Interview on “The Open Mic,” plus new testimonials

Everyone who has a blog has the intention to update it regularly, and I’m no different–but life and client projects keep me busy. Nevertheless, I have news to share.

Journalist and editor of the book In Their Own Words: Twenty Successful Writers on the Craft and Business of Writing interviewed me for his blog The Open Mic. We had a fun conversation about developmental editing for nonfiction books. I had the opportunity to answer one of my favorite questions–what writing problems do I see most often when editing books and other content from subject matter experts? You view the interview here.

I’m also happy to share some new testimonials from clients, which you can find sprinkled throughout this site. The latest is from a memoirist who received a manuscript critique from me in November 2018:

Read moreInterview on “The Open Mic,” plus new testimonials

“How Books Find Me,” First Published on Shelf Pleasure

Max Langelott photo of Stuttgart library

Photo by Max Langelott on Unsplash

Note: The essay archived below was first published on the book-lovers’ website ShelfPleasure.com in 2012. The site is no longer active. I’m sharing it here as a writing sample.


If you were to look at my nightstand, my coffee table, and my Goodreads profile, you’d see about 400 books. About 390 of them came into my life through the usual means like recommendations and reviews. The rest found me through synchronicity, and those are the ones that I love the most, that I find myself buying, keeping, loaning out, and recommending to others.

Over the years, I’ve read endless articles about how people find books, but never a single one describing how books find people. This, I think, is a critical oversight, because the best books, the ones that make the biggest impact on us, don’t come to us through active seeking; they float into our lives at just the right time, the way a perfect wave will come to a surfer exactly when she’s ready to ride it.

Woodswoman memoir

My most recent serendipitous find was Woodswoman by Ann LaBastille. In true “meant-to-be” fashion, I didn’t stumble upon the book itself; rather, I found a newspaper obituary from the Los Angeles Times, taped to the end of a shelf in my favorite used bookstore. The obit was dated 2011 and featured a photograph of a gray-haired woman sitting in a canoe with her German shepherd. After a divorce in the 1970s, it said, LaBastille retreated to the Adirondacks of New York State, built herself a 12 x 12 foot log cabin on the undeveloped side of a remote lake, and remained there for decades, supporting herself as a conservationist consultant, writer, and photographer. In those many years, she’d written several well-regarded memoirs about her life in the woods.

Read more“How Books Find Me,” First Published on Shelf Pleasure

What Makes a Good Website About Page? (Hint: The Same Details That Make a Great Book Preface or Introduction)

man and woman discussing website content outside coffee shop

Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

If you’re creating a website for your business like the hipster fellow in the above photo, you may be wondering, “What should I include in my About page?” How personal should it get? How business-y should it sound?

Here’s how I answered this web content question on the social site Quora a few years ago. My answer still holds true. The last paragraph also applies for writing nonfiction book Prefaces and Intros.

Depending on your industry, a clearly written, friendly About page can be where media people will go to find out who you are—what you’re about—and what ideas you represent. What I’ve told my clients in the past is that while Home pages are often dominated by “the latest news” or a splashy interface displaying a new product or campaign, About pages are where new site visitors go after they’ve seen your sales pitch, when they want to get a sense of who’s selling to them.

Seth Godin published some rules for writing About pages on his blog. One of them was “Be human. Write like you talk and put your name on it. Tell a story, a true one, one that resonates.”

I agree. Compelling personal stories are eye-catching. They also function as the most immediate of all possible testimonials: your story about why you started your business, wrote your book, or founded your non-profit.

For many business endeavors, the story goes something like this: “I saw a need. Nobody was filling this need. So I jumped in and created something I’m proud of. I know it will help you, because it helped me. Please get in touch and let me know how you like my product. I welcome your feedback.”

How does this relate to nonfiction books?

Nonfiction books of the self-help or how-to variety are information products–emphasis on the word “products.” As such, their introductory material often covers the same ground as a website About page: you need readers to know quickly who’s selling them this information. What makes you, the author, the right person to teach me something over the course of a few days or weeks?

Here’s a handy analogy:

Website splash page = book back cover copy. The energetic words and occasional overselling (let’s be honest!) catch your eye when you’re browsing online or in the bookstore.

About page = book introduction and/or preface. Inside the book is the place you go to learn more about the author–their personal story, their background, and why they felt compelled to write this book.

Do you need help writing or editing an About page, professional bio, book preface, or statement about your business? I can help. Let’s talk!