Interviewing . . . Me!

What genre are your books?

A Spark of Heavenly FireAll of my novels have elements of intrigue, adventure, mystery, suspense, romance, history, and some have a touch of science fiction. A Spark of Heavenly Fire, for example, is the story of people who become extraordinary during a time of horror — a bioengineered disease is decimating the population of Colorado, and the entire state is quarantined. One character is obsessed with finding out who created the disease, one couple tries to escape, one woman does what she can to help the survivors. A thread of romance connects all the stories. All these different stories entwined into one makes it difficult to settle on a single genre, though many reviewers call it a thriller, and my publisher, Second Wind Publishing, sells it as mainstream.

What are your favorite genres?

I like to read novels that have it all — mystery, adventure, romance, a touch of strangeness, a bit of truth — but since I can’t find that sort of novel very often, I settle for just about anything. Non-fiction, genre fiction, literary fiction, whatever is at hand.

Do you think you gain sales for your books through blogging?

I know I’ve made a few sales because of blogging, but I don’t think blogs are a particularly good sales tool. I do think blogs are wonderful for connecting with readers once readers have discovered you, they can be a great source for support and suggestions, and they are a way of meeting people who like the same things you do. Mostly though, I just enjoy blogging.

Tell us about your book, Daughter Am I.

Daughter Am I is a young woman/old gangster coming-of-age novel.

When twenty-five-year-old Mary Stuart learns she inherited a farm from her recently murdered grandparents-grandparents her father claimed had died before she was born-she becomes obsessed with finding out who they were and why someone wanted them dead. Along the way she accumulates a crew of feisty octogenarians-former gangsters and friends of her grandfather. She meets and falls in love Tim Olson, whose grandfather shared a deadly secret with her great-grandfather. Now Mary and Tim need to stay one step ahead of the killer who is desperate to dig up that secret.

What similarities if any between your other books and Daughter Am I?

The unifying theme in all of my books is the perennial question: Who are we? More Deaths Than One suggests we are our memories. A Spark of Heavenly suggests we are the sum total of our experiences and choices. Daughter Am Isuggests we are our heritage.

Do you sell your books as an eBook?

My books are all available for sale as ebooks, and the first 30% of each is also available free on Smashwords. The books are also available in print for those who still prefer to own a physical copy of the books they read.

What do you think the most influential change in book publishing will come from?

25% of the total production of books printed by the major publishing companies are pulped, which is an incredible waste, so I think more books will be digitally printed as needed. It makes sense financially, especially if the cost of production goes down. Ultimately, e-books will become the preferred format for “disposable” books, such as bestsellers that readers will only read once.

If you could give one tip for aspiring authors, what would that be?

I’ll tell them that a book begins with a single word. Many novice writers get intimidated by the thought of writing an entire book, but all you ever need to write is one word. I know that’s not much of a goal, but in the end, it is the only goal. That’s how every book all through the ages got written — one word at a time. By stringing single words together, you get sentences, then paragraphs, pages, chapters, an entire book. After that, who knows, you might even reach the pinnacle and become a published author. All because you set your goal to write one word.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

I have a website — http://patbertram.com — where I post important information, including the first chapters of each of my books, but the best way to keep up with me, my books, and my events on a daily basis is here on this blog: http://ptbertram.wordpress.com

All my books are available both in print and in ebook format. You can get them online at Second Wind Publishing, Amazon, and Smashwords. Smashwords is great — the books are available in all ebook formats, including Kindle, and you can download the first 30% free.

What do you do to promote other authors?

I do author interviews and character interviews, and post excerpts on my blogs, and I don’t charge a penny! Of course, since the authors get what they pay for, I can’t guarantee they will sell books because of my efforts, but they will be promoted via Facebook and Twitter. If I you are an author and interested in being interviewed by me, click here to find the directions for my Author Questionnaire. Click here to find the directions for my Character Questionnaire. And click here to Let me post your excerpt!

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Blog Tutuorial

I) Encapsulation of How to Blog Using WordPress

What you will mostly be doing when you begin blogging is a new post, so hover over your name on the right hand side of the black WordPress navigation strip on the top of the page and select your blog from the drop-down menu and click “new post.” Or go to your dashboard and click on “new post” on the left sidebar. Or click on “New Post” on the black navigation bar at the top of the page. That will take you to an article editor. (It’s similar to what you see when you write an email.) You type the title of your article in the title bar. Type your article into the body of the article editor, add tags and categories, then save as a draft to make sure you don’t lose it or to post on another day. Tags are individual keywords for search engines; categories are more of a general filing system. This sounds confusing, but truly, you will get the hang of it.

If you need more help than I offer in the following instructions, be sure to click “help” on the top right of your dashboard.

II) Basic Procedure:

To log in: go to http://wordpress.com \

2. Fill in your user name

3. Fill in your password.

4. Click on “Log in.”

5. Hover over your name on the right hand side of the black WordPress navigation strip on the top of the page and select your blog. Then click on “dashboard” which will take you to the dashboard and all the bells and whistles. (I use the classic dashboard, so some of these instructions might be a bit different.) It’s hard to explain what everything is, so just play around with it. But what you will mostly be doing is a new post, so click “new post” from either the drop-down menu or from the left sidebar of the dashboard. That will take you to an article editor. If you don’t see the dropdown box and are on a page that shows “Blogs I follow” or some such, click on “My sites” then click on “dashboard” and finally “new post.”

6. Fill in the title. Then write your article into the body of the article editor. (Or cut and paste if you wrote it using ms word or any other word processor. This is what I do.)

7. Add tags—they are on the right sidebar. (Be sure to click on “Add” or they won’t get added to your article. Add categories. Click on whatever categories apply for your article, preferably no more than a couple. The total number of tags and categories should not exceed 10 combined. This is how people find your articles, so use a minimum of five total. 8. Click “save draft.”

Your article is now saved in the drafts folder. Click on “preview post” to review what you have written; edit if necessary, then click “save draft” again. When you are ready to publish the article, click “publish.”

Some bloggers write their articles ahead of time and save them in draft form until they need them. If you’ve saved your article as a draft, and later you need to find it, go to the dashboard, and off to the right you will see “recent drafts.” Click on the title of your article, click on publish. And you’re done. Click View Site (next to the name of the website) and double check to make sure your article looks the way you wanted it to. If not, click “edit” on the gray strip above your article, make your edits, then click “update.”

III) Advanced Instructions:

1.  Adding a photo to your article

Under the title bar, you will see: Add media. Click on that link. Then click on “Upload photo.” When the photo has been uploaded, choose left alignment if you want the text to wrap around the photo newspaper style, or choose center if you wish the photo to be centered on its own line. Choose the size (generally medium) then click “insert into post.”

Editing the photo: If the image turns out to be the wrong size or you forgot to align it the way you want, do not delete it. This does not delete the photo from the blog, it only deletes it from your article. Instead, click on the photo, then click on the icon that looks like a photo. That will take you to the photo-editing box where you can change size and alignment. If by chance you delete the photo, click on the upload/insert icon, but do not upload another photo. Instead, click on Media Library at the top of the editor box, find your photo, click on it, and continue as if you’d just uploaded it.

1. Uploading icon/avatar/photo

It’s a good idea to have a gravatar so that people recognize you when you make a comment. This gravatar is also posted on the right sidebar of the blog. To upload an icon/avatar/photo:

Log in and go to your dashboard

On the left sidebar, down toward the bottom of the list, you will see “Profile” or “Users”

Click on the little arrow next to “Profile” or “Users” to get a dropdown list.

Click on “Your Profile”

In the top right hand corner, you will see a box with “My gravitar”

Click on “change gravitar” or “add gravitar.”

Click on “Upload an image from your computer” then upload image

Crop it as necessary. If your cropping tool doesn’t work (mine never does) go back (alt + left arrow) and try again. When you get it to the way you like, click on “Crop and finish”

Then close box.

3. Adding Tags

Categories are a way of filing the articles, which is important, but tags are every bit as important. Tags are what search engines look for, and so they bring people to the site. WordPress tags are weird in that you can’t just type them into the tag box then click on draft. You have to type the tags in the box and then click on “Add.” To me, the hardest and most consuming part of blogging is tagging. I go through the article line by line and if there is anything “searchable” I put it in the tags. For example, if you mention Gone With the Wind, even in passing, that should be put in the tags. So should “Margaret Mitchell.” Since tags are also a way of finding your posts later (your own private filing system), you can add the theme as a tag or anything else that will make it easy to find your post using the search box on the blog. (If you don’t have a search box on your blog, then add them from available widgets.) Once you have everything tagged, be sure to hit “add” or all those tags disappear. (I know this because I make that mistake when I am in a hurry.) So what do you do when you realize that your published post has no tags? Go to the blog, click on the title, and up on the gray bar you will see “edit post.” Click on that, add your tags — making sure you click “add” — then click on “update post.

4. Display name

Make sure your display name on comments is your author name. You want people to know who you are so that you can build your online author persona.

To change your display name to your author name:

Go to “Users” and click on “your profile.” Scroll down to where you see “display name publicly as”. Put in your author name, or whatever name you want people to see, then click “update profile.”

5. Linking your name to your blog

The internet is all about links, and the most important link is the link attached to your name. If you make a comment, and your name is not linked to anything, you become a dead end.

To link your name to your website or WordPress blog (preferably your blog, in case you ever have a problem with WordPress and have to contact support) go to “Users” on your dashboard, click on “your profile.” Scroll down to “contact information.” In the blank for “website” put in your entire blog address, including the http://

Then click save. Now, when you make a comment on WordPress, and someone wants to know more about you, all they have to do is click on your name.

6. Adding Clickable Links to Your Blog Post:

The internet is created of links. Without links there are no websites, no way to navigate from one place to another, no way of connecting the dots. Whenever you mention your book, be sure to link to somewhere your book is available.)

To make a clickable link on a photo on WordPress: after you upload a photo to an article, click on “custom URL” then copy and paste the URL for the page of the book or author or whatever. Then click “insert into post.”

To make a clickable link for text on WordPress: Before you save your article to draft, select the words the same way you do for a MSWord document, then click on the icon in the WordPress tool bar that looks like a bit of a chain. In the “insert link” box that appears, cut and paste the URL of the book, website or whatever you wish to link to, then click “insert.” That’s all there is too it. If you forget to add links, you can click “edit” on a published article and add the links.

IV) Improve Your Blog

Please make use of the most important features available on WordPress. Simply having a list of categories or dates tells readers nothing. If you will notice on my blog I have a list of “recent posts” and “top posts.” Once people are on the site, often the title of another post catches their eye, and they click on it. This increases the views of the blog and hence the rating.

If you hover your mouse over the title of your blog in the left hand side of the wordpress tool bar, you will get a drop down list. Click on “widgets.”

Find the widgets you’d like to add to your blog, such as “recent posts”, “top posts and pages,” “search,”and drag them to the column marked “sidebar.” Sometimes, depending on the theme you choose, you have two sidebars, both a right and a left, so drag the widgets to wherever you want to place them. Fill in the information requested, such as “title” and “number of posts you want to show,” then click save.

Other important widgets — The “follow” widget will add a place for people to sign up to receive notifications of your blog posts. The “facebook-like” widget allows people to like your facebook page from your blog.

Use “image” to add the cover of your book to your sidebar, use text if there is something you’d like people to see (for example, on my blog, I use the text widget in the top of my left sidebar for a brief bio and a listing of my books with links to Smashwords.)

Use the “links” widget to add a blogroll — a list of other blogs you like. I use the blogroll as a reciprocal favor for people who have listed me on their blog rolls or who frequently comment on my blog. I’ve also added a “search” box to make it easier for people to search the site.

You don’t have to add all of these widgets, of course. We’re just showing you what is available and how to improve your blog.

V) Themes

I should touch on themes in this tutorial, though that could be a whole tutorial in itself. The theme is the blog format, and there are hundreds to choose from. When you sign up for WordPress, they have a video tutorial to help you get started. If you miss that or decide to change the look of your blog, go to your dashboard, scroll down the left hand sidebar, hover your mouse over “appearance” and click on “themes.” If you see something you like, click on preview to see how it will fit on your blog. Then, if you like it, click “activate.”

VI) Most Important Blogging Tips

Experiment with the various tools WordPress offers.

Explore the site and topics without fear — Wordpress is intuitive, so whatever you need or think you need, you will easily find. There are also multiple ways of doing most things, so find the ways that are most comfortable for you

Excite yourself and your readers with engaging posts. Have fun. If you treat blogging as a chore, so will your potential readers, and drudgery will make them bolt to a more compelling blog.

Blog

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

The Importance of Links

I visited a friend’s blog the other day and followed some links back to an older post I’d missed, where I left a comment. The blogger contacted me, expressing concern that I got hacked because a) I seldom leave comments — yeah, I know, it’s terrible of me; I’m lucky I have time to respond to the comments so kindly left on my own blog and b) it was an older post.

chainThat episode reminded me of the lastingness of blog posts. (Is lastingness a word? Spellchecker seems to think so. I don’t see that squiggly red line that so often berates me.) Some of my most visited blog posts are older ones — a few from my “writing hints” days, a couple from my “anything goes” days, and several from my early grief days.

Because blog posts are eternal, as eternal as the internet is anyway, the links we include are important.

In the case of my blogger friend, the links I followed were generated by Word Press, so they were all live links. In the case of links we add to our blogs — well, that’s a different story, especially when it comes to my blog. The links to older blog posts that I add to current blog posts are good — I never change the domain or the URL, so those links all work. But links I posted that link to other websites . . . yikes.

I used to link all my books to a certain independent bookseller’s website. Mostly I did it out of loyalty since all those links helped the ranking of the website, but doing so also served as a salvo in my own private war against Amazon. It seemed to me that Amazon overruns its banks and floods everything in its path, and I wanted to do what I could to stem the rushing waters. But I miscalculated, and now the Amazon river gods are laughing at me. Most of the book links in my blogs now go somewhere besides the requisite book page on that independent bookseller’s site, and I have yet to fix the more than five thousand links I have posted over the years. The current links all work (I capitulated and now they go to my book pages on Amazon) but the links in older posts, well, let’s just say they’re defunct and leave it at that.

The webmasters of that other site didn’t seem to see the importance of redirecting the links when the company changed domains, and I could not convince them otherwise. The web is all about links — if there were no links, we’d never be able to move from one page to another. It’s the links that make the internet an interconnecting network. It’s the links that make the web a web. And because the network/web is eternal, those links are eternal. And now I have an eternity of defunct links.

I’m gradually changing the links, but if you ever click on a link that doesn’t take you to the proper page, please let me know so I can fix it.

Thank you.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Do You Dream Of Walking The Pacific Crest Trail?

Do you dream of walking the Pacific Crest Trail but need a push to get you going? Is so, then check out http://myamadventure.com/program-details/. The program, sponsored by Yama Mountain Gear, a company that manufactures and sells ultralight tarps and tents, is primarily a fundraiser to help benefit the Pacific Crest Trail Association (and indirectly, Yama, too, I’m sure). The five applicants chosen to take part in the program will be expected raise $2000 for the PCTA, to blog, and to be willing to share their stories and photos with the public and the various sponsors of the hike.

Although some gear will be provided, as well as mentors to help the winning applicants prepare for the hike, the hikers will hike their own hike. Eek. A daunting idea, just as daunting as when I considered doing it all on my own. The main problem for me has always been the sheer bulk of materials and supplies that need to be carried for 2,660 miles. And water. Now, if water could be dehydrated, that would solve a major issue for me, but apparently, dehydrated water is no water at all.

Still, I promised a friend I would apply before the November 15, 2014 deadline. Now it’s just a matter of coming up with compelling responses to the following questions:

  1. What draws you to the Pacific Crest Trail and to long-distance hiking? What do you find attractive about it?  Is there something you seek?  Something you hope to get out of the experience?
  2. What about the mYAMAdventure program attracts you?  What do you most hope to get out of it?
  3. What are your biggest concerns about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail?
  4. Please describe your level of hiking and backpacking experience.  Have you ever attempted a long-distance hike?  If so, tell us a little about it. (You don’t need any experience to participate in the program.)
  5. How far along in your PCT planning are you, if at all?
  6. Have you ever fundraised before?  If so, please describe:
  7. What do you think is a realistic fundraising goal for you?  How do you think you’ll go about raising the $2,000 for the PCTA? (We’re not expecting a well thought out plan here, just trying to get a general idea of how you think you might approach the fundraising aspect of the program.)
  8. Do you currently maintain a blog?  If so, please provide the address: If you don’t have a blog or website you’d like to share with us, skip this question.
  9. Do you have any samples of your photography (available online) that you wouldn’t mind us checking out?  If so, please provide links. For example, a link to your Instagram, Flickr, or Tumblr account.
  10. Do you plan to carry a mobile device with a data plan? (yes/no/not sure)
  11. Do you have a ball park figure of how much you think this hike will cost you?  What is it?
  12. Are you planning to hike the trail regardless of participation in this program?  Describe any possible issues or conflicts you might have regarding a commitment to hike the trail.
  13. What is your level of certainty for getting the time off work/school/whatever to hike the trail? (you’ll select at 1 – 5 type rating on the application)
  14. What sets you apart from the other applicants?  Is there anything special you can offer the program? Some skill?  Something about your personality?
  15. What is one question you’d add to next year’s application?  Any that you’d remove?
  16. How did you hear about mYAMAdventure?

Feel free to enter! If you get accepted, I’ll do what I can to help promote your hike.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Learning to be Open and Unafraid

A friend wrote me yesterday and told me how much she appreciated my openness in talking about my grief and other traumas and added that it was a learning experience for her. To tell the truth, it’s been a learning experience for me, as well. For decades, I’ve kept my private life private (secretive, some people say, though why they would think they have a right to my privacy, I don’t know), but things change. I changed.

I was more open when I was young. I remember writing long angst-ridden letters to friends when I was in my late teens and early twenties, but stopped abruptly when a friend found one of the letters I’d written to her years previously and read it to me on the phone, laughing the whole while. She thought I’d find it funny, but I didn’t see the humor, only the betrayal. I never wrote another such letter to anyone. Although I talked about my feelings and situations, I didn’t want anyone to have written proof of my follies. And yet, here I am.

computerWhen I first signed up for the internet seven years ago, I didn’t quite know what to do. I figured I’d pay for a year and then if I still hadn’t found a way to make use of the resource, I would disconnect. Within a mere four months, though, I’d entered a contest, made online friends, and discovered blogging. Blogging was my way of getting people interested in me as an author, so I wrote posts about writing, reading, trying to get published, and anything else loosely pertaining to my writing life.

Even though I was living through the trauma of a dying life mate/soul mate, I couldn’t write about my life or his illness. He was afraid people would think less of me if I mentioned his being sick, but even if I wanted to mention our situation, I wouldn’t have. His illness didn’t belong to me. I am intensely loyal and my loyalties were with him. Besides, I mostly took his ill health and our strange half-life for granted and didn’t have much to say about either. I can see now how numbed I was by his dying and the trauma of my life, but back then, I accepted the situation as simply the way things were. Since I was online only to try to promote myself as an author, I tried to be professional — I was disheartened that many people used online forums to whine, and I didn’t want to be another whiner.

After he died, well, none of that mattered. I no longer needed to be loyal to him (the way I figured it, if he didn’t want me talking about our life, he shouln’t have died) and I was so stunned by the way I felt that my feelings just burst out of me. I couldn’t believe the exorbitant pain of grief could be so unknown (unknown to me, anyway), and it seemed important to chronicle what I was feeling. Now talking about my emotional traumas has become a way of life. I am comfortable with writing about my feelings, though I am amazed (and so very grateful) that people don’t tell me to shut up and quit my bellyaching.

And if they did? Well, I’ve accepted that possibility as the price of learning to be open and unafraid online.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Dona Nobis Pacem

Thousands of bloggers from all over the globe are Blogging for Peace today.

One subject. One voice. One day.

Words are powerful . . . this matters.

peace-blog-hand copy

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Blogging For Peace

Blog 4 PeaceOn Tuesday, November 4, people all over the planet blog for peace. This year, I’m going to join the the Blog Blast for Peace, and you can join the movement, too. You make your own peace globe/statement or simply choose one pre-made at http://blogblastforpeace.com, and become a peace blogger. The theme this year is “Words in the hands of love,” meaning that what we say or write should be offered with love.

Peace bloggers believe that words, especially words written with love, are powerful, and that this event matters. If you’re not a blogger, you can still join the movement by posting an appropriate status or photo on Facebook or Twitter.

So, check out the above website or check out the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/BlogBlastForPeace.

How To Blog For Peace The short version:

1. Choose a graphic from the peace globe gallery http://peaceglobegallery.blogspot.com/p/get-your-own-peace-globe.html or from the photos on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/BlogBlastForPeace#!/BlogBlastForPeace/app_153284594738391 Right click and Save. Decorate it and sign it, or leave as is.

2. Send the finished globe to blogblast4peace@yahoo.com

3. Post it anywhere online November 4 and title your post Dona Nobis Pacem (Latin for Grant us Peace)

Sounds cool, doesn’t it? See you on November 4!

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Going Ad Free on WordPress?

When I first started my blog with WordPress, their policy was that they would try to be as ad-free as possible, but that to keep the site a free service for bloggers, they would occasionally and unobtrusively add ads. At the beginning, I never noticed the ads, but as the number of blogs and the cost of doing business has increased, so has the number of ads. (At least it seems that way.)

I can go ad-frimagesee for $30 a year, but I don’t know if this is a necessary expense. The ads, including videos, generally appear at the bottom of individual blog posts. Sometimes the ads seem disruptive and not at all in keeping with my posts, but I don’t know if this makes a difference to readers. Many readers are also WordPress users, so they understand about the ads, and I’m not sure it matters about people who stop by accidentally, hoping for . . . whatever it is they were hoping for.

So, is it important to go ad-free, or do people simply take the ads as a matter of course?

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Fair Use, Copyright, and Images

I have a friend who freely uses images she finds on the internet to pretty up her blog posts, and at the bottom of each post, she always adds the caveat, “No copyright infringement intended.” That cracks me up because of course she intended to infringe upon the copyright — she blatantly and purposely used the image without permission. That is an infringement. Saying that no infringement was intended does not negate the perhaps illegal use of the image. Even giving credit or providing a link to the original photo doesn’t make the infringement legal.

Yesterday I spoke of “Fair Use” and copyright as pertains to song lyrics and told you how many words of a song written after 1923 you can legally use in your work. (None. That’s right, none. You can use the title, paraphrase the words, write your own songs, or purchase the rights to use the lyrics. Those are your only options. You cannot use a single word of the lyrics without permission.)

Fair use also applies to images, not just written works. Fair use laws allow using bits of copyrighted materials without having to obtain permission, though what constitutes “fair use” is murky and subject to interpretation by the courts. (And oh, just so you know, all original works are protected from the moment of creation, so if the work was never filed with the copyright office, if the work lacks a copyright symbol, the work is still protected.)

According to the US Copyright Office, there are four factors to determine what is fair use:

copyright1       The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes

2       The nature of the copyrighted work

3       The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole

4       The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work.

You can use of some images, such as images public domain images created before 1923 (unless they have subsequently been copyrighted). And you can generally use images in product reviews. Using a product image, such as a book cover, an image of a vehicle, or cold cereal, is necessary for a helpful review. Since the image is not the product and the owner’s rights are only minimally infringed upon, your use of the image falls under fair use.

Some people who post images on the internet do allow you to use their images with only attribution as payment (and they will state as much on the site where the images are posted, generally under a Creative Commons License). Also, many royalty free photos are available from various sites, such as Free Stock Photos, but you need to read the small print carefully to find what each photo requires of you before you use it.

If you use an image of an original photograph or work of art, even if you attribute it to the author and even if you link back to the original, you are in violation of copyright laws unless you have the artist’s permission to use the image. If you don’t have permission, you can be sued. And yes, bloggers have been sued over the use of images. One blogger I know used a photo she found on the internet, thinking it was okay to do so because it is general practice among internet users to adorn one’s blog with such images. When the owner’s lawyer contacted her about the matter, she removed the photo and thought that would be the end of it. But she was wrong. They sued her — and won. She is still paying them off. (And she still owes hefty attorney’s fees.) She was lucky. Others have had their sites removed from the internet in addition to all the other legal hassles.

So, if you do not know for certain if you can legally use an image (and the only way to know for sure is if the image is posted with such information), then don’t. It’s not worth the risk.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

How to Become a Bestselling (Romance) Author

I don’t know how to become a bestselling non-genre writer, which is what I am — a non-genre writer. (Recently a reviewer took exception to my non-genre status, giving A Spark of Heavenly Fire only two stars because she expected the novel to be romantic/suspense, an action/adventure or a good mystery. She admitted the book contained all of these elements but not enough to tag the story as such. I wanted to leave a “duh” response, but I’ve been around long enough to know that arguing with a reviewer is never a good idea.) But I do know a bit about how to beome a bestselling romance writer since I’ve studied so much of their techniques in my quest to become a bestseller myself.

First, write good story, create or have a cover designer create a compelling cover that says “buy me,” and give your book a thorough edit or get someone to do it for you. A good editing is paramount. With so many romance novels on the market, you need to be a bit better than average to stand out. (Unless, of course, you are the first person to write erotic vampire bondage books or any such novelty, then of course, you can write however you wish.)

Second, finish book two and three in the series, and give them a good editing, also. Then give away the first book in the series to as many people as possible using a Smashwords coupon. Give the book away on blogs, on FB, as a mass mailing, maybe even on Smashwords itself for a short time. Sign up for a giveaway on Goodreads, LibraryThing, and wherever else you can. But this only works after the three books are published because otherwise it doesn’t gain you much of a marketing advantage. If all the books are published and readers like the first book in a series, they will buy the others. There are too many books published now for readers to want to wait for additional books in a series, which is why more than one book in a series needs to be published if you really want the marketing push to count. If the book is professional, one of a published series, is romance and especially regency romance, and has a touch of eroticism (more than a touch is even better), that’s all you have to do. Amazon’s algorithms will do the rest. Theoretically, at least.

Although social networking is often touted as the best way of promoting books, it is slow and doesn’t really help a lot in making you a bestselling author, but it can increase awareness of your books once you become known. Also, a bit of social networking can help you find other romance writers who might promote your books if you promote theirs (such reciprocal promotions have catapulted many romance authors and thriller writers into stardom). You might even find fans who will be delighted to help spread the word about your book for a bit of swag. It’s good to have a blog or be part of a multi-author blog so your readers can keep up with you, though you don’t have to blog regularly, just once a week on a personal blog or once a month on a multi-author blog since for the most part blogging doesn’t sell books.  A Facebook presence or a Twitter account is also nice, but none of these will make you a bestselling author by themselves. Oh, sure, there are people who have made a killing using Facebook, but they are generally those who sell books about how to make a killing on Facebook. And some people play the link (spam) game, posting their book links to thousands of groups on Facebook, but since most of the people in those groups are also playing the link game, the results are variable.

In today’s book world, as much as I hate to admit it, Amazon is the key.

If you don’t have a romance series or if you do have such a series and wish to give your book an extra push, do KDP select but list the book for $.99 on free days. You don’t get as many downloads as you would if the book were free, but the book stats are figured with the regular books not the free books, and so it has a longer lasting effect.

In addition, try giveaway sites like http://readcheaply.com/, 99 cent sites like http://www.pixelofink.com/sskb/ and paid sites like http://digitalbooktoday.com/join-our-team/

This is such good advice, I wish I were interested in writing romance series!

As for A Spark of Heavenly Fire: if you’re interested in seeing if the above mentioned reviewer is correct, until November 23, 2014, A Spark of Heavenly Fire will be available at 50% off from Smashwords, where you can download the novel in the ebook format of your choice. To get your discount, go here: A Spark of Heavenly Fire and use coupon code ST33W when purchasing the book. (After you read the book, posting a review on Smashwords would be nice, but not obligatory

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.
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