Our Staff is Ready to Help You

P&L Publishing & Literary Services is stronger than ever, providing quality craftsmanship and personal care as your book transitions from an idea, to hard work, and then to reality. Linda is our lead administrator and primary editor. Eugene does the bulk of the formatting for print-on-demand books, and then prepares the manuscripts for conversion into e-books. Paul does basic book covers, e-book conversions, and quality control for the formatting. When a client wants a custom book cover, we turn to Grant. It is possible that we will consider producing audiobooks in the future since Grant’s expertise in media and technology makes this a real possibility.

Linda worked for several years as an editor for a major publisher, and then as a university professor. She has edited novels, nonfiction, devotionals, dissertations, articles, newsletters, and blogs. She works with writers at all levels. In short, she’s done it all.

Eugene writes for several newspapers, has authored three books, and is the former president of a regional writers guild. He is a certified formatter for authors who want to self-publish on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing.

Paul is a life coach and mentor who has written three books and dozens of magazine articles, edited an anthology, and contributed multiple articles to a reference work. As a college Creative Writing teacher, he has been a featured speaker at several writers’ conferences. He also mentors writers in developing their online platform.

Grant is a professional graphic designer who specializes in photography, videos, and custom designs for book covers, brochures, and other printed items. He owns his own firm, and provides custom book covers for our clients who want something beyond the free basic cover.

P & L Publishing & Literary Services is insured by biBerk, a Berkshire Hathaway company. We offer similar services under a second name, PreachandPrint.com, which is specifically designed for pastors and Bible teachers who want to publish their message.

You are invited to partner with P & L Publishing & Literary Services. Our staff will treat you and your book project with the utmost courtesy and respect, and when you are holding your book in your hands, we think you’ll be pleased.

The Title of the Book Is the Hook

An important aspect of any book is the title itself. Lewis Smedes wrote a book about forgiveness in which he discusses some of the psychological, spiritual, and relational dynamics of being hurt and then moving towards healing and forgiveness.

He wanted to title the book, Healing the Hurts We Don’t Deserve, but the people at HarperCollins insisted on something catchier, something that might spark more interest on the popular level. So the publisher decided to name it Forgive and Forget, a title Smedes hated because as he says, “Forgiving has nothing to do with forgetting. In fact, sometimes the best forgiving happens because we remember.” The negotiated compromise kept the publisher’s preference, of course, and Smedes’s working title became the subtitle. This solution worked. It has sold more than a half million copies.

Of course, the book itself is excellent. It is interesting and helpful. It starts with a European folk tale about a husband and wife who are unhappy. The husband is devastated when he learns that his wife had an affair. But they manage to work through their unhappiness, come to forgiveness, and experience personal growth. Their end state is better, despite the affair.

The author keeps it interesting all through the book, with examples, information, and personal experiences of betrayal, pain, struggle, and triumph. Each anecdote in this nonfiction work reengages and pulls readers back to the author’s theme, showing how to more effectively handle our own struggles of hurting, hating, healing, and forgiving. Each page reveals a little more of the complexities and dynamics involved. Each issue is common to every one of us.

Good writers, therefore, understand that the open or lead is not the only place for a good hook. How about mid-chapter? Or at the end of a chapter? Or even the title itself?

Thankful for Our Authors

We are thankful for the privilege of working with some outstanding authors. This collage represents some of the books we’ve edited or formatted this year, which include fiction and nonfiction: novels, memoirs, education workbooks, journalism, and religious themes.

We enjoy talking on the phone, emailing and texting with our writers, getting to know them, and assisting as they fulfill their dream of completing their book and becoming a published author.

As one client mentioned on the phone a few days ago, “I’ve done a lot of things in my life, but I never dreamed I’d be an author. Thanks for your wonderful help and encouragement. I’m ready to start my next book!”

Well Told Stories

Every life is a series of stories, and each person an endless repository of action, emotion, and relationship. One of the goals of literature is to capture that collection of raw material, and frame the narrative in such a way that those who read the finished product are invited to participate in a vicarious experience. If the stories are told well, readers can feel pain, joy, love, fear, or wonder. They are able to cry when a lover is betrayed, cringe when the hero of the story is under attack, or crawl under a blanket and hide to escape being discovered by the intruder.

I remember coming home from work one day and discovering my wife and children watching a scary movie on TV. All three of my kids were on the same sofa, huddling together under a blanket as the terrifying story unfolded before their eyes. The fear was real. They were experiencing the lives of the people on the screen.

That’s what happens when a good book is placed in front of your eyes, too. The reader can learn, grow, increase in wisdom, or even become a better friend or lover as a result. Sometimes, reading a selection can lead to anger, motivate to action, or inspire a deeper faith. Other times, you come away so afraid you want to lock the doors and shut out the world.

Each writer obviously has a unique personality and writing style, and every story has a different theme and mood. But good writing should warm your heart, provoke you to action, inspire you to travel to a place you’ve never been before, or entice you to want to read more. Some stories will cause you to question what you believe, and others will affirm what you already consider to be true. Perhaps you’ll find yourself sitting in your chair with a smile breaking across your face, or see yourself in one of the scenes.

This article is excerpted from the introduction to a book titled Reflections: An Anthology of Memoir and Short Story, which may be purchased on Amazon .

Draw Your Reader into the Story

Good writing captures the imagination of the readers, grabs and holds their attention, compelling them to keep reading. It creates interest, makes them care about the story, the people, the problem. Its impact is so deep they simply don’t have the option of putting down the book, the article, or the essay. They must keep reading. They have to find out what happens next. They want to know the outcome. They are hooked.

The same is true of any form of communication: television commercials, sitcoms, and movies; micro fiction, short stories, and novels; essays and narrative nonfiction; poetry and songs; speeches and sermons. When done well, it latches onto something inside the mind or the soul of the hearer, viewer, or reader.

This happened to me the first time I read Longfellow’s Evangeline. My wife had recommended it, so I picked it up at a used bookstore and sat down on the sofa to read on my day off. From the opening page, I was hooked.

THIS is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks, Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight, This is the forest primeval; but where are the hearts that beneath it Leaped like the roe, when he hears in the woodland the voice of the huntsman? List to a Tale of Love in Acadie, home of the happy.

Business communications consultant Milo Frank says “The attention span of the average individual is 30 seconds. Let me give you an example. Look around the room and concentrate on a lamp. You’ll find your mind goes to something else within 30 seconds. If the lamp could move or talk, or go on and off by itself, it would recapture your attention for another 30 seconds. But without motion or change, it cannot hold you.” This is why in his chapter titled “The Lead and the Ending,” William Zinsser writes:

The most importance sentence in any article is the first one. If it doesn’t induce the reader to proceed to the second sentence, your article is dead. And if the second sentence doesn’t induce him to continue to the third sentence, it’s equally dead. Of such a progression of sentences, each tugging the reader forward until he is hooked, a writer constructs that fateful unit, the “lead.”

If this is true, writers who want their stuff to be read will use a variety of means to hook and maintain the reader’s attention throughout the work, not only at the beginning. Because the mind can only focus for thirty seconds, every word, every sentence, and every paragraph has to effectively reengage your readers, reconnecting them to the story for another thirty seconds. There has to be movement, change, something of interest. Even in non-fiction.

Tug at the Soul

As a child, I loved stories. I still do! And I loved people who told good stories. My uncle was fabulous. My brother was into ghost stories.

But my sister bested them all, because not only did she tell wonderful stories, she then organized us, gave us our parts, created the scene, and showed us how to bring the story to life. I don’t know how many plays she created, directed, and had us perform. Her favorite names were Laura and Perry, so of course, she was always Laura and I was always Perry.

In the school library, I discovered more stories. My favorites were about animals. I must have read every book that featured horses and dogs—especially wolves. For some reason, these stories captured my imagination, took me to other places, and left me with a feeling of . . . a feeling of . . .

What if I was there? What if that happened to me? What would I do in that situation? The stories left me with the same feeling the people in the story had. And sometimes I experienced what the horse or the dog was feeling.

That’s what you want to do in your story. You have to find a way to reach into your readers’ emotion, tug at the soul, and carry them into the world you created. Do that, and you change people. Do that, and you’ll have a winner on your hands.

What Matters Most

I’m reading a novel that was published by one of the big New York publishing houses, and have discovered quite a few errors: incorrect word usage, typo, grammar, punctuation. I chuckled to myself, “You mean those big publishers are human too?”

And that’s exactly what it means. We’re all human, we all make mistakes, and that’s OK.

If you self-publish your book, only to find out that there are a few errors, it’s OK. You or your editor/formatter can make the corrections any time. That’s one of the benefits of self-publishing.

On the other hand, there are more important aspects of a book than perfect spelling, word choice, and grammar. Jeff Gerke, in the introduction to his book The Irresistible Novel, says what really matters is NOT that a book is without errors. The important thing is the story itself. Is it compelling? Does it grab you? Is the reader captivated and transported into the world of the story?

As an author, you need to free yourself from worrying about the technical elements during the writing process. Liberate yourself so you can focus on the story, the characters, the plot, the world you’re building. If you are successful with the story itself, it doesn’t matter if there are a few typos in the printed book. Because what readers are looking for is a fantastic book they can get lost in.

The novel I’m reading is really good. I can hardly wait to see what happens next. Even if there’s a mistake the editor missed.

Dream On!

It takes a lot of hard work to write a book. Most of us invest months or years, tons of research, and racking our brain to get it just right. Then after it’s done, you spend weeks and months rewriting, editing, and reworking what you already wrote. The old expression from Winston Churchill’s speech in 1940 applies to writers: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.” That definitely describes the writer’s life.

The expectation is that once the book is finally finished, the author’s work is done. However, there are two appropriate words in response to this concept: Dream On!

If your purpose is merely to write the book, then yes, you’re done. Fini! But if you actually want people to buy your book and read it, then there’s more to do, because whether your book is traditionally published or self-published, book selling these days increasingly relies on the efforts of the author. There’s no way to get around this fact.

Take best-selling novelist Louise Penny, for example. She writes great fiction, sells a lot of books, and has a loyal fan base. But she also puts a lot into her marketing efforts, too. Newsletter, speaking tour, book signings, website, Facebook, and more.

If you want to do well as a seller of books, not just a writer of books, you need a strategy too. There are lots of books about marketing methods for authors, and I recommend that you consider reading two or three. But here are a few ideas for you.

1. Create a “One Sheet” for your book. You might need to do an online search to find out what this is, but it’s essential. And once you have designed it, you can email it or print it off and send it as part of your marketing strategy.

2. Use social media to let people know about your book, using at least two platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, TikTok, YouTube, WeChat, Vero. There are new social media sites popping up all the time. Pick two or three, and use them to help people find out about you and your story.

3. Take advantage of a website that doubles as a blog. Every post should have a title, a category, and several tags. This is how people find you when searching for what they’re interested in. And being found is essential for authors. Your weekly blog post can be about a character, the plot, one of your themes, or even about you as the author. At times you should write about some of the research you did, or perhaps related issues that are important to you.

4. Enter your book into writing contests. It’s amazing the number of authors who got their start through a contest. By simply participating, you learn a lot and start to get some visibility. And if you win, you open yourself to greater notoriety and maybe even a publishing contract.

5. Provide a free pdf of your book to selected friends and family, and ask them to write an endorsement blurb or a review. Then, ask them to share their comments on their own social media. This has the potential of exponentially increasing the number of people who know about your book. They can also post the same write-up as an Amazon book review.

6. Visit local bookstores and libraries, offering to do a book reading or writing workshop. Ask if they are willing to carry your book. Many independent bookstores are glad to feature local authors.

7. Join a writers group. Not only can this help you improve your writing skills, but this increases your exposure to potential new readers, as well.

8. Write a monthly newsletter. This is an important way to build your platform, develop relationship with your readers, and keep people interested in what you write. Consider using a newsletter app such as TinyLetter, EmailOctopus, Benchmark, MailChimp, ActiveCampaign, or Constant Contact, to send emails and get signups with mobile apps. There are dozens of apps these days. Or, you can develop your own method using your email.

9. Advertise. This can be digital or in print magazines, and there’s a huge difference in what it costs. You can do Facebook ads yourself. Plus, there are a lot of firms who will do online advertising at a pretty reasonable cost.

10. Volunteer to speak at service clubs, libraries, bookstores, churches, businesses, conferences, schools or colleges, and other groups. Hey! You never know who might say yes to having a new author speak to their group in person.

11. Conduct a webinar, or plan a live Facebook session where you discuss your book.

12. Create some videos to post in YouTube or on your website.

This is just a sampling of what you can do to get the word out about your book and about you as an author. Many writers simply don’t want to be involved in marketing. They just want to write. I understand that. Believe me, I do!

But the realities are, well, realities. And without adequate marketing, your beautiful, well-written book will sit there on the shelf or in someone’s online catalogue and never make it into people’s homes, ebook readers, or eyes. And the potential income from book sales will never materialize.

Truth in Advertising

The staff members at P&L Publishing & Literary Services are writers who have written books and articles with a number of traditional and independent publishers. This means we have quite a bit of personal experience. Plus we’ve seen many sides of the publishing industry.

When we got started, we took a look at the different editing and formatting services, comparing their prices and what they offered. One online formatting service seemed to come up over and over again as the lowest price available, so we had to take a hard look at our own prices, and adjust them accordingly.

man-1459246_1280However, one of our new formatters used that very service for a book he published a year or so ago, and informed us that the super-low price was just a come-on. “True, that’s the advertised price, but by the time you submit your manuscript and get started, you’re told that the rock bottom price doesn’t apply. Although you thought you could get your book formatted for about $50, the actual price is around $200 or $300. There’s a big difference between what they advertise in order to lure and hook an author, compared to what you really have to fork over.”

When P&L formats your book, you pay exactly what you see on our website . . . not a penny more. When our editor sends an invoice indicating what it’ll cost to edit your manuscript, you know right away what you have to pay, and it’s not going to change.

No come-ons. No bait and switch. Just honest truth, low costs, and a great finished product. That’s our promise to you.

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Writing a Book Review

When you read a book, it’s really helpful for you to write a review on Amazon, and maybe even on Goodreads. That helps other readers decide whether to buy the book. If it’s a book you like, it’s especially important. When you write a review, however, there are several guidelines to keep in mind.

  1. If you know the author personally, don’t mention it.
  2. Say what the book is about.
  3. Give a few specific examples from the book itself.
  4. What did you like about it?
  5. Does the author accomplish his or her purpose?
  6. Do you recommend the book?

Here’s an example of a book review:

On Parr (2)I just finished Ken Murray’s “On Parr” about a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot. The story about Colonel Ralph Parr is fascinating, but so is Murray, the author. I found him to be part research historian, part flight instructor, and part master story-teller. The combination enables Murray’s skill as a writer to hold you in your seat, turning page after page, wanting to find out what happens next. He gives inside information about what it was like to attend an NFL game when the stadium announcer tells the crowd that Pearl Harbor was attacked. He describes in detail what it feels like to dive straight down in a fighter jet from 43,000 feet and pull up barely in time to avoid slamming into the ground, right behind eight Russian MiGs, and taking out the enemy leader. His narrative includes figures of speech, dialogue, and technical information. It’s full of sensory detail: sights, sounds, and smells. He doesn’t shy away from the emotions the characters in the stories are dealing with during hellish battle scenes of war: fear, anger, loneliness, or depression. In the process, Murray brings the reader into the action, into the context, into the time period. I discovered nuggets of wisdom, such as how to approach relationships when starting a new job, and how to balance your personal life with your career. Murray does a really good job showing the interplay between national and international politics, and how it impacts average citizens as well as military personnel. And, while shining the spotlight on Colonel Parr, Murray manages to reveal a bit of himself. For he, too, is a decorated military aviator, an accomplished writer and editor, and an outstanding example of a human being who has so much to offer. I recommend the book.

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