Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Publish Your Book: First Steps

Getting your book published is like walking through a jungle filled with quicksand and wild beasts. Every step of the way, lurking in the shadows, you will encounter unscrupulous beings who are eager to feed your ego and separate you from your money.

If you cannot find a publisher, do not be discouraged: some of the world's greatest authors had the same problem. In 1855, Walt Whitman set type at his friend's printing company, then paid for the printing of the first edition of his unappreciated book of poems, the masterpiece titled Leaves of Grass. When the book reached the hands of ignorant book reviewers, one of these men who failed to understand Whitman's genius, optimism, and innovations, called Whitman "a pig rooting among garbage."

With the help of his wife, William Blake -- considered by his contemporaries to be a madman, and now regarded as one of the world's great poets -- handcrafted all his books in his own workshop at home. Some other once-ignored now-famous writers who have published independently (without a big publishing company) include Benjamin Franklin; Henry David Thoreau; Mark Twain (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn); Carl Sandburg; Rudyard Kipling; William Strunk, Jr. (The Elements of Style); D.H. Lawrence; Gertrude Stein; Beatrix Potter; the Bronte Sisters; John Galsworthy; Edgar Allan Poe; Robert Browning; George Bernard Shaw; Samuel Butler; William E.B. Du Bois; James Joyce (Ulysses); Percy Shelley; John Ruskin (Unto This Last); Anais Nin; and Virginia Woolf.

Do not become discouraged; do not give up. Here is a plan for finding a publisher, a plan that will keep you safe from predators.

1. The first step is to try to get a reliable literary agent. The vast majority of books published by "big" publishers are submitted to them by agents.
But you must be very careful, because there are many unethical persons in the publishing business. So you must find an honest agent.

2. Find an agent that is a member of the AAR. ... These agents must abide by a strict code of ethics and business practices. Here is their website:

There is some useful information on their website: read it carefully. The agent should not charge you any money unless they sell your book.(Unethical agents will take money from you beforehand; they will take your money for being your agent; and for "editing" your manuscript. Beware of this scam!) What the agent will (try to) do for you is to get your book to the right editor at a large publishing house; and then -- if the publisher wants your book -- the agent will get the best deal for you.

About the complications that can arise in the process ... Keep in mind that -- in addition to being a work of art -- when you offer your book to publishers, the book becomes a business project. And with any business arrangement, things can go wrong in many ways. The best way to prevent this is to:

a) Get an agent from the AAR only: do not trust agents who are not members of the AAR;
b) make sure that you like your agent and trust her or him;
c) educate yourself about book contracts: there are books about this subject that explain the typical book contract and what all the legal terms mean. (A good website for this information is the SFWA: -- it's a group for Science Fiction writers, but the information about book contracts is valuable for all writers.)

As a new writer, the biggest challenge you will face is to get an AAR agent interested in your work. ... Look at the AAR website, and pick out some agents who interest you. Read about their interests and needs, and see how they want to be contacted by you. Follow their instructions exactly. If they say, "send us the first 50 pages of your novel" in the mail -- then do that. Don't try to "beat the system" like a doctor I know: he thought that his novel was so great that he wanted the agent to read ALL of it, not just the first 50 pages. So he made type size very very small, and he fit 60,000 words onto the 50 pages. ... Of course, the agent could not read the manuscript, and it was rejected promptly.

Agents get hundreds of inquiries every week: somehow you will need to find a way to interest them. Make sure that your book is ready -- all complete -- and well edited, before you contact the agent. ... Then make sure you send a professional-looking presentation: a nice manuscript, and a nice letter. Spend a lot of time revising the 1-page letter that most agents ask for: this is your chance to impress them with your sincerity and style.

Lastly: keep writing! and keep reading. ... Do not be discouraged if the process of finding an agent takes a long time. Some of our greatest writers could not find one: Walt Whitman, Henry Thoreau, William Blake, and dozens others -- after many rejections, each of these great writers self-published his own book.

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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Read an Ebook Week 2011

Today is the last day of "Read an Ebook Week" in 2011. But that does not mean that we cannot read any more ebooks for the remainder of the year.

For more information about the week, visit the event's website:

For a comprehensive list of free ebooks, visit this web page on the Zorba Press site:

Michael Pastore, author
50 Benefits of Ebooks:
A Thinking Person's Guide to the Digital Reading Revolution

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Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Holiday Wisdom: Pay Attention to Your Family, Friends, Students and Co-Workers

It was the best of times,
it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom,
it was the age of foolishness,
it was the epoch of belief,
it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of Light,
it was the season of Darkness,
it was the spring of hope,
it was the winter of despair,
we had everything before us,
we had nothing before us, …
— Opening passage of “A Tale of Two Cities”

Charles Dickens’s famous first sentence — “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times … " — described the era of the French Revolution. The sentiment also fits perfectly to America’s holiday season, from Thanksgiving through the first days of the new year.

While most of us are filled with joy and gratitude as we unite with our families and friends, this is also the time when many persons experience dark thoughts, depression, and profound loneliness.

If you need help of any kind, do not hesitate to tell someone: a family member, a friend, or a neighbor. You are loved and cared about far more than you imagine.

If you cannot think of anyone who can help you, you can call your local Suicide Prevention and Crisis hotline. In Ithaca, their web page says: “Are you confused, overwhelmed, upset, or need someone to listen? Call the Crisisline at 607-272-1616 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255).” They offer free, confidential crisis counseling available 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

Pay attention to the people around you: your family, friends, students, co-workers. People are skilled at hiding their true feelings. The poem by Paul Lawrence Dunbar, titled “We Wear The Mask”, explains the problem of seeing into other persons.

WE wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!

Watching the 1946 film “It’s A Wonderful Life” always fills me with strange and remarkable ideas. The remainder of this message is for those of us who are reasonably happy and are able to provide help.

I was wondering what might happen during these holidays if each one of us reached out to someone — someone who we suspect may need a friend, or need someone to talk with. Suppose we reach out to someone by saying: “Do you need anything?”; or “How can I help you?”; or “Some time soon, let’s sit down with some coffee and let’s talk.”

Ithaca has been ranked as the USA’s best place to live, largely due to economic factors. Yet what matters — more than the quantifiable and measurable — is the invisible and unmeasurable: the happiness and well-being of each one of us.

Some people will argue that there is not very much that one person can do to improve the happiness of another. It is equally true that we can help others by the simple acts of listening sincerely and by giving them words of encouragement.

And it is a remarkable fact of human existence that “No drop of kindness is ever wasted.”

Michael Pastore
Epublishers Weekly
2010 December 08
Ithaca, New York
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Thursday, December 02, 2010

Change The World: Read Books About Utopia

Oscar Wilde, in one of his less cynical moods, wrote:

"A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which humanity is always landing."

Wikipedia is strangely lacking in its page about Utopian novels

Here is a longer list from the blog, Best Colleges

Dozens of other captivating works about Utopia could be added, including The Blythedale Romance (by Nathaniel Hawthorne); Watch the North Wind Rise (by Robert Graves); The Adventures of Mr Marigold (by Michael Tobias); and Thoreau Bound: A Utopian Romance in the Isles of Greece (by Michael Pastore).

We can shape our destinies: we can change our personal lives, we can change the direction of our world. What is the value of these utopian works? ... In addition to being a joy to read, these books expand our imaginations, and give us positive models of societies that are designed so that the first priority is the genuine needs of each individual. A healthy culture supports our lifelong growth and development into creative, caring and compassionate human beings.

Michael Pastore, Editorial Director
Epublishers Weekly

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Short Video: Disconnect to Connect

Here is a short "commercial" from Thailand, titled "Disconnect to Connect."

It highlights our collective addition to gadgets, and then points the way to the joy of human-to-human (H2H) genuine interactions and experience.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Are The New Gadgets Cutting-Edge Tools or Dangerous Distractions ?

This article from the New York Times highlights the raging battle between the Internet and the Book.
Most young people today are choosing the Internet, and the many gadgets that access the Net.

The great problem of our era is the problem of education and technology:
How can use our advanced communication technology for education, enjoyment, personal growth and a deep connection with others --
instead of burying ourselves in the lonely emptiness of cyberspace ?

The image in this post is from the WikiMedia commons, here:

and reproduced with a CopyLeft license.

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

President Obama Speaks in Indonesia

U.S.A. President Barack Obama gives an inspiring speech in Indonesia, on November 9, 2010. Obama's 30-minute talk describes America's partnership with Indonesia, sustainable development, how democracy promotes economic progress, and education for the future in a rapidly-changing world.

You can watch a video of the talk here:

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