The World’s Greatest Book

I’m Dave Bricker,transparent-charMFA: author, edi­tor, graphic designer, inter­ac­tive devel­oper, and design edu­ca­tor. I help writ­ers turn well-crafted man­u­scripts into beau­ti­ful, high-quality books. My web­site offers straight talk for writ­ers about pro­duc­ing and mar­ket­ing excel­lent books, eBook tech­nol­ogy, book design, typog­ra­phy, writ­ing, lit­er­acy, and the pub­lish­ing business.

Thank you for read­ing. Enjoy your pub­lish­ing jour­ney and get in touch if you want help mak­ing your book excellent.

—Dave Bricker

Writing is Design: Two-Word Writing Clichés

2word-cliche-logoTwo-word clichés are per­haps the least obvi­ous kind. Unless we’re vig­i­lant, they sneak into our prose, steal color, mask our indi­vid­ual writer’s voice, and make us sound like mil­lions of other writ­ers who mind­lessly employ the same worn out word com­bi­na­tions. I find count­less exam­ples even while edit­ing the work of accom­plished authors.

I explored tra­di­tional clichés in an ear­lier post, sug­gest­ing that writ­ers who employ phrases like “loose can­non,” “fly off the han­dle,” and “bit­ter end” should do so with an under­stand­ing of their ori­gins. A loose can­non could do tremen­dous dam­age on a rolling ship. An axe head that flies off its han­dle could eas­ily kill some­one. Hanging on to the bit­ter end of a rope is pre­req­ui­site to fas­ten­ing it (to the bitts or cleats) on the dock. Every cliché has a story, and writ­ers who under­stand the ori­gins of clichés use them in more mean­ing­ful ways.

The two-word cliché is a dif­fer­ent ani­mal. Though it may have his­tor­i­cal roots (or be a useful-but-tired metaphor like “low-hanging fruit” or “level play­ing field”), it’s usu­ally com­prised of two words that have stuck together and fallen into pop­u­lar use—often an adjec­tive and a noun. These pairs become insep­a­ra­ble to a point where writ­ers rarely use one word with­out the other. Continue read­ing

The Perfect Book Sales Page

Tom Morkes recently pub­lished The Perfect Book sales Page on his blog. I’m usu­ally the first per­son to reject for­mu­laic approaches to book mar­ket­ing. Many well-written books are hor­ri­ble prod­ucts. But what I like about Tom’s tem­plate is that it forces you to ask impor­tant ques­tions that can help deter­mine whether your book is a mar­ketable com­mod­ity. And it adds basic sales ele­ments that com­mu­ni­cate value to the prospec­tive reader. Even if you haven’t writ­ten your book yet, con­sider how fill­ing in the var­i­ous sec­tions in Tom’s tem­plate might change the way you write and publish.

The Perfect Book Sales Page
Like this? Learn how to sell more books with Tom Morkes.

The Perfect Book Sales Page: Section 1 — The Big Picture

The Perfect Book Sales Page: Product Summary

At the top of the Perfect Book Sales Page, the title and cover that you’re sell­ing a book, along with some bul­let points that illu­mi­nate its key sell­ing points. Stop! As sim­ple and obvi­ous as these may seem:

  • Does your title con­vey what your book is about?
  • Is your cover engaging?
  • Can you name at least three com­pelling rea­sons why a reader should buy your book?

So many authors never ask these basic ques­tions. Smart pub­lish­ers use them to deter­mine what man­u­scripts to acquire and invest in. Writers who want to sell books ask these ques­tions to help deter­mine what to write. Yes, your book has to be good—but it also has to be a mar­ketable product.

Continue read­ing

Track Changes — The Essential Tool for Writers and Editors

If you’re not using your Word Processor’s Track Changes func­tion, you’re miss­ing out on one of the best writ­ing tools of the dig­i­tal age. The good news: it’s quick and easy to learn. This video tuto­r­ial will show you how.

Track Changes is per­haps one of the most use­ful fea­tures in MS Word. This toolset is valu­able because it pro­motes a col­lab­o­ra­tive rela­tion­ship between writer and edi­tor. Many first-time authors fear the edit­ing process because they’re con­cerned an edi­tor will “process” their work and remove their unique, authen­tic voice from the prose. Track Changes pre­vents this from hap­pen­ing. By its very nature, Track Changes revolves around dis­cus­sion; it allows the edi­tor to make sug­ges­tions and the author to accept or reject them. And if an edi­tor makes a cor­rec­tion that doesn’t have an obvi­ous ratio­nale behind it, that cor­rec­tion can have an explana­tory com­ment attached to it. Track Changes does what its name implies: it tracks changes. Every revi­sion is saved; author and edi­tor can tog­gle between the edited text and the original.

Gone are the days when typed paper man­u­scripts were anno­tated with proofreader’s marks and com­ments in the mar­gins were attached with lines to cir­cled phrases. Track Changes is an essen­tial tool that helps guide your nar­ra­tive from rough draft to pol­ished manuscript.

Tip: Be sure to accept or reject all changes and close or respond to any com­ments each time you receive an anno­tated doc­u­ment for review. The right mar­gin fills up with com­ments and cor­rec­tions quickly, and these cre­ate unten­able clut­ter if they’re left in place. Over time, the doc­u­ment will evolve toward a final ver­sion as fewer and fewer changes and dis­cus­sion points remain.

Watch the video full-screen at 1080p for a bet­ter view.

Self-Publishing Scams: Keep the “Self” in Self-Publishing

traffic-lightI recently re-posted my arti­cle about Publishing Scams and How they Work. I won­der why so many authors, after spend­ing thou­sands of hours work­ing on a book, fail to con­duct a few crit­i­cal hours of research that will save them thou­sands of dol­lars and immense frus­tra­tion. Perhaps it’s because the sys­tem that preys on unin­formed authors is so pow­er­ful, enor­mous, and far-reaching that it sounds like a wacky con­spir­acy the­ory. It can’t be true. This sounds like Bermuda Triangle stuff.

David Gaughran’s arti­cle, “Author Solutions and Friends: The Inside Story,” explores how doc­u­ments related to law­suits filed against Author Solutions sug­gest its rela­tion­ships with such pub­lish­ing lumi­nar­ies as Penguin/Random House, Publishers Weekly,, Kirkus Reviews, and oth­ers are part of a huge web of influ­ence and decep­tion that preys on authors. Emily Seuss does a capa­ble job of warn­ing authors on her own blog.

Something that sounds like a con­spir­acy the­ory isn’t nec­es­sar­ily false. Continue read­ing

Publishing Scams and How they Work

Rarely do I repub­lish a blog post, but I just got another email from a writer who didn’t do his homework.

pubscamsMany self-publishers start their book projects with unre­al­is­tic expec­ta­tions and mis­un­der­stand­ings about how pub­lish­ing works. A huge indus­try has arisen to prey on writ­ers who are unsure of the path. This arti­cle explains the basics of how pub­lish­ing scams work and how writ­ers can avoid them.

Publishers must learn the risks inher­ent to their busi­ness. If you fan­ta­size you’ll earn your invest­ment back as soon as you get on Oprah’s show, it’s not the sup­ply chain’s job to pressure-test your assumptions.

“If I’m painter and you want pur­ple zebra stripes on your pink house, someone’s going to take your money; it might as well be me.”

Though that kind of busi­ness prac­tice isn’t strictly uneth­i­cal, it over­looks the fact that the most impor­tant thing pub­lish­ing ser­vice providers can sell is guid­ance. Too many author ser­vice com­pa­nies take advan­tage of the fact that it really is your respon­si­bil­ity to know what you’re get­ting into.

To under­stand where the bait-and-switch usu­ally hap­pens in pub­lish­ing scams, it’s essen­tial to under­stand how the bookseller’s eco­nomic pie gets sliced.

Continue read­ing

Book Giveaways: Are They Worth it?

book-giveaway.fwShould you give away books for free? The value of book give­aways can’t be assessed by for­mula. The pre­vail­ing mythol­ogy sug­gests that the goal of pub­lish­ing is to sell books, but the huge major­ity of indie pub­lish­ers don’t do the math. Assuming you make (approx­i­mately) $5 per book, fig­ure out how many you need to sell in an hour to make any kind of rea­son­able income.

Big pub­lish­ers release 90–120 books each quar­ter through proven dis­tri­b­u­tion chan­nels. They have the funds to license the lat­est Disney princess story, and between peren­nial favorites (e.g. Dr. Seuss) and col­lec­tions of (out of copy­right) time­less clas­sics, they’re pre­pared to move books in vol­ume. Taking a “mutual fund” approach, they know that most of their books will go to the shred­der, but if they can get one run­away hit (e.g. Harry Potter), the port­fo­lio will be a win.

Indies typ­i­cally have a sin­gle book, or per­haps a few more. They don’t have access to book­store tables and tours, and they don’t print and dis­trib­ute large vol­umes (20–30,000 copies) on spec. Assuming a typ­i­cal book costs $4000 to pro­duce (costs of pro­fes­sional edit­ing, type­set­ting, and design), it has to sell 800 copies to break even—and this doesn’t return a penny for the time spent writ­ing and researching.

I’m an enthu­si­as­tic indie pub­lisher of 6 books; some are non­fic­tion and some are fic­tion. Here’s my take on book give­aways: Continue read­ing

Writing Style: The Writer’s Guide to Powerful Prose

powerful-prose-post-imgCertain writ­ing style pat­terns weaken your prose and ren­der it awk­ward, generic, and imper­sonal. As we hike the writer’s path of never-ending refine­ment, we must learn to see pat­terns that were once invis­i­ble to us. Some of these pat­terns are revealed through the lens of expe­ri­ence; oth­ers are shown to us by edi­tors and friends. But until we learn to rec­og­nize these pat­terns, our writ­ing is likely to resem­ble the work of mil­lions of other authors.

The goal of The Writer’s Guide to Powerful Prose is not to define par­tic­u­lar usages as right or wrong or good or bad. When we speak, ideas pour instantly and spon­ta­neously from our mouths, but good writ­ing is not such an auto­matic process. Writers have the luxury—the responsibility—of edit­ing their ideas before shar­ing them. Writing style pat­terns become trig­ger points for con­scious deci­sion mak­ing. Could I use a bet­ter adjec­tive? Is my metaphor a tired cliché? Does my sen­tence work just as well with­out “that” in it? Or do I want to leave this sen­tence as I wrote it? Continue read­ing

How to Produce Audiobooks with Amazon ACX

acx-article-graphicThis arti­cle explains how to pro­duce and mar­ket a pro­fes­sional qual­ity audio­book using Amazon ACX. Through ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange), I was able to audi­tion voiceover tal­ent, choose a pro­fes­sional pro­ducer, review the work in progress, and make my audio­book avail­able through pop­u­lar audio­book­stores with­out spend­ing a cent.

The mar­ket for audio­books is cur­rently worth over US$2 bil­lion. claims to offer over 150,000 titles. Split that cat­a­log apart by gen­res and even if you’re small fish, the end­less ocean of books avail­able in print or eBook form becomes a small pond. My book is one of only 5,936 books avail­able in the “Personal Memoirs” cat­e­gory. The same cat­e­gory on con­tains 92,014 titles.

As with any form of pub­lish­ing, a chasm exists between “get­ting your book out there” and pro­duc­ing a qual­ity, pro­fes­sional prod­uct. Reading your book into your computer’s micro­phone doesn’t cut it. Audiobook pro­duc­tion requires pro­fes­sional record­ing gear and tal­ent. A qual­ity audio­book has no dogs bark­ing in the back­ground, no air­craft fly­ing over­head, and no sirens blast­ing down the street in front of your house—and though this might sound self-evident, the equiv­a­lent hap­pens with self-published printed books all the time. Aficionados of audio­books can hear “ama­teur” the moment they sam­ple a self-produced audiobook.

Amazon ACX offers an alter­na­tive to DIY. This ser­vice con­nects writ­ers with voice tal­ent, mon­i­tors pro­duc­tion progress, and han­dles dis­tri­b­u­tion and payments.

I used ACX to pub­lish an audio­book ver­sion of The Blue Monk, my sail­ing mem­oir. I had the good for­tune to meet my narrator/producer in per­son when he sailed through Miami from the Carolinas. The video footage in this arti­cle shares our dis­cus­sions about audio­books. Continue read­ing

Writing Ergonomics: Avoiding Injury at Your Desk

broken-ropeThis arti­cle explores ergonomic solu­tions to writ­ers’ repet­i­tive stress prob­lems. As sta­tic as it may seem, writ­ing is a phys­i­cally demand­ing endeavor. I’ve spent decades sit­ting in a chair star­ing at a screen, tap­ping on a key­board. During that time, I’ve expe­ri­enced neck pain, shoul­der pain, elbow pain, wrist pain, fore­arm pain, and back pain—sometimes to a point where I ques­tioned whether I’d be able to con­tinue writ­ing, design­ing, pro­gram­ming, edit­ing, or any of the other computer-centric activ­i­ties from which I derive income and enjoyment.

Caveat: I’m not a doc­tor and this isn’t med­ical advice (insert cus­tom­ary legal dis­claimer here). If the com­mon­sense writ­ing ergonom­ics adjust­ments described in this arti­cle don’t work for you, see a physi­cian. Repetitive stress injuries can end your writ­ing career, and some injuries do require sur­gi­cal fixes. Continue read­ing’s “Darkest Place” Horror Writing Contest is an inter­est­ing new online plat­form where writ­ers post their best work and read­ers find sto­ries to engage with. Inkit’s free con­test opened February 2, 2015, and the hor­ror theme is, “You are in the dark­est place in the world.” Submit short sto­ries: blood-curdlers, spine-tinglers, skin-crawlers, and hair-raisers to share your writ­ing, scare read­ers, and win great prizes like Amazon gift cards, cus­tom note­books and mugs, and story covers!

Vote for your favorites at and sub­mit your sto­ries. You’ll find a chap­ter from my mem­oir already submitted.