Writing, self-publishing, memoir, fiction and non-fiction writing classes and workshops.

Upcoming writing workshops

If you live in the San Fernando area of Los Angeles, (including Woodland Hills, Malibu, and Topanga Canyon areas) you might be close enough to attend one of my classes and workshops.

Here are my upcoming and ongoing writing workshops and groups:

Writing the memoir though autobiographical short stories.

There comes a time in life when you are ready to tell your story. Some people simply want to put their memories in reading form for their children or grandchildren (don't we all wish our relatives had done it for us?) and some aim high and wish to publish. I will help you ever step of the way. 

But writing a memoir is a tall order.  Through this workshop we will learn to bring your story to life through one (or more depending on each individual’s stamina) biographical short story. The goal being to work toward a collection of short stories which can be then combined into a book.

In this workshop I will guide you week by week on how to create your autobiographical short story by choosing the point in time and central event with you as main protagonist. Then I will learn how to make the story compelling weaving plot, characters, settings, and emotions. Finally we will bring those elements to life though the nostalgia of the time period via visual and auditory elements.  The result will be a highly readable short story that people will love.

Each workshop is limited to ten people
10 weeks, 2 hours each class
Cost of workshop $250 (it comes to less than $13 per hour of class

Self-Publishing Workshop

Whether you have a book ready for its moment in the light or you want to explore your options as you embark in writing your first novel or memoir, this workshop will cover all that modern-day self-publishing entails.  Each week we will cover a different element of the puzzle toward successful self-publishing. Each element will be made simple and manageable. Once your manuscript is written things will get easy thanks to this workshop. Marketing, production of physical paperbacks and ebooks, selling on Amazon and bookstores can be achieved within a short few months and nearly for free.

Week 1: Pros and cons of self-publishing.  Do you need an agent and publishers? How to sell foreign rights. Income potential of your book, niches.
Week 2: Editing the book, i.e. measuring twice, cutting once, finding beta readers, looking like a pro.
Week 3: Creating a readership. Should you develop a mailing list, blog, tweet, twerk, jive? Oh what to do with so little time? I will cut through the chase, tell you what works and what is a waste of energy.
Week 4: The physical book (cover, content, isbn). From Word document to the paperback in your hands the bootstrapping way. Yes you could pay thousands but why not do it for free or nearly?
Week 5: Making the book available on Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, book stores and libraries.
Week 6: Your author's identity: website, pen names, communicating with readers, handling bad and good reviews, etc.
Week 7: Letting the world know: how to make Amazon notice your book, how to get reviews, choosing a title, pricing strategies, becoming your own marketing guru.

 Workshop limited to ten people
7 weeks, 2 hours each class
Cost of workshop $200 (it comes to less than $15 per hour of class)

 Motivation workshop/ developing a mentorship group

You want to write. You desperately yearn to. So why can't bring yourself to it?  Perhaps you have ideas but can't find the right time to start. Perhaps you are able to start but have trouble finishing. Perhaps you get in the way of your own success. Perhaps you lack the confidence in your own work or had past negative experiences. Pehaps it’s procrastination the P word. This class will help you transform into a disciplined, confident, happy writer. By the end of the class you will know the other students and trust them well enough to give birth to your own peer mentorship group.  

This workshop is part writing, part behavioral counseling (note: I am not a license therapist). So we'll find ourselves digging into pretty deep stuff in a safe and nurturing environment. 

Detail of each week upon request.

Workshop limited to ten people
7 weeks, 2 hours each class
Cost of workshop $200 (it comes to less than $15 per hour of class

Reach me at feelthefearandpublish@gmail.com. We can speak on the phone or via skype so that I can place you in the workshop that's right for you.

One on one coaching always available in person, on the phone or via skype. 


  • In my classes students never have to read their work to other students unless they choose to. 
  • My workshops are nurturing, unpretentious, and friendly. We learn, teach each other what we know, and have a good time. 
  • I personally meet each potential student to make sure he or she is a good match for the group.
  • One of the goals is that by the end of a workshop participants  will have developed with one another the roots of a working relationships for mutual support and mentorship. 
  • All levels are welcome. Inexperienced writers aren’t inexperienced at life. We all have something unique to contribute to the group.
  • All my workshops involve daily communication and support.

How to get reviews for your book

Okay people, this is going to be a long one, so grab a cup of coffee and let's tackle this issue of reviews.
 I wrote and sloppily edited this in the course of 2 days, sorry about the typos. 
My goal in sharing my experience is to help you make choices about seeking reviews for your book, and the pitfalls to avoid.   I only have my own experience to draw from so take this advice with a grain of salt. I welcome your comments, questions, and corrections.
Before garnering reviews you will need two things:
You’ll need paperback copies of your book which you can mail to potential reviewers.
Your book must be available for sale on Amazon.
You’ll need paperbacks because most reviewers will want a paper copy of your book. It does costs more but there are advantages.  I think it’s harder for someone to ignore your gorgeous paperback on their bedside table than to ignore yet one more ebook on their e-reader.  I never sent a kindle or nook e-book to anyone for review.  First of all I’m not quite sure how.  Second I’m a bit paranoid about my e-book being sent every which ways. That would be the kind of ‘viral’ spreading I would not want.
You’ll need your book to be for sale on Amazon for two reasons 1- Amazon reviews help your book ranking (and 80% of your sales will be on Amazon) and 2- Asking for reviews before there is a platform on which to place the review is bad news. People want to write a review when it’s fresh in their mind. If they have to wait they’ll never do it. And if the book is not yet for sale, where would they post the review? That’s right. Nowhere. And by the way, when someone emails you their review it’s as heartwarming as it is unusable.  Only they can upload them on the various sites.
Note: Traditional publishers have the ability to list a book on Amazon before it is available for sale, thus setting up pre-ordering and reviewing of the book. Last time I checked self-published authors didn’t have that ability.  So any review you ask for, be sure that your book is already on Amazon, Barnes and Nobles etc

The most important thing to know about reviews.
1- There are two kinds of reviews, those you get as you’re trying to make your book as good as it can be. Those reviews are really constructive (hopefully) feedback from a select few you have chosen to give you their opinion before the book is available for sale. 
The other kind are the reviews posted by readers, bloggers etc. on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes and Nobles online etc… 
Both types of reviews can help your book, but only the latter can sink its chances of success.
The most important thing to know about reviews is to be sure that your book is per-fect before it is up for sale. Remember, once the book is up for sale, it belongs to everyone.  It’s way out of your hands. And once a review is on Amazon, like it or not, it’s there to stay. So, as is my advice with everything pertaining to self publishing, Take. Your. Time. Do  not rush to hit that publish button!
People who write reviews will not be kind to a book that is amateurish, poorly designed, stuffed with typos, repetitions, and grammatical mistakes, or if its cover looks like it was put together by a five-year-old high on sugar, or much, much worst, designed by you.  (I will write about covers soon.) If you have doubts about your book as it is now, listen to that intuition. Traditional Publishers have the highest of standards.  They would never let a book out into the world without making sure it is perfect and as a Self-Published author you should take clues from the pros.
I've read enough reviews of books that were self-published prematurely to know that those books get pilloried.  So although reviews are hugely helpful when they are good with a few bad ones in between, when they are consistently bad (and trust me, people go into excruciating details about why your book sucks) they will kill your book.  Reviewers, as a rule, do not suffer to be taken for a fool gladly. Especially if they have spent good money on your book.
If your book is not per-fect and has many bad reviews, I would not hesitate to pull it out from sale and fix it.  You cannot erase the reviews, but worst-case scenario you can delete the book, change the title and the ISBN and the cover. Even republish under a pen name and/ or get a face transplant if you have to, and start over. It is your intellectual property and it is within your rights to cut your losses and go to plan B. (P.S. I was joking about the face transplant. A good hat, scarf and fake nose should be enough.)
So from now on let’s assume your book is as per-fect as you can make it and the cover is glorious. I will tell you what I did to get reviews and what I believe has been effective.
The second most important thing about reviews:
Your book will not be everyone’s cup of tea.  Even if it’s an excellent book, you will disappoint some.  Some people will stop reading at page 30 and write a scathing review saying how boring the book was and how nothing happened … just when action was about to start, right there at page 31. If only they had read one more page

Some people will simply be rubbed the wrong way by your book. This is why it’s crucial not to sell your book to everyone and anyone.  It’s more important to market your book to your ideal readership (I will cover this later).
This theory also applies to getting reviews. You are more likely to get favorable reviews when you put your book in front of people who love just this kind of book. Just remember, you are writing for those who will love your book.  Your ideal readers.  You should also focus on getting reviews from your ideal readers, not the rest of the population.
And of course, when you remember that no book will ever please everyone, and when you know that even literary masterpieces get horrible reviews, it helps digest your own bad reviews. And you will get them. Guaranteed.

Getting review from your peers.
Okay, tell me if I’m wrong on this: Reviews from other authors are called blurb.  Reviews written by journalist are called press.
It does looks pretty hip when you purchase a book and on the back cover or the first pages are dozens of (glowing) blurbs or quotes from reviews in the press.  With these, signed by all kinds of prestigious people, come Validation and Glory and Happiness. 

Ah if only… I don’t have a single such review or critique for my wee book. I learned to live without.

I console myself by reading book reviews in the New York Times every day. Let me tell you, literary critics are scary. Not only can they hate a book, but they express that loathing with such wit and masterful language... Er, no... I don't think I would recover…  
If you hire a PR firm, or if you have an agent and a publisher, perhaps you can get Press. Praises of this sort do make your paperback’s back cover and your Amazon description sexier. In my Amazon description I quote reviews I received on … Amazon.  Those express the excitement of some of my readers who aren’t celebrities, or literary heavyweight, or New York Times critics, but they are my readers and I write for them, and those are the kind of people I hope will buy my book because I know they'll have a great time reading it. 
I know that many authors spend a lot of time courting other authors in the hope of squeezing a blurb out of them (he he I made myself laugh just imagining a cartoon depicting this.  I wish I could draw). I just don’t have that kind of time, and I am not sure it would make a bit of difference. Also if I knew someone famous I would never dare ask.  I would be deathly embarrassed. If you’re ballsier than I am go for it.
My convoluted point is: don’t focus on press and blurbs. Maybe you could do better with then, but you can do very well without.
Getting reviews from friends and family.
Yeah, hmmm…. Don’t count on too many of those.
I gave free copies of my book to only 5 persons: Four close friends and my mother-in-law. Only one of them posted a review on Amazon, if i remember correctly. The others are either not computer savvy or did not feel comfortable reviewing it.  Maybe they hated it for all I know. Maybe the process of entering their credit card to be allowed to review on Amazon was too much of a hassle. I did not ask.
These 5 copies were the only unsolicited copies I gave away.  There is a reason for this.  I never want to pressure anyone into reading my book, let alone write a review. So if a friend or family member didn’t express interest, I did not give them a book.
Would you believe that no one asked for a free book?  Maybe they were insulted that I did not offer, but if they were they did not tell me.  In the process of not pressuring anyone, I might have rubbed some the wrong way. I’ll never know.
Many friends and family members – although not all of them but I am pretending not to notice - bought my book via Amazon, Barnes and Nobles online, etc. , or at their local bookstore.  They did what I hoped they would do: they did not feel entitled to a free copy (that can add up financially) AND they wanted to show me support by buying my book and helping my Amazon ranking, bless their hearts. 
I think all in all, perhaps 5 friends posted a review on Amazon.
Here is an important fact I noticed: Reviewers are a specific type of people. They are people who have clear opinions, who are not afraid to express them, who want their voices heard.  Usually they are very comfortable writing and are good with computers. If your friends or family members happen to like writing reviews, then they will.  If they don’t they won’t. Don’t hold it against them because you really don’t know their specific situation.
By the way, I avoid asking friends or family members if they liked my book.  Why?  Because written reviews on Amazon are one thing, being told something you don’t want to hear to your face is another. I have a ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ policy about this… But when people who love me go out of their way to tell me they enjoyed my book, I’m thrilled and I might ask them if they would not mind writing a wee review, depending on who they are. I keep it cool and low key no matter how much I am burning to beg them.
In conclusion, getting reviews from friends and family is touchy and fraught with emotional perils.  I would not focus on it too much. Let them read your book if they wish to. Don’t shove it down their throat.  Relationships with friends and family, in my opinion, should be kept separate from your writing career. And there are other ways to obtain reviews. 

Getting reviews from bloggers
Now that’s a concept well worth exploring. This is how I got my first 20 reviews or so.
But first, I want to tell you a bit more about blogging, and bloggers.  There is a right way and a wrong way to blog, in my opinion. (with my way being the right one, he he.)
Through my personal blog I made real connections with bloggers over the course of three years.  I did not have any idea the connections I was making would one day help launch my book.  Perhaps it was my lack of an agenda that made it possible for those bloggers to eventually root for me and want to help me succeed.  This is one of the many ways in which blogging changed my life.
On my blog I never expressed any confidence about my novel.  I had none. I was vocal about it having been rejected by agents. I expressed that I wasn't self-publishing out of temerity, but out of loathsome bitterness.  Seriously, I should have paid those bloggers for listening to my whining day after day. However, the readers of my blog must have liked the way I wrote and that was enough for them to encourage me and believe in me, as well as decide to spread the word and writing reviews when the time came.
When the book became available as a paperback I asked many blogging friends (only those who offered) if they would accept to read my book and perhaps even review it.  I did not ask anyone directly, which I felt would have been too pushy. I only mentioned on my blog that anyone interested could contact me.  I sent them paperback books and a note asking for reviews.  If you read early reviews of my novel on Amazon you get sense that the reviewer knows me, as he or she mentions me by name or mentions my blog. 
One advantage of giving your book to a blogger you are friends with is three fold:  they already like you.  They already like the way you write.  And they already are on the same page via blogging; meaning that you and that blogger are probably already interested in the same topics, have similar esthetics, sense of humor and so on.  You’re so much better off when you give a copy of your book to someone whose cup of tea it is. For example, it doesn't matter how fantastic a crime novel might be, those are simply not my cup of tea. It would be agony for me to read one, let alone review it.  And it would be a big imposition to be asked.

As I will explain in another post, Blogging and the support of the blogging community can launch your book. Bloggers are influencers, outspoken, enthusiastic and generous. Your blogging 'tribe' will not only generate reviews, but they will usually be positive ones. 

Paying for reviews
I know that it’s done but I’ve never paid for a review. Here is something: reviews are not everything.  When a book has a lot of five stars reviews on Amazon but a low ranking, I become suspicious. Why so many five star reviews combined with an abysmal ranking? See, reviews and ranking go hand in hand.  People who actually like a book and review it also happen to give the book word of mouth action.  Real reviewers are book advocates.  Fake reviewers really haven’t read your book. That’s why their reviews sound a lot like an amalgam of other reviews. They have not read your book and won’t recommend it to anyone.  People mistake the forest for the tree. They believe that if they get more five star reviews sales will follow, so they’d do anything to get more reviews, even by what I personally consider dishonest means. In fact it’s the other way around. Good reviews are a symptom of people reading and loving your book. Not the cause.
Now whom do you pay to review your book? I have been asked that question. The answer is I have no idea and I don’t want to find out. It goes without saying that I never wrote a review of my own book anywhere.  That’s because I firmly intend on going to heaven one day. I’m just sayin’.
By the way, google the words ‘sock puppeteering’ and read more than you ever want to know about this unsavory practice… and what it looks like when you’re caught.  Ouch. 
This being said, I bet that traditional publishers ask everyone who works for them to write one (or several) reviews of everything they publish.  How else would the book have so many reviews long before it’s actually available for purchase? They might also (firmly) ask their authors to write peer reviews. So one advantage of a traditional publishing deal might be the ability for the publisher to make reviews happen.  Notice, they make reviews happen and come out as clean-scented as roses. They don’t need to pay for reviews, all they have to do is gently twist a few arms…

Getting reviews (and generating interest) through book giveaways.

 Once I had my website up and my book was available for sale everywhere. I created an author profile on Goodreads.  I already had a reader profile.  I love Goodreads. Goodreads is how I make decisions about book purchases.  I follow reviews of readers whose tastes match mine and follow their leads and recommendations. Please friend me on Goodreads so that we can have some reading fun together. But I digress…
  A Goodread author profile takes a few days to create. They have to vet you but it’s a painless process.  Once I became a bona-fide Goodread Author I created a giveaway of my novel.  I offered 10 copies and got thousands of requests.  That’s not an unusual number. Goodread is a vibrant reading community. I sent the book to the ten winners and added a note asking if they would consider writing an honest review and post it on Amazon.  Many did but not all. 
On subsequent giveaways I offered only three books and received about the same amount of requests.  My book costs me about $7 shipping included. So at some point I was more interested in people learning about the book than I was to ask for reviews.  So thousands of views  (people interested enough to request the book) for three books seemed cost- effective marketing.  Of course if you send less books you get less reviews.  But there is a point when garnering reviews is not as crucial.  Say if you have 20 and up.
Another thought about Goodreads readers:  they are on average less inclined to give star reviews than Amazon reviewers.  They are more discriminating readers than the average person.
Anytime I send a book to anyone, I attach a note thanking him or her in advance for posting an honest review on Amazon. I think that when you write a nice note and send it with your book it makes it more personable. If these people don’t like your book, they tend not to write a review rather than write a negative one.  Although one person who won my book on Goodreads did write a scathing review, so I should not act so smart. Killing people with kindness will only get you so far.
I asked bloggers if they would host giveaways of my novel. That was a mutually beneficial situation.  The bloggers had something fun to offer on their blogs, and I got many more eyes on my book. Because I mentioned the giveaway on my blog, twitter and Facebook, they also benefit from extra traffic.
The winners of the blogs giveaway have all the characteristic of an ideal reader: They have heard of your book through the recommendation of someone they respect.  They are active online, communicators, and love to spread the word when they like something.  Because many of the particular blogs I connected with are enthusiastic Francophiles, these giveaway readers who wanted my books and entered the giveaway turned out to be eager to write a review and often a terrific one.
How many reviews are enough reviews?
I don’t have too many reviews even with all this.  I think 89 as I write this post.  I created a chart so you can see the exact count per month (It took me way too much time to painstakingly collect that info but when I want to make a point, I’m motivated.)  And the point I am trying to make is that reviews come slowly, but they add up.  Do not despair.  My book started to sell well when I had about 20 reviews.
data for my novel
May 2011
June 2011
July 2011
August 2011
September 2011
October 2011
November 2011
December 2011
January 2012
February 2012
March 2012
April 2012
May 2012
June 2012
July 2012
August 2012
September 2012
October 2012
November 2012
December 2012
January 2013
February 2013

What do you think of that chart?  It seems so few per month.  And yet they add up.  It’s a marathon, not a race.  Your book is here for the long haul.
Lately I noticed that Amazon sends emails asking us to write reviews of products and books we purchase.  They didn’t use to do that.  It might explain a slight increase in the number of reviews for my novel.  I also noticed that these new kinds of reviews are shorter, more spontaneous, have more typos in them. As an author I prefer longer reviews that tell me details about how my reader was touched by my book, but beggars aren’t choosers. I’m appreciative of anyone who takes the time to be kind to my book.
The emotional toll of being reviewed
I don’t only have good reviews.  Some people passionately hate my books.  When I get a bad review I get an extra glass of Pinot Grigio with dinner.  This being said, when I get a nice review, I also get an extra glass of Pinot.
Who said, “In writing, what do you have to lose, except absolutely everything?”  The first reader to tell me gets a free copy of my novel because I’ve been looking for its author and it’s driving me nuts! Maybe Ann Dillard?  But where?)
When we write we put ourselves out there in such a major way.  It is about everything that matters, our skills, our thoughts, our dreams, our interests and aspiration, our fragilities and doubts.  This combined with the fact that most of us are in fact introverts (one of the reasons we feel more comfortable expressing ourselves in writing) it is a recipe for pain and agony.
No wonder so many of us never take that manuscript out of the drawer!  I wrote for ten years before showing my writing to anyone but my husband.  And even he had to wait five years.  So you bet I was afraid of reviews.
To decide to share our work with the world is to face criticism that feels deeply personal.  What do we have to lose but absolutely everything?
And yet, this too is an illusion that will vanish through the process. It’s absolutely terrifying at first.  But once your book is up for sale, there is no turning back.  All you can do then is ride the wave of praise and criticism. The cliff was there and you have jumped, and what choice do you have but to land?
Or glide. Your first good reviews will put you on cloud nine.  Your first bad reviews will send you to the liquor cabinet or worse.  And then, soon enough you’ll be over both.  Bad reviews will stop stinging, but sadly good reviews will not bring you the same insane joy.  That is what happens to the skin when it thickens, I guess. Just keep an abundant supply of Pinot or chocolate within immediate reach, just to be safe.
Now to put things in perspective I created a page to amuse you and show you how even Literary Masters aren’t immune to receiving terrible reviews.  I also added some of my awful reviews for good measure. If you want to play along, please add your worst review in the comments below if you dare.

Other scattered thoughts and bizarre thinking about reviews.
The silence of people you know personally sometimes hurts your feelings more than a bad review from a stranger.
On the other hand, if they opened their mouth it might hurt even more
On the third hand, maybe they like the work but it would kill them to admit it.  And that would amount to a compliment.
So according to my twisted logic, the silence of those you know is actually a praise.
Basically, you can imagine what you want, and you can choose to imagine their jealously, or their negative judgment.  Totally up to you, but the first option is way more fun.
People have many reasons not to review your book. If they did not like it, how do you think it makes them feel to be asked to review it?  I quite recently found out that we writer are not the center of the universe!  I know.  I was amazed too.  It turns out people have other things to do than to focus on our needs, wants and insecurities. They seemingly have their own. We would do well to remember this fact when we ask for reviews and do not get the hoped-for result.
All right, I have exhausted my thoughts on the topic of reviews, not to mention this post is way too long and my fingers have turned to ice cubes.  It’s freezing in this room.  Please feel free to comment below or tell me if I have missed something or if your experience is different than mine.


Palm Springs Writers Guild

Were you there yesterday?  Did you feel it?

Speaking at the Writers Guild was such a wonderful experience for me, I thought I would share some of my thoughts with you.  Okay, first of all, I need to exercise because my wrist could not hold that microphone in place and it keept ever so slowly creeping away from my mouth.  Then I'd realize it and move it back and the sound of my voice would jolt me upward.  I'm not exactly a pro at this.

Also I came in with all kinds of lofty ideas on 'sharing' and 'giving back to the community' and 'inspiring writers to take action' but guess who got the most out of it?
I'm sure of it.
Your generosity and support, your open faces and spontaneous expressions of appreciation made me feel soooo good! I just loved the energy in the room.  Your kindness after the talk, as many came to speak to me and buy my novel, as well as the emails I have been receiving since were the icing on the cake.
You have also energized me to get the book on self publishing done.  I am burning to work on my new novel but I guess I will shuffles priorities around because so many of you are eager to get concrete answers to your questions.

One of you emailed me about the fact that I did not get a chance to speak about reviews, as I had promised, so I will tackle this very important point in my next post sometime this week.

Above this post is a link/survey about the talk.  If you have a few minutes would you tell me what you thought of it so that I can make those presentations and the upcoming book better?

Again, thank you for coming, and thank you for your support. And a huge thank you to the amazing Sunny for organizing the whole thing


The publishing process in gif form

A short post in images today. Laugh and/or weep if you're a writer seeking traditional publication.

Click on this to be taken to Nathan Bransford's excellent blog.

Traditional publishing vs. self-publishing chart

I've read industry blogs, blogs written by published and self- published authors.  I get a feed of dozens of blogs that I go through on a weekly basis just to keep informed on the publishing industry, which is now my industry I guess.
Based on my readings, and my entirely unscientific approach to things, I came up with this pro and con chart which I am henceforth sharing with ya'll.  Oh my this has to be tiny to fit on this page. This is for USA only and is only possible because of the rise of ebooks, Amazon and Kindle. This chart is NOT for foreign deals. Publishing in foreign countries is an entirely different ball game, which you can pursue after you publish traditionally or self-publish.

How much royalties do self published authors earn?

How much royalty do you earn as a  self-published author?  Here is a comparison I made based on what I have been reading and what my income has been:
I'm basing the self-publishing numbers on my own earnings

With a traditional publishing you receive an advance against future earnings. So you have to earn at least that advance in order to receive your first royalty check.

With self publishing there is no advance but you receive royalty checks monthly. 

Now of course none of this hight level arithmetic has merit if it is true that I would sell many, many more books by taking the agent/publishing contract route. 

But would I have. Would they have helped me, or ignored me as they do so many authors? 

There are a lot of ifs and whats, and you certainly don't know the road you have not taken.  All I know is that if they had not and I received such puny royalties on my work, I would be pissed

(Traditional publishing royalty deals in percentages depend on author, books and publishers. Yours might be different. This is an average gathered in the industry’s press and blogs.)


Rebecca Brandewyne's website  and my favorite disgruntled papa bear of self publishing, Joe Konrath. who sums in up it this angry/hilarious post, Do Legacy Publishers Treat Authors Badly.

Step by step to designing a blog on blogger

Now that I have written a few posts, I feel it's time to make the blog look a bit prettier.  I don't like the font (or typeface) I chose for the titles. Also I notice that my links come out in a color I don't like.  

I usually use Typepad when I blog and it's second nature to me, but I felt that for your purpose, I think blogger is better as you are developing a 'brand' (eek, that' s word irks me.  Branding evokes labeling, and over- simplification and being part of the system and you know... cows and sheep.) 

Here is why I think blogger is best for your purpose:

Blogger is own/made/controlled by google. It's connected to gmail, google + etc. The interface between all of those makes it very easy to go from one to the other without having to enter passwords etc..  The google search engine probably favors blogger blogs (don't quote me on that but in its pursuit of world domination, don't you think google would?)  Also, when the time to blog comes to communicating with other bloggers and commenting, it will all be very smooth and easy.

By the way, I know you'll hear everywhere that you should use wordpress because... because... because?  Well I see no advantage to using wordpress.  It's hard to navigate and create, the interface makes it more difficult to comment and you can't monetize wordpress blogs with advertising so please tell me why this is better. For your use and purpose, blogger will work great and smoothly. You can always export your blog to another platform later on.

Sorry for digressing. Here I am trying to understand how to design this blog to make it prettier, and help you design and create your own blogger blog in the process.

Okay on that main blogger page (in case you can't find it, just search up 'blogger' on google and you'll get right to it if you're already logged on to gmail, and if you are not you'll be asked your gmail account and password), click on the title of the blog you want to make pretty (in case you have more than one blog).

In the left hand column, click on 'template'

See the title of your blog there, appearing? 

I use 'simple' as a my template for this blog. Not a bad one, clean and basic. Don't get tempted by the frilly templates. Nothing spells amateur like the templates with images already incorporated.  When in doubt go lean, simple and white.

See the button that says 'customize' ? Click on it.

This bring you to a relatively intimidating page.  Gulp once, and look at the top grey bar and find:
Background: If you used simple, it will offer white and that's all you need to know.  Moving on, not to the tab below, skip a few first and click on:

Layout: We're doing this out of order because.. just trust me on that one. How can you adjust width of columns when you haven't even decided how many columns you want. In my experience, three columns work best. The footer doesn't matter for now, select which ever you want.  Note: Interestingly this page informs you that you can move parts of your layout around, only you cannot do it here. This tab is just to select a layout. In order to move things around (such as gadgets) and add, remove and edit them  you will have to go to the actual 'Layout' page.  Moving on to the fun stuff:

Adjust widths: You can move the curser and decide how wide each column should be.  I made this blog 1370 px (I think that's short for pixel, whatever those are), and each column 230 px.  You want large enough side columns to put all kinds of goodies and buttons (which blogger calls 'gadgets'.)

 Did you see how your blog moves as you move the curser?  This is how fun it is to design your blog on blogger. The parts you're working on are highlighted in red and as you try things, it is reflected below. So keep an eye on what's happening on your blog as you click away.
note: periodically click on the top button 'apply to blog' or your changes will be lost and you will be cursing like a sailor. Allright friends, time to move on to the advance tab, because yes, that is what you are. Advanced!

'advanced'.  Oh my... even more intimidating. What are all those choices!?

Well it's self explanatory as long as you take it slow and go methodically one line at a time. 

'page text' : This is where you choose the font (typeface) and the color of the text in each of your posts. I suggest black and a classic font such as Times New Roman.  As you click on various fonts and color you can see exactly how it would look on your blog. When you've chosen, make sure to go up to that button up on top that says 'apply to bloga.  If you don't those new settings won't be saved.

'background':  opt for all white for now.  Chose transparent for the banner for now. You can go mad with color later but here we are sticking to simple (at least until you decide on the color scheme of your brand (eek, that word again...) 

'links' the point here is for readers to distinguish regular text from the text that will lead them to a webpage. The color should be different from the text but still readable. 'Hover' is the color the clickable text changes to when your reader's curser 'hovers' over it and 'visited' color is to indicate to your reader that this is a link they've already visited. It makes them easier for them to keep track of what they are reading and visiting. I made my link in pink hues, so as to keep the color scheme coherent. 

Remember to click the orange 'apply to blog' button to save your changes.

'blog title' This is where you choose the typeface, size of typeface and color of your blog's title. Go ahead, choose big letters. You can create a custom made banner later, there is absolutely no need to obsess about it right now, as your blog will not be public until it is perfect. 

'blog description' :same thing for your blog description. This too will be replaced by a custom banner later on. 

'tab text': below your blog you have the possibility to create a navigation menu/bar. Visitors can click on those, for example a home page, an about the author page, and be taken to a stand alone page. See how I created a 'how to navigate this blog in a bar below the blog title?  Those pages are created by going back to your main page and clicking on 'pages' . You can also see my detailed description of how to create stand alone pages or navigation menu on bloggers. Go ahead and decide on the color of the text and then go down on your list and change the color of the navigation menu background by selecting 'tabs background'.

Now that you are a pro at this, move on to the next steps and apply what you learned to 'post title' (Notice that the color of the post title is the same as the text, and turns to the color you chose for links once you've clicked on it.), 'date header', 'post footer' (notice as well that some elements of the footer appear in the colors you chose for links because somehow they are considered links).

"gadgets' : here is where you make pretty the titles of the gadgets you created.  By gadgets blogger means 'gizmo' or 'thingy', basically stuff you want, such your list of favorite blogs or most read posts, a link to twitter or facebook, a link to your book on Amazon, or your all important opt-in form where people sign up to be on your email list. I decided to make my gadget titles more funky to draw attention to them and make the blog look more fun.  This is my mood of the moment but you now see how easily I could make those changes.

By the way.... when was the last time you saved your changes by clicking on the 'apply to blog' button?

'images': go for white for background, black for text.

'accents': those are lines separating columns. Try a few colors or none at all and decide what you like.

'mobile': I think this is for the way your blog will look on a cell phone. I'm leaving white because this is a detail I'll fix later.

'add css': this is for the geniuses among us who know how to alter existing template coding, fuggetaboutit.

Congratulations, you have designed your blog! As you become more confident, and as you decide on the overall look you want your Brand to have, you will make changes.  Now is time to write your first post.