Growth of ebooks and indie authors

According to Publisher’s Weekly: Ten years ago, e-books accounted for less than 1% of the trade book market. Today, e-books account for about 25% of dollar sales and 40%–50% of units. Although the rate of growth has slowed for e-books, the affordability and accessibility of digital will continue to erode print readership.

In addition, indie authorship has become a global cultural movement. Writers are drawn to e-book self-publishing for the total creative control, faster access to global markets, and pricing and promotion flexibility. Writers retain all rights while earning 60%–80% of the list price as their e-book royalty. Traditionally published e-book authors earn only 12%–17%.

Every week, indie e-books top retailer bestseller lists, and hit the USA Today and New York Times lists. Indies will continue gaining digital market share as they pioneer tomorrow’s best practices for pricing, production, and promotion.

While I have never topped a bestseller list, I self-publish all my book in print and electronic format. The print books are print on demand, through Lightning Source  (now Ingram Spark for new indie authors) or Create Space. That way I don’t have to carry any inventory at all.

You can read about my books, and see where I sell them, here.

Cyberbullying and why you should stop doing it

This is part of a three-part blog post:

A headline on Cyberbullying has ‘hugely disproportionate impact on women and girls’. You can read the full article here: Allow me to say this: I don’t get it. Guys, get over it and get over yourselves. Get help. Become better people.

What does cyber bullying get you? Seriously? Does it give you a feeling of power to bully a woman or a girl? Let me tell you, it doesn’t make you powerful. It makes you a creep. And a weak one at that. In your more lucid moments — and I believe you have them — you know that is the case. Does it give you control? First of all, over what? You anonymously intimidated a girl online. What are you in control of? What power do you have? Do you get your jollies making someone cry, or worse? Eat a donut. Trust me, it is much more satisfying!

Look deep into your psyche. I believe you can do it, but if you need help doing so, then get some help. Here’s a good place to start:

In the long run, cyber bullying does nothing for you: doesn’t make you a better or stronger person. One day you may wake up and regret it, if there is any decency in you. And unless you are totally psychotic or deranged — and I don’t think you are — I believe there is decency in you. So stop it. And if you need help to stop it, get help.

If you are reading this, you are lucid. This would be a good time to come to terms with who you are, and who you can be. And that is the goal, isn’t it? To be the best person you can be. Not some creep stalking or bullying someone online. Look in the mirror and ask yourself why you would be that person, why you would want to be that person. Don’t wait until you grow up and mature. Grow up and mature now. Take a deep breath. You can do it. You can change. Deep down, you don’t want to be a creep. You actually want to be a decent person. Become that person. Become that person today! Do it for your mother, your grandmother, your sister. Do it for yourself. For you.

Note: I have created a blog where this issue can be discussed. If you want to read more blog posts and join the conversation, click here.

Men: become better people

This is part two of We interrupt this blog to speak to men… I asked if people had thoughts on how we can stop men from behaving badly — towards women and children in particular. People responded, but mostly with what we can do if we see bad behaviour: make noise, identify the man, corroborate the woman’s statement, tell authorities, and so on. I agree with all of that, but the bigger question is how can we  eliminate or at least reduce the need for that. Prevention, in other words. I don’t see us as a society taking preventative measures that will eliminate or reduce (help stamp out) ignorant and despicable male behaviour.

If a man is a psychopath or has some major mental deficiency there is probably not much one can do. However, I suspect most men who behave badly have lucid moments. They fit in and interact with others. It is during those lucid moments that we need to somehow motivate them to seek help. In short, if you are a man who has behaved badly or has behave badly thoughts, get help.

Let me get personal for a moment. I’ve never hurt another person. But I have had violent thoughts. They scared me. I think the fact that I was afraid of my own thoughts was a good thing. I sought help. I met once a week for a year with a psychiatrist and we explored my thoughts–the factors that  caused them, how I was not acting on them but was afraid that I could… It helped a great deal in that I was able to understand the roots of my thoughts and was able to vanquish them… And that is what I am suggesting men do. Whether you have or have not acted on thoughts that you know, in your lucid moments, are not socially acceptable, get help in dealing with them. Here is a good place to start:

As the site says, “Some people worry about asking for help because there can be stigma around mental health problems. They may believe that asking for help means admitting that something is wrong. Some people worry about how others might see them.” BUT “Asking for help means that you want to make changes or take steps towards your new health goals. We should celebrate the courage it takes to speak up and make changes. Getting help is part of recovery.”

As my wife said, “Women know that it’s not a gender war we fight, but a war against, entitled, destructive, weak, angry men.” And I am asking men to stop being entitled, destructive, weak, and/or angry. I am asking men to do what it takes to stop attacking women and children. If you have attacked or fear you might/could, then get help. Change. Take control. You can do this. You can become a better person. In fact you are that better person. Sometimes it takes help to find that person. Things may have happened in your life–they did in mine–that makes you a potential despicable person. But that is not who you want to be or have to be. Deal with your past and your thoughts and your (potential) actions. Become a better person. Heck, if I can do it so can you… Help is out there. All you have to do is reach out for it. Go for it. Do it. End the insanity and violence. End it now. Take the first step to becoming that better person.

If you need a nudge in the right direction, leave a comment and let’s see if we can help you get the help you need to become the person you want to be!

Note: I have created a blog where this issue can be discussed. If you want to read more blog posts and join the conversation, click here.

We interrupt this blog to speak to men

Men! If you want to hurt, harm, assault a woman, a child, a person who is different or even an animal, seek help. I know you have lucid moments and in a lucid moment, acknowledge your feelings and do something. Talk to someone. Get help. Now.

It is time for men to tell men to stop the violence. I am sure there are others who can say it more articulately or with a more creative image — please feel free. The important point is that we speak up. Now! So feel free to like or share or do your own thing. But speak up. Be heard. Let others know you care!

Note: I have created a blog where this issue can be discussed. If you want to read more blog posts and join the conversation, click here.

Let your business vision guide who you become

I’ve been a freelancer for over 25 years. I didn’t say ‘freelance writer’ because I do several things to earn a living. I do several things because I want to. How do I know that I want to? Each year I create my business vision. I then expend my energy making it real. For instance, I wrote almost full time for several newspapers and magazines for about a decade. That’s what I wanted to do. But I still taught a night school course one night a week. To me, teaching is like writing: I conduct my research and then deliver my words–in person, not on the page. I enjoyed it, so I did it. And got paid too.

I’m not saying every writer should teach. If you can’t envision yourself standing in front a group of inquiring minds, then you might — emphasis on might — not want to.

I now earn my living writing and editing for corporate clients, conducting business-writing training webinars , teaching online courses for the University of Toronto, teaching private online courses and selling my books. It is what my business vision says I want to do, so it’s what I do. In other words, having a business vision helps me focus. It helps me prioritise my time and create my website to ensure it reflects who I want to be.

What’s your business vision say you should be doing? Who do you want to be? What do you want to do? Who do you want to do it for?

If you are like most freelancers, you don’t have a business vision. You just do. Nothing wrong with that, if you like what you are doing and are making enough money doing it. But if you have a nagging feeling you’d like to be doing something different, it’s time you asked yourself the W5 questions: who, what, where, when and why.

Who do you want to be? If you don’t know, how can you become that person? I want to be a writer, trainer and teacher who writes books on the side. Go to my website,, and you will see that is who I am.

What do you want to do? Let’s say you want to be a writer. That’s cool. But do you want to write for newspapers and magazines or corporate clients? Do you want to write books? If so, fiction or non-fiction? Do you want to write a bit of several things? You need to know what you want to do so that you can devote your energy to marketing your services (or writing a book, if that’s what you want to do) so you can do it/them.

Who do you want to do it for? There is a big difference between writing for periodicals and corporate clients. There is a big difference between teaching night school and conducting corporate training gigs. At minimum, for the latter, you need a jacket and tie! But you need to determine who can buy your services, who you want to do things for, so you can focus your marketing at that type of client.

Where do you want to do it? I’ve worked from home, other than short teaching and training gigs, for over 20 years. That’s what I want to do. That means I do not apply for contract positions or gigs that would have me commuting to an office most days of the week. I want to work from home so I do.

When do you want to do it? If you want to teach or train, but you want to take most of the summer off, you would not be promoting yourself as a teacher or trainer in May or June, because you might land gigs that take place over the summer. In short, having a business vision in place helps you do what you want to do, when you want to do it.

Why do you want to do it? It helps to know what motivate us to do the various things we want to do. Sometimes the going gets tough, and knowing why you want to do something can help keep you on track.

How do you do that? Having a business vision doesn’t automatically mean you will be who you want to be. It means you can work on becoming that person. If you want to teach or train, for instance, but have never done it, you don’t start pitching yourself as a trainer or applying for teaching jobs. Perhaps you start by taking some courses that help you become a more confident teacher or trainer. Then you start looking to do what you want to do. If you want to write for periodicals, you spend most of your working day researching markets and pitching query letters.

In short, who you are is up to you and you. Create a business vision, and then work on making it real. Visit your vision once a year, and consciously decide if you want to keep on the path you’ve envisioned or if you want evolve. You don’t have to make changes every year; however, think about who you want to be, and work on becoming that person.

[ Paul Lima is exactly who he wants to be: a freelance writer, business-writing trainer, writing instructor and the author of books on business writing, promotional writing and the business of freelance writing. Read more about him online at ]

Query letter: Multiple submissions

Excerpt from Everything You Wanted to Know About Freelance Writing

Here are two questions I am often asked about the query letter process:

  • Can I submit my query to more than one publication?
  • How long should I wait after submitting my query to one publication before submitting it to another one?

You can submit a query to more than one publication. That’s called a multiple submission. If you send a multiple submission, you are supposed to let the editor know you are doing so.

However, many editors don’t like multiple submissions. For some, it’s an ego thing. They want to know you have picked their publication and only their publication. But most worry that your article might appear somewhere else before it appears in their publication—a legitimate fear, especially if the publication thinks it is buying first print rights (more on various rights later in the book), so it is just easier to say no to multiple submissions. In short, you are better off sending the query to the publication you think would pay the best and/or be most interested in your story.

That leads us to question two. How long should you wait before following up? Some editors reply immediately to queries. Others take weeks. Magazine editors can take a month or more. Some never reply.

Here’s my strategy—and it is an important part of my sales and marketing effort: I give editors up to four weeks to reply. This means, of course, I track when I send out my queries and to whom I send them. It also means I have many queries out there at any given time. When a reasonable amount of time has passed, I follow up—email or phone the editor.

When I call, I have a 30-second blurb ready. Even if I get voice mail, I get my point across, and my point goes something like this:

Hi, this is Paul Lima calling. I sent you a query two weeks ago on what organizations can do to ensure they profit from office automation through taking a planned approach to training. I’d like to write this article for Human Resources Monthly. I’m wondering if you’ve had a chance to look at the query? Please let me know. You can reach me at (416) 555-1212.

The last sentence, of course, is for voice mail only. If I get voice mail and don’t hear back from the editor within another week or so, I call again:

Hi, this is Paul Lima calling. I’m following up on my query on what organizations can do to ensure they profit from office automation. I’d like to write this article for Human Resources Monthly. If, for some reason, you want to pass, I’d like to send my proposal elsewhere. Please call (416) 555-1212 in the next day or two if you’re interested in the article. If I don’t hear from you, I will pitch it elsewhere. Perhaps we can work together in the future. Thanks.

This message is not delivered as an ultimatum. It is stated in a professional and polite tone. Even if I only get voice mail when I follow up, I know within four to six weeks if the editor is interested in the article. If the editor does not reply, I can pitch my query elsewhere.

There are exceptions to this process. If the article has been sent to a daily and is time sensitive, I would call sooner. If it is hot news, I would email my query and follow up by phone within days or hours, depending on how hot the news is. If an editor said he or she was interested and needed more time to think about it or had to review it at an editorial board meeting, I’d give the editor more time (unless the query was time sensitive and I had another hot market to which I could send it).

Excerpt from Everything You Wanted to Know About Freelance Writing

Yes Checklist: what to discuss when and editor says yes to your article idea

Excerpt from Everything You Wanted to Know About Freelance Writing 

What you do once an editor says “yes” to your article idea can be as important as how you pitch your ideas (the query letter). Upon having your proposal accepted by an editor, you have to discuss a number of details with your editor before you write. After all, once the editor says, “Yes, I’d love to buy that article from you…” you move from the domain of salesperson to that of a supplier of words.

Article idea
Short synopsis of your original idea to make sure you and the editor are on the same track or to see if the editor wants to alter the slant of your idea in any way.

Working title
Article title for submission; the editor will usually write the headline but you can create a working title. (Sometimes an editor will assign a slug—an article name or number that identifies what the article is about and, perhaps, when the article is due. If the editor assigns a slug, use it as the working title and file name.)

The particular approach to the article you are taking or that the editor wants you to take; the aspect of the idea the article will focus on. This may be a reiteration of the query, but it gives you and the editor a chance to discuss any other pertinent details.

Contact information
Contact information should include the publication’s name and address (especially if you have to invoice by mail), editor’s name, phone number, email address and perhaps fax number (seldom required; ask if you’ll need it).

Date your article is due to the editor. Meet the deadline if you want to work for the editor again. If you have problems meeting your deadline, let your editor know in advance and re-negotiate. Do not get into the habit of re-negotiating deadlines.

Word count
Minimum, maximum, or exact number of words due. Hit your word count. Do not underwrite or overwrite by more than 5%. If you have more of a story (or less of a story) than discussed, do not write long (or short) without contacting the editor. Explain why you want to go long or short and re-negotiate the word count. But be prepared to stick with the existing count!

Style guide
Many publications have their own style guides or follow The Canadian Press Stylebook or The Chicago Manual of Style. If the publication has a style guide or follows a particular one, get a copy of it and use it. Also, before writing your article, review the publication you are writing for and model your writing on the publication’s overall tone—formal, chatty, and so on.

People you will interview; the editor may have a few suggestions.

Reports, white papers, books, and so on you might want to read before writing; websites you may want to visit for background information.

Filing method
How you will submit the article to the editor? Almost every publication wants you to file by email. But make sure. Before filing electronically, discuss whether your manuscript should be embedded in the email message or sent as an attached file—generally as a Word or text file.

Photo/illustration/art work
Editors will sometimes ask you to take a photo. Unless you are a decent photographer, however, they are more likely to request you ask your contact to supply a photo or artwork. Or the editor might want your interviewee’s contact information so the publication designer can get an illustration or take a photograph.

Payment and expenses
The amount of money you get for the work done. Most publications pay a set amount per word; some pay a set amount for the assignment (and give you a word count range). Some pay a set amount ‘per column inch’. (Work out the number of words per column inch with your editor as the number varies from publication to publication, depending on the type size and the width of the column.) Some publications pay per edited word (the number of words remaining after an editor edits your article for style and fit). More on payment, below.
Ask if the publication covers expenses and discuss what they will and will not cover. Publications used to cover long-distance calls and film expenses but, with long-distance rates plummeting and digital photos not costing anything to process, most publications expect you to pay for long-distance calls and don’t expect to reimburse you for film. However, some publications will pay for calls; many will pay you a fee if you supply photos. Discuss it up front. Unless you have to travel, there are few other expenses. But don’t travel and presume the publication will cover your costs. Discuss it up front.

Most publications want you to send them an invoice. I always invoice within a week of sending in my work. A few publications I write for have payment systems in place and I do not have to invoice them. But I use my accounting software to track when payments (Accounts Receivable) are due. Find out if you should invoice, when you should invoice, how you should invoice, and to whom you should send your invoice.

Kill fee
What you get if the article is killed (is not published). If a publication can’t use your work because (thick skin required here!) the editor didn’t like it, their editorial schedule changed, they ran out of room (and it was a time-sensitive article), or for any other reason, they should pay you a kill fee plus any negotiated expenses.
How much is a kill fee? A kill fee can range from 0% to 100% of the fee. I’d suggest you negotiate a kill fee of 50% to 100% (100% in cases where the article did not run for reasons beyond your control). Also, if the editor says the article is not up to snuff, find out why and negotiate some time to rework it. You might just get it published.

Rights sold
Since the development of the Worldwide Web, copyright has become an issue. Simply put, you sell a publication “first X serial rights,” where ‘serial’ refers to print rights (not electronic; you sell first electronic rights to a website that is publishing your original work) and ‘X’ refers to the specific market the publication serves: local market, Canadian, American, North American, or world rights. Some publications have a standard contract; with others, you have to negotiate the ‘X’.
Many publications want to buy serial and electronic rights for one fee because they want to publish the article and put the article on their website or sell it to a commercial database. In fact, they may have a standard contract you have to sign if you want to write for the publication. There was a time I fought for separate serial and electronic rights. I no longer do that because most publications want both rights for one fee. Never sell copyright or moral rights, however. (More on copyright and moral rights coming in the chapter on copyright and other business issues.)Contract

If the publication doesn’t use a contract (and some publications do not), tell the editor you’d like to email him or her the assignment details as you understand them, to make sure you have it right. Submit an article assignment sheet, based on this checklist, with pertinent details. Include a cover note asking the editor to review the details and get back to you by a specific date if anything is missing. You don’t want to be working diligently on the article only to discover, after you’ve put in days of work, that you misunderstood something or the editor forgot to tell you something important.

Excerpt from Everything You Wanted to Know About Freelance Writing 

Unleash your inner ability to become a more effective business writer…

One of my business writing students, Sara Stilwell, wrote the review below about the course textbook, Harness the Business Writing Process: E-mail, Letters, Proposals, Reports, Media Releases, Web ContentThe book is used by University of Toronto adult education business writing students and is available as a print, epub, Kindle and PDF book.

The review by Sara Stilwell

With looking to overcome my challenges associated with writing and to further enhance my ability to become a more effective writer, I decided to enroll in “The Approach to Business Writing” course through the University of Toronto, as my final credit towards my CCLP designation. I thought this would be a great opportunity for me to finally overcome my writing hurdles, as writing has always been a challenge for me. Writing is such as powerful tool and I was looking for a course that would enable me to harness and unleash my inner writing abilities, in addition to providing a logical writing process in order to become a more effective business writer.

Upon purchasing the required book for the course, Harness the Business Writing Process, by Paul Lima, I decided to dive right in. After all what did I have to lose? From the moment I picked the book up, I was enthusiastic about learning the material, felt extremely engaged, and was pleased to discover the vast majority of topics covered within the book were of an asset to me.

Paul has a brilliant way of captivating the reader’s interests and attention by providing a well written yet simplified process to encourage the reader to become involved every step of the way. I especially enjoyed and gained great value from the exercises Paul incorporated into each chapter, as they allowed me to test and practice my newly acquired skills and knowledge.

Paul’s introduction of the writing process has by far exceeded my expectations of being an easy to follow, logical and exceedingly useful guide that has assisted me in writing clearer, more concise and coherent documents in an appropriate format. It has taught me the main essential elements required in writing, and has assured me that writing is merely one step in the process and the preparation, research, organization and revisions are all equally important in achieving a maximum writing potential.

Who, what, where, when and why have not necessarily been questions that I have thought to address up until now. The W5 writing short cut process Paul demonstrates has proven to be a quick start, fail proof exercise that has taught me to be more aware of the importance of these five questions and allows me to be more concise and efficient when writing emails, reports and other business documents. W5 has also helped me in overcoming the infamous blank screen known to many as writer’s block.

One of my favorite processes by far was the concept of Freefall and Direct Freefall. Prior to reading the book I would allow my inner editor to take over my ability to allow myself to simply write, as I would often get caught up with spelling and grammar, proof reading every phrase along the way causing me to lose sight of my thoughts and ideas. The concept of freefall is an exercise where by allowing you to simply write for a set period of time with no interruptions, no opportunity for editing, no judgements just simply focusing on writing. This exercise has truly allowed myself to take back hold of my inner editor and allowed the writer in me to once again flourish, to have fun, to enjoy writing for writing sake, and to allow my thoughts to flow freely.

The concept of Clustering is also an aspect covered early on in the book, which is essentially the process of word association and brainstorming. Ultimately this exercise has relieved me of the dreaded blank screen as it has allowed me to highlight key words and phrases within my cluster, eliminate any unnecessary points, expand on others and draft up a rough outline. I can now easily determine the scope of my document fine tune it to fit the appropriate audience and content to which I am looking for.

From media releases, to motivation through persuasive writing, to sales letters and executive summaries, this book has achieve it all in an easy to read format that guides the readier into effective business writing in a clear and appropriate format and tone. It easily lays out how best to approach difficult topics such as a negative situation, by having the reader place themselves in the recipients position in order to allow you to convey a more positive tone and not dwell on the negative aspects of the message thus avoiding future confrontations . There are also numerous examples throughout the book which demonstrate how to overcome writer’s block, organize your writing into a logical format for maximum impact and ultimately uncover a logical writing process to which can be leant, mastered and harnessed.

I would highly recommend and encourage individuals in all walks of life, and not just business professionals, to read and explore all this book has to offer. It covers a wide range of topics to which can be put into practice through engaging exercises, enlightening topics and ultimately translates through to a more effective writing style. Paul is such an inspiring, well versed and accomplished writer it is hard not to take advantage of the wealth of knowledge the book has to offer.

This is by far one of the most enlightening and impressive books I have encountered. It opened my eyes up to a logical writing process that makes sense, adds value and has ultimately unleashed my inner ability to make me a more confident and effective business writer. Paul is a true professional who has written this book with great dedication, sincerity and wit, which is conveyed through his style of writing.

One of my business writing students wrote the review above about the course textbook, Harness the Business Writing Process: E-mail, Letters, Proposals, Reports, Media Releases, Web Content. The book is used by University of Toronto adult education business writing students and is available as a print, epub, Kindle and PDF book. 

Book review of Big Magic

If you are suffering for your creativity. If you are facing barriers and obstacles to your creativity. If you feel you have to be drunk or do drugs to be creative. If you think you need a Masters of Fine Arts to be creative. If you would be creative if only you had ideas or better ideas. If you would be creative if only you could guarantee that someone would buy your output. If you would be creative if only you could guarantee the reaction to your creativity. If you would be creative if only there were no critics. If. If. If. You might enjoy and benefit from Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. This is both a personal and practical book. All I can say is it feels in sync with my thoughts on how to do the work I love and want to do. Whether you write, paint, dance, cook, sing, play an instrument, or something other… Or if you aspire to any of that, this book can help you get on with what you want to do, and feel good about doing it. A great read for any creative soul or aspiring creative soul.

Unblock Writer’s Block – Introduction

Excerpt from Unblock Writer’s Block

There is no such thing as writer’s block. How do I know? I know that there is no such thing as writer’s block because I have a dog.

If you are feeling a tad quizzical right now, please stick with me.

As a writer, I live a rather sedentary life. I don’t jog, lift weights or go to a fitness club. Basically, I don’t exercise. But I do try to walk thirty minutes every day to counter my sedentary life. Notice the word try. I am what you might call a fair weather walker. I walk when the weather is pleasant. I don’t walk in rain, sleet, hail or snow. Or when it’s too hot or too cold. If the weather is not fair, I have what might be described as walker’s block.

Then my wife got a dog, a Giant Schnauzer named Kohl. We don’t have a fenced in backyard and Kohl has to be walked twice a day. My wife walks him in the morning; I walk him in the afternoon. No matter the weather—rain, sleet, hail or snow, incredibly hot or incredibly cold—I’ve walked my dog every afternoon for the last twelve years.

In short, we have a dog and I no longer have walker’s block.

The same principle applies to writer’s block. You might think you have writer’s block. What you lack is a dog, or the writer’s equivalent of a dog.

I am not playing down what one feels when one wants to write and isn’t. And I am not dismissing severe bouts of depression or anxiety that may inflict some writers, (or anyone pursuing any art, craft or profession). But in the vast majority of cases, most of us who want to write are able to write—if we have a dog, or the writer’s equivalent. And this book is filled with dogs—writing exercises that will get you started and keep you writing.

Excerpt from Unblock Writer’s Block