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April 2012

The Importance of Research in Book Writing

Writing a book is not easy, and the problem may have nothing to do with feeling uncreative, stressed or tired. The reason may be that you simply don't have enough information. Spending more time researching your topic may be just the answer - and this goes for fiction writers as well as nonfiction.

Good fiction and nonfiction are both based on knowledge. For fiction writers there are some excellent books available on a wide variety of subjects such as plot and character development - books describing lifestyles in various centuries for historical fiction, or forensic techniques for mystery writers.

Today it is often easy to do research without ever leaving home. Just head to the internet and check it out. You local library can be a great second source. But remember, nothing can replace what academics call orignial research: actually getting on the telephone and talking to a human being or going to see something you are actually writing about. You will discover that orginal research will enable you to add depth to your writing.

Research can be anything from a few minutes on the internet verifying a quotation, to a few hours or even days talking to sources or checking facts in libraries. And it can be very rewarding. If you discover that you are truly blocked and can't move forward with your writing, take some time to think about what you may be missing. You might find that a little bit of research is just what you need to get you started again.

[This post was created, with permission, from excerpts taken from Finish Your Book, co-authored by Karen Hodges Miller and Lorette Pruden.]

Rules for Using Copyrighted Material

When researching for your nonfiction book, you quite likely will turn up passages or comments from other published works that you would like to use. If so, what are the rules?

Fair use. Using material without the need to obtain permission is called "fair use." In the case of books, experts usually estimate you can use an aggregate of up to three hundred words freely as long as it included attribution.

If you quote just a paragraph from a book and mention the author and title, you don't need to obtain copyright permission. This does not include any article that is syndicated, under a byline, or individually copyrighted. Photographs, artwork, and cartoons will also require the permission of the copyright holder.

Paraphrasing. One way to circumvent copyright problems is to paraphrase what is said. Ideas are not copyrightable - only the specific words used to express them.

Public domain. Some things are not protected by copyright. They are considered to be in the public domain. Material goes into public domain if its original copyright was not renewed or if copyright protection has been exhausted.

Government publications are typically in the public domain, but this can be a gray area. If you plan to use extensive sections verbatim, it is wise to have a copyright search performed. When you are using just portions, no permission is needed, but it's a good idea to cite the specific source. Be aware that government publications often contain illustrations and other materials that are covered by individual copyrights. Read the fine print carefully.

The best rule is to use good common sense. Don't take from another writer something you would resent being used if you were the author. When in doubt, formally request permission to quote.

[This post was created, with permission, from excerpts taken from The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing, 5th edition, co-authored by Marilyn Ross and Sue Collier.]

Three Important Tips for Book Writing Beginners

If you are just beginning your first book project, here are three great tips regarding researching what your want to write about.

1. Research the internet. Online bookstore databases such as Amazon.com list books that are currently available or "in print" as well as out-of-print books. Make a subject search and print out the results. Try several alternative words as well. For example, for a book on parenting, try " parent", "mother", "father," etc.

Next make a search on your proposed or working title. This will tell you if such a title or something like it has recently been used.

Using the internet, see how much information is available on your subject. You'll want to gather details from every book, magazine article, database and resource you can find. Visit websites listed in appendices, and use search engines.

2. Obtain reference books. Even though your computer does a pretty fair job with spelling, grammar, and the thesaurus, every writer needs some reference books. The computer is not infallible when it comes to language use.

The least expensive places to buy dictionaries, style manuals and other reference books are used book stores. Some references may also be available in a digital format.

3. Attend writer's conference. Writer's conferences are markets that bring buyers and sellers together. These events inform, entertain and console. They are a venue for being inspired by successful authors and a place to meet editiors, agents and publishers. You will also meet other writers who are trying to figure out the secret of successful writing and getting published.

The end result is, the more research you do and the more material you find to reference, the better chance you have to successfully jump start your first book project.

[This post was create, with permission, from excerpts taken from Successful Nonfiction, authored by Dan Poynter.]

Writing Your Book - 4 Ways To Measure Your Progress

Writing a book is, in itself, a very big goal. Just the decision to write is a major step forward. Then you must write thousands of words organized into several chapters or sections. Book writing is a goal that cannot be accomplished in one or two afternoons. You will need several weeks, if not months, to finish the project.

To complete a goal of this size and complexity, the best idea is to break it down into parts - setting smaller goals along the way. As a first step, think about the process of writing - about the timing of your project and how to get it done. To keep the process part simple, here are four basic methods you can use to measure your progress.

1. Words written. Setting a goal of writing so many words, say 800, in a writing session can be an excellent way to measure progress. However, you won't get to 800 words unless you write word one. And if you get on a roll, keep writing. You don't have to stop when you reach 800. But if the last 100 words you write feel as if you are squeezing them out, give yourself permission to stop.

2. Sections or chapters. Another way to measure progress, and a way often used in technical writing, is to write by sections or chapters. There can be a rhythm to the chapter-writing process that can be comforting. Rewarding yourself for each chapter completed can be very satisfying.

3. Time writing. The third choice, time spent writing, is a little dicier. If you write 800 or 1000 words, at least they are on the page. And a chapter exists when you declare it "finished." Time, however, can pass with few or no words written. Many writers, to combat this, develop a discipline and structure of sitting down and writing at the same time of day, every day, for some number of hours. What is written at the end of that time is what they wrote for the day.

4. Deadlines. Journalists live by them. A book, however, is another thing altogether. It has to come to an end. Ask yourself, when is this book coming out? Then set your own deadline for achieving that objective.

The choice of process is yours. Try them all if you're not sure which will work for you. And if you find one that feels most natural to you, go with that.

[This post was created, with permission, from excerpts taken from Finish Your Book, A Time Management Guide for Writers, co-authored by Karen Hodges Miller and Lorette Pruden. To connect with either author, contact Open Door Publications, LLC.]

How to Put Eye Appeal Into Your Book Cover Design

[Nationally recognized book design professional, Karrie Ross, offers some great advice on how to use the visual aspects of your book cover design to create successful eye appeal.]

When creating eye appeal in your book cover, it is critical that you focus on three of the most significant visual aspects.

The first is color. Based on all the information you have gathered on your book's subject - things such as  industry and audience - you should be able to identify a color theme. For example, different audience age groups are attracted to certain color schemes based on the era they were born into and taught to react to. Just look at all the fast food chains out there...most of them are red, black and yellow.

The use of color is one of the parts used to form an immediate feeling of comfort, discomfort in your readers to evoke the action for them to take.

The second aspect is typeface. There is a feeling that your audience is subconsciously attracted to and that shows up in the typefaces that they are used to seeing - typefaces that gets their attention when buying. Also, the subject of your book has a lot to do with which typeface will project the feeling your want to project out to your readers.

The third aspect is photography or illustrative image. The image(s) you place on your cover is a partner to color. Each book subject has a metaphor, an image it produces in the viewers mind. The image is something that stirs their emotions and connects them to the book subject.

Paying close attention to how you manage color, typeface and image in your cover design will result not only in adding to the "pick-up" value of your book, but also the likeability in building a connection with the subconscious mind of your reader through stimulation. This is the beginning step in creating a know, like and trust value to the information you are about to give them.

[Among other services she offers, Karrie Ross is nationally recognized for her book cover design expertise she provides authors. She can be contacted at www.BookCoverDesign.com.]