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Reference Shelf 12.07.06

Links and things for your enjoyment and edification and whatnot.
Best Blogs of 2006 that You (Maybe) Aren’t Reading at Fimoculous.
One of these sites is Copyblogger, which in turn published their Top 10 Blogs for Writers.

Online Opportunities for Young Writers at, um, NoodleTools.
iJot is in its beta phase which means it’s free–another place to store and share your writing online. Never a bad idea to have backups out in cyber space.
And finally, two tips from Lifehacker: Taking a page from the Book of Google, Microsoft has added book-searching capabilities to Live Search. And also, if you’re interested in Microsoft Vista but have questions, let Lifehacker know as they’re going to be talking directly with the Microsoft folks.

Sure Shots and Head Cases Part II

redheadlady.jpgMore advice from the Absolute Write message board about how to get the best head shot. You can find part one of this post here.

–First, remember that the photographer owns the copyright in the headshot, unless you have a specific, written transfer or license. And you should, if only to make certain that the credit in the published book is correct! IMNSHO, the fairest solution is to leave the copyright with the photographer and grant the subject a barely limited perpetual license, on the condition that the photographer gets a credit for each use not actually done by the author him/herself.
–Second, make sure you’re getting the photograph done for the right reason(s). If you don’t have a contract for a book that includes a publisher’s right to use name and likeness, you don’t need a headshot as an author. (You might need to have an available headshot, if part of your platform includes actual, contracted lectures; but that’s not as an author.)
–Third, it’s almost always best to shoot in color. Purists will insist that black & white gives better resolution and better shadow definition, and they’re right; however, for use in/on a book, the photograph will be pretty small, probably on noncoated stock, and at a marginal resolution (300dpi or so, and almost never over 450dpi), and those qualities of black and white will get swallowed up by the realities of reproduction. You’re much better off with high-quality color work, including photographer-provided digital images (or, if scanned, at least 800dpi from an original at least 8×10 in size), and doing palette and other conversions in the file. That way, you have a color photograph consistent with what is in your book to use for your own marketing materials, or with your nonauthor platform work.
–Fourth, make sure that the photographer knows in advance what you’re going to use the headshot for. That will strongly influence the lighting, background, etc. decisions that the photographer needs to make before the shutter moves. Some professional photographers are very good at improvising while doing keepsake-type photographs, but not so good with marketing-type photographs – and that headshot is nothing if not a marketing device. Ideally, you want to see the publisher’s first crack at the cover before you do the headshot – I’ve seen too many examples of mismatches in the author’s clothing or the background draw the buyer’s eye away from the rest of the cover or bio page/flap. This is less of a problem in trade fiction, where the default placement of any author photo is away from the outside of the cover (dust jacket flap or interior), but it’s still a consideration. And remember that that photograph is going to be publicly visible for years, so don’t festoon yourself with topical/faddish stuff!

Read more

Sure Shots and Head Cases

glamourshott.jpgMaybe you’re publishing a book. Or maybe you just want a good headshot of yourself to give when editors and organizers need one. Either way, writers typically aren’t accustomed to getting snapped in a glamorous way. I asked the readers on the Absolute Write message board for their input on how to get the best headshot, how to find a good photographer and what you’d pay and I’m sharing some of the best tips with you in two posts. (You can find part two here.)

Here are some tips about taking good pictures:
– No short sleeves- 3/4 sleeves or full sleeves. Short sleeves end up looking funny
– No turtlenecks. The best thing to wear is a regular scoop neck or a v-neck, or even a button down is fine
– Solid color is much better than any kind of pattern. Make it in a flattering color and one that is fairly neutral. Nothing too loud. Basic colors like blue, black, off white, or tan are fine
– Minimal makeup. Just enough to bring out your features. avoid bright lipstick or overly done up eyeshadow. Eyeliner and/or mascara, and a neutral lip shade, is your best bet. Avoid blush but if you feel like you need a little color, use some bronzer on your cheeks in place of blush. Pinks and other blush-like shades can make your face looked streaked or flushed.
– Try not to wear your glasses. Take them off. The flash can catch on the lens and cause an odd glare
– Take the shot with your head in a few different angles. Straight on isn’t always the best
–Smile, but don’t force it. In your head, as you look at the camera, say “hello”- that “hello” will come through in your shot because that is essentially what a head shot is supposed to do.

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Can You Slap Virtual Assistants?

RosieCartoon.jpgI’ve never heard of Virtual Assistants before, but apparently many savvy and successful freelancers utilize their services. The Renegade Writer defines for us what a VA is and how to find a good one:

Virtual assistants (VAs) can be broken down into two species: those who have earned their street cred through working as an executive assistant, and those who come certified by either a training program like AssistU.
While it’s true that a VA can’t bring you coffee – unless you enjoy opening leaky FedEx packages reeking of Starbucks – they can do most other office tasks, including writing letters, doing data entry, bookkeeping, scheduling, marketing, updating Web sites, invoicing, and handling e-mail. They can even do filing; several years ago I interviewed a virtual assistant for an article who had a client mail her her messy files for sorting. Just keep in mind that most VAs won-t take on small, piecemeal jobs like typing a single letter.

Read more here.

The 12 Days of Writing Christmas

bernateededog.jpgI read People magazine sometimes, OK? I’m a little ashamed of it but I’m going to be upfront about it because in the December 4 Picks&Pans Books section, they had a little sidebar on three new books “for word lovers” that actually sound like they might be of interest to the word lover on your gift list.
First is Kitty Burns Florey’s Sister Bernadette’s Barking Dog: The Quirky History and Lost Art of Diagramming Sentences. “Once wildly popular and used by grammar teachers across America, sentence diagramming is now a lost art to most people. But from the moment she encountered it in the sixth-grade classroom of Sister Bernadette, Kitty Burns Florey was fascinated by the bizarre method of mapping the words in a sentence. Now a novelist and veteran copyeditor, Florey studies the practice in a charming and funny look back at its odd history, its elegant method, and its rich, ongoing possibilities.” (I stole that from the Amazon book description.)
They also mention David Crystal’s How Language Works: How Babies Babble, Words Change Meaning, and Languages Live or Die: “A world authority on language, Crystal (The Stories of English) offers an impeccably organized guide to language and communication that brings clarity to a scholarly subject, and is sure to become a standard reference,” says Publishers Weekly.
Finally, People recommended Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape by Barry Lopez and Debra Gwartney, which sounds like it’s best for a language and nature-lover. Publisher’s Weekly writes, “Drawing on the polyglot richness of American English, National Book Award–winning author Lopez (Arctic Dreams) assembles 45 writers, known for their intimate connection to particular places, to collectively create a unique American dictionary. Barbara Kingsolver, William Kittredge, Arturo Longoria, Jon Krakauer, Bill McKibben, Antonya Nelson, Luis Alberto Urrea and Joy Williams, among others, vividly describe land and water forms.”

How to Work from Home

This advice from Bad Language might be a little more specifically geared towards any readers in the UK, but the advice is just as easily applicable here in the States. Especially now that the holidays are upon us, you want to consider a separate phone line–because you don’t want to answer your phone on Christmas Eve expecting to hear some yuletide joy when it’s actually an editor asking you if you can turn something around in three days.

Another Gift for Writers

clmp300.gifJust received in the mail this weekend: The Literary Press and Magazine Directory 2006/2007 from the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses. Soft Skull put this little beauty out, and I think it’s a great gift for any writer (for any winter type holiday) who is hoping to submit to a smaller press or get published in an anthology or academic journal. Plus, it’s more wieldy (if that’s a word) than Writers Marketplace. This version includes advice from leading editors, profiles of top publishers and Canadian publishers and journals as well. (Or, you can wait for the 2008 version to come out, but that’s not until March.)
PS If you’re still on the fence about buying the book light I was writing about last week, you can find further input on that here.

Readers Saving You Some Money

scrooge2.jpgYesterday I posted about a little tool I read about on A Writers Blog–however, Karen Lynch, its proprietess, expressed some concern about how much the setup costs at Hammacher Schlemmer. Anonymous Reader to the rescue!

While this is great, Hammacher Schlemmer is always overpriced. Zooming in on the picture they provide on their site shows this product is called “Lightwedge.” A quick Froogle search shows a paperback version is available for as little as $16.95, way better than the $65 that Hammacherwants.

Early Christmas Shopping for Writers

73461.jpgA Writers Blog recommends the Full Page Illuminator Set at Hammacher Schlemmer: “A distortion-free, optical-grade lens clearly displays the page without magnification while resting on top of a standard paperback or hardcover book, holding it flat as you read, and an included page rest attaches to the page illuminator, keeping the lens steady at any angle. The lens reflects the battery-powered LED light across the page, distributing light evenly.” Fancy!

Backup Paranoia

You never seem to remember to back up your work until you lose it all one sad day. So as one of those people who has lost all her work without having it recently backed up, I’m reminding you to do so. In the meantime, Gene Retske has some tips for PC users in the December ASJA newsletter (PDF) on the best ways to save your work.