Category Archives: Musings

Get your Joseph Campbell here, and keep it coming!

Myths to Live By coverAs you may know, I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of serving as the managing editor of the Collected Works of Joseph Campbell since 1999. It’s been hard work, but it’s also been very satisfying — in the years that I’ve been at the JCF, we’ve produced fifteen books (closing in on thirty if you include the ebooks), over forty audio recordings and a really wonderful fifteen-hour video series. Of those books I was talking about, seven were brand new, posthumous titles — on three of which I was the titular editor. (You know. The guy on the title with the author.)

Now, the JCF is a not-for-profit, but it hasn’t been run the most such groups are. We’ve tried to the best of our ability to have the work pay our way. We don’t have an office, nor are there any employees — all of the work is done by a handful of independent contractors (like me) and volunteers. We’ve always taken donations, and sometimes we’ve had to be a little more forceful in our appeals due to a cash crunch, but there haven’t been any major donor campaigns, no chasing after grants, no bake sales.  The idea was not to let the tail wag the dog.

There comes a time, however, when a major capital expenditure is bound to come up. In the case of the JCF, we’ve been getting by on a jury-rigged website for about eight years. It’s never been perfect — but at this point, the plaster is falling off the walls. We’ve tried to find low- or no-cost ways to create the kind of vibrant, useful site that our associates need, but finally came to the realization that we needed to raise :gulp: $65,000 in order to make that happen.

So this is where I turn to you — I know that you’re shocked — and ask that you help us continue to fulfill our mission to “preserve, protect, and perpetuate the groundbreaking work of Joseph Campbell.”

Click here to go to our Fundrazr crowdfunding page.

And when you do, remember all of those books and audio and video I told you about?

Guess what! If you donate, you can choose some or all of those as our thank you!

funny little boy dressed as superhero on the coast

4 Ways to Create an Ebook

This is the second in my series of blog posts about ebook creation. It was originally posted on Joel Friedlander’s wonder resource site, TheBookDesigner.com.

Last time I talked about just what an ebook is — a website in a box. Ebooks come in a number of flavors, but for the purposes of this discussion I’m going to stick with the most common and most malleable format of ebook, the ePub file that is the basis of all of the major retailers’ ebook offerings.

There are four basic ways to create an ebook (that is, an ePub file):

  1. From scratch
  2. Saving from a word-processing or page-layout application into ePub format
  3. Using a conversion app or online service
  4. Hiring a designer

The trade-off among these methods involve quality, time, and price. As the old saying goes, you can generally pick two. In order to get all three, you’re going to need to become an ebook maven yourself, which will take a fair amount of time, but which will allow you to control all of the variables yourself. Let’s look at the options, and you can see whether that’s the road you want to take. Continue reading 4 Ways to Create an Ebook

Which Ebook Format Should I Choose, ePub or PDF?

I was asked recently which file format was better, ePub or PDF. (Just as well that the Kindle-only mobi format was left out! It’s easy to convert from an ePub file anyway.)

Which is better depends on what purpose the file is going to serve. Continue reading Which Ebook Format Should I Choose, ePub or PDF?

Is Big Brother watching what you read?

Earlier this year, at the Digital Book World conference, a company called JellyBooks announced what it called “Google Analytics for ebooks.”

For some readers, this raised the specter of Big Brother — or his corporate brethren — reading over their shoulders. Should we be worried about what we’re reading being tracked? Continue reading Is Big Brother watching what you read?

Review: The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett

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The Shepherd’s Crown: the final Discworld novel

It is difficult to know whether the elegiac mood I felt while reading The Shepherd’s Crown was due to the book itself or to the fact that the fifth Tiffany Aching novel (and forty-first Discworld novel) was in fact the late Sir Terry Pratchett’s final work.

The Shepherd’s Crown focuses on the young witch Tiffany Aching as she comes fully to find her place both in the non-hierarchy of the witches’ world, in the land of her birth (the Chalk), and in her own life. She finds herself pulled between two steadings, the districts for which, as a witch, she is responsible for doing “what needs to be done” — whether visiting the old and sick, birthing babies, or protecting the inhabitants from supernatural invasion. And, as the book begins, a supernatural invasion does in fact loom: Nightshade, Queen of the Faeries (whom a nine-year-old Tiffany defeated in the first book in the series) finds that the boundaries between her world and Tiffany’s are weak, and she is planning large-scale revenge. Discworld faeries have much more kinship to the Celtic sidhe than to the cute winged creatures of most children’s books or than to Tolkien’s aristocratic elves: they are  (literally) glamorous, pitiless creatures who take delight in mayhem ranging from spoiling beer and stealing sheep to kidnap, torture, and murder.

Continue reading Review: The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett

Everything Amazon Slides

Here are the slides from my presentation with Ruth Schwartz on Everything Amazon:

It was — as always — a great meeting! If you have any questions about any of the slides, please comment.

ETA: The URL for CreateSpace (slides 8–12) should be http://createspace.com, not createspace.amazon.com.

What IS an Ebook?

bigstock-Woman-Holding-Traditional-Book-91915880Recently, I was honored to have been invited to post on Joel Friedlander’s The Book Designer on the subject of ebooks — a subject I love talking about, having been designing ebooks since 2010. (In this industry that makes me practically an old-timer.) This is the first of a monthly series of posts on the subject. It was originally released here.


There are lots of very complex questions when it comes to ebooks:

  • text and image formatting,
  • different file formats,
  • various workflows for creating ebooks,
  • and much more.

Defining “eBook”

For this post, before we get into the more esoteric issues of ebook design and publishing, I’d like to start by defining the subject: just what is an ebook?

This may sound like a very simple question to answer, but it isn’t as straightforward as you might think, and being able to answer it correctly will make many of the thornier issues of creating ebooks just a bit easier.

Continue reading What IS an Ebook?

So you want to start your own small press?

Over on Quora, an anonymous reader asked me to answer the question, “How should I go about starting a small, independent press?

This question was asked by someone who was already publishing his or her own work, but who was considering expanding beyond that to publishing others’ books.

This got me thinking. Thinking a lot. Probably way more than the poster wanted. If you don’t want to read all of what I came up with, the TL;DR version is down at the bottom.

Here’s what I had to say:

Continue reading So you want to start your own small press?

Authors: 6 Reasons You Have to Be on Goodreads

Books by telmo32 (flickr.com)This past Saturday at BAIPA, I led a roundtable about the reasons that every independent author and publisher (as well as every “dependent” author) needed to have an active presence on Goodreads.com. It was one of three roundtable sessions at the time, and I assumed that most BAIPA folks (who are pretty savvy) would already know most of what I had to say. I was surprised to find that not only did they not, but they were very hungry to hear about the world’s largest book review site

Because they all found the material I presented to be helpful, I thought I’d share my major points here. This is why you have to be on Goodreads: Continue reading Authors: 6 Reasons You Have to Be on Goodreads

Getting Grammatical: What's the Big Deal with the Passive Voice?

An author I work with recently asked me, “What’s the big deal with the passive voice?” My first instinct was to answer, “Well, would that question have made as much sense as ‘The big deal with the passive voice is about what?'” Three things stopped me:

  1. First of all, that’s a very New York Jewish sentence construction and so I didn’t want to dis my forebearers
  2. Second of all, it was snarky, which isn’t a great way to communicate anything
  3. Third, she’s a bright, articulate, and talented writer who deserves a better answer.

So I thought I’d give it here. Continue reading Getting Grammatical: What's the Big Deal with the Passive Voice?