OK, so I can’t remember the last time I posted here. I’d love to post at least once a week, but designing takes so much time that I don’t know when I’d write! And there’s running the business, kids’ schedules, you know. 😉 Anyhow, I was recently interviewed by a colleague, Michael Dowling, for his newsletter, The Write Stuff. He’s a fantastic editor, ghostwriter, and publishing professional. If you’ve ever wondered whether book design is a luxury or necessity, you’ll want to read this article. http://www.michaeljdowling.com/newsletters/2014-08-three-things-success-book.html. You may want to sign up for his newsletter, too, as it always contains great info about publishing and writing.

I’d love to know your experience with book design, good or bad! And I’ll do my best to start posting here much more often. Thanks bunches and blessings to you. 🙂


Hi, everyone! Today’s guest post is written by Emma Taylor, a freelance writer and blogger who regularly writes for Accreditedonlinecolleges.com. I found her analysis of the potential scams from these companies spot-on. One comment I’d like to add is that many of these companies call themselves self-publishers, but that’s really a misnomer. They are either assisting you in truly publishing yourself or they become your publisher. Each is a different role and can cause you to think differently about what you are doing.

Thanks so much for sharing, Emma!


For many writers who’ve faced rejection after rejection from publishing houses, self-publishing can start to look like a pretty good idea. While there are writers out there who’ve managed to make self-publishing work for them, there are risks involved with self-publishing that every writer should know about. Namely that some self-publishing companies may be pretty shady and could cost you extra time and money if you’re not aware of the kinds of scams they run. Here are some of the most common scams that happen in self-publishing, a list that anyone even considering self-publication should read before entering into any kind of agreement or paying any fees associated with self-publishing.

  1. Excessively flattering offers

    Who doesn’t like to have their ego stroked now and then? While it can be a great self-esteem boost, when it’s coming from a publisher you might want to beware. Unscrupulous publishers may be using this as a method to manipulate you and are trying to butter you up in order to gain your business. While your writing may indeed by great and you may really deserve to be published, legit publishers won’t bother with all the flattery. Regard excessive flattery as a red flag and avoid companies that try to compliment you into doing business with them.

  2. Promises that are too good to be true.

    If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” is an adage that holds as true for self-publishing as it does for other aspects of life. Some self-publishers may promise you that they can get your book into every bookstore in America, which sounds great and may prompt you to pay more to go with this company. The thing is, this promise doesn’t mean much of anything. Your book won’t be stocked on the shelves of most bookstores but will merely be available to order should customers request it. Not so great now, huh?

  3. Copyrighting tricks

    Is your self-publisher harping on how hard and expensive it is to get an ISBN number for your book and a copyright? They’re probably scamming you if they offer to help you with those details for a fee. In fact, it’s actually quite simple to get both of these and shouldn’t cost more than $160 for both. You can purchase an ISBN from the agency directly (and depending on the type of book you’re writing, you may not even need an ISBN at all) and you automatically own the copyright to your work, but you can register it with the Library of Congress for a mere $35.

  4. Crazy contracts

    If you can’t understand the contract a self-publishing company is presenting you with, there’s probably a reason they don’t want to make it easy for you. Never sign anything without understanding what it is you’re doing first. You may need to get a lawyer to look it over. Additionally, never be afraid to ask how and how much you’ll be paid before signing anything.

  5. Suspect marketing

    If you’ve done any shopping around for self-publishers, you’ve probably come across a variety of all-inclusive packages that include editing, proofreading, sales, publicity, and shipping. Yet these extra materials and services may not do much for you at all and are often things you could easily do yourself for a fraction of the cost (or for free). These marketing materials very often include little other than press releases (which will likely end up in the garbage as they’re sent out en masse by just about every publisher) and a listing in a book catalog. You’d be better off contacting local papers, libraries, book clubs, and bookstores on your own and penning your own press release.

  1. Vanity publishing

    Many self-publishers are what are referred to as “vanity publishers.” They offer authors a chance to get their books in print for a fee and often advertise that they “need” more authors. Any legitimate company will never “need” more authors, as should be clear to anyone who’s ever tried to write a book. These companies charge unsuspecting authors to publish their work, often producing works that are poorly written, aren’t proofread, have terrible covers, and for all intents and purposes are virtually worthless. That is, to everyone except the publisher, who makes thousands of dollars from the author.

  2. Guaranteeing success

    There is never a way to guarantee that a book will be successful, and you can assume anyone claiming otherwise is totally full of it. There is no way to get instant success, become an overnight star, or ensure that you’ll take this book to the top. It’s a risk, and it takes a lot of hard work and determination, no matter what a publisher will tell you. Real, legitimate publishers will never promise that your book will be a best-seller or will achieve any level of success. No one can promise that, and anyone who does is just looking to take your money.

  3. Promises to make your book “available.”

    While it might sound great that your book will be listed on Amazon and will be available to distributors, this is pretty much meaningless when it comes to your success as an author. First, anyone can list a book on Amazon. Secondly, most bookstores won’t touch publish-on-demand books. Why? Because they can’t be returned if they don’t sell. Most scammy self-publishing companies won’t offer distribution services, which usually means your book is pretty much dead in the water short of a miracle. Choose a publisher that will serve you well and can actually help you to get your work into a bookstore.

  4. Editor services and referrals.

    If a self-publisher offers to edit your book for a fee or refers you to a specific (and often very expensive) editor, then you should be quite cautious that you might be getting scammed. Often, editing services provided by unscrupulous publishers are little more than spell check, and you can likely get editing services for far less money somewhere else. If you feel like you’re being ripped off, get a second opinion.

  5. Offering discounts to authors for resale.

    It might seem great that a publisher would offer discounts on your books so that you can purchase them yourself and resell them, but this is usually a sign that a publisher is working you over for more money. Chances are pretty good that in most cases, you won’t be able to sell those books because they’ll be low quality or bookstores just won’t carry them. Additionally, these discounts aren’t available to retailers who might want to purchase the books, lowering their incentive to purchase the books as they won’t be able to make enough of a profit.

Emma loves to write blogging, writing, education related articles and can be reached at: emma.taylor15@gmail.com.

Publishing your own book—no stigma needed!

Even as nontraditional publishing continues to grow—there is still a stigma attached to self-publishing. I’ve read the articles, I’ve seen the tweets. There is still a pervasive belief that self-publishing is somehow “settling”—and probably your only option because you were rejected by all the traditional publishers.

That, of course, is nonsense. For many authors, self-publishing—independent publishing—makes the most sense creatively and financially. These are the authors who have done their homework. These are the authors who are original and creative—and who know what it takes to run a successful publishing business. The quality of their books—both the way the work is written and edited, and the way it looks physically—matches that of those put out by large traditional houses.

Potential readers pick up their books not knowing—and not caring—who the publisher is. (Do you know who Stephen King’s publisher is? Do you care?) I’ve been criticized for saying that a well-done self-published book should not be identifiable as such; apparently it’s somehow “immoral” or “misleading” to put out a quality, top-notch piece of work. Eh. Whatever.

Indie publishing is here to stay, and I hope as more authors do it “right,” any remnant stigmas ultimately fall to the wayside.

Meanwhile, though, how do you make sure your book does not scream SELF-PUBLISHED and is judged by its cover and its content? Assuming you have a unique, compelling manuscript in the first place, here are some tips:

  • Have your own publishing company imprint and your own ISBN prefix. Head over to Bowker and buy a set of ten numbers—or a hundred if you have more than a few titles planned. If you are truly self-publishing (ie, not going the subsidy route), your publishing company must be listed as the publisher of record. If you’ve got Outskirts or Author Solutions or others of their ilk listed, they are the publisher—and you haven’t actually self-published. (Reference the subsidy link, above.)
  • Get your manuscript edited by a professional. Regardless of how good a writer you are, you probably cannot effectively edit your own work. I know I can’t—and I’ve been an editor of other people’s work for more decades than I care to remember. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone back to read something I’ve written only to be shocked by some glaring error I overlooked.
  • Hire a professional to design your book cover. There are a lot of very inexpensive self-publishing options available today, most of which offer templated cover designs. They are all pretty awful and amateurish.
  • I recommend most authors hire a typesetter to design and layout their book’s interiors as well. If you are pretty tech savvy and can work a program such as InDesign, however, you can probably get away with formatting the interior yourself.

Don’t expect indie publishing to be easy. But do expect it to be rewarding—especially if you do it right.
Self-publishing expert SUE COLLIER is coauthor of The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing, 5th Edition, and the forthcoming Jump Start Your Books Sales, 2nd Edition. Her expertise has been featured on such places as ABCNews.com, Martha Stewart Living Radio, and Bottom Line Personal. Visit her blog at Self-Publishing Resources.

Our latest interview is with children’s author and public speaker, Melissa Williams. In addition to writing several books and her relentless speaking schedule, she’s also the co-founder of The READ3Zero Non-Profit Literacy Foundation (www.READ3Zero.com), working within the community to conquer childhood illiteracy 30 minutes at a time. It’s exciting for TLC Graphics to be part of both her publishing efforts and working with Read3Zero. We want to thank Melissa for trusting us with her “babies” and for being such a joy to work with.

Melissa Williams, Longtail Publishing

Your name and company name

Melissa M. Williams with LongTale Publishing

Year founded/location/number of employees

2007/Houston, TX/2 on Staff and 10 work for hire

Publishing genre

Children’s Fiction

Number of titles

4 and 6 by the end of the year

Favorite and/or most successful titles

Iggy the Iguana has successfully gotten me into so many schools since 2008, so I can’t help but respect my very first book for where it has gotten me today. Right now the Turtle Town books are so fresh and new, I’d have to say The Inner Puka is the favorite on the shelf.

Upcoming releases

The third book in the Iggy Series, Crazy Days of 5th Grade,  The Little Miss Molly picture book, and the second book in the Turtle Town Series, The Green Room.

If not publishing full-time, what’s your other job?

Writing, teaching, public speaking at schools and literacy events and running the Non-Profit Literacy Foundation, READ3Zero.

What do you like best and least about being a small or independent publisher?

BEST: The freedom and flexibility to work with the people I choose and trust. I appreciate being involved in every side of the business and being able to work on my own projects as well as others from our children at Read3Zero. My personality as a visionary is fulfilled by owning my own business.

LEAST: In the past, work, passion, and pleasure had a tendency to cross paths and take up all of my time. I’ve gotten better at delegating, but it’s still hard to let go of doing it all and turning work off. Also having founded a non-profit for reading and writing has opened many doors at LongTale Publishing, but it has required much time and dedication.

What inspired you to publish your first book?

The story was so dear to my heart and childhood, I wanted to have control over it’s outcome.

What is your favorite/most successful marketing effort?

We do every marketing effort in the business, from social media to direct marketing, but my ultimate favorite marketing tactic is being in front of my readers, teachers, and parents. The actual author/speaker is the best marketing tool in my opinion, which is why I do so many public events, presentations, and book signings all year long. All authors should strive for WORD OF MOUTH to be their ultimate tool. And I don’t mean out of your own mouth on Facebook, I’m talking about real people meeting and talking to each other and spreading the word.

How do you get through road blocks — or writer’s block?

I get out of the uninspiring environment that is making my mind lazy. I research, travel, watch people, work all day at my favorite Greek coffee shop, READ books in my genre, chat with my artistic friends, sit at the beach and clear my mind, talk to kids about my ideas, and actually live life and never allow myself to get bored with my life. There’s no such thing as writer’s block. It’s an excuse for not wanting to reach your maximum potential. Take care of your brain children by making the time for them.

One thing you wish you had known before you began publishing:

Quality will always outweigh a “good deal.” Sometimes saving money won’t cut it. Starting a publishing company and publishing a book is an investment, so invest in the best because you will spend more money trying to go back and redo what must be fixed anyway. And DON’T think you can do it all yourself. Be honest with yourself and your own expertise. In the words of Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry, “A man’s got to know his limitations.”

One piece of good advice that you’ve received:

The best advice I ever got as a writer was to stop being a perfectionist while trying to be creative. You can’t expect creativity to be perfect or you will never finish the project. The project will present it’s true self after it gets thrown on paper, but it has to get out of your head first.

Please provide a piece of profound advice for a new author/publisher.

Mistakes are the best learning tools, so appreciate them for what they are … but so are the mistakes of others, so don’t repeat someone else’s mistake that could have been avoided. Time is still valuable.

Any other comments you’d like to make?

To be in the writing/publishing/marketing world is to be a psychologist. Never fall victim to a weak mind or routine. You should strive to learn, think outside the box, and ALWAYS put yourself in your audiences’ shoes.

Threads West series author Reid Rosenthal

Today we’re featuring Kim Haight, senior publishing assistant, of Rockin’ SR Publishing in Wyoming, and author Reid Rosenthal. This company is making big waves as a new publisher. We’re excited to see what’s in store as they continue publishing and marketing their books, especially with the Threads West series of novels. Thank you for sharing with our audience, Kim and Reid! We’re grateful for your advice and wish you much success.

What is your company name and URL?

Rockin’ SR Publishing Company

Year founded / location:

Started in 2008 / Located in Cheyenne, Wyoming


What is your publishing genre?

Kim: Excellent, tasteful fiction and non-fiction. Rockin’ SR Publishing’s copyrighted “Do This Stuff” is our current non-fiction focus. The first “Do This Stuff” book by noted author WC Jamison, “So You Want to be a Writer, Do This Stuff” was published in 2009. We also very selectively publish fine fiction with a special bend toward Westerns and Romance. We published beginning in digital form in August of 2010, and in print on October 12, 2010, Threads West, the namesake of the six-book series Threads West, An American Saga by Reid Lance Rosenthal. This debut novel has gone off the charts in sales, captured rankings as high as 173 on Amazon, number 17 overall on Barnes & Noble, and has been a number one bestseller going on 10 weeks in a number of categories and genres including: Romance, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Western, and others. Kindle sales have the top two to seven percent of all Kindle sales (600,000 titles). Rockin’ SR just recently—about two weeks ago—got the Nook version of the book on Barnes & Noble which is also gaining momentum rapidly.


How many titles have you published?

Kim: Eight

What is your favorite or most successful title?

Kim: We’ve been pleased with all our publishing efforts however, a special mention must go to multiple #1 Best Seller, multiple award winner, Threads West which has already been a runaway national bestseller for now approaching three months and is already on its third printing of books. In addition, Threads West won its first competition and was named Winner in the Western category, and Finalist (runner-up) in the Romance category by the prestigious 2010 USA Book Review Awards in October 2010.

Do you have any upcoming releases?

Kim: Book two of the Threads West, An American Saga series, Maps of Fate, in February/March of 2011. Book Three of that same series, North to Wyoming is slated to be released in late summer 2011. Also in the schedule for 2011 publication is the next book in the Do This Stuff series. Several other manuscripts are under consideration.

What do you like best/least about being a small publisher?

Kim: There are, of course, drawbacks to being small and independent, however, the advantages far outweigh the detriments. One-on-one contact with our authors and others in the industry is gratifying. Hands-on every step of the book process brings great satisfaction as does the success of our books and authors. Though we do not have the reach of big publishers, the one-on-one service we provide and our ability to carefully select and shepherd titles from the limited submissions we decide to review is likewise gratifying.

What is one thing you wished you’d known before you started publishing?

Kim: How complicated, sometimes glacier-like, and detail oriented the publishing business is, particularly if you’re going to for a high-level service to both your products and your authorship, publish first-class material with first-class product design, distribution, and marketing. In that regard the input of an author is critical and active marketing by our authors is mandatory. In return, we offer flexibility in our publishing contracts rarely (if ever) found at most other publishers and certainly not through any larger publishers. We want our authors to succeed!








What is one piece of good advice that you have received?

Kim: Market, Market, Market, and Market!

What is one piece of good advice that you would give to a new author or publisher?

Reid: To the authors, get it written! Don’t believe for one minute that when you put the last period at the end of last sentence you’re done with your book. The fun is just beginning, as is the work.

Kim: For other publishers, we have no advice. Every day is still a learning experience for us. In fact, we are quite sure will be able to make that exact same comment 20 years from now!


If you have questions for TLC Graphics or any of our featured authors, please send an e-mail to: Tamara@tlcgraphics.com with “Book Blog Interview” in the subject line. Blessings to you!

Non-fiction author Kathleen Rehl, Rehl Financial Advisors

Today we’re featuring author and Certified Financial Planner™ Kathleen Rehl from Florida. She is passionate about helping widows make progress and move forward positively in their new financial situation. Thank you for sharing with our audience, Kathleen! We’re grateful for your advice and wish you much success.

What is your name and what is your company’s URL?

Kathleen M. Rehl, Rehl Financial Advisors, www.KathleenRehl.com and http://www.RehlMoney.com.

Year founded / location / number of employees:

Started in 1996 / Located in Land O’Lakes, FL / Two wonderful part-time contract workers. One has been with me for almost 9 years and the other for 2 years.

What is your publishing genre?


How many titles have you published?

Also edited and was contributing writer for Planning for the Times of Your Life: 45 Great Financial Planning Ideas (1999).

What is your favorite or most successful title?

Moving Forward on Your Own: A Financial Guidebook for Widows (2010)

What is your upcoming release?

Nothing new for right now! I still have lots of work to do with marketing my guidebook for widows. 🙂

What is your other job?

My “day” job is being a certified financial planner.

What do you like best/least about being a small publisher.

The best part was being able to create the book the way I wanted to. Conversely, it was also difficult figuring everything out on my own. For example, I did a lot of research before deciding to publish my book independently, rather than with a commercial or a “vanity” publisher. Finding the right team to make this book happen was a gift from God, following much prayer. Once in place, I relied on their judgment for guidance on specific decisions to make.

What inspired you to publish your book?

That first book, written more than a decade ago, was created for a different reason than my recent book. The prior book was a group effort by colleagues, to help us share our joint knowledge with clients and others.

I wrote my financial guidebook for widows after my husband’s death. I needed to make something positive out of that terrible loss. Writing the book to help other widows assisted my own recovery. Yes, it was a cathartic exercise for me. Perhaps it was also a way to pay tribute to Tom.

So many widows feel in a fog following the death of their spouse, often unsure of what to do and what not do to avoid big mistakes. I’ve heard stories directly from many widows who were taken advantage of my unscrupulous individuals. I wanted to reach out and help my “widowed sisters” to understand their money matters better and to begin feeling more self-confident about their financial abilities.

The book presents important information about money in an easy-to-understand manner, along with issues of the heart, to help a widow face her changed life ahead.

What is your favorite/most successful marketing effort?

I’ve had good success selling books when I’m invited to speak about widow’s financial issues and the financial guidebook, addressing professional conference sessions, community events organized by church groups, etc. Word of mouth sharing also helps greatly.

So far a lot of books have been purchased by the U.S. Army, which wasn’t even on my radar screen when I wrote the guidebook. This started with a contact I made a year before the book was printed. A financial advisor at one of the Army posts in Colorado requested a review copy of the book when he heard I was writing this. When I mailed it to him months later, upon completion, he loved it! After ordering the book for use with widows he assisted through his Survivor Outreach Services division, he personally e-mailed his colleagues across the country to let them know I would send a complimentary review copy if they also wanted to consider the book for use with widows they served. Many contacted me and several other Army posts ordered the guidebook.

How do you get through writer’s block?

I tried to write some each day or every other day. Sometimes that wasn’t possible with my day job’s responsibilities. So then I would double up time on weekends.

What is one thing you wished you’d known before you started publishing?

Marketing the book is just as much work as writing the book! But that’s OK. It’s quite interesting to build the web of connections that assist in spreading the word about this publication. I’m not shy about telling people about the guidebook, and I always carry a few copies in the car with me when I’m out and about in case someone wants to buy a book.

What is one piece of good advice that you have received?

It helped me to have an “accountability partner.” This friend would ask me each week, “How’s the book coming along, Kathleen?” I knew he would check in with me again the next week, and this helped to keep me writing.

He’s also encouraging my marketing efforts now and is interested in my progress reports. It helps to know someone cares.

What is one piece of good advice that you would give to a new author or publisher?

Follow your dream of making the book a reality. Just do it! For me, prayer helped greatly, too. It takes tenacity, and it is worth it!

Do you have any final comments?

My clients love that I’m a published author! Because of this book, I am positioning myself to do more public speaking and writing during 2011. The book has given me the platform and additional credibility I needed to make this happen.


If you’d like to be considered for an interview by TLC Graphics, please send an e-mail to: Tamara@tlcgraphics.com with Book Blog Interview in the subject line. Blessings to you!

Today we’re featuring Christian urban fiction author and musician Harry Williams of Oakland, CA. Thank you for sharing with our audience, Harry! We’re grateful for your advice and wish you much success with your plethora of upcoming projects.

Christian Urban Fiction Author Harry Williams II

What is your name and what is your company’s URL?

My name is Harry Williams. I am the founder and CEO of Soul Shaker Publishing, Music and Film Works. I have two websites. The first is http://www.soulshakerpublishing.com. The second site is http://www.revharrywilliams.com.

What is your publishing genre?

I write urban fiction. If you were to visit any inner city book store, you would find that urban fiction authors far outsell even highly regarded literary greats like Toni Morrison. Urban fiction is raw. It is real and it is here to stay.

How many titles have you published?

I have had two books published by InterVarsity Press. Straight Outta East Oakland, published in 2008 was the first novel put out by Soul Shaker Publishing.

What is your favorite or most successful title?

As a minister, I tend not to measure success in terms of book sales alone. I received letters from people serving light years in prison who told me that the book had hit its mark. I was present on the day that a gang member told a youth that my book made him think.

What is your upcoming release?

Straight Outta East Oakland, II: Trapped On The Track is going to be released in February of 2011. This is an important book.

The first time that I ever saw Oakland, California was in a movie theatre. It was the scene of the 1973 blaxploitation classic, “The Mack.” It was a film about a man who is released from Oakland from prison. He becomes a pimp, a svengali figure who enslaves women through mind control. Little did I know when I saw the film, that I would one day come to live in Oakland.

Straight Outta East Oakland II: Trapped On The Track is a work aimed at not only the pimps and sex workers but the complacent Church which has allowed the flesh trade to flourish quite literally in front of its very doors. You won’t be able to put it down.

What is your other job?

I am a baptist minister/evangelist. I am a social case manager by trade.

What do you like best/least about being a small publisher.

I love the thought of being able to have complete creative control over the project from soup to nuts. When I wrote for another publisher, someone I never met gave my book it’s name and designed the cover. I had very little input. As a small publisher, the reins are in your hands.

Secondly, the release date is in your hands. A mainstream publisher might sign your book and then let it sit somewhere for a couple of years. If you publish your own work, you can basically set the release date.

There are a few downsides. One of them is that you have to outlay the publishing costs. This is not always easy but God makes a way.

What inspired you to publish your book?

A highly regarded literary agency considered signing me and then declined. They didn’t believe that the characters in my book could know all that they knew as young men in their early twenties. Apparently, the agents had not grown up in the hood where survival dictates that people do grow up very early. I was incensed.

Not long after I got turned down, I walked into a book store where a reading was to take place. The author was a self-published urban fiction author. I saw the future.

How do you get through writer’s block?

That’s something that I never deal with. If I walked from this keyboard to the corner store, three or four ideas for books would come to me.

What is one thing you wished you’d known before you started publishing?

That one is easy! Get a publicist. There are a million books on the market that tell you how to promote your own work. Don’t buy them. Put that money toward the hiring of a good publicist. No one can buy your book if they don’t know about it. News in print is hard to come by. Get someone who knows how to get it on your team.

What is one piece of good advice that you have received?

“Contact Tami Dever at TLC Graphics. You won’t be sorry.”

What is one piece of good advice that you would give to a new author or publisher?

Contact Tami Dever at TLC Graphics. You won’t be sorry.

Do you have any final comments?

Many people believe that only basketball players, preachers, politicians or rock and roll singers should write books. I have news for you. Everyone has at least one book in them. One  of the best books that I ever read was Dishwasher by Pete Jordan. It was the true story of a man who was on the quest to work as a dishwasher in every state in the country. Sure, he was dishwasher and not a congressman. However, his story was better than most political biographies.

Your book should become a reality. If you work at it, it will happen. Like they say in the streets of Oakland, California, “get it crackin”.


If you’d like to be considered for an interview by TLC Graphics, please send an e-mail to: Tamara@tlcgraphics.com with Book Blog Interview in the subject line. Blessings to you!