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Posts tagged ‘Mary J Nickum’

Urban Fishing; Is that Wild or What?

Fishing in the desert? Fishing in the city? What’s wrong with this picture? Nothing, let me repeat, nothing! Fishing, long a sport romanticized as an escape to bucolic surroundings, has gone urban. It’s a case of “urban gone wild.” According to a survey commissioned by the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation, 72 percent of all anglers live in urban areas. And those anglers are staying close to home to cast their lines.

It’s happening everywhere. The Foundation’s consumer website,, identifies the best urban fishing sites in each state and refers fishermen to a recent Field & Stream article listing the best American cities to fish. Miami came out on top, followed by San Diego, Minneapolis, Seattle and New Orleans. After more than a decade of decline, the number of paid fishing-license holders increased by more than half a million over the previous year, according to the Fish & Wildlife Service’s 2004 National Fishing License Report. Urban fishing certainly contributed to this increase.

The estimated number of adults in the USA who fish: 34.1 million, about 16 percent of the population, according to Fish & Wildlife; the percentage of the population who have tried fishing at least once: 88 percent, according to the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation. And these people spend more than $36 billion a year on fishing, according to the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. But, the metropolitan rivers, lakes and ponds in the US haven’t always been fishable.Their value as urban fisheries helps to protect them. We protect things we value.

 What’s Happened to Our Rivers?

Rivers and their tributaries are the veins of the planet, pumping freshwater to wetlands and lakes and out to sea. They flush nutrients through aquatic ecosystems, keeping thousands of species alive, and help sustain fisheries worth billions of dollars. Rivers are the lifeblood of human civilizations, as well. They supply water to cities, farms, and factories. Rivers carve shipping routes around the globe, and provide us with food, recreation, and energy. Hydroelectric plants built from bank to bank harness the power of water and convert it to electricity. But rivers are also often the endpoint for much of our industrial and urban pollution and runoff. When it rains, chemical fertilizer and animal waste peppering residential areas and agricultural lands is swept into local streams, rivers, and other bodies of water. The result: polluted drinking water sources and the decline of aquatic species, in addition to coastal dead zones caused by fertilizer and sewage overload.

Most fresh water pollution is caused by the addition of organic material, which is mainly sewage but can be food waste or farm effluent. Bacteria and other micro-organisms feed on organic matter and large populations quickly develop using up much of the oxygen dissolved in the water. Normally, oxygen is present in high quantities but even a small drop in the level can have a harmful effect on the river animals. Animals can be listed according to their ability to tolerate low levels of oxygen. Animals that can tolerate a low level of oxygen include freshwater hog lice, blood worms, tubifex worms and rat-tailed maggots. If you find only blood worms, tubifex worms or rat-tailed maggots it would suggest that there is little oxygen in the water and that pollution is occurring.

If there are dead fish floating on the river or the water is discolored and smelly any one of the following forms of pollution may be the cause:

  • Fertilizers
  • Industrial waste
  • Oil
  • Warm water

 Fertilizers. If large amounts of fertilizer or farm waste drain into a river the concentration of nitrate and phosphate in the water increases considerably. Algae use these substances to grow and multiply rapidly turning the water green. This massive growth of algae, called eutrophication, leads to pollution. When the algae die they are broken down by the action of the bacteria that quickly multiply, using up all the oxygen in the water, which leads to the death of many animals.

Industrial Waste. Chemical waste products from industrial processes are sometimes accidentally discharged into rivers. Examples of such pollutants include cyanide, zinc, lead, copper, cadmium and mercury. These substances may enter the water in such high concentrations that fish and other animals are killed immediately. Sometimes the pollutants enter a food chain and accumulate until they reach toxic levels, eventually killing birds, fish and mammals.

Oil Pollution. If oil enters a slow-moving river it forms a rainbow-colored film over the entire surface preventing oxygen from entering the water. On larger stretches of water the oil contaminates the feathers of water birds and, when they preen, the oil enters the gut and kills them.

Warm Water. Industry often uses water for cooling processes, sometimes discharging large quantities of warm water back into rivers. Raising the temperature of the water lowers the level of dissolved oxygen and upsets the balance of life in the water.


River Restoration

Because streams and rivers are so important economically and ecologically, restoration of these ecosystems is receiving much attention and enormous financial support. Restoration activities are diverse, ranging from channel engineering, to hydrologic experimentation, renewal of riparian vegetation, bank stabilization and habitat improvement. All levels of government, as well as volunteer groups and non-governmental organizations, are players. Projects vary in scope from some of the largest imaginable, such as the Everglades, to small reaches of headwater streams. While some of these efforts are being catalogued on a local or regional scale, few are analyzed at all, and even fewer are evaluated for ecological success.

The National River Restoration Science Synthesis Project, however, aims to provide a national level synthesis that can be used to inform policy at local, regional, and national levels. Their method involves in-depth research at seven or eight geographic regions in the United States. The depth of analysis they have proposed can be accomplished only by harnessing the collective knowledge of widely respected research scientists with intimate knowledge of restoration practices and policies in their respective regions. The project is designed with American Rivers’ grassroots partners in mind, and the outcome of the analysis is available to policy makers and river restoration groups across the nation.

American Rivers is the leading conservation organization standing up for healthy rivers so communities can thrive. American Rivers protects and restores the nation’s rivers and the clean water that sustains people, wildlife, and nature. Through their work in five key program areas, Rivers and Global Warming, River Restoration, River Protection, Clean Water and Water Supply, American Rivers is working to protect the remaining natural heritage, undo the damage of the past and create a healthy future for our rivers and future generations.

With these committed program groups at work, the science team will refine the design criteria for selection of projects, and develop criteria to assess the quality of the science underlying the restoration efforts and their outcomes, using a broad range of descriptive data, including who, what, where, restoration goals, outcome/results, costs, methods, from a representative sample of restoration projects from various regions within the U.S.

American Rivers works with the scientists to develop data sets that represent issues of greatest concern to policy makers and grass-roots groups. The science team will synthesize this information and draw general lessons concerning the links between the practice of restoration and the science of restoration ecology. American Rivers then incorporates the data and analysis into electronic form on its website, designed in an accessible format to accommodate searches and linkages with its other research and outreach tools and ensure that the project’s findings are communicated to restoration practitioners and policymakers across the country. American Rivers will also enable managers, river groups, scientists and other interested parties to add new restoration projects to the database, ensuring that it will be a growing resource center for restoration practitioners in the future.


Progress is Being Made

Rivers in some American cities are fishable again. In Ontario, Canada, for instance, people are encouraged to launch a canoe or kayak in the Ottawa River or along the Rideau River and find some great fishing spots along our rivers in Canada’s Capital Region. Canoeing and kayaking along the river is a great way to enjoy the sport of fishing. There are many places along the rivers that a canoe or a kayak can be launched with relative ease.            

 It’s happening in Europe too. Last year brown trout were released into the Wandle River for first time in 100 years. The Wandle flows through south London, meeting the River Thames at the heart of Europe’s largest city. It was once the best trout river in Britain, prized by anglers for the size of its fish. But the Wandle began to decline with the industrial revolution—an 11-mile stretch of river supported more than 90 water mills, which made everything from snuff to silk to gunpowder. Inundated with toxic chemicals and raw sewage, the Wandle was officially designated an open sewer in the 1960s.

Between 1860 and 1960, like the Wandle, the Thames was reduced to sewer status. Deprived of oxygen by feces-feasting bacteria, the river’s London reaches formed an impassable barrier to salmon and other fish, said Neil Dunlop, of the United Kingdom’s Environment Agency. But the city’s main sewage-treatment facilities were enlarged and improved, Dunlop said, “That’s the major reason why the tideway has been cleaned up.”

While the urban renaissance of trout and salmon is in large part the result of regional environmental actions, the trend also reflects tougher European Union legislation. For instance, the 1991 Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive requires all settlements with populations of more than 10,000 that discharge wastewater into environmentally sensitive areas to meet the highest collection and treatment standards.


Urban Ponds

 Many cities do not have rivers flowing through them, but urban fishing is a reality in these cities too. Ponds provide easy, safe access for fishing for many children and adults. Examples of city ponds available for fishing abound. Here is an example.

The Boulder City Nevada Urban Fishing Pond is located in Veterans Memorial Park in Boulder City, operated by the City of Boulder. The pond is located in the northeast area of the park next to Buchanan Boulevard. Veterans Memorial park is a major urban park facility, which is still being developed by the city. The fishing pond was constructed in 2001 as a joint project between the City of Boulder and the Department of Wildlife to provide enhanced angling opportunity for residents and visitors.

The Boulder City Urban Fishing Pond is approximately 3 acres with a maximum depth of approximately 15 feet. The entire perimeter of the pond is accessible for angling with a paved access trail. There is a paved access trail from the adjacent parking area which makes the pond accessible for the mobility impaired; however, the pond is located approximately 15 feet vertically uphill from the parking area and a moderate slope must be negotiated to reach the impoundment. Water quality is generally good year-round and the pond is maintained at near capacity whenever feasible. Seasonally, moderate green algae blooms may occur but these are usually of short duration and will not affect the edibility of fish caught from the pond. The game fish species in the Boulder City Urban Fishing Pond are rainbow trout and channel catfish, which are stocked seasonally depending on water temperature. Because of the small size of the pond, other game fish species are not stocked. Small spinners, still baits such as salmon eggs, and fly fishing can all be effective for rainbow trout.

Season is open year round, during hours when the park is open to the public. The daily and possession limit are 3 fish of any species in combination. The use of live bait is prohibited in the Boulder City Urban Fishing Pond. There is no fee for park access.


Youth Fishing Programs

Richard Louv, in his highly acclaimed book, Last Child in the Woods, made a compelling case for what he called the “nature deficit disorder.” He says “Reducing that deficit—healing the broken bond between our young and nature—is in our self-interest, not only because aesthetics or justice demands it, but also because our mental, physical, and spiritual health depends upon it. The health of the earth is at stake as well. How the young respond to nature, and how they raise their own children, will shape the configurations and conditions of our cities, homes—our daily lives.”

Since Louv’s book was first published in 2005, many states and local agencies have renewed their efforts to provide outdoor activities for kids. Fishing has become a favorite activity, bolstered by such private programs as the Boy Scouts of America, Hooked on Fishing, which is now Kids All-American Fishing Derby, and

The Boy Scouts of America had a fishing merit badge nearly 100 years before Louv’s book was published. In Scouting for Boys, Baden-Powell offered this advice: “Every Scout ought to be able to fish in order to get food for himself. A tenderfoot [beginner] who starved on the bank of a river full of fish would look very silly, yet it might happen to one who had never learned to catch fish.” These are chilling words but were sufficient to encourage millions of boys to earn the fishing badge. These boys usually went on camping trips to the mountains or forests to earn their badges. Fishing in or near urban areas was unheard of. Now, that is no longer true. Nearly all states and many metropolitan areas have rivers and ponds suitable for fishing.

The Kids All-American Fishing Derby is the only one fishing/outdoors program in the nation that reaches boys and girls in all 50 states. “No program has ever had the far-reaching effects like this,” says Gordon Holland, co-founder of Hooked On Fishing International and its Kids All-American Fishing Derby program. “We’ve had over six million kids and their parents at our derbies since the program began 14 years ago. Kids and fishing are our business, our only business.” The philosophy of the Kids All-American Fishing Derby is to introduce all youngsters and their families to an appreciation and respect for the environment, through conservation methods encouraged by means of hands-on participation in the outdoors and the sport of fishing.

“Hooked On Fishing International provides the promotional materials in kit form to these host groups,” noted Holland. They send everything needed to conduct a half-day event for community youngsters. All that’s required locally is a host group and volunteers to provide the instruction to the kids. This has never been a problem. Fishing clubs are a great source of manpower and quickly step forward to help on the local level, providing instruction in knot tying, tackle use, and casting. Many communities also get state agency support in extra stocking of fish, from catfish to trout, to insure that the kids get a quality fishing experience. “There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing a little boy or girl catch their first fish, knowing that just that one moment can direct their life into great respect and enjoyment of the outdoors,” said Holland.

Another program, Take Me Fishing, is a national campaign started by the nonprofit organization Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF) to actively encourage participation in recreational boating and fishing and thereby increase public awareness and appreciation of the need to protect, conserve and restore the natural aquatic resources of American waters.

Core to the campaign is the website which serves as an online resource for all things boating and fishing. It includes information on the various species of fish, types of boats, how to fish, fishing gear, and how to tie knots. It includes information on state fishing regulations, boat safety, boat registration, where to purchase fishing licenses, and even maps on the best places to boat and fish (by state). It serves as a resource “that offers hints and tips on how to get kids out onto lakes and rivers and bays, but no web site can duplicate the thrilling immediacy of the tug of a little fish at the end of your line, which is addictive in its own way.


How Can You Help?

There are many ways in which you, your family, your club, your company, or your city can get involved. Some of these are:

  • Take a child fishing! Better yet, take a whole bunch of children fishing! aquatic education programs can provide fishing tackle, a list of volunteer fishing instructors, and educational materials for organized fishing events. They may even stock some extra catfish or trout in a public lake prior to your event, if given sufficient advance notice.
  • Become a volunteer fishing instructor. If you’re an angler, share your knowledge and skills with others. Instructors can get a wide range of teaching aids to use. Instructors also get hats, patches, and other items recognizing their efforts. Contact the aquatic education program in your state or city for more information.
  • Allow a few people to fish on your property. If you have a pond or a creek on your property, allow your neighbors or friends to go fishing there. Water bodies that are open to the public are often eligible for a whole range of programs, assistance, and funding to improve fishing, hunting, wildlife habitat, water quality, boating access, and more.
  • Support the program and fishing events in your community by donating bait, fishing tackle, food and drinks, or your time and skills. Financial contributions will assist with efforts in your community and/or statewide according to your preference.
  • Ask your local newspaper to advertise and cover fishing events and program activities.
  • Tell others about these programs and how much fun fishing is.
  • Let your mayor, city council, and community leaders know that fishing is important to you, your family, and your community. Encourage them to restore and revitalize city parks and ponds.

Basic Rules for Writers

Are there simple basic rules for all writers? I’ve been asked that question many times. There are books written to help writers write. Some are very good. The Chicago Manual of Style and A Handbook for Scholars are invaluable resources. Others are grammar books, which are useful but don’t get to the “nitty-gritty” of what is really required of a writer who wants to make a living writing. These rules are made by writers for writers and are meant to be encouraging as well as instructive.
Rule No. 1 Determination
Determination is the quality of being determined to do or achieve something; resoluteness. You must first make a decision to write. This sounds simple enough. Most writers have made that decision. But, there is more to it than just deciding to write. What to write and how are next. The decision of what to write is based partially on your knowledge. Most writers who are knowledgeable about fishing will be unwilling to tackle an article about the development of cancer tumors. Determination must be tempered by knowledge. The often repeated writer’s adage, “write what you know,” is applicable here.
Resoluteness, however, is a useful word when discussing determination. To make your resolve tangible, set goals. These points will assist you in your goal-setting exercise:
• Be specific about what you want to achieve. Instead of saying ‘I want to finish an article by Fall’ state ‘my article: Fishing in the Arctic will be completed by October 1, including all editing and photography’.
• Break this goal into smaller chunks…’baby steps’ of say 500 words per day. Be sure to schedule work with photographs concurrently.
Not taking this step leaves you wide open to missing your deadline. Giving yourself an achievable goal means you are more likely to reach it. The results must be measurable, otherwise how do you know you’ve achieved what you set out to do?
• Is the goal attainable? Don’t set your sights too high. Always work within your own abilities, otherwise you will become disheartened. Keeping ahead of your goal allows for all those ‘life’ situations that you may, and probably will, encounter.
• Always give yourself an end date. This gives you a specific time-frame in which to work.
If you are resolved to write a quality piece, which most writers are, you have observed the first rule for writing. Your written goals will provide you with a ‘roadmap’ for the next rule.
Rule No. 2 Discipline
The second rule is harder than you think. Writing requires discipline. Most writers’ advisors say “write something everyday.” It doesn’t have to be submission quality. Writing a letter to your son or daughter away at college, writing in a blog or writing ideas for future stories all count for this task. The main idea here is to cultivate a regimen for daily work. Make time to write. This can be difficult if you have a full time job that is not writing related. If evenings and weekends are the only available time, other family commitments must be taken into account. Look to writers’ blogs to exchange ideas as to how other writers have accomplished this seemingly insurmountable feat.
Writer’s block is a well known malady for writers. If you just can’t get to the next paragraph or sentence. Take a break, if that doesn’t help, listen to your favorite music or change writing venues. Try a coffee shop or a library. Having resources close at hand might help, too.
Rule No. 3 Focus
A writer must focus. If you jump from one topic of interest to another several times when writing a story, the outcome will appear jumbled and without direction. The same is true if you attempt to write while personal issues are distracting you. No writer can do his/her piece justice when struggling with unrelated issues.
Here are three questions to answer to help you focus:
1. Who is the intended audience/reader of my piece?
2. What is the single most important point of my piece?
3. If the reader thought about my piece one week after reading it, what would their dominant impression/recollection would be?
After deciding to write, you must decide what to write; then, set a writing schedule for yourself. Make sure that your goals are attainable. Writing takes discipline. You should write something every day. If you have a chosen topic and a deadline goal, work toward that goal. If there are days when you can’t work on your piece, write something anyway. When setting out to write, be sure you can focus on the job. Don’t let yourself be distracted by outside events or demands. Scheduling and adhering to that schedule will help you to produce a piece within the designated timeframe. Determination, discipline and focus will give you tools to produce a quality piece.

Love’em or Hate’em, Your Writing Can Benefit from a Critique Group

Does criticism by other writers really help? The short answer is yes, it can. How can criticism by other writers, especially those that don’t write the same kind of articles I do, help me? Read on…
First of all, you won’t just be criticized; you’ll get some praise too. While feedback from other writers as focused as you can be frustrating and exhilarating, there’s a flip side. You will have to return the favor. How? Read on…
But, aren’t critique groups just for fiction writers or MFA students? No, they are an important part of any writer’s life, no matter the genre. Editors and publishers state that a major reason for rejecting submissions is poor organization and writing skills. This problem can best be overcome by the writer receiving feedback from other experienced writers. “Fresh eyes” can spot problems that you might overlook in your attention to subject matter detail. You, in turn, can look at other writers’ work with fresh eyes and spot deficiencies or find explanations of details expressed that are entirely new and meaningful to you. There is give and take in a critique group.
While practice is the best way to improve your writing skills, you won’t know whether you’re on the right track—what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong—unless you get feedback. You have to show your story to others.
At first, while you’re still feeling your way, you’ll probably show your story to friends and family. but friends and family don’t know how a story is created, only whether they like it or not. “I like it” is not a constructive comment, no matter how well-intentioned the reader. People who know nothing about writing can do little to help you improve your writing. So where can you get constructive feedback? From other writers. And you connect with these other writers through writers’ groups and critique groups.
Critique groups can benefit you in more ways than the obvious one of having good and bad points pointed out in your own stories. As the strengths and weaknesses in others’ work are called to your attention and examined in critiques by experienced members, you’ll learn about techniques you can apply to your own writing, and you’ll learn more about the elements that go into good writing. Critiquing others’ work can help you improve your own writing. It’s often easier to see mistakes in others’ work than it is to see what’s wrong in your own — you’re too close to your own work to see its flaws. As you learn to recognize weaknesses in others’ work, you’ll be able to apply your new analytical skills to distance yourself from your own writing, allowing you to recognize and avoid those same weaknesses.
How to Critique:
1. Don’t think you have to cover every point in a story. Look for ones that stand out for you and comment on them.
2. Do try and give feedback on what could be changed to improve the piece.
3. Don’t say: “you should have written it like this:” We all have our own styles and we should respect that. That isn’t to say you can’t offer examples of how you would have written it, but that is all they should be, examples.
4. Do say what you felt about the piece as a reader. As a writer we need to know what readers feel about our work. So say whether it moved you, confused you or made you laugh.
5. Never criticize the author, only give criticism of the work.
How to Receive a Critique:
It is equally important to know how to react to a critique of your work. It is daunting submitting your work to others, but if we are to be published writers, then this is something we must do.
• Do take time to thank the person who has done the critique. Reading and providing feedback on works can take a long time. It is only polite to acknowledge this and thank the person for taking the time to do this for you.
• Do think carefully about the comments that have been made.
• Don’t immediately fire back defensive messages. You might feel that the reviewer has got it all wrong, but wait before you act. Take time to re-read your work and consider the comments made about it. It is hard to see your work being criticized, but if you want to grow as a writer, you need to learn to take criticism and learn from it where you can.
• Do post clarifications if you think they are necessary and valid, for instance “Y’s dialogue is deliberately misspelled because that is an indication of how they pronounce the words.” Or “I was intending to hide the sex of the speaker by means of…”
• Do take the time to critique others’ work too.
Critiquing isn’t hard. It isn’t an obscure science. It does, however, take time and practice. Remember the critique is only a suggestion. You, the writer, have the final say as to how the work is presented for publication.

Published in Outdoors Unlimited, April, 2010

Writing Book Reviews

I’ve written book reviews and used book reviews in my profession as a Public Services Librarian for over 25 years. Many of us use book reviews when deciding to purchase a book for ourselves or someone else. There are various publications that include book reviews, including local newspapers, magazines, and dedicated publications, such as Library Journal and the Kirkus Review. We must recognize the difference between reviews and flyers or catalogs. Flyers and catalogs sent by publishers and distribution houses, such as Book-of-the-Month Club, are not reviews. They are “informational” snippets designed to sell you the book. They won’t tell you if the plot doesn’t move or the characters are flat.

Many newspapers and other review media buy book reviews. Have you ever thought of writing book reviews for fun and “profit?” Fun is probable, “profit” is relative. But those who buy reviews often pay per word, just as most columns. In fact you could be the sole contributor to a column for book reviews. The outlet, whether newspaper or magazine, will decide the broad subject area of the books to be reviewed. You may get to choose the books or the editor may choose which books will be covered. If you are proposing a book review column, you may wish to begin by proposing a column regarding books about the outdoors. Then, if the outlet says their readers are most interested in hunting and fishing, you can suggest several titles of new books that would fit this column. Be prepared to provide details of your background in education and experience or provide writing samples, showing you are knowledgeable about this field.
When you’ve secured a column in the local Sunday newspaper to review the newest books on hunting and fishing you need to be able to find the books to review. You might begin your search in bookstores to find publishers’ names. Don’t wait for books to arrive in the bookstore before deciding which books to review, however. Most commonly you’ll review the book based on the Advanced Reader’s Copy (ARC). ARCs are proof copies or pre-publication copies produced by the publisher as a last check before final printing. These can only be obtained from the publisher and may not be sold or distributed by the recipient. To obtain these copies, write directly to the publisher. Choose publishers based on books that you know or have seen in the bookstore. Write to them describing your column, how often your column will be published, the circulation of the paper or magazine and a little of your background. Most publishers will be more than willing to supply you with ARCs and they will be free of charge. Most likely, they will add your name to their mailing list for future books in the same field. Yes, you saw this coming, you’ll have the column and free books to add to your collection as well!
Now, what exactly is a book review and how is it constructed? Book reviews are just that; they tell the reader a little about the author, what the book is about, how useful it will be and who will find it interesting. Book reviews are often short, sometimes 200-300 words, but reviews in your column, depending on how many books will be covered in each column and the limits imposed by the editor, could be as long as 500-600 words.

A book review should focus on the book’s purpose, content, and authority. A critical book review is not a book report or a summary. It is a reaction paper in which strengths and weaknesses of the material are analyzed. It should include a statement of what the author has tried to do, evaluate how well, in your opinion, the author has succeeded, and present evidence to support this evaluation. There is no right way to write a book review. Book reviews are highly personal and reflect the opinions of the reviewer.
My formula for a book review is:
1. List the specifics of the publication, including title, author, publisher, place of publication, price, and other details as required by your publication.
2. Identify the author of the book and his/her accomplishments in two or three sentences.
3. Discuss the contents of the book while analyzing its strengths and weaknesses.
4. Provide an overall evaluation and recommendation as to its use and users.

Begin by reading some good book reviews if you haven’t been paying attention to them before now. The New York Times Book Review section is considered the “gold standard.” Many magazines contain a book review or two when the editors become aware of a title that fits the focus of the magazine. Newspapers are harder to pinpoint. Some, especially, smaller town, local papers carry only reviews of books by local authors. Some carry none at all. Larger city papers usually have a book review section in the Sunday paper. Many of those reviews are syndicated but the paper may take some local reviews as well.
Book reviewing sounds easy and the writing seems to be not too burdensome. However, to do a good job, you must read the entire book, which can be time consuming. You may need to check some of the facts with a specialist, much as you’d verify facts in any other piece of writing. The more reading you have done in the field for which you plan to review, the better equipped you’ll be to provide meaningful reviews.

Good luck and most of all, have fun!

Published in: Outdoors Unlimited, January 2010

Traditional Publishing and Beyond

Publishing a book has become a more challenging endeavor because there are more choices now. The internet, Amazon and other online book sellers make marketing the book easier for anyone. If you’re considering writing and publishing a book for the first time, the following information is meant as a guide to help you make a decision when choosing a method of publication.

Traditional Publishers
These are the publishers that have been around for years and most of us recognize at least some of the names, such as Wiley, Knopf, McGraw-Hill, Simon & Schuster and many University Presses. These publishers have very specific subject interests and will only consider titles that fit within very structured guidelines.
If you decide to submit your book to one of these traditional publishers, you should first contact them via their website to obtain a “Guide to Authors.” Next, almost invariably (unless you are a celebrity) you must submit a proposal. The book proposal is a detailed description of your idea, table of contents, two or three sample chapters, timeline for completion, your background and qualifications for writing on the particular subject and a marketing plan for selling you book. If your idea is to be considered, the publisher will respond to you, usually within 6 months. If they are not interested, they may not respond at all, which can be extremely frustrating.
At this point, many authors decide to find an agent to pitch their work to a publisher. But an agent will require the same type of proposal and may be at least as hard to snare as a publisher. Agents do have more knowledge about the publishing world and individual publishers than most authors, especially new authors. They help negotiate contracts and work in the author’s favor, for a percentage of the profits from the book.
If the agent wants to see more of you chapters, great! However, this is far from a publisher promising to buy your work or a publishing contract. Much more hard work is ahead, but, at least you have someone’s ear. At this point or even earlier, many authors look elsewhere to publish their work. The electronic age has provided many new alternatives.

Self-publishing as a business model is as all-American as it gets, but it carries a stigma in some people’s eyes. If you’re worried about how people will perceive your books, don’t use your family name as the publisher name or consider writing under a pen name. That’s literally the only difference between self-publishing and any other kind of publishing, at least as far as the public can tell. The advantages of self-publishing your own books in terms of author relations , which should not be a problem, and minimizing out of pocket expenses are obvious. As is true for other self employment ventures, you have to be honest with yourself about how hard you’re willing to work to start a publishing business and you have to be realistic about the probable outcome.

Small or Independent Publishers
What is the difference between a “small press” and an “independent press”? Many independent presses may also qualify as, but are not always, small presses. As a general rule, independent publishers are non-conglomerate, non-publicly listed publishers. As you can see from this, the demarcation lines are blurred. The definition, in itself, is not that important. These publishers are often even more focused as to what subjects they will publish than are the traditional publishers. Being small, they publish fewer titles, therefore, they are more selective. These, of course, are generalities. To select a publisher, look at titles of books in the field in which you are writing in bookstores and libraries to see which publishers are active in your field. Most publishers have websites where you can find information about what they are looking for and how they require submissions to be presented.
Small/Independent publishers may give you more immediate and personal attention than the large/traditional publishers. For some, royalties may even be higher. One reason for this is most use print-on-demand, publish-on-demand or may share printers, which keeps costs down. Storage and distribution costs are great for traditional publishers but nonexistent for print-on-demand publishers.

When publishing your book electronically your costs are incredibly low (relative to hardcopy publishing). You will need to get the software to create the eBook, but, depending on the software package you choose, you can even get that free of charge. Whether you sell or distribute 1000 copies of your eBook or just one copy, your cost of producing the eBook remains the same fixed cost it took to produce the first copy. Actually, once you’ve bought your software, you can produce any number of eBooks without incurring any additional cost.
No hassles with publishers accepting your work. You can say what you want, how you want. You can be your own publisher and distributor. It’s another form of self-publishing, but requires less investment and, perhaps, is more “socially” acceptable.
Here’s how:
1. Get the software to create the electronic book .
2. Write your book.
3. Use the software to convert your document to the electronic book format.
4. Make your eBook available from your website. Note that even if you wish to sell your eBook, you may want to have a few sample chapters from your eBook available freely to whet the appetites of your prospective customers.
5. Publicize your eBook on the social media including blogs.

In summary, book publishers of today are not your dad’s publisher. The internet and all of the recent electronic capabilities have expanded the possibilities for publishing your book. You should examine all of the available avenues before deciding on the method best suited for getting your work into “print.”
Published in: Outdoors Unlimited, December, 2009

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