffee or tea. Writers might keep the coffee pot on while they do some late-night writing and readers can sip on a cup of calming tea while they unwind with a good book. A set of great coffee and/or tea flavors is a great gift for writers and readers, especially if you package it in a cute mug. You can further personalize this gift with a custom mug that includes the receiver’s name or a favorite quote.

Books

What encompasses the gift of time, authenticity, and focused attention better than a handpicked book? A book is an obvious gift for writers and readers, but it’s important to keep the receiver in mind when you choose the book. The book you choose should say something about the receiver or perhaps your relationship with them. You could give them a fictional world to lose himself or herself in or a nonfiction book to inspire them. Take the time to picture the receiver reading the book and imagine the emotions it will inspire. Find a book that will make it onto their list of all-time favorites to make your gift a memorable one.

Something handmade

Handmade gifts show that you took the time to create something with the receiver in mind. Hand-poured candles are a great gift for writers who might enjoy some calming scents while they work. Bath bombs are a great gift for readers who enjoy hot baths paired with a good book. If you are handy with wood and a hammer, you could build a small bookshelf for your favorite reader’s book collection. If you are not a particularly crafty person, try something simple like a handwritten letter that shows the receiver how much you love and appreciate them. You could also dedicate time to the receiver by sending them a handmade invitation to join you for coffee and your undivided attention.

Give the gift of your time and you are sure to give memorable gifts, year after year.


  • 0

Things I Learned About Storytelling from Stranger Things

This article was originally guest posted to BookBaby by PlayingWriter.com

It’s good practice to reverse-engineer the stories you love most and apply the best storytelling elements to your own writing. Stranger Things had that effect on me, and here’s what I learned.

If you are one of the millions of viewers who got sucked into the world of Stranger Things, you know why the show was such a big hit. A compelling story, great characters, monsters and the supernatural… the list goes on. The show is set in the ’80s in an ordinary small town, but when a boy goes missing, we get to see many secrets rise to the surface, and as this small town becomes torn by shocking events, we’re taken on a trip to the upside down.

This isn’t a Stranger Things review, though. Similar to what I did with “The Jungle Book: Beautiful Film, Flawed Storytelling,” I found several good points I can apply to my own storytelling watching this exceptional show.

Spoiler alert! I’ve done my best not to give too many details away, but if you haven’t watched the show and intend to, you might learn a few things about the story.

1. Get nostalgic

People read and watch movies because they love to forget about the habitual reality they live every day and dive into some other setting, be it a fantasy land filled with magic, a cybernetic future ruled by almighty corporations, or the not-so-distant past with all its charms.

The Duffer Brothers, who created Stranger Things, definitely harnessed the power of nostalgia and hit it spot on. Whether the viewers were remembering the past or got to experience the ’80s for the first time, part of the appeal of the show was tied to the depiction of the time period in which it was set. As much as people love to ponder the future, they love to go back in time to some preciously calmer and simpler moment in history. Perhaps they love going back even more than traveling to the future.

If you are going to set your story in the past, carefully research the time period you’re conjuring up and build it with details and an emotional connection. If you are successful, your readers will want to stay with your book forever.

2. Add allusions to enrich your story

TheThingI just love when writers make allusions to other popular books, movies, shows, games, historical events – or fast food restaurants. As a matter of fact, in my own fantasy book, there’s room for McDonald’s.

Watching Stranger Things, you notice a number of allusions to popular culture of the ’80s.

    • Hanging on the walls are posters from popular movies of those years, like Evil Dead, Jaws, and The Thing (note that the poster of The Thing includes the image of a person with no face)
    • A character who takes the “weirdo,” who possesses paranormal abilities, on a bicycle ride (remember E.T.?)
    • The characters are listening to well-known songs of the ’80s including Foreigner and The Clash, with “Should I Stay Or Should I Go” mirroring the conundrum some of the characters are facing even as they sing or hum the song

And that’s just a few examples – there are many more.

So why do you want to use allusions in your story? Because it adds depth to the world you’re building. Your story gains multiple levels and becomes rich with subtext – your reader will believe he’s experiencing something true, something connected to the world he knows, even if it is an imaginary ghost story. The characters become real people who read the books you know, listen to the songs you remember, who might as well live in your neighborhood.

3. Kill your darlings

I’m not suggesting a crime here, but Stranger Things teaches us writers that we shouldn’t be afraid of killing off our characters, even beloved ones.

This doesn’t mean you need to be a killing junkie like George R. R. Martin, but the unexpected loss of a character can add a feeling of risk to your adventure. After all, what kind of adventure is it if there is no risk of being killed, eaten by a monster, or lost in a parallel dimension with a creepy serpentine tentacle down your throat?

Pay attention to who you kill, though. The death of a third-plane character like the bartender who just served your hero a drink won’t affect your readers (or story) nearly as much as the death of your hero who was just poisoned by that drink.

4. Make your characters change and grow

NancyWe all know how important it is to take your characters on a journey that will change them in some way. They can become stronger or weaker, wiser or maybe even more naive as the story progresses. They can evolve from an ordinary gardener to the president – or they can grow despondent and lose any hope for a happy ending. That’s what people want: a story that affects the characters at the center of it, and Stranger Things never forgets this.

In the pilot episode, we watch four kids playing Dungeons & Dragons who confront the Demogorgon, a hideous creature they’re very much afraid of, though it is only a plastic figurine on the board. As the story unfolds, the kids learn about another dimension, to which their friend disappeared. In order to save their friend, the three of them have to battle a very real monster in a very dark world.

Thanks to this parallel between the tabletop game’s imaginary trouble and the real world trouble, we experience how these ordinary boys, who only play the hero in their fantasy games, grow stronger and become a believable rescue team ready to fight a creature from another world. They become so brave in the process, they are no longer afraid to face the troubles in the real world, like standing up to the bullies in school.

But in Stranger Things, these boys are not the only ones who change. When we first met her, Eleven used to jump at any rustle and didn’t trust anyone. She was also afraid of her special powers. Throughout the story, she learns to trust her new friends and finds confidence in using her powers to save them.

Nancy takes off her rose-colored glasses and stops looking at the world through the eyes of a naive schoolgirl. Her best friend is missing, and when she finds out that it was the monster that took her, she partners with an unlikely confidant and arms herself with a gun. She takes charge, breaks locks with her bare hands (and a rock), and charges headlong into an unknown dimension. After all she experiences, Nancy comes to understand how important her family is to her, particularly her brother, which leads them to a friendship that was not present at the beginning of the story.

5. Pace your mystery

Little by little, Stranger Things builds the mystery and horror in this small town. The creators take the characters you believe in and continuously add details – like Eleven’s flashbacks to her time at the experimental facility – pacing the revelations to propel their story at a slow but measured pace.

And it keeps on coming. Whenever one mystery gets resolved, another is already underway. The viewer is in a constant chase after answers, and Stranger Things strikes a perfect balance of concealing a mystery and offering satisfying answers to our burning questions.

6. Don’t just provide answers, provide satisfying answers

If you’re a master at building mystery and suspense but fail at connecting the dots, your readers will be more than frustrated – they will feel deceived, or worse, betrayed.

Were you a fan of Lost? It started off with such promise, so much potential, and viewers and critics were enrapt. But the creators lost their way (no pun intended) and their desperate efforts to get out of it only led to a disappointing dead end. This case teaches us storytellers that it’s important to not only give answers to the questions we raise, but that these answers must be satisfying for the audience, moving the plot and affecting the readers/viewers as much as the characters in the story.

If you add resolutions but don’t add depth or value to your story, reconsider. You might as well leave those mysteries unsolved rather than making readers angry with the dull answers.

7. Make your monsters really scary

Stranger Things doesn’t show you its hideous monster in full until about three-quarters through the series. You have to go along with obscure bits and pieces of the monster that are shown to you in nearly pitch-black darkness. Seriously, the night and Upside Down scenes in this show are so dark I couldn’t make out the details much of the time.

It comes back to the Lovecraft’s trick of conjuring up fear of the supernatural. A monster that you can’t see is so much scarier than a monster you have a clear view of.


Now that you’ve abandoned your writing to binge watch this excellent show, I hope you’ve learned how many tools you have at your disposal when writing a book. There are more, of course, and it’s good practice to reverse-engineer the stories you love most and apply the best storytelling elements to your own writing. Share your discoveries in the comments section!

About BookBaby

Based in the Philadelphia-area, BookBaby is a team of authors, poets, bloggers, and artists — so they know the thrills and challenges of bringing a book into this world.

Since 2011, BookBaby has helped thousands realize their publishing goals by offering the largest eBook distribution network, including Amazon, Apple, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and many other popular retailers in over 170 countries around the globe.

Learn more at www.BookBaby.com.


Connect with Facebook

The Next Group Book Writing & Publishing Program Starts the week of March 20th!


The Group Book Writing & Coaching Program is delivered online and is designed for busy business professionals who want to:

◦ Write their business leadership book
◦ Save time, energy, money, and frustration
◦ Do it right the first time
◦ Increase their credibility
◦ Attract a following

Subscribe to learn how to write a book