If you have suggestions, corrections, or updates, or if you find broken links, please e-mail MSW
Action Writing (article)
Action Writing, physical
Advice from experts
Agents' Blogs
Agent Pitch Workshop
Articles of interest to writers
Area Codes
Book Cover Design
Book Doctors & Private Editors
Book lengths
Book Packagers and Producers
Book Publishers (small)
Books about Writing
Books to Study
Characteristics list
Characters: What they Want
Citing Sources 
Close-up & Long-shot
Contests to watch out for
Definitions: Short Story

Designing a website


Designing a book cover

Dialect: An article on using it

Dialog with Different Languages

Dialog tags
Dialog - Tom Swifty 
Digitalize Books, How to  
Discourse Types
Feminist Lit. Journals
Film terms for narrative
Flashback sample
Flashback, Undramatized  
Formatting Fiction
Free Advice!
Free exercises 
Free Indirect Speech 
Free Online Classes in All Subjects!
Grammar Resources  
Hero's Journey Story Structure
How Long Is a Novel?
Illusion in prose narrative
ISBN Numbers  
Journals & Literary Magazines
Lengths for stories 
Literary Agents
Literary Agents' Blogs
Literary Magazines & Journals
Literature Online
Logistics, physical 
Magical Realism
Management for Writers 
Marketing Your Book Conference
Markets for Literary Fiction
Memoir and Fiction
More Resources 
MFA Programs
Monologue & Minor Characters
Multiplot Novel
Names for characters
Novel length
Notes on omniscience
Online magazines 
Online Classes in all subjects
Pacing Fiction
Physical Action 
Pitching Your Book Workshop
Places that Publish
Places to Study Writing


Plot and Structure Ideas
Plot Notes
POD Publishers
Point of View
Point of View Chart
Present Tense  
Presses (Small)
Printers: Recommended book producers (not publishers)
Process and Product
Proof Reader's Marks
Pros and Cons of Present Tense 
Prose Fiction Length
Publicizing Your Book
Publishers (Small)
Query Letter Samples
Query Letters: Worst Ever
Quotidian Scenes and Objects
Readability of your prose
Resources Online


Scene example
Scene versus Summary
Self-publishing and Print-on-Demand 
Self-Publishing: One Writer's Story  
Short Story Defined  
Small Magazines & Journals
Small Presses
Smaller Publishers
Some Tricks of the Narrative Trade

Standard Lengths for Prose

Structure for Novels 
Structure for Long Narratives 
Story lengths 

Study writing



Tags in Dialogue

Tax Tips

Time in Fiction
Tom Swifties
Types of Discourse
Types of publishers 
Web Sites: Getting Your Own; Making Your Own
What Characters Want
Worst Query Letter Ever
Writing Classes
Writing for Children
Writers on writing
Writers' Conferences

Zip Codes






Resources for Writers

NOTE: Mention on this page does NOT constitute a recommendation from Meredith Sue Willis. These are things that looked interesting to me, or that people have recommended to me. Whenever possible, I include what the recommender said. Please check for yourself, and let me know of any broken links or information that needs to be updated.
                                        -- MSW




Having computer woes? Try a free newsletter, Ask Leo, that can be really useful. Leo says, "Computers are difficult and confusing beasts at times....I try make them less 'beastly.' [If you or someone you know] could use a little help... Just point them at: https://newsletter.askleo.com and invite them to come along for our ride. As you know, it's completely free."


Take a look at these:

Scribendi's glossary of Fiction Writing Terms

The Editor's Blog on Point-of-View and Time in Fiction

Plagiarism--Unrecognized consequences of plagiarism in Academia.

How much should you pay (or charge?) for various types of editing services? Here's a list of typical ranges.

Cheat sheet for people who use html (and this is Html 5)

Tips on taxes for indie writers, from the Turbotax people.

How to build a website: an excellent review of website programs, thanks (again!) to the mother/daughter team below.

A mother/daughter book writing team makes this recommendation: "a resource... that worked out great for us [is] 99designs book cover design.  After a lot of failed attempts with other freelancers (and a lot of money spent), we ended up with what we wanted and it was just a really great experience."

A frequently updated list of articles for writers on the web.

A Journal of Practical Writing

One writer's experience with She Writes Press

Publishing opportunity: The beautiful online Trainless Magazine is now accepting unsolicited fiction and nonfiction.

Featured Editors

Featured Place to Study Writing

Basic sources for submitting literary prose and poetry

A publicity toolkit for writers

A Short TED talk on world building in fantasy and science fiction.

Pet Peeves of Literary Agents.

One writer's story of his MFA program experience (on Laura Treacy Bennett's blog)

New website for proofediting.

Dear Writer,

This page has various pieces of information and links to other sites that I hope will be helpful to you. If you come to this as a complete amateur-- and keep in mind that amateur means you do something for the love of it-- you will find some basic ideas about getting published and the book business. For others, there are lots of odds and ends that you can find by scanning the topics in the column at the left.

The ideal publishing situation, which has become increasingly hard to achieve, is to get a literary agent to represent your work. The agent sells the finished book manuscript to a commercial publisher, and the editor at the publishing house works with you to perfect the book. And you, the writer, get paid. Usually, you get 10-15% of the cover price of each book that sells, and your agent gets 10% of everything you make on the book. This scenario has become more and more difficult to turn into reality. Even a published writer often discovers that if the first book doesn't become a best seller, then the publisher may turn down the second book.

More and more people have begun to pay for their own editing and even publishing their own work-- often before it's fully ready.  Before going to a book doctor or private editor, and certainly before self-publishing, I'd strongly suggesting taking a class or joining a writing group for mutual critique, or just getting friends to read your manuscript for reactions and suggestions.  I've belonged to a group of writers for about 25 years who get together every two weeks to critique one another's work. But non-writers can give excellent suggestions, especially about what seems to be missing or if there are things that don't make sense.

There is a lot of good material on the web and also lots of good books about writing. Explore, have fun, and good luck--

                                                -- MSW


More resources

The back pages of the following two publications have information about contests, literary magazines, and many other matters of interest to writers:

Poets & Writers Magazine
Poets & Writers
72 Spring Street
New York, NY 10012

Writers Chronicle
Associated Writing Programs
Tallwood House Mail Stop IE3
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030


For more commercially oriented information, try:

The Writer Magazine

Writers' Journal
Writers Digest
1507 Dana Avenue
Cincinnati, OH 45207
Also useful is Writers Digest's yearly publication Writer's Market.


Basic Sources for submitting literary poetry and prose

1. New Pages: Best source of everything at this time.
2. Poets & Writers
3. Poets Market (a book that you have to buy, but worth the investment for new writers:
4. Duotrope(has a fee)
5. CLMP's Member Directory:
6. Calls for Submissions on Facebook, (Poetry, Fiction, Art)
7. Don't forget to email CRWROPPS-B@yahoogroups.com and get on their list. They send out almost daily lists of places to submit poetry and prose. To add yourself to the list, send a blank email. You will receive a return message with further sign-up instructions.

Writers' Conferences

Start with the listings at NewPages or the Associated Writing Programs list.

Here's information on one specific conference about Pitching your book. It's the New York Writers Workshop "Perfect Pitch" workshop.


A not-inexpensive but popular marketing workshop called "Workshop The Novel, Pitch the House" that focuses on editors rather than agents.



Suzanne Rahn recommends the Algonkian conference in San Francisco. She says, "I enjoyed this conference very much. I stayed at the Fort Mason Hostel which was a 5 minute walk to the conference and 20 min walk to Fisherman's Wharf. I would recommend the hostel as an extremely affordable place to stay. There is even a small cafe in the building where you can overlook Alcatraz Island sipping a cup of chai tea. Very nice area.

"[Workshop leader] Michael Neff's credentials are listed on the website and his style is that of a literary 'Simon Cowell' but not so heartless. His workshop is designed to help a writer improve but he also won't sugar coat his opinion. His goal is to further a good story or help rescue a terrible story. I met several agents and publishers during the week and established a cordial friendship with Michael and the owners of the Larsen/Paloma agency.

"I would highly recommend this conference to any writer who wants to take a serious step towards firming up and pitching his or her novel."


Copyright information:

Quick Q's and A's on Copyright from Writers Digest.
Here is the government's information: Copyright

A few Best Selling books (fiction and nonfiction) that were rejected again and again:

Joyce's Dubliners
Richard Hooker's Mash
Thor Heyerdahl's Kon-Tiki
James M. Cain's The Postman Always Rings Twice
Patrick Dennis's Auntie Mame
Frank Herbert's Dune
Laurence Peter's The Peter Principle
and oh yes...
J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter

Resources on Plagiarism

Plagiarism--Unrecognized consequences of plagiarism in Academia.


An article online called "Understanding and Preventing Plagiarism"


Grammar Questions 

The Center for Writing Studies

Advice from Experts:

(By the way, I don't necessarily agree with all this advice, but it's fun to read!)

A former student of mine had a conversation with an ex-editor at a major New York publisher. "He started by reminding me," says the student, "that publishing a hard cover is very expensive. The publishers make money from selling hardcovers. There is a large profit margin there. But now the sales of hardcovers are decreasing while Ebooks are coming on stronger each year. The publishers haven't figured out, he said, how to make money from Ebooks yet. The profit margin is ridiculously small. And because they don't make money from this source, they don't market the books.

"Therefore, it seems, according to him, that they are staying with authors who have big reputations and can be relied upon to sell. The number of new authors they take on is minimal. I asked him if that meant I was engaged in an exercise of futility, and he said probably 'yes.'

"He also pointed out...that self-publishing on the net requires an enormous amount of personal marketing, and most Ebooks don't do well."


Elmore Leonard's Ten Rules of Writing

My Q & A page
Here's a free article from Book Doctor Carol Gaskin called "The Top Five Errors of New Writers." Click here for article.
Vonda McIntyre the science fiction writer has some wonderful, funny pitfalls of novel writing at pitfalls.



Improving your style

The Princeton Writing Center Resources


The Fog Index-- check how clear your writing is!


Readability Tests!




Time in Fiction

The Editor's Blog on Point-of-View and Time in Fiction



Scribendi's glossary of Fiction Writing Terms


Places to Study Writing and Other Things

New, and strictly online, is the Short & Helpful series of online seminars with feedback from the teachers.



Here's a web site that offers links to reputedly free Online Classes in All Subjects! That means everything from Writing to Math and anthropology. Take a look.


There are many, many places to study writing both in person and online. Check your local area for adult school classes.

The places I know best are in the New York-New Jersey area, but there are also a lot of possibilities online, including my occasional online classes. I will only list places here that I know at least a little about, or have heard something about from people I know. Mention here, however, does not constitute a recommendation by MSW. If you have a specific recommendation, please send it to me at meredithsuewillis@gmail.com for inclusion here.


The New York Writers Workshop is popular, and has classes in New York, New Jersey, the JCC in Manhattan, the New York Public Library, Online, and at other venues in New York City, nationwide, and abroad. They say: "New York Writers Workshop serves a thriving community of aspiring writers. We offer a variety of classes, workshops, conferences, mentoring and other resources for the beginning or established writer, in the areas of fiction, non-fiction, journalism, poetry, memoir, speech writing, screenwriting and playwriting...In addition to our regular curriculum, some of our other offerings include free presentations and workshops through The New York Public Library, the Andrew Glover Foundation, retirement homes and community centers....New York Writers Resources is a non-profit organization founded by a group of professional writers...dedicated to helping others achieve their literary goals."



An excellent serious place for workshops is the Sackett Street Writers' Workshop in Brooklyn and other locations around New York City. The instructors mostly have MFAs. Their website says that Sackett Street is "a salon-like workshop with small classes, an intimate environment, dedicated instructors and motivated students. Today, over 2000 writers have studied with us. Many have gone on to top MFA programs, and more and more are being published by both big houses and independent presses."


The Writers Studio has been around for twenty years and has in-person classes in New York and San Francisco plus online classes. Some people swear by it, but others say that the exercises, which are good, take all your writing time. Certainly worth looking into.


I teach at NYU's School of Professional Studies Center for Writing and Speech and it has a full range of courses that range from basic creative writing to advanced poetry, nonfiction and fiction. Very complete and solid.  The New School (also in New York City) offers a similar panoply of classes, as do other universities and colleges.


Gotham Writers'  Workshop offers both online writing classes and in person classes. They run a tremendous number of sections, and, like the Writers Studio, some people swear by them and others find the classes unmemorable. This probably has to do with which teacher you get. They have several levels for most classes and pretty strict rules about how their classes are run, including what they call "The Booth," which is a technique that requires the writer to listen and not defend his or her writing. Many teachers do the same thing informally in their classes, calling it listening to what people have to say.


Also consider Mediabistro, which has a full and interesting list.


My online courses are usually short, and I run them irregularly-- often in the summer or in January.


New, and strictly online, is the Short & Helpful series of online seminars with feedback from the teachers.


Tips on taxes for indie writers, from the Turbotax people. 


A Note on MFA Programs

Check out the Poets & Writers Guide to MFA Programs for basic information.

I don't list MFA programs here in general (although I might someday), but I have a few informal notes from participants. Denton Loving, for example, says, "I'm in the MFA program at Bennington College, and I love it. It's not easy, but it's a wonderful program, and I feel like I've learned so much in my first year. Jill McCorkle was my teacher for the past term, and I'll be working with Lynn Sharon Schwartz this coming term. The teachers really all are of the highest quality, and there's a great deal of emphasis on the importance of the writing. Obviously. But Bennington also stresses the importance of reading. Their motto is 'Read 100 books and Write 1.' And I really have read 50 books in the past twelve months. I'd be glad to tell you anything more that you want to know if you have other questions. But in general, I highly recommend the program."

Barbara Rosenblatt says of her MFA program at Goucher in Creative Nonfiction, "one of the best investments of time and money I ever made. It helped me to find my authority as a writer and led to my teaching memoir writing classes, which I love. However, I have to admit that I actually had more personal work published before the degree than after, but that is more due to my lack of focus in that arena....I would also be happy to speak with any student considering Goucher's low-residency MFA in Creative Nonfiction Writing." Write her at broseleaf@gmail.com.

I also received a strong recommendation from Lita Kurth, a recent MFA graduate, who wrote: "For people who want to get really serious about writing, I'd like to suggest my alma  mater, The Rainier Writers Workshop, a low-residency MFA program in Washington State that makes its on-site sessions convenient for students (You go there 10-11 days per year as opposed to many which require you to travel twice a year), has a wonderful esprit de corps, is willing to be flexible in a crisis, and offers superb teachers (of course, not everybody loves everybody). They send free shuttles to the airport to pick you up, and  they provide quite a few meals and a spartan but lovable dorm room, so you don't waste time making arrangements instead of reading and writing. Though the cost is similar to many other programs on the surface, these savings really add up.

"RWW is for people who want to study fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry or some combination (no screenwriting or plays). The student body also has an impressive age range (which I felt kept the neurosis level lower).

"Anyway, I just received my MFA there and have extremely warm and grateful feelings towards the people and program, so thought I'd let others know."


Finally, here is a good summary of one writer's experience with a part-time MFA program that might be a good fit for some people.


Looking for Free Peer Critiquing?


HarperCollins supports a site that is a community of writers who upload work for others to critique. Things that get a a lot of attention from other users is sent to the "Editor's Desk".


Sources of Literature Online

I have short stories, samples, and links to longer pieces online here. There are several sites that specialize in classics, generally out of copyright. Shop around, as some are more readable than others. Here are two:

Read Print New and very readable, a couple of Google ads at the top of the page.

Bartleby One of the first of these online libraries




Articles and web sites for writers (a new page)



Need names?

20,000 names
Random name generator :


Digitalize Your Books

A Good Company I've used for turning my hard copy books that were written on typewriters (yes, yes, I know...) into .pdf or .doc files, is Golden Images, LLC. Write to Stan Drew, who is very responsive to email, and does the work for what seems like a reasonable price to me.


Proofreader's marks


Espectially for Women

The International Women's Writing Guild

Feminist Literary Journals

(Thanks to Suzanne McConnell)

Calyx Box B Corvallis, OR 97339 Reads from Oct. 1 to Dec. 15
Mary Sue Koeppel, Editor Kalliope 3939 Roosevelt Blvd. Jacksonville, Fl. 32205
Caroline Zuschek, Fiction Editor (07) So To Speak SUB 1 Rm 254A George Mason University 4400 University Dr. MSN 2C5 Fairfax, VA 22030 13th Moon
These are Old: Check before using
IRIS: A Journal about Women Fiction Editor Box 323 HSC University of Virginia Charlottesville, VA 22908
The Editors Earth's Daughters P.O. Box 41 Buffalo, NY 14215
Room of One's Own (Canada's oldest fem. mag)

Writing Summary and Synopsis

Here are a couple of Youtubes that tell you all you need to know:
Daniel José Older
Jenna Moreci

Some Small Presses:

Academy Chicago http://www.academychicago.com/. Don't use electronic means of getting in touch with them.
Black Heron http://blackheron.mav.net/
Brighid's Fire Books  specializes in first fiction.
Bright Hill Press http://www.brighthillpress.org/
Carolina Wren Press
Chronicle Books http://www.chroniclebooks.com/site/catalog/
Coffee House Press http://www.coffeehousepress.org/
Four Walls http://www.fourwallseightwindows.com/
Ghost Road Press http://www.ghostroadpress.com
Grey Wolf http://www.graywolfpress.org/
Iris Publishing Group (Iris Press and Tellico Books) has been run by Robert Cumming for more than ten years and publishes writers like Ron Rash,Cathy Smith Bowers, and Jon Manchip White. They plan 10 books for 2007. Lately they have done more literary fiction and at least one work of nonfiction.
Leapfrog http://www.leapfrogpress.com/
Marsh Hawk Press is committed especially to publishing poetry that has an affinity to the visual arts. The artistic advisory board includes Toi Derricotte, Marilyn Hacker, Allan Kornblum, Alicia Ostriker, David Shapiro, ohn Yau, and Anne Waldman.

Midlist http://www.midlist.org/
MotesBooks is a new educational and literary press. The publisher is Kate Larken.
Nightboat at http://www.nightboat.org
Press 53 :  Small literary press, some emphasis on North Carolina and Appalachian writers, but much broader. Reprinting novels by John Ehle; upcoming includes Valerie Nieman.
Pudding House http://www.puddinghouse.com/
Red Hen http://www.redhen.org/
Sarabande http://www.sarabandebooks.org/
Toby Press http://www.tobypress.com/
Wind Press at http://windpub.com publishes poetry of the Appalachian region.
Word Press publishes poetry.


Publishers Specializing in Nonfiction and Self-Help

Morgan James Publishing is a new model publisher that works cooperatively with authors of nonfiction and self-help only. So don't take them your literary work, but do check them out if you have a high concept idea for a book on how to do something.


Literary Agents and others (including some agent blogs)

Some basic information about agents can be found on the Poets & Writers website at literary agents.  A big commercial publication about literary agents is Writers Guide to Book Editors, Publishers, and Literary Agents by Jeff Herman. Prima Publishing P.O. Box 1260BK Rocklin, CA 95677 (916) 632-4400 .
And just as food for thought, here are some Pet Peeves of Literary Agents.


Notes on Magical Realism

[From an article by Scott Elliott: “Warranted Magic: Writing and Discussing Magical Realism,” The Writer’s Chronicle, Volume 40, Number 6, May/Summer 2008, pp. 42 - 49.]
The term “Magical Realism” was coined in 1925 as a way to name the post-expressionist art produced in Weimar, Germany. It was first used for a kind of fascination with objects and a kind of magic that comes out of the objects themselves. Later, especially with Latin American fiction, it was used to describe writing with mythic and supernatural things and events.
Scott Elliott in the article referred to above suggests it is “an organic relationship between the extraordinary and the ordinary” that stretches the confines of traditional realism. Usually, early in the writing, even in the first line, there will be “clues that commonly accepted verities will be blurred, exaggerated, or played with.” (42)
A good example of Magical Realism would be Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude. Other examples include the Henry James’s story “The Jolly Corner;” Toni Morrison’s novels Song of Solomon and Beloved; Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian; and Nathaniel Hawthorne in his tales of Puritan New England.
The problem with writing magical realism– as with fantasy and experimental fiction– is to avoid the looseness of Anything Goes. How can you talk about Magical Realism? How judge its success beyond liking or disliking a particular work? Elliott suggests looking for the “warrant,” the thing that connects it (its “claim”) to the grounds and/or reasons for the thing (46). Thus one asks, Are the magical elements here warranted? What in this story requires the supernatural? The warrant is the “organic, connective tissue binding marvelous or magical elements to psychological truths.” (46)


MSW's Favorite Books About Writing

(In alphabetical order. Books that explained a lot to me)


Booth, Wayne C. The Rhetoric of Fiction

Burroway, Janet. Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft

Ciardi, John How Does a Poem Mean?

Paglia, Camille Break, Blow Burn (How her favorite poems work)

Silber, Joan The Art of Time in Fiction: As Long a It Takes.

Wood, James How Fiction Works


Bibliography of Books about Writing

Comments in quotations by various colleagues and students. If there are no quotation marks or other indication, the comments are by MSW.
Beginnings, Middles, and Ends. Writer's Digest Books, Cincinnati, OH.
Bernays and Painter. What If?: Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers, ;Harper Perennial, New York, 1990.
Bickham, Jack M., Scene and Structure. 1993.
Booth, Wayne C., The Rhetoric of Fiction, Second Edition, University ;of Chicago, 1983.
Bradbury, Ray, Zen in the Art of Writing, Bantam, NY 1990.
Buchman and Groves, The Writer's Digest Guide to Manuscript ;Formats. Writers Digest Books, Cincinnati, OH.
Burroway, Janet. Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft. Many ;editions, HarperCollins.
Chatman, Seymour, Story and Discourse: Narrative Structure in ;Fiction and Film. Cornell, Ithaca 1978.
Ciardi, John How Does a Poem Mean?
Dillard, Annie, The Writing Life.
Edelstein, Scott, Manuscript Submission. Writer's Digest Books, ;Cincinnati, OH, 1989.
Elbow, Peter. Writing With Power, Oxford, New York, 1981.
Fugard, Athol, Tsotsi.
Gardner, John, The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers. ;Vintage, 1991.
Goldberg, Natalie, Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, Shambala, Boston 1986. Also her Wild Mind.
Kernen, Robert Builing Better Plots, Writer's Digest Books, 1999.
Kundera, Milan, The Art of the Novel, HarperCollins, 1986.
The Literary Press and Magazine Directory 2006/2007: The Only Directory for the Serious Writer of Fiction and Poetry, Soft Skull Press, 2006. ISBN: 1933368160
Meredith, Robert, From Basic Idea to Finished Manuscript, Harper and Row, 1972.
Novel & Short Story Writer's Market 2007, 26th edition, by Lauren Mosko (Editor), Michael Schweer (Editor), Writers Digest Books, 2006. ISBN: 1582974306
Paglia, Camille Break, Blow Burn (How her favorite poems work)
Rockwell, F.A., How to Write Plots That Sell
Rodale, J.I. , The Synonym Finder , Warner Books, 1978. Recommended by a veteran journalist and writer of thrillers.
Sexton, Adam, Master Class in Fiction Writing: Lessons from ; Austen, Hemingway, and Others, McGraw-Hill, 2005. Excellent book on learning the tricks of the fiction writing trade by reading the masters from a well-known writer and teacher of writing.
Shertzer, Margaret, The Elements of Grammar, Collier Books. Recommended by a veteran journalist and writer of thrillers.
Silber, Joan, The Art of Time in Fiction: As Long a It Takes.
Stein, Sol, How to Grow a Novel: The Most Common Mistakes ;Writers Make and How to Overcome Them.
Sol Stein, Stein on Writing . "Author of nine novels, publisher, teacher and editor (he’s edited the work of James Baldwin, Jack Higgins, Lionel Trilling, W.H.Auden and Dylan Tomas), knows more than a thing or two about writing fiction. His 320-page book STEIN ON WRITING (ISBN 0312136080) has invaluable advice on every aspect of writing a novel."
Strunk, William and White, E.B., The Elements of Style, Macmillan, ;Many editions.
Willis, Meredith Sue:
-Blazing Pencils: A Guide to Writing Fiction & Essays, Teachers & Writers, New York, 1991, Montemayor 2013
-Deep Revision: A Guide for Teachers, Students, and Other Writers, Teachers & Writers, New York, 1993
-Personal Fiction Writing, Teachers & Writers, New York, 2001.
-Ten Strategies to Write Your Novel, Montemayor Press 2010
Wood, James, How Fiction Works, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 2008.
Ueland, Brenda, If You Want to Write

Zuckerman, Albert, Writing the Blockbuster Novel



A mother/daughter book writing team makes this recommendation: "a resource... that worked out great for us [is] 99designs book cover design.  After a lot of failed attempts with other freelancers (and a lot of money spent), we ended up with what we wanted and it was just a really great experience."

Here's a site with some thoughts on good (and bad) book cover design.



Types of Publishing; Pros and Cons of Self Publishing

Types of Publisher (A Publishing Continuum): Commercial; University presses/ larger small presses; Small Presses; Micro-mini presses; Co-operative Presses; Self-publishing; POD companies; Vanity Presses
Commercial Press: Advances! Puts you on T.V.! Author tour-- but-- sometimes no commitment at all. They often demand that you present a marketing "platform," make you do your own publicity, and they will drop you fast if your book does not sell a lot of copies very rapidly.
University press and large "small" press: Vary considerably: may make a real commitment, or not. Usually pay low advances or none, but do pay royalties. They often give little publicity, but are in many ways the mainstay of literature at the present time.
Small press: No cost to you, usually, but little profit either. They will expect in-kind support (set up your own readings, send out your own publicity). A good resource for more information for small presses is http://www.aeonix.com
Micro-mini press: No advance, possibly some shared costs with the writer. Like others, this type of press expects the author to do publicity and share the work.
Co-operative publishing: Shared costs and labor by a group-- often author owned, run, and managed (Otherwise, like micro-minis and small pressess).
Self-publishing: Join the likes of Lord Byron, Walt Whitman, and Anaïs Nin. You have to do everything, and might use a conventional printing press or print-on-demand technology. Note: Important distinction a technology called "print-on-demand," used by great conglomerates like Random house as well as tiny micro-mini presses, and POD companies. For more on this topic, see below.
POD companies like Xlibris, Iuniverse, 1stbook, and others will, for a reasonable cost, print anyone's book. They have lots of packages with rapidly escalating prices for fancy covers etc. Reviewers and bookstores tend to be suspicious of these companies, which make their prof by accommodating authors more than by selling books.
Vanity Presses: Expensive and very low prestige. In most cases, avoid them. (Dorrance, Vantage).
Self-Publishing and Print-on-Demand Self-publishing has always been a respectable option for writers who can't find a satisfactory commercial publisher. In self-publishing, the author does all the work, from having a cover made to finding a printer. Vanity publishing (sometimes distinguished from subsidy publishing), on the other hand, has a somewhat unsavory reputation. A Vanity Publisher does all the work for an author in exchange for a hefty fee, and often sells more services than the author needs. The ideal is a commercial publisher who will pay the author for her or his work, giving royalties or other compensation. Such a publisher expects to make some profit on the sale of the author's books, and is thus willing to pay for review copies, advertising, attractive covers, etc. Now, however, well into the twenty-first century, getting a commercial book publisher can be extremely difficult – even for books that would have been considered commercial twenty-five years ago. For a quick outline of why, read André Schiffrin's book The Business of Books, or, for a précis of his argument, see my review of it at Ethical Review of Books. Falling between self-publishing and vanity publishing is an option called POD (or sometimes "subsidy publishing"). POD stands for "print-on-demand," which is actually the name of the technology it uses. The print-on-demand technology is a means of digitalizing books and printing one book at a time or many books at a time. (Read a 2010 summary of what is happening in Print-on-Demand in The Economist.) This technology creates trade paperbacks that are indistinguishable from those printed by conventional offset presses. These books can be prepared to print for less than $100. Many commercial and small publishers use this technology to keep books in print that sell in small numbers or to bring into print books with niche markets. Without knowing it, you may have ordered a book from a large or small press that was printed by the print-on-demand technology.  Large commercial presses and small presses with very selective standards are openly and unapologetically using this technology as a way around the enormous costs of warehousing books.
The POD Companies, however, are large profit-making businesses who use the POD technology and work in much the same way as vanity publishers, but at less cost. Like vanity publishers, the POD companies generally work with amateur authors. There are exceptions: the Author's Guild, for example, a professional authors' organization, uses IUniverse to bring members' out-of-print books back into print. My first novel, A Space Apart, originally published at Scribner's, is part of that program. The POD companies take care of all the details for the author and offer many different packages and services. Like the vanity publishers, they don't do much publicity, but they do list your book on their web site and often link it to Amazon.com and other outlets. They have attractive web sites and enticing packages, some priced very reasonably, as well as lots of fancy ways of separating the author from more money. There is another problem: setting up your book is reasonably priced, but if you intend to sell copies yourself at readings or other events, it costs a LOT to buy copies of your own book from the POD companies. The standard author discount from a commercial or noncommercial publisher is 40%-- thus I just bought copies of my book ORADELL AT SEA which sells for $15 retail at $9 each-- I'll sell them at readings etc. maybe even at a discount, and still make a little.   The POD companies will charge you much more, so buying copies becomes an issue. Some of the best known POD companies like http://www.iuniverse.com and http://www.authorhouse.com/are now part of AuthorSolutions.com . They also have a Do-it-yourself subsidiary called Wordclay apparently designed to compete with Ron Pramshufer’s Self-Publishing.com and Lulu.com. For a blog on the experience of publishing with Lulu go to http://www.hyperorg.com/backissues/joho-aug21-06.html#hundred . Finally, here's an online version of an article (and review) from The American Book Review by Rochelle Ratner and one from PC Magazine. \ In sum, the POD producers are not a scam: they do what they promise, but read the fine print. Generally, even if you find ways to sell the books published with these companies, you still have to pay rather a lot to buy books to resell. Read also the following online article from Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc. about possible dangers of using the POD publishers: http://www.sfwa.org/beware/printondemand.html. Another article with a personal experience (and a blurb for Self-Publishing.com) is Jeannette Stricklen's piece “Writers—Beware of Subsidy Publishers, Vanity Publishers, and Poetry Websites ."

 http://www.infinitypublishing -- Lulu at http://www.lulu -- The Virtual Bookworm -- www.Blurb.com -- www.createspace.com (this is Amazon's business)


Latest places for self-publishing (April, 2014)

First, check out this comparison site: http://www.booksandtales.com/pod/ One thing to consider is the cost of finished books: Some printers only chard 3 or 4 dollars plus shipping.  Of, course LSI is our printer, not our publisher. Many of the POD companies make their profit by selling the books to the author for ten or twelve dollars each copy.  So finding out the cost of buying a supply of books is important.

Lulu.com often has good deals: http://www.lulu.com/publish/books


And finally, I've had students praise Createspace.com (Amazon's self-publisher) and Booklocker.com (See this article




She Writes Press

She Writes Press has an unusual business model. You pay, and pay quite a bit, but the services try to be like a commercial press. See their "How It Works Page.

One writer who has published two books with them says: "My experience with SWP has been mixed. I brought out two books with them, the first in May 2013 and the second, my novel, in October 2014. In the year and a half in between, [the press] went through a lot of changes, mostly for the good, particularly in terms of getting traditional distribution through Ingram.

"However, I had a really bad time with their proofreader. My galley of the novel was full of mistakes, and I had to use my own readers, three separate times, in fact, to vet all the mistakes.

"Then I was paired with a publicist who was less than useless and didn't get me a single pre-release review. The company was then sold to SparkPoint Studio – which has its own imprint and does publicity services for all kinds of authors, regardless of who publishes them. Crystal Patriarche is at the helm there, and she seems to know what she's doing.

"In sum, they're expensive, aggressively seeking to make a solid place for themselves in the publishing world, and pretty innovative. That said, I think when my current novel is done, I'm going to try to find myself an agent – I have one who's eager to read the book – and see what I can arrange for myself...."


One-Book-at-a-Time Printers (not POD Publishers)

Better than self-publishing, if you have the inclination, is to form your own small press with other people. This requires a dedication to literature and other people's works beyond your own book. If you do this, you will be entering a respectable and even admirable tradition of small presses. You also approach book producing companies-- printers, not publishers-- as you and your colleagues are the publisher. More and more book producers do both conventional printing and one-book-at-a-time printing, using the same technology as the POD companies. These companies may require your group to prove that you are a press, not an individual. You will be responsible for getting your own ISBN numbers and registering your copyright-- very doable, if you have a group to share responsibilities.  Lightning Source, Inc., for example, welcomes small presses and is helpful as long as the small press acts reasonably professional.

Conventional/Mixed Printers

Most printing companies, whatever type of press they use, work from digital files, so it hardly matters, as long as the final book looks good. One good printing company is Morris Publishing. You'll have to buy 500 or 1000 books at $1.50 to $4.00 each, so this is a fairly large investment that you then have to store as well as distribute, but the price is reasonable. Another full service printer with a long history and a reputation for being helpful to everyone is Edwards Brothers . Edwards also does Print-on-Demand ultra-short-run printing. Two more conventional printers are McNaughton &Gunn, Inc. and Whitehall Printing Company Also, look into

48hrbooks.com/ , who seem easy to use, friendly, and not unreasonably price-- and will happily do smaller numbers of books.




Convert Your Old Floppies!

If you have old floppy disks-- 5.25 inch or 3.5 inch formatted for PC or Apple computers- I recommend a company called RetroFloppy. They get the material off the disk for a reasonable price.  I had an old book taken off a floppy for under $7.00 (it would have been $ for postage too if I'd wanted the floppy disk back). They take the material off in a couple of formats you can use and post it all as a zip file online that you download once you're paid.


Web Sites: Getting One; Making One

Cheat sheet for people who use html (and this is Html 5)--html is the code for building websites.

Getting Your Own Web Page

If you don't have a web presence yet, you really ought to. To get your feet wet, you might try one of the major blog sites like Blogger and Word Press or a free web building site (usually meaning with ads). Check out http://www.easysitestarter.com/ as well as places like http://www.wix.com/ or http://www.weebly.com/. Another web host that has been recommended to me makes things easy and cheap for you: Homestead.com. There's lots more great information at Web Site Ideas 4 Writers.com . Basically, if you can fill in information in a form, you can have a website for free or very cheap.

Also consider buying the domain name with your name--thus, I own meredithsuewillis.com.  You can get these at several places, including www.domainbank.com. One way or another, you need a website. The Web is rapidly becoming an important place for writers' pieds-à-terre, or is it pied-à-cyberspace?

Designing a web page

Tutorials on making/getting a web site

Good List of Best Website Builders

(Thanks, Natasha Wentz for suggestions!)


Check out an article at Publishing Basics about what subsidy and vanity publishers are selling-- and keeping for themselves. I'm not especially recommending this company, Publishing Basics, by the way -- they are a for-profit resource center for self-publishers-- but they have a good newsletter with lots of tips. They are selling services, but are very up front about it, and understand the importance of sharing knowledge for free as well as selling it. Here are some POD companies that people I know have worked with:

-- Book Locker at http://booklocker.com/ -- Infinity Publishing at

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