Saturday, December 18, 2010

Strategies for Selling Your Book Timothy Ferris Style

Timothy Ferris shares his strategirs for getting his book to the Amazon Bestseller List.

Timothy Ferris urges writers to avoid a four common mistakes;

1. “Not understanding what type of headlines “travel” via social media. Study sites like and to see what works.”
2. “Thinking of “social media” as text only. My latest book “movie” trailer, which is only 50 seconds long, took The 4-Hour Body from #150 on Amazon to around #30, where it has remained until dropping to the top ten.  I believe this video was the primary driver behind making the book the #1 “wished-for” book on Amazon.”
3. “Overcommunicating. There’s no need to share every detail of your life.  On my Twitter stream (, I aim for 80% useful links vs. 20% insight into personal life and schedule.  There is no need to share minutiae unless it displays an endearing or grounding aspect of your personality.”
4.  “Not measuring. How many books did promotion X sell?  I know, as an example, which offers in my “land rush” competition converted browsers to buyers most effectively, as I used SlideShare.  How many people watched the slideshow and then bought?  It was the 3-book and 30-book packages.  I could then focus on these for a follow-up promotion, which sold more than 4,000 books on Amazon in less than 20 hours.  Measure the ROI of your campaigns or fail — that’s the choice.”
Ferriss also shared a few strategies for connecting with online readers. “Meet bloggers in real-life, and find those with interests close to yours.  Sending a press release or template email to 500 bloggers is a waste of time.  We’re not talking about a mainstream ABC or CBS audience; blogs succeed based on their specificity.  Get to know your ideal outlets, meet these people in person, and develop real friendships with those who could (outside of selling books) be your long-term friends.”

From Gallery Cat

Friday, October 22, 2010

Common Mistakes Made by Self-Publishers

As self-published books multiply, a new generation of amateur designers are working on their own book covers. We attended the inaugural day of the  Blurb Pop-Up store in New York City (pictured) this afternoon, covering  the “Compelling Cover Design Workshop.” Designer Alan Rapp shared the most common mistake he saw amateur cover designers make–lack of experimentation.
He explained: “One of the tendencies that people have–I don’t even know if I would call it a mistake–is to be too conservative with topography. At publishing houses, when designers are submitting book designs, they don’t present one idea. They present at least three to five ideas. It manifests something that’s latent, something you didn’t imagine. What I like about Blurb is you can do that kind of experiment. I can do a number of versions, and I can see how they will feel.”
If you want more book cover deign resources, check out our collection of book cover resources for self-published authors.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Seven Authors Who Wrote While Nude- Oh, come on, it's interesting!

Writers have always had interesting stories beyond the ones they put down to paper. Here’s the naked truth: Neatorama has outed seven well-known authors as nudist writers.
Hemingway’s cousin, Edward actually opened Britain’s oldest nudist colony during the 1930s and called it Metherell Towers. So far, there are no accountings of Ernest having visited the colony. Most of the authors don’t give an explanation for the unclothed state, but French novelist Hugo had a legitimate methodical purpose behind his nudeness.
Neatorama reports: “When Victor Hugo, the famous author of great tomes such as Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, ran into a writer’s block, he concocted a unique scheme to force himself to write: he had his servant take all of his clothes away for the day and leave his own nude self with only pen and paper, so he’d have nothing to do but sit down and write.”

Ted Kennedy's Son to Publish Memoir

Rhode Island United States Representative Patrick Kennedy has signed a deal with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to write his memoir. Publication is set for next fall.
Throughout his lifetime, Kennedy has dealt with mental challenges including depression, alcohol abuse, and drug addiction. The book will deal with these topics. Kennedy hails from the illustrious Kennedy clan and the late Senator Edward “Ted” Kennedy‘s son.
Kennedy had this statement for the Associated Press “I realize that I have an enormous opportunity to turn my biggest liability–my illness, which includes addiction–into an asset to help countless numbers of Americans who quietly suffer and cannot afford treatment or risk telling their employers…That’s why I’m writing this book. I hope that by telling the real story of my own personal struggle, I can kick off my lifelong mission: to destigmatize addiction and other neurological ailments, and break down the barriers between research and treatment of different types of brain disorders.”
Senator Ted passed away in August 2009 at the age of 77. Three weeks following his death, Hachette’s Twelve imprint released his memoir, True Compass. The book sold 170,000 copies during its first five days of publication. (Via the Associated Press)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Excerpt from my memoir

My neighbor’s daughter, Gina, says she doesn't mind the ghost in the house. Visiting her parents during a college break, she tells me she saw him while catching up on laundry in their basement. 

What do the young know about living with ghosts?  When you're young, youth seems like the natural state.  It's as hard to imagine living beyond sixty, as it is dying at twenty-four.  In middle age, you have been relieved of the vague notion that the people you know will be around in their seventies.  After a few phone calls about hit and run accidents, a suicide, heart attacks, and an overdose, the knowledge that you might not see next year becomes a part of your general understanding of life.  Parents, siblings, friends, neighbors, teachers, sometimes your own children, are gone without warning.  When so many of the people you know are only available in your memory, you straddle that space between the living and the dead. 
Oh, ye Dead! oh, ye Dead! whom we know by the light you give
From your cold gleaming eyes, though you move like men who live.
It is true, it is true, we are shadows cold and wan;
And the fair and the brave whom we loved on earth are gone,
But still thus even in death
So sweet the living breath

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Billy Idol Writing a Memoir

Rock and roll legend Billy Idol has landed a book deal with Simon & Schuster’s Touchstone imprint.
The memoir will be entitled Dancing with Myself, named after his famous tune. Touchstone publisher Stacy Creamer acquired the book. Kirby Kim from William Morris Endeavor negotiated the deal. Publication is set for late 2011 or early 2012.

Here’s more from the release: “Idol, a natural-born storyteller who helped forge the early punk music scene on his way to multiplatinum worldwide success, will write the book himself. His bold, strikingly literary account will capture not only his remarkably colorfully life, but also an extended period in music history that saw punk rock’s emergence through to its lasting impact on musicians around the world.”

Monday, October 4, 2010

Barnes and Noble Launches PubIt, a self-publishing resource for writers

Here's how it works;

Barnes & Noble has entered the self-publishing realm with the official launch of PubIt!. We shared the original announcement back in May, but now the tools are available for authors to use.
Here’s more from eBookNewser: “Using PubIt!, publishers can price their titles between $0.99 and $199.99. For those eBooks priced from $2.99-$9.99, publishers will receive 65 percent of the list price for sold content. For those priced at $2.98 or less, or $10.00 or more, publishers receive 40 percent of the list price. Newly submitted content will be available for sale within 24-72 hours after it is uploaded.”
We’ll be reporting on self-publishing stories all week, supporting our ongoing Book Pitch contest. Earlier today, we shared local marketing and book pitch advice at the Self-Publishing Book Expo.

What makes for effective work in groups?

The Gibb Theory of Group Development provides insights useful for writers in collaboration.  Writers groups can be magically inspiring or drudgery.  Acceptance and open communication reduce defensiveness and posturing.  This report reminds us of the importance of direct discussion about communication.

I so appreciate all the amazing writers I've met since embarking on my memoir.  Thank you for expanding my world as well as my knowledge base.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Recommended Free Readings at Powell's Featuring Memoir and Nonfiction in October


Kim Dower

Lost languages, locomotives pummeling through dreams, taxi drivers thrown by the earth's rotation, and shadows in closets all come together in Air Kissing on Mars (Red Hen Press), Kim Dower's latest opus of shining and startling poems.
Preorder a signed edition of Air Kissing on Mars .
Thursday, October 7th @ 7:30pm Powell's Books on Hawthorne
3723 SE Hawthorne Blvd. (800) 878-7323

Jonathon Keats

In Virtual Words (Oxford University Press), Jonathon Keats, author of Wired magazine's monthly "Jargon Watch" column, investigates the interplay between words and ideas in our fast-paced, tech-driven, use-it-or-lose-it society.
Preorder a signed edition of Virtual Words .
Tuesday, October 12th @ 7:30pm Powell's City of Books on Burnside
1005 W Burnside (800) 878-7323

Mark Bittman

From Mark Bittman, the award-winning champion of conscious eating and author of the bestselling Food Matters, comes The Food Matters Cookbook (Simon & Schuster), offering the most comprehensive and straightforward ideas yet for cooking easy, delicious foods that are as good for you as they are for the planet. Cosponsored by Slow Food Portland.
Preorder a signed edition of The Food Matters Cookbook .
Monday, October 25th @ 7:30pm Powell's City of Books on Burnside
1005 W Burnside (800) 878-7323

Dinaw Mengestu

In the searing and powerful How to Read the Air (Riverhead), the adult son of Ethiopian immigrants sets out to retrace his mother and father's trip and weave together a family history that will take him from the war-torn Ethiopia of his parents' youth to his life in the America of today.
Preorder a signed edition of How to Read the Air .
Tuesday, October 19th @ 7:30pm Powell's City of Books on Burnside
1005 W Burnside (800) 878-7323

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Why the 'Why?' Behind a Lit Agent's Rejections are Often Left Out

Literary Agent Rachelle Gardner explains why literary agents don't usually write "a word or two" on the reasoning behind manuscript rejections. First off, adding an extra two words for every rejection would mean hours of more writing for the agent. Some agents are so busy they don't even write a personalized greeting on their rejection letters.
Second, people underestimate the difficulty required to explain the rejection in words. Committing to a written explanation means analyzing all the feelings that went into decision. Sometimes a manuscript fails to appeal because of a random premonition or a gut feeling. How can those instances be put into words?
Gardner offers this analogy in her post: "When you walk through the department store looking for clothes, do you stop at every single item of clothing and dissect why it's not right for you? Of course not. And if you did, you'd spend an awful lot of time trying to identify exactly why it doesn't appeal. Something about the style?...Is it just plain ugly? Or is it... (drum roll please)... just not what you're looking for right now?"

Gardner gives a logical and concise explanation. Judging from the people who agree with her in the comments section, it seems that many literary agents share her pain. To the readers and especially to the Grumpy Literary Agent, what is your opinion? Please make it a grumpy one, but feel free to share any thoughts in the comments section.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Flower by Lisa Kendall

Je suis devenue une fleur jaune comme le soleil.  Mes peids se sont changes en racines sous la terre.  Mes cheveux ont disparu et des petales jaunes ont pris leur place.  Une grande tige, solide et verte, a remplacer mes jambes.  Du pollen sucre recouvre mon visage.  De jolis oiseaux ont chante pour moi et les papillons me couvrent avec du bouche-a-bouche.

I plan to translate it, although it surely could not be the same.

My memoir- No Place Like Home

My desk phone rang, interrupting me from my inbox. It way my sister calling to ask me for a ride. It had been months since I had seen Mindy and with few appointments, a good day to take an hour from the office. She gave me an address for a hotel near the Convention Center. When I arrived, she was wearing a ridiculously small and childish nightgown. It was hard not to reveal the disgust I felt to what was clearly her attire for the previous evening. I pictured the man with whom she spent the night leaving the last conference at the Convention Center to fly back to his wife and children. The man who paid to spend the night with my baby sister.

My car had just been broken into, leaving the passenger lock frozen. Telling her she'd have to climb through the drivers' side, she joked that she might know who did it. Her greatest talent had always been snappy comic timing.  Like all good jokes, this was hilarious bc we both knew it was true. Never acknowledging the bitter truth of her life with criminals, we enjoyed the sweet banter about what she might do to get my stereo and CDs back.

As usual, she was disorganized and unprepared. 
Can you hold these things for me?, she asked.

Sure.  Where is the purse I gave you?

I threw it into oncoming traffic when I was high.

Not thinking that required explanation, she went on to the next subject.  Her stories were always filled with the misfortune of her unstable life. She clearly wanted me to care about the crime and injustice she experienced, but I often answered numbly. I sometimes wonder what she thought of my lack of reaction to ugly disclosures. 
Leaving her at a rundown apartment, my new, white car seemed to illustrate the difference in our lives.  Unable to work, I stared out the window of a newly constructed building for hours as the phone went unanswered, faxes unsent, and paperwork not completed. How to re-enter the only world I knew. Oddly aware of the tailord suit and black pumps I was standing in, I vaguely attempted to process what I had just seen, experienced, and felt. Seeing the contrasts in our lifestyles, personalities, and clothing, you wouldn't think we could know each other, but I knew we were linked by background, religious upbringing, mother, and, at that time, lack of education.

The following week, I took her to the Council for Prostitution Alternatives. It was incomprehensible to me that a $25 bribe was her only motivation. On the way, I also gave her a new purse full of make-up. Her appreciation was evident in her weary face and shoulders. It felt good to meet one of her needs. Taking the foundation from the delicate white purse, she began applying it to the tracks on her hands.  Trying to remain calm, I quietly watched as the ugly sores became ugly sores caked with skin-colored paste.

The most surreal moments were in the lobby, as my brain knew why I was there, buty my senses did not.  The casual, business-as-usual atmosphere made me feel relaxed, as if the furniture itself was saying, "hey, we do this all the time." On some level I had to remind myself what brought me...and the other waiting women as well. The intake person assigned to take down our information moved with compassion. It was clear that we found a judgement-free zone. She asked Mindy questions I had never heard and Mindy knew all the answers. It was as if they were speaking a foreign language.

What is your drug of choice?

How old were you when you first did drugs?

Where do you live?
I'm homeless.
I sat completely still with my eyes closed, afraid to open them and see what I was hearing. Wishing I could be strong, wishing it was all different. I
only hope the tears told her what I could not. That she mattered to someone. In my own trauma at hearing of her pain, I could not put my arms around her or tell her I was sorry.
My saddest memory of Mindy is her sweeping my deck to show her appreciation for my support. She was full of hope for a better life. The next morning she would be taking a train to a drug rehab program I had arranged and paid for. Her dreams of art school and stability fueled my belief that she could do it. So accustomed to disaster, I reacted calmly when the director called to tell me that her issues were far too great for them to address

Friday, September 17, 2010

Prison by Tara Brenner

-Tara Brenner


They say that every one in four people know someone currently incarcerated in the United States Prison System.
And me – I work there
So you can count me in.
When your son or brother has a question
When your husband or boyfriend has a problem
They come to me
I’m beginning to know them.
This guy is in for life.
He works in laundry, says he likes coming into my office to talk to me.
It was his idea to put the shirt over his victims head so that when he shot him point blank in the face he wouldn’t get any blood on his new pants.
I’ve just enrolled him in a GED program, told him he’s a thinker.
The kid in North Wing doesn’t belong here.
They’d been dating for two years
He was 19, his girlfriend was 17.
Her mother called it in.
He got three to five for his trespass
I guarantee you he will leave this place a felon.
Three years in an intensive study in the criminal mind.
I’ve seen this kind of thing before.
He’ll probably walk out of here a gang member
Or a drug dealer.
Believe me, he’s nothing but a sex offender now – and got nothin’ to lose.
I never said justice was fair.
The man from 214 likes to wave at me in the hallway.
Tells me he likes what I was wearing today
Three years ago he talked some girl my age into his apartment
Handcuffed her to his son’s crib,
Dressed her in red lingerie,
And raped her for two hours straight.
If it was me, I wouldn't have let her go
But when the cops came to arrest him
They started going through his picture phone
Only to see pictures of girl after girl after girl in red lingerie.
I walk among inmates every day.
And I’m beginning to feel more comfortable.
I’ve started building a home here.
I’m finding iron bars in my closets
And razor wire under my bed sheets.
I watch my back whenever I’m getting ready to fall asleep.
They say that every one in four people know someone currently incarcerated in the United States Prison System.
Me, I know over 2,000 men currently serving time.
I know what they’ve done
I know where they’re going when they get out.
I’m beginning to get an idea of what monsters really look like.
Standing tall in the dark with eyes wide and excited.
They’re beginning to look like people.
And I’m lying to you.
Because every time I look at you I can no longer see you for who you are
But only what you are capable of doing.
There’s no investigation report out here to prove your innocence to me
And to be quite honest with you
I feel safer in there
And I’m sorry.
Sorry that I now live a life between locked gates
And concrete walls
I’m sorry that I’ll never let you get close enough.
The prisoners say that if you stay in the system long enough
That you won’t want to leave.
I’ve been building a cell here bar after bar and brick after brick.
I’d rather stay with the demons I know
Than brave the demons I don’t
Just mark my name on the list of people you know
In prison.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Eastside Writers Group- Bean and Letters at Bipartisan Cafe

Come join us one Wednesday each month at the inspiring Bipartisan Cafe at SE 79th and Stark.  Share your experiences and adventures in the world of writing and publishing.  Bring your work for some informal editing help as well. 

Call Lisa for details; 503-317-6793

Memoir Lessons for Children

Lesson Planet, an online resource for teachers, has creative lessons and comprehensive lesson plans for teachers and their students. Take a look!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Wordstock brings "Mortified" to the Bagdad October 8th

As you know, Wordstock is all about stories, and this year, as we started to think of a way to showcase personal stories and histories, we were drawn very quickly to the bright flame that is Mortified. For the uninitiated, Mortified is a live performance that features everyday people reading aloud their most embarrassing, pathetic, and private teenage diary entries, poems, love letters, lyrics, locker notes -- you get the idea. In the words of one recent performer here in Portland, "It's hilarious and oddly cathartic." Trust us, you don't want to miss this one! It's Thursday, October 8, at McMenamins Bagdad Theater in Portland. Mortified founder Dave Nadelberg will be flying up from LA to join us for this special event, at which he'll be interviewing a special guest in the middle of the show -- a special guest we'll be announcing very soon...

Review of Jeanette Walls Glass Castle- From Galley Cat

Jeannette Walls grew up with parents whose ideals and stubborn nonconformity were both their curse and their salvation. Rex and Rose Mary Walls had four children. In the beginning, they lived like nomads, moving among Southwest desert towns, camping in the mountains. Rex was a charismatic, brilliant man who, when sober, captured his children's imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and above all, how to embrace life fearlessly. Rose Mary, who painted and wrote and couldn't stand the responsibility of providing for her family, called herself an "excitement addict." Cooking a meal that would be consumed in fifteen minutes had no appeal when she could make a painting that might last forever.

Later, when the money ran out, or the romance of the wandering life faded, the Walls retreated to the dismal West Virginia mining town -- and the family -- Rex Walls had done everything he could to escape. He drank. He stole the grocery money and disappeared for days. As the dysfunction of the family escalated, Jeannette and her brother and sisters had to fend for themselves, supporting one another as they weathered their parents' betrayals and, finally, found the resources and will to leave home.

What is so astonishing about Jeannette Walls is not just that she had the guts and tenacity and intelligence to get out, but that she describes her parents with such deep affection and generosity. Hers is a story of triumph against all odds, but also a tender, moving tale of unconditional love in a family that despite its profound flaws gave her the fiery determination to carve out a successful life on her own terms.

For two decades, Jeannette Walls hid her roots. Now she tells her own story.

Defense Dept. Buying 10,000 Copies of CIA Officer's Memoir

According to "a senior Pentagon official," the Defense Department hopes to buy the entire 10,000 copy print run of Operation Dark Heart by Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer.

Published by St. Martin's Press, the upcoming memoir recounts Shaffer's work as an intelligence officer in Afghanistan. As you can see by the screen shot embedded, the book's official website currently reads: "Our estimated launch date is September 30, 2010 ... Current status: Waiting on the man."

Here's more from the Washington Post: "The official said the Defense Department 'sent up a team to talk with the publisher some time ago,' and has been negotiating an agreement that might allow the Pentagon to purchase already printed copies of the book and permit a subsequent version to go forward as long as it complies with U.S. government requests ... Both sides now appear to have agreed on the contents of the second printing, but negotiations are focused on what to with the 10,000 copies already published." (Via Ron Charles)

Eastside Memoir Group starting up

Come join experienced writers with your project whether for family or publishing.  We will meet twice each month for editing and support.

Call Lisa with questions; 503-317-6793 

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Suggested Memoirs

The Liar's Club                                     Mary Karr
Running with Scissors                            Augesten Burroughs
Mennonite in a Little Black Dress          Rhoda Jansen
Stolen Innocense                                   Elissa Wall
Pursuit of Happyness                            Chris Gardner
Breaking Night                                      Liz Murray

Blackbird, although this book is known to contain some factual errors 

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Free Resource for Writers

Portland Writers is a free service to help local writers connect with readers. You are welcome to post your writing, feedback to writers about their writing, information about local events and resources for writers, and discussion about this website.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

My Wordstock Pick

Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It

by Maile Meloy

"Don't let the easy accessibility of Maile Meloy's writing fool you: she's capable of witchcraft.... These 11 stories are quick, powerful jabs, startling in their economy; you're propelled toward each ending, certain she won't be able to wrap it up in one more page, and you're proved wrong every time." -- Time

As we told you last week, Wordstock is putting a little extra focus this year on writers of short stories. In the spirit of this attention to stories, we're happy to announce that this year's Wordstock Book Club pick is one of the most celebrated collections of short fiction of recent years, a book The New York Times picked as one of the 10 Best Books of 2009.

Maile Meloy is one of the most celebrated young fiction writers in the US, and the 11 new stories collected in Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It show why. Rich yet spare, calm yet filled with tension, approachable yet highly intelligent, her prose is astonishing to behold. She makes the complicated storyteller's art seem effortless. We are thrilled to be able to bring this talented writer to Wordstock!

Maile Meloy's stories have been published in The New Yorker, and she has received The Paris Review's Aga Khan Prize for Fiction, the PEN/Malamud Award, the Rosenthal Foundation Award, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She will read from Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It and answer readers' questions at the Wordstock Book Fair on Saturday, October 9 at 2pm.