1stNews from 1stBooks, July 2, 2003

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Table of Contents

Editor's Message

A quick reminder that for the months of July and August, we only publish one issue per month (due to summer travel, which means a lower number of readers). So you'll have a bit of a break before we show up in your email inbox again.

Somehow, it escaped our notice that a 1stBooks author went beyond "finalist" in this year's ForeWord magazine competition. Congratulations to Patricia Huff, whose The Mourning Doves, received Honorable Mention—and sorry for the oversight.

This issue, we've got two repeat writers: tax expert Julian Block (sorry, non-U.S. readers, you can skip this one) and fiction writer/publisher Jacqueline Simonds.

And please note how this issue's Success Profile author cleverly added a news peg to his note to me. The topical theme of his note definitely got him in to an earlier issue than he might have otherwise. While we usually try to have something a bit more substantive in the column, I'm using it to demonstrate how you can make your own books topical, and also to show the marketing slant I chose for the headline. These are techniques that you can do as well, to generate interest in your book.

How to Stay on the Right Side of the IRS

By Julian Block, julianblock@yahoo.com

Just because you receive a refund does not mean you're audit-proof. All it means is that IRS computers have checked arithmetic and other basic items. So make sure to file away those checks and other records that back up deductions and other items, as well as a copy of your return. Keep your records at least until the statute of limitations runs out for an audit—generally, three years after the filing deadline. But the IRS gets six years to investigate if you understate your income by 25 percent or more. And there is no time limit if the IRS shows you failed to file or you filed a fraudulent return.

Despite what you may have heard, the risk of an audit does not decrease by filing late. All income tax returns, whether they are filed early or late, go through IRS computers that scan them for arithmetic errors and single out returns for audit on the basis of a top-secret scoring system. High scorers, as well as some Form 1040s chosen purely at random, are then scrutinized by the tax collectors to determine which ones should actually be examined. One important element in the selection process is how the amount of your itemized deductions compares with the total taken by others with comparable income levels.

Errors of fact or judgment on your return for tax year 2001 should not still be causing you cold sweat. A recalculation on IRS Form 1040X usually takes very little time, plus whatever payment is involved if you feel you owe something. You can also use 1040X if you later discover that you overpaid.

For instance, you are not stuck if you take the standard deduction and later discover that itemizing for such expenditures as interest and real estate taxes would have been more advantageous. Use 1040X to amend your return and switch to itemizing within three years after the filing deadline for your return.

If you get a computer-generated notification of unreported income, don't send a payment to the IRS without first checking on whether you actually omitted income. Every year, the IRS sends out many erroneous notifications concerning, for example, 1099 forms that reflect payments received by writers from publishers, interest from savings accounts and dividends from stocks.

If you move or otherwise change your address after filing your return, notify the IRS. Use IRS Form 8822 (Change of Address). Reporting the change should ensure that you receive and are able to respond to mail the IRS later sends— for instance, a bill for additional taxes or a notice that your return has been selected for an audit. Expecting a refund? Also notify the Post Office for your old address. This will help in forwarding it to your new address (unless you authorized the IRS to directly deposit into your checking account).

All that you need to provide is your old and new addresses, your full name and Social Security number, and, if you are a joint filer, your spouse's full name and Social Security number. Mail 8822 to the IRS Service Center that received your return, not the Service Center for your current address.

IRS forms and publications are available without charge by mail (call 800-TAX-FORM) by fax (call 703-368-9694) or download them from the IRS website, http://www.irs.gov.

Julian Block is a syndicated columnist, attorney and former IRS examiner who has been cited by The New York Times as "a leading tax professional" and by The Wall Street Journal as an "accomplished writer on taxes." He is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and author of a number of books. His Tax Tips For Freelance Writers shows how to save truly big on taxes—legally—and explains the steps you should take to reduce taxes for this year and even gain a head start for future years. Send $9.95 for an emailed copy or $12.95 (in the U.S.) for a postpaid copy to: J. Block, 3 Washington Square, #1-G, Larchmont, NY 10538-2032. He can be contacted at julianblock@yahoo.com.

Success Profile: Michael Leonard Turns an Ordinary Signing Into a Media Event

Michael wrote, "Harry Potter isn't the only one in the paper this week. Imagine Heather and I making the front page (above the fold) in the Livingston Daily Press & Argus (6/16/03) in Michigan with an article about my book and future signing at Borders Books in Brighton, Michigan, while another writer is sending a photographer to cover the event for a future article in the Detroit papers."

When I asked how the signing went, he wrote back, "I got bumped from my original time slot by a 'books on the shelf' author who appeared at Borders on the same day. The Borders staff was very helpful and friendly, but thought it best to place me in the cafe. The photographer showed up early, and just wanted to get a picture of someone buying my book. I had a steady crowd for the first hour, but no one wanted to give their name to the paper. That meant the photographer was shooting pictures for an hour before someone agreed to give their consent. Add this to the regular crowd of people who just wanted a cup of coffee, and my signing ended up looking like a major press event. One worker at the end of the day told us we had outsold the other author 3 to 1."

Read Michael's book at http://www.1stbooks.com/bookview/15007.

News From the Publishing World

Cup of Comfort stories (similar to the Chicken Soup books) is seeking contributions for a number of
Upcoming deadlines include "Courage" (today) and "Teachers" (July 15). "Spirituality," "Sisters," "Mothers and Sons," and "Devotional" (Christian) are all due in August or beyond.

For guidelines for all but the devotional, visit http://www.cupofcomfort.com. For guidelines for the devotional, visit http://www.stephenrclark.com/cup/.

No entry fee. Authors get paid and get a byline.

Radio Network Seeks Author Guests
Butler County Radio Network in Pennsylvania—WBUT 1050 AM, WISR 680 AM, and WLER 97.7 FM—is "always looking for new material to use for our talk shows on the AM stations" and welcomes authors. Contact: Betsy Cupp betsyc@bcrnetwork.com.

Places to Enter Your Book

ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards
Deadline: January 15, 2004
Entry fee: $50
More details at https://www.forewordmagazine.com/photos/botya2003.pdf

Writer's Digest International Self-Published Book Awards
Deadline: December 15, 2003
Entry fee: $100/1st entry; $50/additional entries
More details at https://www.writersdigest.com/contests/self_published.asp

National Outdoor Book Awards (for titles published between June 1, 2002 and August 28, 2003)
Deadline: August 28, 2003
Entry fee: $65
More details at http://www.isu.edu/outdoor/books/policy.htm

Your Editor's New Book: Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First

Shel Horowitz, editor of 1stNews from 1stBooks, has a new book rolling off the presses on how to succeed by marketing ethically and cooperatively. Shattering conventional marketing wisdom, he argues that market share usually doesn't matter, your competitors can become your sales messengers, and that you can even turn marketing from a cost to a revenue generator. Please visit http://www.principledprofits.com for more information (or to subscribe to his no-cost newsletter).

Choosing the Right Voice

By Jacqueline C. Simonds, jcsimonds@beaglebay.com

Whether you're creating a work of fiction or penning the next great treatise on derivative bond investing, be sure your book has the appropriate voice for your topic.

For fiction, you need to decide how the story is told. Most authors use "close third person"—that is, the writer chooses to tell the action from a bit of a distance, so that the main characters and their action are described in the third person (she/he did that). This voice is still close enough so that once in a while, the reader may "hear" the main character's thoughts.

Sometimes you can greatly improve the voice of a book by shifting the narrative from third person to first. Novels and short stories that work well in first person are coming-of-age-tales or direct narratives ("I will tell you my tale"). This is a very difficult style to write in, since it is hard to create a character who is so personal. Everything in the book must be told exactly from that character's limited point of view, whereas the third-person voice allows for a broader, more objective idea of what's going on around the character.

In nonfiction, one has to be very aware of the message you want to convey. Nonfiction is about the transfer of information and rarely about ego, so use the third person for narrative and the second person (you) for instruction. Unless the book is about you, the author, as an expert, avoid the use of "I."

If you're writing a how-to book, you don't want to have a jokey tone—at least not while you're describing the mechanics of the process. You don't want to use distant, putting-down language for a book on self-esteem. Try not to use a passive voice when writing about how to become a super salesperson. For almost all nonfiction, simple transmittal of the facts is sufficient.

For both fiction and non-fiction, always use an "active" voice. The simplest way to pare down your sentences for action is to put less between the verb and subject, like this: Congress approved a multibillion dollar highway improvement bill. The passive voice would incorrectly phrase it: A multibillion dollar highway bill was approved by Congress. Avoid compound verbs, especially the "was (verb)" or "had (verb)" constructs. Rethink any use of the infinitive tense of a verb: to make, to walk, to play, etc. How can you rewrite this into a more active statement?

Finally, putting too many quote marks around words, lots of italics for emphasis, deliberate misspelling and overuse of jargon aren't voice. They're simply annoying to the reader and obscure what you're trying to say. Be clear, be informative and be sincere. Your readers will appreciate it!

Jacqueline C. Simonds
Author and Publisher, Beagle Bay Books, http://www.beaglebay.com

Seasonal and Topical

Summer Vacation
Title: The Fisherman's Son by Marylin Peake
Description: About a boy who goes down to the beach in summer and begins a magical, heroic journey under the ocean on the back of a dolphin.

Note: Congratulations also to Marilyn for significant media success. She was interviewed last month on WLPO in Illinois and WORC in Massachusetts. Her next interview will take place Wednesday, July 2 at 8:00 P.M. CST, on KCTE AM 1510, Kansas City, Missouri. Marilyn will discuss her professional experience in child development, the importance of playtime for children, and her children's novel.


Your last newsletter was an inspiration to write. "This Begets That" is an inspirational approach of being noticed and of getting off the couch and write. The other article, "If you need to write...then write". Both articles have inspired me to compile my thoughts and write!

Jessey Munoz

Just wanted to say the new newsletter format is fantastic. Much easier to read, more aesthetically pleasing and full of great info, including contests.

Teresa R. Funke
Remember Wake: http://www.1stbooks.com/bookview/8792

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