This is the Title of This Self-Referential Blog Post

This is the first sentence of this blog.  Here is the second.  The sole purpose of the existence of this statement is to declare that this blog is written in self reference; this expression explains that a sentence written in self reference refers to itself.

This statement is bold.  THIS UPPERCASE EXCLAMATION CRAVES ATTENTION!  Why is this question italicized?  The answer, or lack thereof, is underlined.  this sentence which is not capitalized lacks punctuation

This powerful sentence commands you to read it.  This shy sentence hopes that you don’t read it, but if you do, begs that you will read it very quickly and then not read it again.  This mean sentence suggests that the previous sentence is not really shy, but is actually craving attention because if it were truly shy, surely it would not be so long.  This apathetic remark doesn’t care.  This depressing thought regrets that it was written.  This philosophical comment believes that it has always existed, but only materialized physically when the author typed it; and also believes that it will continue to exist long after every trace of it has vanished from the universe.

Can a question answer itself?  Can a question answer itself?  Is this question rhetorical?  Yes!  What is the point of this question?

Thissentenceshasnospaces.  Ths n hs n vwls.  Tthhiiss oonnee aappppeeaarrss iinn ddoouubbllee.  This one is written twice.  This one is written twice.  Th;is o,n,e i/s fu-ll o’f pun(ct)ua!ti?on.

This paragraph no verbs.  How that possible?  Where the verbs?  This paragraph sort of like madlib without the blanks.  Please some verbs here.

Two fragments can.  Make a whole sentence.  This run-on is like the Energizer bunny it just keeps on going and going and going and you might want to look ahead to see if it will ever stop and see if there is a period coming because it could wind up being like a bottomless pit once you begin reading it you might wind up reading it forever if it doesn’t have an end and then you would spend an eternity stuck in an infinite blog which would just be awful but fortunately there is an end in sight and here it comes.

This personified sentence, which suffers from anxiety, timidly expresses the hope that you, the reader, have enjoyed this blog.

The last sentence of this blog acknowledges its creator, Chris McMullen, who is the self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Attention All Book Zombies: Time to Snap out of It!

You could be a book zombie without realizing it.  Maybe you didn’t know there was such a thing.  How do you know if you are one?  Is it bad?  If so, is there a cure for it?

If you find yourself wondering about these questions, then you’ve come to the right place.  This article will help you determine if you’re a book zombie, and, if you are, how to return to the world of the book living.

It’s time to take the book zombie quiz.  (What?  Nobody told me there would be a quiz!)  Relax:  You don’t have to study for it.

(1) When you see a list of search results, do you prefer a book with a title that is short and catchy or long and detailed?

(2) Which color combination do you think would look nicer on a book cover:  navy blue, baby blue, and plain white or dark purple, dark red, and bright orange?

(3) Would you rather have the book description be short and sound very interesting or be long and highly informative?

(4) Do you want the beginning of a story to invoke emotions within you or to let you read passively?

(5) After you finish reading a book that you like, would you like to see recommendations of other books from others who enjoyed that book?

Time’s up.  Make sure that your name is at the top of the page and pass it forward.

You’re probably ready to go over the answers now.  But the book zombie quiz isn’t about the answers; it’s about the questions.  (Aren’t you glad that you didn’t study for it?)

Most people don’t like it when a telemarketer calls during dinner, when a salesman interrupts a walk through the park, or when a commercial comes on just before the good part of a movie.  As such, most people would say that they don’t like advertisements.  On the other hand, many people wear t-shirts or hats with their favorite brand names written across them, and when deciding which detergent to buy in the grocery store often select the brand that they have heard before.  There are many subtle forms of marketing employed in the sale of commercial products.  A customer who chooses one product over another ─ or impulsively purchases something that he or she really doesn’t need ─ without realizing that the choice was due to subtle marketing schemes is a shopping zombie.

Similar subtle schemes are applied in book marketing.  A book zombie chooses one book over another ─ or impulsively buys a book that he or she really doesn’t need ─ without being conscious of the marketing that affected the decision.

Have you ever purchased a book that looked nice or seemed interesting, but where you still haven’t gotten around to reading it?  Have you ever bought a book that you were convinced would be very good ─ because you trusted the brand of the publisher, believed the testimonials on the first page, or the blurb sounded great ─ only to be disappointed later?  If you consider your past book-buying decisions carefully, you might find that you have occasionally exhibited some book zombie symptoms.

The big publishing houses take advantage of much marketing and psychological research that has gone into cover design, word selection, and blurb preparation.  Many adept small publishers and indie authors also take time to learn about and apply these marketing secrets.

Traditional publishers often pour a significant amount of money into cover design because it is so important in catching your attention.  Their covers often use just two or three main colors, just one font style, and one to three striking images that relate to the theme of the book.  Color theory tells them which colors work best together.  Color psychology dictates which colors to use to evoke which types of emotions or to suit which audience.  Even the style of font is very important.  Not only must the key words from the title be legible in a thumbnail, research actually shows that people are more likely to feel agreeable when reading some fonts and disagreeable when reading others.  Careful word selection also plays a critical role.

Many marketing strategies are geared around a five-second rule.  First, the cover has to catch your eye.  You probably notice a particular image or contrasting colors initially.  Five seconds later, if you like the cover, you read the title and inspect the cover more closely.  A short, catchy title helps to get you to click on the book to learn more about it.  Five more seconds pass as you begin to read the blurb.  The description has to grab your attention immediately to keep from losing a potential sale.  Every five seconds through the blurb, your attention must be held.  The blurb’s job is to touch you emotionally because emotional buyers are more impulsive.  The description closes by trying to pique your curiosity so that you will want to read the book.  When you look inside the book, you may find testimonials telling you just how awesome the book is.  Like the blurb, the beginning of the book must catch your interest and stir emotions within you.

Research shows that many people are book zombies to some extent.  Publishers’ tactics are geared toward our natural tendencies.

Snapping out of it doesn’t mean to look for ugly covers and horrible blurbs.  Rather, a lousy cover may be an indication that the content of the book didn’t merit much effort.  Similarly, if one or two paragraphs of a book’s description include mistakes, are not clear, or don’t hold your interest, that doesn’t bode well for a few hundred pages of writing.

You can wake up from being a book zombie and return to the world of the book living with less drastic measures.  You can be mindful of the various marketing tactics that may be used to try to influence you to make emotional or impulsive decisions.  When you discover a new book, you can make a conscious effort to wait until you’ve had a good night’s sleep before you buy it.  This provides an opportunity for your emotions to settle down and for logic to kick in.  You can invest a little more time toward learning more about a book in order to help you judge whether or not it will be a good fit for you.  A few more minutes now might prevent you from regretting your decision many hours later.  When available, you can read a longer sample of the book before you commit to purchasing it.  Very often, you might still wind up reading the same book, but you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you did so consciously with careful consideration.

Keep in mind that just drawing you into the book isn’t satisfactory from the publisher’s or author’s standpoint.  The book also has to be good enough for you to read it all the way through, and must be very good in order to get you to spread word of it to your friends and acquaintances.  Wise publishers and authors aren’t trying to sucker you into buying lousy books; but they are using marketing techniques to entice you into buying more of their books (which they believe not to be lousy).

Now take the book zombie quiz a second time.  See if you can understand each question and how it relates to the theme of this article.

Why did you read this blog?  Did the title catch your interest?  Did the beginning sound interesting?  I would also ask if the blog was good enough for you to reach the end, but it seems like kind of a moot point now.  But I do hope that you enjoyed it.  🙂

Chris McMullen, self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

E-readers: A Love/Hate Relationship

She unties the ribbon, peels the wrapping paper off, and opens the box.  What is it?  A Kindle Fire!  That’s awesome!

She turns it around to find the power button.  It doesn’t come on.  Hmm.  Oh yeah, it needs to be charged.  She finds the charger and plugs it in.

A while later, the Kindle is charged and turns on.  Service?  What?  It doesn’t come with free service?  It needs wireless service!  Let’s see.  There is free wireless at the coffee shop, but a router must be installed in order to access the internet from home.

After a trip to the electronics store, she has a router.  It should be easy to install, right?  Where is the modem?  She crawls under her desk, bending her body so that she can connect cables to the back of her CPU, modem, and telephone.  So dirty!  Electronic devices are dust magnets!

It’s time to try it out.  Not yet.  Need to wash those hands first.  What?  Still no service!  Of course.  The hardware is connected, but the software hasn’t been installed.

Where are those instructions?  Setup.  Three easy steps.  She follows the directions to install the software.  She tries using the Kindle again.  It still doesn’t show up.  So frustrating!  Ah, finally!  There it is.  Enter the password.  Ta-da!

Receiving a present sure can be a burden!  But well worth it.  Now it’s working.  Just look at the graphics.  What is that design?  Gears?  It looks incredible!

She wonders what to do first.  Let’s get a book!  Click ‘books.’  That was easy.  Sort by ‘title.’  Wait a minute!  There aren’t any books here.  Where are the books?  Okay, there aren’t any books on the ‘device.’  Better click ‘store.’

Best sellers, popular categories, daily deals.  So many choices.  It’s almost time to start preparing dinner.  How about a cookbook?  That might not be a popular category.  Where are the other categories?  Let’s hit ‘browse.’  Didn’t work.  What?  That’s not a button.  Maybe cookbooks will be a popular category.  She clicks ‘popular categories’ to find out.  Way down at the bottom, there is ‘all books.’

Wow!  This is really cool.  It’s like having a bookstore in the living room, on a bus, or in an airplane.

Huh?  All of the books are in order on a single list.  Where are the categories?  Oh, there is a ‘refine’ option.  Is it an ‘eBook’ or a ‘single’?  What is the difference?  Try ‘eBook.’  Finally!  There is a ‘cooking, food, & wine’ category; subcategory ‘meals.’  Where is dinner?  Ugh!

She puts her Kindle down and logs onto her desktop computer.  She visits Amazon, finds Kindle, and clicks on ‘Kindle eBooks.’  Oh, this is so much easier!  That’s the book.  Kindle for PC?  No, not for PC; for a real Kindle.  Hmm.   There is a ‘deliver to’ option.  What is a ‘cloud’?  This word ‘cloud’ was on the Kindle.  Let’s see…

All right!  There is finally a cookbook on her Kindle Fire.  Need to turn a page.  Oh, it works like a cell phone.  Small picture.  Is there a zoom button?  Where are all the buttons?  That’s power…  When she presses the screen, some touchscreen options come up at the bottom.  She increases the font size, but the pictures are still small.  These other buttons don’t zoom either.  She finds more touchscreen buttons at the top.  Still no zoom, but there is a ‘more’ button.  Must be under ‘display.’  Nope.  Where is the instruction booklet?  She checks the packaging for the instructions.  No instructions!  Which evil genius designed this infuriating gadget?

She touches the picture.  Nothing happens.  She touches it twice quickly.  The picture opens on its own page, larger than before.  What was that?  Double-click to zoom?  It’s not like there is a mouse…

After finding a suitable recipe, she begins following directions to prepare lasagna for dinner.  Why is the Kindle off?  It must have timed out…  She turns it back on and retypes the password.  Incorrect password!  Must have touched the wrong letter.  Try it again.  She continues cooking.

She returns to the Kindle to read the next step.  What is that on the screen?  A smear!  Already?  It’s brand new!  Need to get a screen protector… and a case.

What is that message on the screen?  Fifteen minutes of battery left.  No way!  Dinner won’t be ready for another thirty minutes.  Better find the charger…

During dinner, she reflects on her first experience with her new Kindle Fire.  There was a slight learning curve, but it wasn’t too bad.  She is getting the hang of it.  It’s really convenient.  The graphics are awesome.  It functions like a great big cell phone.  Not only can she buy any book and read it anywhere on a fairly big screen, she can even browse the internet anywhere that she has wireless access.  Very cool!

Later that night, with her Kindle fully charged, she begins reading a science fiction book that she found.  Which is more convenient ─ portrait or layout?  She settles on portrait mode.  Trying to scroll onto the next page, she accidentally turns back a page.  No biggie.  Another time, she holds her finger on the spot a little too long, and the word is highlighted.  A window pops up, showing the pronunciation key and definition.  A built-in dictionary.  That’s amazing!  She also sees ‘note’ and ‘highlight’ options.  Impressed, she tries to do this again with another word.  A display comes up instead.  No, not that.  She tries again, holding her finger in place longer.  Aha!  That’s it.

As she continues reading, she notices that some of the indents are longer than others.  That’s strange.  Why isn’t there a standard size for the tabs?  A while later, she finds a little square in the middle of a sentence.  What is that little box doing there?  How funny.  Several pages further, she discovers a hyphen-ated word in the middle of a line.  Aren’t hyphens used at the end of a line?  In the next chapter, she spots a misspelled word.  Really?  This is the age of technology.  The book is digital.  The author must have used a computer to type it.  Neither the author nor the editor used spellcheck?  How is this possible?

Attempting to scroll onto the next page, suddenly an internet browser opens.  What is going on?  She is reading a book, not going online.  When she closes the internet browser, she spots a hyperlink in the middle of the page.  Oh.  Must have clicked that by mistake.  This book is like a minefield.

The next day, a friend inquires, “So what do you think about your new Kindle Fire?”

She replies, “Oh, I absolutely love it!”

Chris McMullen, self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Reading & Writing with Passion

A bookstore is like a bar where you go to pick up books; internet bookstores are like online dating services.  You browse through the books to find one that catches your eye.  When you see one you like, you look at it more closely.  You scan it up and down, turn it over and examine its rear.  The book doesn’t mind.  In fact, the book is yearning for more.  This is what it was written for.  It is begging, “Pick me!  Pick me!”

Satisfied with what you see so far, you look inside.  You judge its appearance inside and out.  Then you decide to get to know it better.  You read the cover blurbs.  You check out the contents, browse through the introduction.  You’re measuring its personality, knowledge, and communication skills; judging its potential.

If the book passes your examination, you take it out on a date.  You begin reading the first chapter.  The whole time the book is anticipating that first kiss, wondering if you will take it home with you.  Meanwhile, you are analyzing the book’s every move.  Going steady with a book is a big commitment.  You don’t want to be disappointed.

How do you know if the relationship will work out?  Curling up by the fireplace, snuggling in warm covers in bed with a booklight, sneaking a quick page or two in the bathroom.  You will share these intimate times with your book.  You want to know that the book is Mr. or Mrs. Right for you.

When you look at the cover, you see the book’s handsome or pretty face and stylish suit or dress.  As you read, the plot unfolds.  The plot is like the book’s body.  A great plot is like an attractive body.  But is that enough to satisfy your needs?  Suspense, engaging and captivating text, these are the hormones that the book sends out to arouse and sustain interest.  But will your attraction to the book be purely physical?  When the style of the writing shows personality, when the ideas massage your mind, when the writing exudes with passion… are these not the romantic elements that you are looking for in your relationship with your book?  Even if the book is not a romance novel ─ even if it is nonfiction ─ would you not prefer a book that was written by an author who was extremely passionate in his or her work?

If the book captures your interest, you read on.  If it is suspenseful, you turn the pages rapidly.  If the plot thickens, your intrigue builds.  And then… eventually… the book reaches its climax.  The story ties its loose ends.  Your physical attraction to the book wears off.  And what remains?  If the ideas of the book appealed to you, if the writing evoked passionate emotions from within you, if the book did more than just satisfy your curiosity to end the suspense, then the book leaves an everlasting impression upon you.  It changes you.  It becomes part of you.  Forever.

Yes, the writing can have passion.  It can entertain.  It can wine and dine you.  But the reader can add passion, too.  You control the voice you hear in your head, the pace of the read.  You can read it with style and zest.  You can build your own interest.  You can even insert your own ideas between the lines.  Yes, the reader can reciprocate the passion that the author put into the book.

A blog, on the other hand, is not a book.  It’s more of a tease.  As soon as you get into the blog, it’s already over.

Chris McMullen, author of the fictional work, Why Do We Have to Go to School?

Judging a Book by Its Cover

The saying tells us, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”  Is this really sound advice?

Sherlock Holmes would tell you that you can learn much from appearances.  For example, little details like style of clothing and marks on the hands may provide clues to a person’s occupation and natural habitat.  Maybe we can similarly deduce some information about the content and quality of a book just from its cover.

A poor cover may be quite suggestive.  The reader may naturally wonder, “If the publisher didn’t put any effort into the cover, perhaps the content is also lacking in quality.”

An eye-catching cover tends to draw interest.  This is true whether you’re browsing for books in a store or on the internet.  You can’t help it; your mind simply notices images that stand out visually.

Do you have any books lying around the house that you haven’t read?  How about ebooks that you’ve downloaded, but never opened?  Why did you buy those books if you haven’t read them yet?  Could it be that they looked interesting?  If a cover impresses us and the text on the cover fascinates us, we become magnetized to the book.

Let’s face it.  We’re all fashionable – even if our style is plain, we all have some sense of style that we feel comfortable with.  We buy shirts and sunglasses that we feel comfortable wearing.  Don’t we also consider how a cover and title fit in with our sense of style before we dare to read it on an airplane or a subway?

You can’t truly judge the quality of a book until you’ve read the content, but the cover does plays a pivotal role in whether or not you may ever read the book in the first place.

The book industry is evolving.  We purchase books online, and read ebooks on cell phones and tablets.  An increasing number of books are self-published.  There are more and more books to choose from, and we strive to find the few books that are the best fit for us.  Occasionally, we purchase a book where the formatting or editing is poor.  We even find formatting issues with ebooks from major publishing houses.

So when we search for books, we try to filter out those that appear most professional.  This begins with the cover.  We look for a professional cover.  Not just its visual appearance; any formatting or editing issues with the text on the cover quickly place the book in the unprofessional category.

If the cover passes our initial inspection, we may read the description, check the reviews, learn more about the author, and read the sample.  But our judgment begins with the cover.

Hence, for the publisher, designing a professional-looking, eye-catching cover that the intended audience will feel comfortable holding is all-so important.

Please don’t judge this blog by its cover.  🙂

Chris McMullen, self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers