WordPress Plug-in Mishap

So what I learned today, is that when you install a plug-in that’s not compatible with your version of WordPress, and it totally breaks the dashboard and you get a “fatal error,” you are stuck!
Well, you actually ARE stuck, until you figure out that if you access your Web hosting account via ftp, you can navigate to the WordPress plug-ins folder and delete the offending plug-in, and then the WordPress dashboard gets its full functionality back in the blink of an eye.
This happened to me today, and after initially panicking, then calming down a little, I was able to think it through and realize what to do. And I was very happy when it worked!
Every time I build and customize a site in WordPress, I learn something new when something goes wrong, and my comfort level goes up.
So here’s to the mishaps! And may they all be as easily solved as this one was.

Self-Publishing Your Book

So, you’ve written a book! Congratulations – that in itself is a huge accomplishment. Now what?

You’ve sent your book to the trade publishers and none of them have responded positively. But that doesn’t mean your book isn’t worth publishing. It means that the trade publishers are not willing to risk the investment of their money into marketing and selling at least 100,000 copies of your book. This is when you might decide to…

Self-Publish!

There are many ways to self-publish these days, and finding the right way for YOU is part of the journey. A big part of your decision-making will be based on how much money and effort you want to spend on getting your book published, who you are, and how saleable your book is.

Time to Get Real and be realistic about yourself and your market.

Here are some questions to ask yourself, to help you figure out how easy or difficult it will be for you to sell your book.

Oprah

  • Is there an audience for your book topic? How big is it? 20 people? 100 people? 1,000 people?
  • Do you have a realistic plan for how to get the attention of your potential audience?
  • Is your book topic current and of interest to the public? How much of the public?
  • Are you a recluse or shy about speaking to individuals or groups?
  • Are you a known and well-regarded expert in the topic of your book?
  • Do you have an advanced degree (masters or doctorate) in the topic of your book?
  • Are you in a position to interact with a lot of your book’s potential audience? (teacher, college professor, head of large organization, business owner, politician, healthcare professional, or other public figure)
  • Are you a recognized professional speaker with knowledge and expertise in an area that is of interest to a lot of people?
  • Do you have powerful and influential friends who will promote your book for you?
  • Are you a friend of Oprah’s?
  • Are you willing to speak publicly and tour to promote your book? If not, how will you get the word out about your book?

Books do not sell themselves. People, personalities, and trends sell books.

Let me say that again: Books do not sell themselves.

Newt Gingrich, Real ChangeFor example, someone like NEWT GINGRICH has no problem selling a book. He has a built-in audience, and a lot of money to spend on marketing (and hiring ghost writers). It doesn’t matter if the book is worth reading or not. It will sell because of who he is, and he will make thousands of dollars.

Maybe you have a big family, a nice nest-egg, and an interesting family story to tell, which you’ve written, and want to share. Your family loves you, and will also love your book (if it portrays them as wonderful, too, that is…). You want to spend your money on this precious gift to your family, and you don’t expect to sell ANY books. A number of people do exactly this. They spend anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000 on 50 to 100 hardcover books, just to give as gifts to their family. What a wonderful legacy!

Kill All The Vampire Writers, Robyn DennisonMaybe you have no money, have a story you really feel must be told, and have friends and family who believe in you. You don’t have a job or a family, so you can do hours and hours of research, learn about all of the steps involved, you do all of the work of every step yourself (wow — good for you!), AND/OR you decide to publish an e-book about a trendy topic, such as VAMPIRES, and you sell your ebook for $1.99, of which you get to keep about half. You may get lucky and tap into a big niche audience, or you may not. You may sell 10,000 copies or you may not sell even 10.

These scenarios are all in the range of self-publishing.

The Self-Publishing Game

First, you’ve got to write the book! Then it’s all about decisions regarding the level of professionalism you want your book to reflect.

Once you decide you are going to self-publish, it’s a good idea to find out about all of the steps involved in self-publishing. I’ll list a few of the steps here, and then in later posts, describe the options available for each step.

  • Write your book in a word processing software such as Open Office, or MS Word.
  • Copyedit: Hire a professional copy editor to edit your text, fix awkward sentence structure, incorrect word usage, verb agreement, grammar, suggest better verbiage, and fact-checking, if necessary.
  • Correct: Make the suggested changes to your text.
  • Proofread: Hire a professional proofreader to proof your book for typographical errors and errors in punctuation. In addition, you can have your more knowledgeable friends read your book. The more fresh pairs of eyes that read your book, the better.
  • Correct: Make the suggested corrections to your text.
  • Proofread: A final proofread to make sure corrections are made properly, and that your copy is clean, and ready for the next steps.
  • To print or not to print? Decide what your needs are regarding printed books, digital ebook, or audio book, or all 3.
  • Get an ISBN for each version of your book: What is an ISBN and how do I get one? Coming soon…
  • Get an industry-standard barcode for your printed book: What is a barcode for? Coming soon…
  • Get a PCN number: What is a PCN number and how do I get one? Coming soon…
  • Get CIP data: What is CIP data and how do I get it? Coming soon…
  • Learn the parts of a book, and use the book production standards.
  • Marketing: Decide how you will market your book. Professional book publicity firms are a good option if you can afford it.
  • Get a Good Cover Design: Hire a professional book designer. The most important first impression of your book is the face it presents to the world. If you spend money on NOTHING else, this is where you should spend your money.
  • Book production: Hire a book production specialist (may be the same service as the cover design).

Marketing Your Book

Marketing is its own area of expertise.

Once your book is ready, then the fun begins of selling your book. Hopefully you have already asked yourself the questions above about your credentials and your potential audience. You have credentials? Great! You have an audience? Fantastic! Now you need a marketing campaign plan. How will you reach your audience and convince them to buy your book?

Enough food for thought for one day. In future posts, I’ll elaborate on the steps involved in self-publishing.

Have a great day!

All that Jazz

And Happy New Year!
carri Coltrane the first time
I have been listening to a great recording by Carri Coltrane, produced by Gene McDaniels – it is called “the first time” and it has some of the best jazz vocals on it!

My favorite cut is “Blue in Green.” It’s a Bill Evans composition, recorded by Miles Davis, Bill Evans, and John Coltrane on the Miles Davis release “Kind of Blue.” Gene McDaniels wrote the lyrics, and Carri sings it superbly, Ron Carter is on bass, with Ted Brancato on piano. I think it is one of the best jazz recordings I have ever heard, and hope that you’ll look it up — give it a listen — I am sure you will agree!

On this New Year’s weekend, I was wishing I could hear some live jazz somewhere nearby, so I searched around and found out that Rudi’s in downtown Portsmouth — one of the few restaurants downtown that have their own parking lot — had a jazz pianist, Yvonne Aubert “and friend” playing on Fri. Dec. 30, so I decided to go check them out. Rudi’s is a pleasant place to eat, and hear some decent live music in Portsmouth. And on this occasion, it was a good choice.

I wasn’t expecting much, but, I was pleasantly surprised and liked Yvonne’s playing very much. She didn’t sing, and she had a standup bass player with her from Boston area, who was also very good. They made a good team, and they made for an enjoyable evening of light jazz piano listening. Yvonne is a UNH graduate, music major, but I think she’s been playing a long time — she certainly has a feel for the music — rare in such a young player.

The upshot is that I had a rare evening out, and as luck would have it, it was a good one!

More than one Sidebar

uncertain journey by james roumanSo the other day, I figured out how to add another sidebar, so that different pages in the same site can have different sidebars. It was made really easy by the folks at Genesis Development, who wrote an article that got me started.

But the article didn’t give me all of the information that I needed, so I searched around until I found a plug-in compatible with the StudioPress child themes that added exactly the functionality that I needed.

It’s called “Genesis Simple Sidebars” and I’m using it on Jim Rouman’s Uncertain Journey site. Notice that all of the pages of the site have the same sidebar, except one: the Underwater Dreams page. Because the author wanted the reviews for that book, published in 2006, to appear only on that book’s sidebar, along with the rest of the book’s information.

It seems to be working just fine! And the author is very pleased.

Note that Jim’s site uses the same Genesis child theme (freelance) as this site does.

More wonderful WordPress StudioPress experiences coming soon!

thanks for listening…

Buying Books Online

Power Through Constructive Thinking by Emmet FoxI used to love my local bookstore, which, because of the online competition, has recently down-sized and is now stocking a lot of used books. I still like going there, though, and browsing through the shelves, picking out anything that looks interesting. I do buy books online occasionally, but mostly what I do is look on Amazon to see what they’ve got, then go to my local bookstore and if they don’t have it, they order it for me.

The main reason I prefer not to buy books online is because I like to see and hold the book before I buy it.

This experience is important to me, and was recently brought to my attention when I attempted to buy copies through Amazon.com of one of my favorite books, Power Through Constructive Thinking, by Emmet Fox, to give as gifts. I was looking for a specific printed version of this book, because there are other versions out there that are inferior to this particular printing.

Now, I like this version of the book because I use it for a specific purpose: daily devotional reading. I like to relax each morning and contemplatively read something from this inspirational book. This version of the book helps a lot, because it is light-weight, easy to hold, and stays open to the page easily if you set it on your lap.
So when I specifically searched for this version, matched the dimensions and the cover to the description on Amazon, I thought for sure I would get the book I wanted. This version is out of print; it is the “First Perennial Library Edition Published in 1989″ according to the publisher’s page. I also noted the ISBN. The dimensions (as listed on Amazon) of the book I like are:

  • Paperback: 273 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; 1st Perennial Library edition (October 18, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060628618
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060628611
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.3 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces

This is what I ordered. What I GOT, however, was NOT what was described, nor what was pictured. It was the same ISBN, and the same typesetting (Same line-length, same annoying typos, same typeface, etc.) But the book had been CHOPPED down to 7 x 4.25, meaning that the margins were reduced to less than 1/2 inch, so that the text ran so close to the binding it was almost unreadable, the paper stock was much stiffer, the binding was very stiff, and it took a lot of effort to hold the page open far enough to be able to read across into the binding. You almost had to break/force the book open to be able to read it. My hands and thumbs quickly tired of holding the book open. It was also trimmed crooked so the text of the pages was placed off kilter on the page. The cover was also different. It was a dark teal (I don’t have the book anymore, so this is from memory) color, with black for the title – hard to read.

I contacted the seller, and they refunded my money and apologized profusely. They did not know the version of the book they had, which I am assuming was printed POD (print-on-demand), and probably not by them, as I don’t believe they even saw the book that was sent to me.

Perhaps I am a dinosaur, but I like having my own printed books around me. I like having a personal library of my favorite books. They are like my family. I like being able to reach out and touch them anytime. And so the experience of holding a book in my hands must be an enjoyable one.

I tried audio books (on my ipod – novels only), but I always seem to fall asleep when listening to them, and I find the pace too slow, and if I am momentarily distracted while listening, I find it really inconvenient to back up and figure out what I missed.

I have a few epubs, which I can read on my laptop or on my ipod touch, but that’s only good for novels and books I could get at the library, or don’t care to have my own copies of. I find reading on a screen tedious and not very relaxing, and the gadgets (Nook, Kindle, etc) too expensive for light reading habits.

No, I would much rather spend my money on good quality printed books I can hold in my hands. And I’m sad to see the local bookstores suffering. I hope they find a way to survive.

Lighting Experiment


The Spider and Miss Muffett
I took this photo to experiment with lighting techniques. I had one modeling light with barn doors camera right, and a large silver reflector camera left. The backdrop was lit with a 100 watt modeling light. I used my Canon 7d with the best primary lens (IMHO) that Canon makes for portraits: EF 50mm f/1.2. I tried different settings, but this photo was taken at ISO 1000, TV setting, with shutter speed at 125 and variable fstop (hovered around 3.2). I also set the white balance for Tungsten. I shot in Camera Raw. Very little was done in Photoshop, but the white balance needed a minor tweaking, then a little unsharp mask, and crop. I think the experiment was a success!

Create a Web Page Background Pattern in Photoshop that Tiles

Here’s a step-by-step tutorial to help you create a seamless repeating background image for a Web page background:

  1. Make a new Photoshop document that is 100 pixels x 100, 72dpi, RGB, transparent background.
  2. Choose a light blue color with the color picker and fill the background with that color.
  3. Choose a slightly darker blue color, and using the custom shape tool, choose a shape (See finished image below).
  4. Hold down the shift key and draw a shape in the center of the document — not too big.
  5. Go to Layer > Rasterize > Shape.
  6. Select all, and copy the shape. Deselect.
  7. Go to Filter > Other > Offset, and change the settings to +50 and +50, and make sure Wrap around is selected.
  8. Paste the selection you copied previously.
  9. Go to File > Save for Web….
  10. Edit the output settings and choose Background instead of Image.
  11. Optimize as a gif or png with 8 colors or whatever settings get you the smallest file size and good quality.
  12. Click on preview to see your image in a browser.
  13. Close the browser, and if you like what you see, Click Save in the Save for Web dialog box and save the image.
  14. Then you can use the image in the background of a Web page using CSS. The css rule might look like this:
    <style type=”text/css”>
    body {background: #cccccc url(images/imagename.png) top left repeat;}
    </style>

    and it would go in the heading of the html document, before the closing </head> tag.

Here’s an image for you to try: polkadots

StudioPress Genesis and child themes

Howdy. I’m playing around with the StudioPress Genesis and child themes.

This particular theme is the Freelance theme, and I have done some customization. This is my first time working with StudioPress themes, and at first, I was really frustrated.

It took me almost all day to figure out why my new pages weren’t automatically showing up in the navigation at the top, among other things. There were no instructions to be found anywhere that mentioned the need to TURN ON the menus.

So I posted my problem and frustration in the forums at StudioPress. After a few unhelpful suggestions, one of their experts finally figured out what needed to be done, and sent a link (which didn’t work, by the way) to more detailed instructions. But the link was broken. Fortunately, because she had used the words “activate the menu functions,” I figured out on my own what to do.

I was assured that there would soon be instructions for people new to StudioPress themes, that would mention some of these important steps to success.

So far, I like the theme very much, and am able to do just about anything I need to do here, including adding an iframe for playing .swf files or youtube videos, adding a plug-in to create a cycling slide show (wp_cycle), and adding a widgeted plug-in to play audio files (see the audio sample of Dennis Collins Johnson in my sidebar).

It took me a while to figure out the path to the mp3 files I had uploaded, but now it works. It also took me a while to figure out the path to the .swf file, but now that works too. (You can see an iframe of a flash animation I created on this site.)

So far, so good! More progress reports to come!

Are people born wicked?

Last night my daughter and I went to the Music Hall
in Portsmouth, NH to see Gregory Maguire, the author of Wicked, The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. Mr. Maguire spoke eloquently and introduced the newest book in the series, A Lion Among Men, (book 3).

For those of you who know the Broadway version of Wicked, you might be surprised to learn that the book is very different — much darker, (not for children!) and the ending is completely different. Although the 2 are different, the theme remains the same: Are people born wicked? or what makes someone “bad?” Mr. Maguire offered a further warning: be careful not to sub-humanize your enemies, because that makes it easier to harm them.

We loved Mr. Maguire’s humanity and engaging stage presence. And he gave his audience lots of food for thought.

Life is a Messy Business

“Life is a messy business.” — Jeanette Winterson, Written on the Body

This blog is for: –random thoughts and explorations of the human experience. Many things happen all at once and in no particular order. Let the exploration continue!