Sunday, November 29, 2009


Those of you who are romance authors know what this is about. For others, let me explain that Harlequin--the premier romance publisher in the world--has just announced they're going into the self-publishing business.

In other words, they plan to solicit authors to pay them to print their books., just as other self-publishing companies--such as Author House, iUniverse and XLibris, etc.--do. Like those companies, dozens of which have proliferated since print-on-demand technology made it possible, they will charge an author anywhere from a few hundred dollars to many thousands of dollars to publish their book in either hard cover or trade paperback. Those books get no editing and no promotion, and some companies charge the authors hefty sums to buy copies of their own books.

A few years ago ago a woman asked me, "Don'tall authors have to pay to get their books published. I was surprised then but not anymore. And now the biggest publisher of all has stooped to that level. Why, when Harlequin is already #1? The word "greed" comes to mind. Or is it jealosy that, when they see so many companies charging authors to get their book in print, they decided to join the crowd rushing to exploit them?

Whether you've been writing for thirty years (as I have) or thirty days, you need to know certain things. Publishers are in business to make money, and the traditional way to do that is to hire editors to read submitted manuscripts and decide which ones to publish based on their belief they can sell sufficient copies of said book to print, ship, advertise and pay the author for having written it. Remember, without authors writing books, publishers have no business. Today, ads by self-publishing companies offer to publish any book for a price, and a beginning writer may think that's the way it's done. But, as a reader, do you really want to spend money for a book that might have been (and probably was) written by a total amateur, which has never been edited (or even looked at) by a professional editor?

Romance Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America, and Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers have all announced that--if Harlequin charges authors to print their books--they will no longer be granted "eligible publisher" status with their members. I hope the pressure being applied by these associations will convince Harlequin to back down. There are far too many badly-written books out there now, and Harlequin will only damage its reputation by adding to the pile.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


As a writer, I naturally use words, and I want other people - many in fact - to read my words in the books I write. Even if they don't buy my books, but borrow them from friends or the library, I consider myself successful in my chosen career if people read my words. That's my goal, and, perhaps it's a selfish one. But what if words could sve lives?

Research about tjhe different lives lived by children (and adults) in poor families versus middle-class families shows that words make a huge difference in deciding who does well in school and succeeds in life.

What words? Well, any words. In fact, the more words a child hears while growing up, the better. A study in Kansas City showed that by the age of three, a child from a middle-class home heard 20 million more words than a child from an impoverished home.

Were the middle-class parents doing flash-card games to increase their child's vocabulary? No. They were just ordinary words spoken at the breakfast or dinner table. They were words used to a child while he played with blocks, or talking about games or toys, or asking what he did at day-care. Even better: the words of the books read to the child every night before bedtime.

Apparently, we don't use words because we can think: we can think because we have words to use.

What a simple way to lift children out of poverty. Read to them, talk to them. Instead of corporal punishment when a child misbehaves, try conversation. Negotiation, conversation, discussion about the incident will be far better. An important thing that language does for a child is to distance him from his emotions. If he can put a name to his feelings, he can begin to control them. It can give him motivation and the experience of learning new ideas.

Thus, hearing words can help a child succeed in school and keep him out of trouble after school. If fewer children drop out, or resort to violence because they don't know anything better, they can become useful citizens instead of gang members. And that can save lives.

So, if you're a parent or grandparent, talk to the children in your life, read to them. You'll be helping them and society at the same time.