How to Avoid 101 Book Publishing Blunders, Bloopers & Boo-Boos: how to successful publish a book by Judith Briles

When I picked up How to Avoid 101 Book Publishing Blunders, Bloopers & Boo-Boos: how to successful publish a book by Judith Briles, I decided to ignore the blooper in the title (successfully) in the hopes of some useful tidbits. I did indeed get some useful tidbits, however not 101, which was disappointing.

Some sections were geared towards authors who have managed to snag a traditional book publishing deal. Since I have not, although I haven’t given up hope of someday, the information about reading the fine print, making sure you keep your rights to republication, and getting the best deal of the book publishing company, didn’t apply to me. 

I did learn about the Amazon Advantage program. However, when I did more research, I discovered that this publishing platform is closed to new publishers (such as myself). Amazon has given no date for reopening, unfortunately. Since I can’t access the Amazon Advantage program, the chapters on finding a decent printer weren’t useful either. To publish on Amazon, currently I need to use Amazon’s print on demand service. 

Another Amazon program that has expired but is included in the blooper book is the Matchbook program, where you could offer a digital copy of your print book for a reduced price or free. This nifty feature was taken out of circulation in October of 2019. Phooey. 

Not everything presented was obsolete or irreverent though. I really liked the idea of creating a tag line that expresses what my books (or me) do to benefit the reader. I also appreciated the suggestion to add a copyright watermark to images that I have created and share on social media. 

Overall, I was disappointed with the amount of useful information I found in this book that had such high ratings on Amazon. Some chapters seemed redundant, others weren’t useful since the feature wasn’t available anymore, and others were irrelevant to my particular writing situation. If you are a first-time author looking for the tricks of the trade, I can’t say that I recommend How to Avoid 101 Book Publishing Blunders, Bloopers & Boo-Boos: how to successful publish a book by Judith Briles.

Black Thumb Greenhouse: How to Take Your Self-Sufficient Homestead from Dream to Reality: An Introduction to Greenhouse Gardening even Cactus-Killers can Master by J.D. Isaly

J.D. Isaly has done a magnificent job of describing greenhouse options, detailing necessary components to successful greenhouse gardening, and discussing plants that do well in greenhouse conditions. The information about the history of the greenhouse and the benefits of utilizing a greenhouse were well-researched and clearly presented. 

The author shared his extensive knowledge about greenhouse construction and its upkeep. Since I have been dithering back and forth about whether I wanted to invest in a greenhouse to extend my growing season, I read this book eagerly. After I finished, I decided that a greenhouse is not in the near future because of the growing conditions in my area based on the information Isaly provided. Thus, you can see that the thorough treatment of the topic would be extremely beneficial to anyone considering or ready to take the leap into greenhouse gardening.

I especially liked how the author talked about how gardening can provide physical and mental benefits to the gardener. Anyone who putters around in the soil can attest to the contentment felt out digging in the dirt. Of course, the physical activity involved in gardening is beneficial to staying in shape as is the option of eating non-GMO, organic produce. Interspersed between the chapters were short, fascinating trivia tidbits about plants under the heading “Did you know?”

The only thing I felt would have added to this informative text were drawings. For instance, when the author was explaining the relative merit of different types of greenhouses, I would have liked to have had a picture to help me understand the descriptions better. Or when describing the drainage system, I didn’t really have a clear idea of what the v-shaped flood floor consisted of. An illustration would have been helpful here too.

So if you are considering setting a greenhouse to augment your food production, then Black Thumb Greenhouse: How to Take Your Self-Sufficient Homestead from Dream to Reality: An Introduction to Greenhouse Gardening even Cactus-Killers can Master by J.D. Isaly is the perfect book to help you begin.

I received an ARC from Reedsy Discovery. You can read my review here.

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

I’ve read both negative and positive reviews of American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins. The controversy piqued my curiosity and I read the book. After finishing, I have to say that some of the outrage by the Latino community was warranted, but that didn’t make it a horrible read. 

The action begins right from the first page. A shoot-out at a quinceanera barbeque—ok, stop right there. Anyone who knows anything about Mexican culture will tell you that relegating the formal pageantry and coming-of-age ceremony of a quinceanera to a backyard barbeque, with potato salad no less, is sacrilege. 

The cartel, naturally, is the aggressor, the target, a journalist’s family. Since Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists, the scenario seems plausible. However, describing the shooters as “the modern bogeymen of urban Mexico”, well, the boogeyman isn’t a Mexican creature, but maybe the author meant El Cucuy. 

Mexican currency at the time American Dirt was written.

Lydia and her 8-year old son Luca are the only survivors of the massacre. Knowing she can’t rely on the police, Lydia flees with just a few things she takes from her mother’s house. She pays the hotel’s 4,000 pesos deposit with four pink bills—hold up. The pink bills are each worth 50 pesos each, so she actually pays 200 pesos. The color of money is mentioned again when Lydia needs to pay 10,000 pesos. She lays down 7 pink, 2 orange, and one blue bill, so that would be well, I don’t know. Are we playing Monopoly here because there aren’t any orange bills in Mexican currency?  Maybe the orange ones are the 100 peso bill? 

The head of the cartel that Lydia and her son must hide from is known as La Lechuza, who according to Lydia’s husband could have been the next Bill Gates–really, what’s wrong with a reference to Carlos Slim here? Yes, the criminal leader of the big bad cartel organization is called La Lechuza, just like the popular children’s song, although there is no reference to this song in the story at all. Since the song is about putting people to sleep, it would have certainly added a creep factor if nothing else. 

Lydia comments that La Lechuza is a terrible name since owls aren’t scary. However, it’s common knowledge in Mexico that la lechuza is often a precursor of death, a bad omen, certainly no laughing matter. But again, none of this was mentioned in the book. 

There were more references that just took away from the authenticity, an Italian meal in San Miguel de Allende (not carnitas), ginger ale (not Coca) stored in the Abuela’s basement (who has a basement?), police officers dreaming about pot roast (not tacos), a girl from Honduras looking like an Aztec (not Maya) warrior, the journey measured in miles (not kilometers), using the word vertedero (not basurero), drinking water from the tap (just not done) and so on. 

However, despite it all, I have to admit it was an engaging read. From the get-go I was invested in the outcome, as implausible as some of it seemed. But then again, it was a work of fiction, a fantasy of sorts, so it was ok. Anyway, if you are looking for something that not only provides an exciting adventure but also tests your knowledge of Mexican culture in an alternate universe since it depicts neither an authentic Mexico nor a typical migrant experience, well then American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins is just the ticket. 

Calling Myself Home: Living Simply, Following Your Heart and What Happens When You Jump by Robin Rainbow Gate

There were several things that resonated with me personally in the memoir Calling Myself Home: Living Simply, Following your Heart and What Happens When You Jump by Robin Rainbow Gate. Although I didn’t have her more privileged childhood, I too, heard the call to Mexico and found myself home in this rural, brilliantly colored land. 

The author studied herbal lore extensively, learning at the feet of some amazing herboleras (herbalists) on both sides of the border. The book thus is divided into sections that coincide with the concept of the Medicine Wheel, as understood by the Native Americans and Mexicas. 

There is considerable time devoted to the author’s childhood and early memories. At first I was frustrated, ready to get to the journey in Mexico. However, as I read, I realized that in order to understand how the author came to be where she was, it was important to see where she had been. 

The author’s life as she settled and embraced Mexico was as fulfilling as you’d expect. She described her wanderings in mountain villages, frustrations with a new way of learning, experiences with unknown sights, sounds, and tastes and her gradual growth as a person as a result of these things. 

Delightfully, at the end of the book, there are self-reflection questions so that the reader too can devise a plan to live life more fully. Honestly, there aren’t many women who would or could follow in the author’s footsteps. However, we each have our own path to follow, some of which cross the mountains and deserts of Mexico. The questions provide an excellent starting point for anyone looking for a more authentic life. Perhaps you’ll too find Mexico calling.

Click here to read more about Robin Rainbow Gate.

Yucatán with Kids: A Travel Guide

Mexico Cassie has done it again. The author of Moving To Mérida: How To Successfully Move To Mexico As A Family has created an excellent guidebook to exploring the Mexican state of Yucatán with kids, naturally called Yucatán with Kids: A Travel Guide. 

This book includes pronunciation assistance for the Mayan place names you will be visiting. It highlights the best beaches, cenotes, and archaeological sites to take your kids. It does a great job of giving pertinent information, like how difficult the cenote is to access, so that you can plan accordingly. It also includes information on haciendas, natural spaces, caves, and inland cities and towns you can take your children, including Mérida and Valladolid. 

Towards the end of the book, Cassie includes two road-trip suggestions for traveling in Yucatán state and surrounding areas. There are notes on food, national festivals, safety and tips for traveling with children. As a guidebook for families with children exploring the area, it can’t be beat.

There were some editing issues that kept me from giving this book the highest rating, however. These are probably things that won’t bother the average reader, but I’m picky. First, the author says she wasn’t going to include pictures because most people would be reading an e-book version. What’s a guidebook without pictures? Since the majority of locations were places the author herself has visited with her family, I’m positive she has oodles of lovely images. And you can absolutely use pictures in e-books. It takes more time formatting, but it would have taken this book over the top.

Note from the author: Photos to accompany the book are on my website, a formatting decision that may not work for everyone but makes the book more affordable and given that most travel books are now sold as ebooks, works well.

Then there were some terms that were mistranslated, although they were understandable errors. The first was Río Lagartos which she informs her readers means Alligator river. No, it doesn’t. The word lagarto translates as lizard in English. Since the crocodiles that live there do indeed resemble very large lizards, Lizard River was an apt name. 

Note from the author: The story about crocodiles and alligators does not come from me but is something told by guides and locals in Río Lagartos.

Another term that caught my attention was the word sarteneja which the author said translated as cistern. The Spanish online dictionary defined sarteneja as another term for bache (pothole). Further research informed me that sartenejas were crevices of naturally found water deposits. So I expect this is a Mayan term that originally referred to areas where water collected and now is used to talk about the structures that hold water. In my area, these are called aljibes and in areas more central in Mexico, I’ve heard the term pila. 

The third mistranslation was concerning the local sun god, Kinich Ahau. The author goes through the etymology of the word, stating kin means sun, ich means face and ahau means lord or priest. However, ich translates as both face and eye in Mayan. As most representations of the sun god have a sun literally in the eye of the carving, k’inich is thought to be more accurately translated as sun-eyed, rather than sun-faced. 

There were also some proofreading errors that should have been corrected before this book was released. In some places río (river) and ría (estuary) were used interchangeably and lacked accents. Then, when listing culinary delights, she mentioned chicharra and castacán as pork dishes. Well, castacán is indeed a local pork dish. However, chicharra is the word for cicada. While cicadas are, in fact, a delicacy in Mexico, they taste more like shrimp than pork, according to sources who have tried them. I believe the word she meant to use was chicharrón, pork rind. 

Note from the author: It is necessary to point out that chicharra is, indeed, a correct term for chicharron in Yucatán.

Towards the end of the book, it felt like I was reading the author’s travel notes rather than a guidebook. Sentences were incomplete, months and days were abbreviated, capitalization and accents became randomized and well, it felt rushed. There were some items that could have been explained a little better. For instance, she mentions Pueblos Mágicos. Anyone living in Mexico would know that she referred to select towns that received revinalization money in recent years to encourage tourism. However, travelers to Mexico might not have that information. 

All of these petty little negatives should not take away from the fact that as a guidebook for families with children who wish to travel in Yucatán state, Yucatán with Kids: A Travel Guide is top-notch. Available on Gumroad and Amazon.

I received an ARC from the author.

Blog to Book Project–Advanced Reader’s/Reviewer’s Copies (ARC)

ARC stands for Advanced Reader’s (or Reviewer’s) Copy. It’s a copy of your book that you give to someone before your official book launch. The idea is for these reviewers or Beta readers to have access to your writing so that you can gather testimonials, feedback, and even reviews before your book is published.

So how do you get an ARC copy if your book isn’t published yet? Well, it depends on the publishing platform you are using and the formatting template you chose.

proof

Amazon allows you to order a publisher’s proof before your print book goes live so that you can check for formatting errors. The publisher’s proof is exactly how your book will look once it’s released, provided you don’t make any changes, except there is a message on the cover that states it is a proof and not for resale. As an author, you can purchase up to five copies at a time. You’ll be able to send these as gifts to Beta readers, reviewers, or book bloggers.

Screenshot (574)

If you are using Pressbooks as your book formatting template, you have a few digital options. You can download your book in PDF, EPUB, or MOBI format to your computer and then just send the file via email. You can also provide the link to your webbook. The address of your webbook is what you see when you click on “Visit Book.”

If you are using Microsoft Word, you can also download a .docx or PDF version you can send to reviewers. Honestly, these are my least favorite format to receive when reading books. When I can, I take the time to use a converter to change the file to MOBI for easier reading on my Kindle. I use Zamzar, which is free online.

You could also publish your book but not publicize the fact. This technique is known as a soft launch. You can gift books to reviewers, or set up a free promotion so that readers can get a copy without buying it just yet. Remember, though, for the review to carry weight with Amazon, it needs to be a verified purchase.

So, another way to provide the book at a discounted is to set the price at $0.99 during the time you are looking for reviews. Then when you are ready for your official book launch, change the price to what you usually would be asking for your book. That way, those reviewers you purchased your book at $0.99 will be able to publish a verified review.

When sending out your advanced reviewer’s copies, be sure to ask what format the reader would like to receive their copy of the book. Also, be sure to include launch day information, so readers have an idea of how long they have to read the book, and any testimonials and reviews will be ready before then. A reviewer should always disclose the fact that he or she received an ARC in their review.

Remember, you can’t force someone to leave a review even if you have given your book away for free. A few reminder emails are ok but don’t start badgering people. Nor can you control what a person might write in a review. You may get some bad reviews. Decide if what the person says is valid or not, then either do some editing or let it go.

Assignment: Decide how you will distribute your ARC.

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ebook cover
Click on the image for a preview!

For Love and Honor by Jody Hedlund

for love and honor

Sir Bennet finds himself in a bit of a quandary.  His elder brother, Aldric, the Baron of Windsor, has made a mess of the family finances and it’s up to Sir Bennet to make things right.  An arranged marriage with wealthy Lady Sabine might just solve the problem.  Not knowing that she is on her way to meet her potential husband, Lady Sabine believes the reason for the trip to Maidstone Castle is to view the renowned relic collection housed there with the hopes of acquiring a few of the ancient pieces.  Little does she realize that the birthmark she hides beneath her glove will be proof enough to be labeled a witch, endangering her own life and the lives of all who surround her unless she is able to prove her innocence.

This novel is written with teens and young adults in mind.  The story is light and romantic. Lady Sabine are Sir Bennet are likable characters and their interactions during their courtship are entertaining.  The discussion questions that follow the story are designed to help teen girls reflect on their own lives.  This book would make a great addition to units on life in the 1300s, superstitions in medieval Europe and the belief systems of the time.

Although there is no Maidstone Castle in Hampton, where this story takes place, there is a castle near Maidstone which dates to the medieval ages.  The setting adds to the romantic nature of the story.

Set in the middle ages, the accusation of being a witch was a serious matter. A person could be accused of witchcraft for a number of reasons but one of the most common was having a witch’s mark in the form of moles, scars, or birthmarks.  Once accused, innocence could be proven through certain physical trials.

Water-ordeal
By Diebold Schilling the Younger

Three trials are mentioned in the story, although there were many more.  Trial by ordeal, where an accused witch was subjected to some sort of physical punishment.  Rapid healing of the wounds inflicted during the ordeal meant the accused was innocent.  However, if the wound became infected, he or she was guilty.  Trial by dunking was another common test.  The accused would be thrown into a body of water from a boat.  If the accused sank, innocence was the verdict and he or she would be pulled up into the boat.  If the accused floated, it meant he or she had renounced baptism by entering the Devil’s service.  The idea of water being so pure an element that it rejects the guilty originates with Pliney the Elder in his Naturalis Historia, BK VII (AD 70) which states that witches will never drown.

The third trial mentioned in the book was The Lord’s Prayer Test.  The accused is asked to recite the Lord’s Prayer.  If he or she is able to recite the prayer without misspeaking, then the accused would be declared innocent since it was thought that the Devil would not allow one of his servants to do so.

Get your copy here.  Read other reviews of the book here.

3 star

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255  “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

When Leaves Fall by C.A. King


Ralph just can’t quite understand how he got to where he is, chained to a rickety shelter, and in pain from random beatings.  His life wasn’t always like this.  He remembers being loved, having regular meals and jumping in the fallen leaves.  As time passes, his despair turns to desperation.  How long is he to suffer?

dog2

When Leaves Fall by C.A. King is a short, young adult novel told through the perspective of an abused canine.  As we’ve had more than our share of doggy family members, the story appealed to me emotionally. 

dog1

Chained, malnourished dogs are a common sight here in Mexico, especially with types of dogs bred for fighting.  In January of 2017, the Mexican Congress passed a law that takes the country one step closer to ensuring this inhumane activity can be penalized throughout the country. (See Mexico says ‘no mas’ to dogfighting) In June of the same year, the law was finally approved. Dog fighting is illegal in Mexico, punishable by up to 5 years in jail and $8,300 USD in fines.  If the offender is a Mexican public official, jail time is increased up to 7.5 years. (See Dog fights as sport now illegal in Mexico

dog3

Although I enjoyed When Leaves Fall by C.A. King, there were a few things that I think the author could have done to add to Ralph’s story.  First, Ralph is never identified by breed, so the reader never gets a clear picture of Ralph.  I understand that the author wanted to be inclusive by implying that this could happen to any type of dog classified as “dangerous” but I felt it detracted from the story. While I was reading, I was jumping back and forth with different dog bodies trying to get a good image of Ralph in my mind. 

Secondly, the section of the book that was not told through Ralph’s eyes didn’t seem realistic to me.  Would a woman return an engagement ring in a courtroom over animal abuse?  Although there are established ties between animal abuse and domestic violence (How Are Animal Abuse and Family Violence Linked? ), statistics show that it takes some time for a woman to leave an abusive relationship permanently. (See Eliminate That Seven Times Statistic, 50 Obstacles to Leaving: 1-10).  Is it realistic to believe that what happened to Ralph was enough to save Syndey and her unborn child from the potentially abusive relationship?

Interestingly, many of Ralph’s thoughts as a victim mirror what the mental process of a human victim of abuse. (See EFFECTS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, DOMESTIC ABUSE (ON WOMEN AND CHILDREN).

3 star

Animal lovers and compassionate young adult readers will enjoy When Leaves Fall by C.A. King.  As the writing is somewhat simplistic in an effort to present the situation through the dog’s eyes, this book might not appeal to everyone.

Read more about this book here.  This book was an OnlineBookClub.org Book of the Day.

If the Bed Falls In by Paul Casselle

if the bed falls in

Tom Friday is a slightly overweight struggling photographer battling middle age lethargy, or is he?  One day, just like any other day in his humdrum life, Tom wakes up in Joseph Miller’s car in West London.  The Beretta PX4 Storm in the glove box comes in handy when Tom decides to check out Joseph’s home and meets some bad guys.  Characters in Tom’s life start overlapping those in Joseph’s world.  Is Sarah Tom’s long-time platonic friend or Tilda, Joseph’s dead wife?  Accents start changing as well. Preston, a casual acquaintance of Tom’s, formerly a British up and coming artist, now has a pronounced Baltimore twang. Is it a cocaine-induced hallucination or is there something to this cloak and dagger stuff?  

I was surprised to find that what I believed to be a British spy novel actually was a Prepper conspiracy theory book in disguise. Somehow Amschel Rothschild was involved in Tom/Joseph’s identity crisis along with the incorrectly misattributed quote “Let me control the money of a nation, and I care not who makes its laws.”  That opened a whole new can of worms which included the CIA,  the Federal Reserve, and the fictional US President Harrington.  

Much to my delight, I learned some new vocabulary in the course of reading If the Bed Falls In by Paul Casselle.  Did you know that the term Limey is a slightly derogatory term used to refer to a British person?  It comes from the practice of British sailors sucking on limes to prevent scurvy and is North American in origin.  A mortise is a hole cut in a door frame designed to meet up with the lock section in the door once the key is turned. Scrumping is the act of stealing withered apples usually by scaling a wall or fence. Unfortunately, I’m still not quite clear what the adverb bolshily might be, possibly coming from the word boshy.

The desk clerk, Cyril, was my absolute favorite character in the book.  Remicient of Angus Bough, Johnny English’s assistant, he does whatever he can to aid his favorite hero.

3 star

Will you enjoy reading  If the Bed Falls In by Paul Casselle?  If you enjoy spy novels, then yes.  If you don’t, well, then no.

Read more about this book here.  Get your own copy here.  This book was an OnlineBookClub.org Book of the Day.