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Support for your writing goals, Editor's Notes 81
January 01, 2010
Hello,

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all up hill,
...When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest, if you must--but don't you quit.
...Often the goal is nearer than
It seems to a faint and faltering man,
Often the struggler has given up
When he might have captured the victor's cup.

--Anonymous from "Don't Quit." --Hazel Felleman, The Best Loved Poems of the American People, pp. 113--114


In this issue:

1. New Year Goals
2. Canada is one book richer
3. Non-fiction and the Web idea #1
4. Interesting Web site
5. Tickled my funnybone
6. Strictly personal

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1. New Year Goals
Besides dropping a vice or two and getting into better physical shape, what goals have you set for yourself this year? More specifically, what goals have you set for your writing?

Since 2005, writers have been receiving reminders to work on their writing goals throughout the year. Why not take some time to think about what you want to accomplish in 2010 and then fill in the form at http://www.writershelper.com/writing-goals.html? That way you will receive seven reminders to work on your goals throughout the coming year.

My own goals are already posted.

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2. Canada is one book richer
Amazing British Columbia exists. No longer a dream or even a book sitting in files at the printer, it is in my garage. Better yet, it is in the hands of many readers. You can read more about it at AmazingBritishColumbia.com

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3.Non-fiction and the Web idea #1
This next bit continues the series on how a writer can capitalize on having a Web site.

It was advice from a highly respected bookstore owner that got me to move my Web site http://www.AmazingBritishColumbia.com to the next level. Her advice was to put my references, not in the back of the book, but on the Web site.

For many of you, references in the back would be necessary. There are still advantages in including the references on a Web site.
  1. Web site references can go stale. Putting my references online turned out to be vital for my book. Many sites had changed dramatically between the time I accessed a page and the time I went to press. Using the Wayback Machine (see below) allowed me to show readers what I was reading when I was researching.
  2. You can continue to add additional resources. I plan to do this for my own site. For example, Haida Gwaii became the official name of the Queen Charlotte Islands right after my book arrived from the printer. I will--when I catch my breath--include references to that fact in a new link on the H page on the site.


In the next issue, I'll give one idea for a fiction writer's Web site.

My first, and most trusted, source for information about building a Web business is http://inspected4u.com.

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4. Interesting Web site
Called the Wayback Machine, http://www.archive.org/index.php, allows you to see what a Web page looked like in the past. Even if the page has been taken down, you can find it by entering the URL in the search box on the site.

I used to use the Wayback Machine for laughs or out of idle curiosity, wondering how sites I was interested in had developed over time. Now I've graduated to using it for serious research.

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5. Ticked my funnybone
"Typhoon Rips through Cemetery: Hundreds Dead"

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6. Strictly Personal
I try to keep the newsletter short enough for people to read quickly and then get on with their lives, but this time, I want to share what it's been like to finally be selling, instead of writing, my book.

This will be a personal reflection. It may or may not help you where you are in your journey.

Nothing could have prepared me for the sight of my books in a box.

First of all, the books arrived a day early, so I wasn't even home when all 5,491 copies presented themselves. Happily, my car was also not home, leaving the space in the garage easily accessible. Unhappily for me, my mother, who struggles with dementia, took delivery. When I got home and opened the garage door to see the books neatly installed, my emotions rolled widely from delight to panic several times per minute. Mom couldn't tell me what had happened. I didn't know if all the books were accounted for. I didn't know if I was being charged extra for the delivery since I wasn't there to actually put the books in place myself. For those of you who don't know me, not knowing something is like giving up a vital organ.

Partly to escape my own swinging mood, and largely to get the books to people who had pre-ordered them and wanted to send them overseas, I loaded a box of 40 books into the back seat of my car and headed to the pub where one group was holding a farewell to the wife of one of the photographers. (The couple was leaving for Australia for a year and I was happy to be able to pass on their copies right away.)

So I was in a pub in a state of agitation when I finally opened the first box. The sight simply took my breath away. The combination of the work of a really good designer and a good printer was so much more than I had been able to imagine by printing out pdf files. Then I opened the book and was stunned again by the sheer beauty of the design even though I'd seen the files so many times I was beginning to feel a distinct distaste for the sight of the pages.

I think producing a book is as close to childbirth as a person can get without actually having a human child at the end. I kept thinking, "Did I really do this?"

But that wasn't the end of my delight. The group in the pub were all people I know personally. They had been willing to order books simply because I was the author. The librarian in the group turned the book over and over in her hands and said several times, "This doesn't LOOK like a self-published book!"

Several in the group immediately ordered additional copies, and those who hadn't asked for a copy wanted one or more on the spot.

One of the early purchasers was the literacy coordinator for our local school district. She emailed me to tell me that the district office was ordering a copy for each school library in the district, including the high school.

In the two weeks since the books arrived, the enthusiasm of those who see the book has continued to gratify me. This is both an encouragement and a problem.

It's encouraging because it just reinforced that every time I dug into my pocket for quality and every time I held off for better research or a better photo had been well worthwhile.

It's a problem because only the sight of the actual book can produce that enthusiasm. The stigma of being a self-published book is strong. Don't ever let anyone tell you being self-published doesn't matter. It does. I've created a truly stunning book, but I have to give away a lot of copies to get it in front of buyers. That's fine where I can expect huge orders but doesn't help for single copies for libraries or small orders for independent bookstores.

There has been another totally surprising result of producing this book.

Although this book is non-fiction, and I would never classify it as something with emotional appeal, I've been near tears often as I've heard back from those who have bought copies. Here are just a few examples that represent much of what I'm hearing:
  1. The book is being given as a heart gift to people who are very special to the giver. I know that when I give a book, I give something of myself. What I wasn't prepared for was the knowledge that I am now participating in the emotional lives of families and friends who have used this book to speak deeply of their care for the recipients.
  2. The book immediately went flying around the world. I had never expected that. I'm not sure why because I certainly intended to sell as many as I could to tourists. But that people who live here would want to use my book to brag about our beautiful province touches me deeply. I wrote about things that interested me. I wrote with respect and my own version of love. That this collection of facts hits just the right note with others leaves me a little light-headed. I'm not used to making those sorts of connections.
  3. Finally, the photographers have been sharing their reactions to the book, and I've found myself tearing up as I read what being in the book means to some of them. This is my own story, and I don't have their permission to tell their stories here, so I will just say that seeing their own work in a quality book has been a highly moving experience for these special artists. I didn't mean to touch their lives by asking for their photos, but I did.
So, all I can say is that the act of creating a book has powers I certainly never imagined. If I never sell another copy, writing Amazing British Columbia will have been worth every minute and every penny I spent on it in the past seven years.

And if you think that means that I will not now be selling the guts out of the pallets of books in my garage, you don't know me at all. But the money will probably always be a secondary benefit.

To you who have read all the way to the end of this very long newsletter, my very best wishes as you continue on your own path of writing.

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