SPAWNews Newsletter – June 2014


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From the President

Welcome to all the new members and subscribers who have discovered SPAWN this month!

Today, I am sore. Most of my muscles hurt from a marathon gardening adventure yesterday. Because we have such a short growing season here in Idaho, most of my gardening activities have to happen over a few physically intense days. I suspect that if we had a longer growing season, I could pace myself and my muscles wouldn’t cry out in protest quite as much.

It occurred to me that writing and other creative activities are like that too. If you write more frequently, you build up those creative muscles, so the process is not quite as painful.

At least we can take comfort in the fact that writing isn’t dependent on the weather. Which reminds me. I need to get this newsletter out because I have 75 strawberry plants that need to go into the ground today.

Susan Daffron (
President & Webmaster, Small Publishers Artists and Writers Network (SPAWN)
President, Logical Expressions, Inc. /

Editor’s Note

What are you doing during summer vacation time? Maybe you can finally finish that book. If so, you’ll be interested in the information about self-publishing from The Book Doctor. Patricia Fry reviews SPAWN member Roger Ellerton’s book about his experience in self-publishing as he shares first-hand the details involved.

Have you entered any contests for your book? Helen Gallagher gives the behind-the-scenes scoop on what a judge looks for. It’s a great way to get feedback, and if you win, it helps build your platform.

If you’re thinking “like I have time for all that,” take a minute to read about Liisa Kyle’s newest book You Can Get It Done: Choose What to Do, Plan, Start, Stay on Track, Overcome Obstacles and Finish.

Be sure to enjoy the warm weather, as well. After the harsh winter many of us had, we deserve a fun-filled summer.

 — Sandy, Editor, SPAWNews,

Ask the Book Doctor:

About Openings, Add-ons, Pitching an Idea, and Appendixes in Novels

By Bobbie Christmas, Book Doctor

Q: : Is there a time when self-publishing is a good idea?

A: Yes, at times, but the answer is not simple. I give an entire seminar on traditional publishing versus self-publishing, and I have a report you can order free that gives the pros and cons of each. The subject gets complicated, because within each category you have more choices plus more pros and cons of each, such as whether to use print-on-demand, e-books, or traditional printing. Go to and click on Tools for Writers. There you will find Report #110, Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing.

Self-publishing makes sense if you write nonfiction and are willing to be a publisher, distributor, and marketer. Self-publishing also makes sense if you have a built-in audience of buyers that you reach regularly, such as if you have a big following on a blog or a large number of subscribers to a newsletter. Self-publishing certainly makes sense if you give seminars or talks where you can sell your book.

When my traditionally published book, Write In Style, was still in print, it far outsold my self-published books in numbers, but I made much less than a dollar for every book that sold. I make much more per book when I self-publish, so the profit margin is higher on my self-published books. I liked that the publisher who bought Write In Style gave it far wider distribution than I could have accomplished, though. As a result, the book gained me recognition in America, Canada, Australia, and other countries. I made little on the book, but I made much more in other ways, by gaining clients from around the world and increasing my reputation as a desirable speaker. Oh, and as a speaker, I could sell even more books at conferences and other gatherings for writers.

As you can see, sometimes it is a toss-up in deciding whether self-publishing is a good idea, so it depends on your total goals, not just your financial ones.

Q: I am thinking of self-publishing a how-to book. I have a way to reach my market, and I am a good writer, but I have heard self-publishing has a bad reputation. What’s up with that?

A: Self-publishing originally gained a poor reputation because many self-published people skipped some major steps or tried to save money while self-publishing. As a result, the public came to consider all self-published books to be less than professional, because so many of them were indeed subpar. Gradually the stigma has softened, as more self-publishers go to great lengths to overcome that original blight on self-publishing.

You can overcome that stigma with your own book by not scrimping. Be professional at every step of the way. Before having the book laid out, always hire a professional book editor, one intimately familiar with Chicago style, to edit the manuscript. Traditional book publishers use Chicago style, which dictates such things as where the commas go, what to capitalize, and when to write out numerals or use a number.

No matter how great a writer we may be, writers cannot edit themselves. We do not see our own mistakes. I am an editor, yet I use editors for my own books. I am still a human being, and we all make errors that only an outsider can catch.

The other place where some self-publishers scrimp is in the cover design. Do not use your own, your child’s, or your friend’s illustration on the cover, no matter how good you think the art may be. I can spot many self-published books simply by looking at the cover. If the first thing a potential buyer sees of the book—the outside artwork—gives a bad impression, the person will not buy the book. I think like most people, and if the cover looks less than professional, I assume the information inside is also less than professional.

The book cover, both front and back, is a strong sales tool. Use it to your advantage, but be sure to have all the copy on the front and back also edited professionally. What an embarrassment and expense it would be to find an error on the most important part of the book, after the book is printed.

Q: What does it mean to be published? You just write a book, get it printed, and you are published, right?

A: Some people think so. In actuality, if you self-publish—that is, pay for a portion of the publishing yourself—you have not proved that your writing is good enough that someone would want to read it or pay for it.

In truth, if you write an article for a newspaper, magazine, or newsletter that is not your own and the newspaper, magazine, or newsletter accepts and publishes the article, you are published. You do not have to get paid to be considered published. If you sell the rights to your book to a traditional publisher that pays all the expenses, releases your book, and pays you royalties, you are considered a published author. If you cover any part of the cost, however, you are self-published, which is not the same as being published.

Beware of the companies that call themselves royalty-paying publishers and claim their authors pay no part of the expenses. Traditional publishers do not have to make such claims. The companies that make such claims are usually not traditional publishers. They are companies that accept almost any book, and to cover their expenses, they charge extremely high prices for the books and print only the books that are pre-ordered. They are print-on-demand publishers, rather than traditional publishers. If you use such a company, you are still considered self-published.

If you do sell your work and someone else publishes it and pays you, you definitely are published and have earned bragging rights. If you self-publish a book, you may say you are published, but in serious circles, you will not be considered a published author. If a traditional publisher buys the rights to your previously self-published book and rereleases it, however, then voila! You become a published author.

To read more questions and answers, order the book Ask the Book Doctor: How to Beat the Competition and Sell Your Writing at Bobbie Christmas, book editor, author of Write In Style (Union Square Publishing), and owner of Zebra Communications, will answer your questions, too.  Send them to Read more "Ask the Book Doctor" questions and answers at

Book Review

by Patricia Fry

Self-Publishing Your Book: A Guide for First-Time and DIY Authors by Roger Ellerton, Renewal Technologies, Inc. (2014)  ISBN 978-0-9918645-3-9  E-book – 20 pages – 99 cents. Purchase it here:  

For those of you who are overwhelmed by the volumes of material in some of the larger books on publishing, here’s a condensed version you may enjoy. Roger Ellerton has taken what he has learned and experienced as the author of several books and created this 20-page guide. He gives you the basics, outlines your publishing choices, and offers some of the more popular options. You’ll get a nice introduction into CreateSpace, Lightning Source, Smashwords, Kindle Direct Publishing, and Google Partner.

If you’re stymied as to your book cover, he provides links to articles that will help. I especially appreciate his section on editing, as he points out why it’s important to hire an editor and what you can expect to gain from the experience. He also supplies some sites loaded with resources for authors, including (thank you, Roger), and he discusses the marketing aspect of books—again with some links and recommendations.

In describing Self-Publishing Your Book, I might say it’s a small book packing a hefty payload. I recommend it to those of you who are new to publishing and who want a brief introduction so you know what to do next and what to expect as a published author.

How a Contest Judge Views a Book

by Helen Gallagher

Literary merit is a core requirement for any prize-winning book.

After succeeding as an author, book reviewer, and publishing consultant, I was pleased to be asked to participate as a judge in a book contest for the Colorado Independent Publishers Association (CIPA:

If you are or have been given this honor, it is a big responsibility and a whole lot of fun. Each judge must critique the contest entries on a long list of factors, not limited to content, accuracy, editing, and design.

In order to avoid being overwhelmed, I agreed to judge only the three genres I know best. I would not feel comfortable judging categories where I don’t have an informed opinion of quality, such as mystery, sci-fi, or romance.

Unlike book reviewing, in which I evaluate the writing style and content and consider the value of the book’s theme or message, judging goes further. Reviewers often discuss the author’s point of view, while letting the reader of the review know pertinent details of the book. That’s why people read book reviews—to determine if they want to invest time in reading the book.

In judging a book contest, the parameters are set by the organization or committee running the contest. They set criteria for entries and sort through all submissions to be sure each entry that is judged fits the standards for quality writing in the category. The biggest job for a judge is remaining objective in order to judge fairly. In fact, for CIPA, each book is sent on to a second judge, who performs the same task: analyzing the book’s worthiness on all the variables, and the scores are averaged.

Most contests have very specific categories. As an author it is important to make sure your book is in the best category, or choose multiple categories, such as “Motivational” and “Self-help,” to give your book a better chance against steep competition. Most contests charge an incremental fee for multiple categories, so be clear about the best fit for your book.

What I found most interesting as an author and SPAWN member is the importance of every detail. That’s right—you don’t want to have a perfect book design but fall short on other elements or overlook errors. The lesson here is that when you are finalizing your book for publication, nothing is unimportant. Don’t overlook errors in the Table of Contents, pagination, page layout, or chapter headings, and re-check every word and every reference, from cover to cover.

Every SPAWN member knows the importance of good cover design and quality printing. Whether you use a traditional publisher, print-on-demand, or a local printing firm, your book must look as good as any other mass-market book to be worthy of an award. This includes cover artwork, fonts, design, placement of the ISBN and barcode, and error-free layout of both the front and back covers.

You may have a great story, but if you failed to do that last round of proofreading or checking the layout, another contest entrant may outshine your book by a few points.

Your chances of winning a book award are increased if you work to get every element perfect. Here are some tips to consider, not just when you prepare to enter your completed book in a contest, but before you publish.

  • Is your title/subtitle appropriate and does it generate interest?
  • Does the title truly reflect the content of the book? Don’t fall in love with a quirky title that would disappoint or mislead the reader.
  • Is your book price appropriate for the target audience? Have you done research to determine this?
  • Do your book layout, editing, and design meet the highest standards?

These four sample factors are just the first steps in passing through to the award level in your book’s category. The CIPA contest has thirty categories by which each book is measured. If any of these initial factors is adequate but not truly professional, entering an important book contest might be a waste of money.

Before you run back to your manuscript to polish it up, keep in mind that literary merit is a core requirement for any prize-winning book. Books up for award are of course evaluated on the writing, not just the spelling and punctuation, but quality of language, comprehension, and the ability to present material in an interesting way, authored by a person with the qualifications to write on the topic.

Remember that your confidence in your book when presenting it for any award consideration requires all the up-front effort and attention to detail well before you even dream of winning First Prize in a book contest. The reward, though, when your book is chosen, is increased publicity and increased sales, because of the distinguished honor in winning a book award.

Helen Gallagher, SPAWN membership chair, is the author of Release Your Writing: Book Publishing Your Way. Email:

Book Review

by Sandra Murphy

You Can Get It Done: Choose What to Do, Plan, Start, Stay on Track, Overcome Obstacles, and Finish by Liisa Kyle, Ph.D. (available on Kindle through Amazon) 

Get ready to make lists as you read this book. Kyle says written goals and discoveries about what works and doesn’t work for you, bring more results than just mentally going over details.

Are you a burster or a plodder? A burster has a percolation period when ideas form and grow. Once all the details are worked out—pow! They pop out like fireworks. A plodder examines the project, makes a list of steps that need to be done, and chips away until it’s finished.

Now that you know what works, what doesn’t, how you work, and when is the best time to work, decide what you want. After that comes the fun part—how to get it done in tiny, little, not-scary, baby steps so that it will actually work.

Chapter Four is my favorite: how to prepare for obstacles—and know that sometimes we’re the biggest obstacle to the thing we want most, maybe out of fear that we could fail or worse, fear that we could succeed. Friends, family, and co-workers mean well, but will list every objection to your plan, too. On the other hand, some of them may be jealous that you have the courage to try and they don’t have that courage. Knowing this will happen gives you ready-made answers instead of derailing the plan.

Chapters on how to prioritize, plan, implement, and keep going will keep you focused on the goal you set. What do you do to procrastinate? Chapter Ten will give you four essential tools to stay on track. Chapter Thirteen shows you how an hour a day can make all the difference. Luckily, there’s a chapter on taking breaks too!

What happens if you do get totally derailed? There’s a chapter to show you how to recover and one to help you decide whether or not to continue. Sometimes when a project is going wrong, it’s just because it’s not the right idea or the right time. Then there are those who get almost done, but can’t quite push themselves to say “the end.” Kyle shows you how to do that push, too.

By the end of the book, you’ll know yourself, your work habits, likes and dislikes a lot better. You’ll know what you want and how to get it done.

For free updates and weekly prompts, go to:

Member News

Barbara Florio Graham has been hired to work on a book contract with a former Canadian ambassador who has written her first book. She selected a local publisher with a good reputation. “I’ve seen his books and they’re well-produced, but he hasn’t dealt much with children’s books. So I’m working on her contract with the publisher and a second contract with the illustrator, as she will be paying for the illustrations,” Bobbi says.

Bobbi also has an article in the June issue of Writing World ( as well as several articles for other publications, which will appear over the summer. Bobbi has continued Simon Teakettle’s blog, and his fan club now numbers more than 200 cats, close to 100 dogs, and 18 other species from 20 countries on five continents! See the gang at, where you’ll also find a link to the blog.


From Patricia Fry: I hope everyone’s out promoting their books—or maybe writing new ones. I’m doing both. I’m working on a book, under contract, on writing a book proposal. Have any of you written a book proposal for fiction or one of the new query letters? Some publishers now request query letters encompassing six pages or so, a synopsis, your marketing plan, your platform, and so forth.  I’m looking for such query letters, as well as book proposals for fiction, to use as examples in the new book. If your publisher has asked for this extended information, please contact me here: In the meantime, a new Klepto Cat Mystery is available. The Colony Cat Caper is the fifth in the series. All are on Kindle and so far, three are available in print.


In Search of the Fun-Forever Job: Career Strategies That Work by Ellis Chase, from Bacon Press Books, was a winner of the 2014 Eric Hoffer Awards for Business Books. Michele Orwin  Publisher, Bacon Press Books Bacon Press Books Bacon and Books (blog)


Sharon E. Cathcart had the official book release party for her latest novel, In the Eye of the Storm, during Clockwork Alchemy ( on May 23.


Dallas Woodburn’s short story Tarzan was published in Issue 13 of Superstition Review:

Contests, Events and Opportunities

The Contests, Awards, Events, and Opportunities listings are located on the SPAWN blog. Please use these links to get the latest information
Contests and Awards
Events and Opportunities


SPAWN is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization. SPAWNews advises “caveat emptor” when dealing with venues, contests or promotions unknown to you. SPAWNews was proofread by Bonnie Myhrum, Professional Secretary, LLC (734-455-0987).
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