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Celebrating Our Freedom to Read: See What the #NMX Community is Reading for Banned Book Week


This week is Banned Book Week, a week where we celebrate the freedom to read here in the United States. Actually, this celebration has gone international ever since Amnesty International began celebrating it to help raise awareness for individuals who are persecuted for writing and reading books that governments and other organizations want to censor.

Banning books is a step down a very dangerous path. NMX is all about the media revolution…but some things will never change. Wherever there are people voicing their opinions about the world, whether that is in books or on your blog/podcast/videos or on social networks, there are people who want to keep them quiet. This is an issue that affects all of us.

To help celebrate our freedom to read, I asked NMX speakers, attendees, and staff to share their favorite banned books. Their answers (along with my own) are listed below, and you can get involved too: just tweet about your favorite banned book, and make sure to use the hashtag #NMX (and follow this hashtag to see what others are recommending you read). You can also leave a comment below to join the conversation! You can see a list of just some of the books that have been banned here.

Without further ado, here are some of the book the NMX community wants to encourage you to read:

rick headshot The Bible and Canterbury Tales
– Rick Calvert, NMX CEO, @blogworld and @NewMediaExpo
deb cole Are You There, God? It’s Me Margaret by Judy Blume – I can’t believe this book was banned!!! This was a pivotal book in my teens! And since I am unable to choose ONLY one (avid book lover) I’m also choosing I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. In SHOCK this was also banned. W-T-F?!” – Deb Cole, NMX Media Marketing Director, @CoachDeb
tina baljian Arabian Nights. I love it because it reminds me somewhat of my grandma’s stories, because I am middle eastern. Its a medieval Middle-Eastern literary epic which tells the story of Scheherazade, who tells stories to her husband, the King, to delay her execution. The stories are told over a period of 1001 nights, and every night she ends the story with a suspenseful situation, forcing the King to keep her alive for another day.” – Tina Baljian, NMX Travel Manager/Executive Assistant, @Tina_Baljian
CC Chapman Call of the Wild will always hold a special place in my heart. That and Tom Sawyer were the first books that filled me with the wanderlust that I still have to this day. I have yet to get up to the Yukon, but it is a life long dream of mine and I can trace it back to reading that book.” – C.C. Chapman, Storyteller, Explorer & Humanitarian, @cc_chapman
john dumas Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut!! Being a US Army Veteran of the Iraqi War, I have always thought it important to remember the suffering soldiers go through during war. War is an easy thing to glorify when you are not experiencing it, and books like Slaughterhouse-Five bring to light the true colors of war.” – John Lee Dumas, EntrepreneurOnFire.com, @johnleedumas
Sam Fiorella “My favorite banned book: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. The book focuses on the psychosis experienced by Billy Pilgrim, an inexperienced American soldier, who was captured and imprisoned at the famous “Slaughterhouse number 5” by the Germans.  The American government and educational institutions believed the explicit story about the hallucinations and visions he experienced while held prisoner, including a vision of his own death, was too much for the general public. In a time where war is so highly politicized and  quickly called upon to right the world’s wrongs, it is important to have more personal accounts of the cost to those who actually fight the wars.” – Sam Fiorella, Sensei Inc, @samfiorella
Glenda Watson Hyatt “Looking through the list of books, I was surprised to see Black Beauty. I read it as a young girl while I was going through my horse phase. Before homework overtook my life, I loved crawling into bed, with a dog or cat or both beside me, and get lost in book. Black Beauty was enjoyed by this uber animal lover.” – Glenda Watson Hyatt, Motivational Speaker, @GlendaWH
Dustin Hartzler “My favorite banned books are: Goosebumps – definitely important because kids need to read fiction. The choose your own adventures were the best ones 😉 And Where’s Waldo – kids and adults alike need to be able to keep their memory sharp. Finding Waldo allows the time to pass quickly as well as helps to keep your brain active.” – Dustin Hartzler, Your Website Engineer, @dustinhartzler
ffc “Favorite banned book: Fahrenheit 451. It’s the ultimate book-burning book. ‘Nuff said.” – Jonathan Raines, ForeignFilmcast.com, @foreignfilmcast
ric dragon Satanic Verses. As I went through the list of banned books on Wikipedia, I was thrown into an inner conflict. I’m horrible at making choices and here were several books that are near and dear to me. Finally, I settled on Satanic Verses. The turmoil around Salman Rushdie figured largely in the news of the late 80’s, and besides the death threats to the author, did result in the death of Hitoshi Igarashi, the Japanese translator.  When I finally read the book, I was mesmerized by the wonderful storytelling.” – Ric Dragon, DragonSearch, @ricdragon
allison headshot And here are my picks (yes, I have two favorites!): Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and A Wrinkle in Time. I think these books share something in common; they are both about exploring a whole new world that you never thought existed. That’s what books have always been to me, and I try to allow that to spill over into my everyday life as well. We can only grow if we’re willing to learn and explore.Also, they’re just plain fun!

Okay, your turn! Don’t forget to TWEET about your favorite banned book using the hashtag #NMX! We’ve even made a handy click to tweet link – just make sure you fill in your favorite title!


Or, comment below to join the conversation!

(And if you want to be involved with more community questions just like this, make sure you sign up for our email list on the sidebar! That way, you can answer the question ahead of time and be featured here like the above NMX community members!)

Self-Publishing Stumbling Blocks (and 27 Tools to Get You Back on Your Feet)


Today, you don’t need to work with an agent or ebooks publishing house to get your book published. In 2011 alone, writers self-published 211,269 books according to Publishing Perspective, and this isn’t counting all of the free ebooks bloggers and marketers offer on their blogs. So if everybody’s doing it, why aren’t you?

Self-publishing might be easy, but doing it well is anything but. If you’ve never self-published a book or even an ebook, you aren’t alone. Despite the benefits, there are several stumbling blocks that can make a self-published book or ebook unsuccessful. The following tools can help you jump these hurdles and publish a book or ebook that you’re proud to offer to your audience, whether you’re doing it for free to promote your blog or you’re selling it to make some money.

Stumbling Block #1: “I don’t have time to write a book right now.”

Here’s a little secret: No one has time to write a book right now. We’re all super busy people, yet somehow thousands of people do manage to write books every year. So it’s not a matter of not having time. It’s about whether or not you want to make time by optimizing your schedule. Here are some great tools that give you the time to write a book:

How are you spending your time? Toggl will tell you. There are lots of time tracking tools out there, but Toggl is one of my favorites. You can track your time on Mac, PC, iPhone, iPad, iPod, or Android with Toggl, as well as integrate into programs like Basecamp if you’re managing your writing project elsewhere. Toggl also allows you to budget time for different tasks so you can stay on track throughout the day.

Remember The Milk is an easy-to-use tool to help you manage your to-do list. You could use it to organize your life in general, but also consider making a book-specific list for the tasks you have to complete. “Write a book” sounds large and daunting, but if you chunk it out into smaller pieces, it doesn’t seem so bad after all. Ta-da Lists is a great alternative if you aren’t a fan of Remember The Milk.

Rescue Time is a handy little tool like Toggl that will help you track your time, but the premium version of this app is extremely useful if you want to take your time management a step farther. “Get focused mode” allows you to block distracting websites for a set period of time, you can set up alerts when you’ve spent too much time on a specific website (like Facebook), the tool will track your offline time, and more. All of this comes for a fee of $6 per month (or there is a free version as well).

If you need help staying accountable when it comes to large writing projects, 750 words is right for you. This makes the work into a sort-of game, where you try to accumulate as many points as possible every month. You get points for writing, points for writing more than 750 words (your target goal each day on this site), points for writing contiguous days, etc. It’s a great way to stay motivated. One Page Per Day is a similar tool to help you stay motivated to write every day.

Stumbling Block #2: “I don’t have the skills/talent to write a book.”

Do you have some kind of knowledge that other people might what to know? Or do you have an idea about something and the ability to do research and interviews? If you answered yes to either of these questions, you have the skills/talent it takes to write a book or ebook. Even if you aren’t a good writer, here are some tools to help you turn your thoughts into books:

Maybe your problem isn’t that you’re not a good writer, but rather that you’re trying to write using the wrong tool. If Microsoft Word just isn’t doing it for you, try Scrivener. This program is perfect for creating and editing longer documents, and while it isn’t free, there is a free trial that you can check out before purchasing. Features include a “cork board” for thoughts and reminders, an outlining tool, the ability to create document collections, and more. It even syncs with Dropbox.

If you want to find experts to interview for your stories, check out Help a Reporter Out (HARO). Founded by one of NMX’s speakers, Peter Shankman, this site allows you to put out a request in order to find people who are ready and willing to give you quotes and full interviews for your project. ProfNet is a similar tool.

If you truly don’t want to write your own book, you can use a site like Elance to hire someone to write it for you. You can expect to pay anywhere from $500 to several thousands of dollars to write a manuscript, depending on length and subject matter, but keep in mind that you get what you pay for. I like Elance because people will bid on your project and you can read profiles and exchange messages to find the best person for the job. Once you have a writer, present them with your notes and ideas (the more, the better), set up some interview time so they can talk to you about your ideas, and let them do their magic. Freelancer.com and oDesk.com are two good Elance alternatives – or just ask for writer recommendations via social media.

Stumbling Block #3: “I can write a book, but I have no idea how to turn a manuscript into a book.”

The very first thing you should do after you finish writing a perfect, polished, ready-to-print ebook is hire an editor. Trust me on this one. I constantly find typos even in books published traditionally, so don’t be so arrogant as to think there’s not a single flaw in your manuscript. Even if your draft is typo-free, a fresh set of eyes belonging to someone who is not close to the project will help pick out weird wording, confusing passages and other potential places to tighten your text. Elance and the other sites listed previously can help you find a great editor.

From there, it’s time to design and get your book out there. Here are some tools to help:

Booktype is a tool that helps you collaborate with your editor (or other authors), and then export your book so it’s ready to sell or give away. If you plan on publishing on multiple platforms, Booktype is a great option, since you can correct problems once and have each version update automatically. Booktype makes it easy to format for web, mobile, print, tablets, and e-readers, all at once.

If you like using Word or another format rather than Booktype, don’t worry – you can easily design and convert your book as well. After your manuscript really is ready to go, Calibre is one of the best tools out there to help you format the book correctly for all e-readers. Calibre is free to download and makes the process pretty painless.

Want professional looking graphics in your ebook, all formatted correctly? Learn how to use Adobe InDesign. This program isn’t free, nor is this something you’ll learn to use well in an afternoon, but it’s definitely a great design option for self-publishers. Alternatively, you can hire a graphic designer who knows how to use InDesign well.

Stumbling Block #4: “I have no idea where to sell my book or how to handle sales.”

Okay, so now you really do have the perfect book just waiting for buyers (or downloaders, if you’re giving it away for free). How do you reach the masses? The three major tools for getting your book out there are:

  1. Kindle Direct Publishing (Amazon)
  2. Barnes & Noble PubIt
  3. iTunes Connect

If you want to offer print versions of your book as well, I recommend checking out Lulu.com, which allows you to print on demand with no upfront costs. Alternatives to Lulu include Blurb and CreateSpace. There are tons of print-on-demand options for authors beyond these three options, but make sure you do your research so you know exactly what percentage of the profits you’ll see.

It’s also important to track your sales, even if you don’t have to do any work to ship your product. Here are some tools to help you with that task:

This tracking tool for self-published authors allows you to track sales on all major sites. You can compare your sales from month to month or from site to site. This tool is $49.95, but if you’re a blogger and do a review, you can get it for free.

The BookBaby team will actually help you with any number of self-publishing tasks, but the best and most useful, perhaps, is their tracking system. They’ll distribute your book (in ePub format) for you and then you can log in to see your sales across multiple sites and even download reports. Their one-time fee is $99, and then you’ll pay $19 per year after the first year for continued access.

Stumbling Block #5: “Why would anyone care about my book? I’m not a popular best-selling author.”

You don’t have to be a best-selling author to sell lots of copies of your next ebook. You just have to be smart about distribution and promotion. Remember, all best selling authors were once beginners too.

First, it helps if your book has been reviewed, especially on sites like Amazon. You can send your book to your friends to review, but even better is to put your book out there for others to review. Here are some places to find reviewers:

They receive a ton of books for review, and they don’t choose to read all of them. So, it’s the luck of the draw. But if your book is reviewed on this site, you receive a lot of exposure. You can also enter your book for consideration in their contest called Discovery Awards, but be warned that there is an entry fee.

On Ning, the group Book Blogs is home to over 19,000 members, and many of them are extremely active and looking for books to review on their blog. Often, you can work out a deal for them to also leave an honest review on Amazon, especially if you’re willing to send them an extra copy to give away.

You can also leverage others’ audiences, even if you’re not hugely popular yet. You can do this through affiliate programs. If your product is high quality and you offer a generous commission, others will do the selling for you. My favorite affiliate tool for ebooks is E-junkie, with ClickBank being a close second.

No Excuses!

Hopefully, all of these tools will help you resist the urge to make excuses and start writing your next book for self-publishing! If I didn’t cover your biggest self-publishing stumbling block, leave a comment below with your problem. I’ll do my best to recommend some great tools to help you get over that hurdle.

And don’t forget to check out Publishing 101 For Content Creators: From Decision To Market – an upcoming panel at NMX Las Vegas 2013 featuring publishing pros from Grand Central Publishing and Wiley who can answer all of your publishing questions!

Visit the BEA Show Floor While at BlogWorld New York 2012


Did you know your BlogWorld ticket also gets you into the show floor at Book Expo America? It’s right upstairs and many BlogWorld speakers are doing book signings or have their books represented there. Stop by and show some support! Here are some views from the BEA show floor this morning:


If you’re a BEA attendee, also don’t forget that you can come to the registration desk here at BlogWorld to upgrade your pass and attend all of our educational sessions! We also have a virtual ticket option, which allows you to get recordings from the sessions after the event. And your BEA pass gets you into our expo hall for FREE – so don’t be shy; stop by and say hello to everyone here at BlogWorld!

When an Article Can Start a Revolution #YAsaves


In this world of social media and vocal proponents of various topics, it still amazes me how something can go viral so quickly … how people can rally around a cause, share their stories, and become proponents for something. All in a matter of hours.

As I’ve said before, I’m entrenched in the world of books and young adult literature. As an aspiring author I’ve surrounded myself with amazing critique partners, contacts, and experts in writing. This last week I’ve been keeping an eye on the topic of #YAsaves – which became huge on Twitter this week. It all stemmed from an article written by Meghan Cox Gurdon in the Wall Street Journal. It attacks violence and dystopian concepts in young adult literature, saying readers are now surrounded by images of “damage, brutality and losses of the most horrendous kinds.”

How dark is contemporary fiction for teens? Darker than when you were a child, my dear: So dark that kidnapping and pederasty and incest and brutal beatings are now just part of the run of things in novels directed, broadly speaking, at children from the ages of 12 to 18.

The article goes on to cite various recent, popular works and the issues they contain – rape, torture, abduction, self-injury, drugs – and says that it is possible that by speaking to these subjects, authors are normalizing them and spreading their plausibility.

A significant amount of people disagree. And disagree strongly. Shortly after the WSJ post came out, a backlash from YA authors and readers hit Twitter using the hashtag #YASaves. People expressed their views and many readers opened up to ways that their favorite young adult books helped them cope, or even saved their life. There have been over 33k tweets (and it climbs with each passing minute) containing the hashtag – and it topped at #3 as a trending topic in the US earlier this week. Tweets included:

Books are, at their heart, dangerous. Yes, dangerous. Because they challenge us: our prejudices, our blind spots. #yasaves -@libbabray

Honestly, @wsj, do you think we just make this stuff up? The darkest parts of many of my books came directly from my teenage life. #yasaves -@HollyBlack

Yeah. Go on. Tell teenagers that they shouldn’t read books. Know what you’ll get? Guaranteed literacy. #YAsaves -@AletheaKontis

Just curious, @wsj, do you have some kind of WRITTEN POLICY that you will only let idiots write about YA? Is it, like, a THING? -@maureenjohnson

And they didn’t stop at Twitter. Book bloggers, authors, and readers began taking the topic to their blogs – where they discussed in longer detail what reading YA means to them.

Other websites jumped on board with their view on the subject. NPR, The New Yorker, and The Guardian even weighed in.

And while I agree with most of the comments, most of the tweets – the social media analyst in me is waiting for the response. If there will even be one. While many companies with social media “fails” come out with explanations and apologies, I’m not sure that Ms. Gurdon will respond to the attacks. Because, for the most part, this was an opinion piece. It wasn’t a customer service fail. It wasn’t a PR pitch gone wrong fail.

Do you think that all Twitter campaigns need a formal response? Or is it better to sometimes let an upheaval die out altogether?

Image Source: SXC

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