Friday, June 10, 2011

One Step at a Time Leads to Success

(c) 2010 Mona Leeson Vanek

Browsing my own web site often starts me wondering about things I have no answers for. It can also nudge me into another web-surfing binge; this time about copyright ownerships in e-book publishing.

Scrolling through my recent posts, I realized that many dealt with e-publishing. Rapidly emerging e publishing is formidable in its potential; like all first encounters with something new it both fascinates and frightens.

I confess that, initially, fear triumphs over my fascination. I'm afraid that the technology of writing e-books might be beyond my grasp. And what about the business side of e-publishing?

In the early 1960's, becoming a local news correspondent required me to dust off an ancient typewriter, brush up on rusty typing and business skills, and surmount challenges as they came. That first writing leap scared me, too. However, within a year I was teaching other writers how-to avoid pitfalls (and lawsuits) while covering a newsbeat.

Confidence came with experience. In the early 1970's, fellow writing group members said, "You should publish your stories in a book." The allure of authoring a book to memorialize the homesteaders I revered was irresistible. Totally ignorant of the many aspects of authoring regional history, I began what was to become a series.

Boy, did I learn!

I mastered tape recording oral history, writing indexes for chapters and for people included, and photographs. I created the bibliographies, wrote cut lines for photo reproductions, and worked with editors, graphics and printing departments.

Attending to dozens of details I'd been ignorant of meant that by the time The Statesman-Examiner published my three-volume Behind These Mountains series (1986-1992) I was also inducted into book marketing.

That really broadened my outlook!

My experiences became subjects which I was asked to teach at writing workshops and history conferences. Idaho Writer's League awarded me Writer of the Year. That, I have to confess, was because of my excellent documentation rather than the quality of my writing in Behind These Mountains, vols. 1, 2 and 3.

Similar to today's intrusion of e-publishing in my life, back then access to the Internet came to my sparsely populated Montana valley.

Maybe I was braver then.

No matter the minimal instruction of the telephone company's two-hour program on the wonders of the Internet and how to connect a dial-up, I just HAD to take the leap and gain the world!

I whooped for joy over the 1996 Edition of Mecklermedia's Official Internet Yellow Pages. I still have that four-pound book which was my most exciting Christmas gift, given me by my ever-thoughtful daughter.

Overcoming daily computing challenges spun into articles like Fire In The Wire, which explains how to resolve computer modem failure; published by Mother Earth News in 2001.

With research at my fingertips instead of a hundred-mile drive away and e-mail query responses within hours, I soon thrilled at seeing my byline in national magazines.

So why my apprehension about the challenges of e-publishing when experience has taught me to overcome fear?

Conquer fear in small increments.

I took the first step in 2009. Blogging is e-publishing. I let it intimidate me far too long. But overcoming my fear of blogging quickly encouraged me to create this web site. Those became my baby steps towards publishing e-books.

I recently e-published a 2nd Edition of my three-volume regional Montana history, and keeps me occupied as I format and insert photographs from the homesteaders private collection.

I may soon succumb to the inevitable and begin using Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. Resistance is as futile as foregoing Paypal and teleconferences! All that really matters is determination. So why not tackle e-books.

My website posts were my way of building my courage to tackle learning the technology necessary to become a published e-book author. Wisdom tells me now is the time to begin exploring the business side of this endeavor, like how author's copyrights and right to reprint elsewhere can be affected by e-publishing.

Minimal web surfing brought more questions than answers. But why delay while experts are still debating copyright details? Articles like The National Academies Workshop on Copyright in the Digital Age, (Bill Rosenblatt's, Copyright and Technology web site, which covers digital rights technologies,) and commentaries on Publishing Trends,, (the web site managed by Laura Hazard Owen,) are online. The complex issues won't be resolved quickly.

I'm secure in knowing experienced writers will encourage and support my efforts. My good friend, Clive Warner,, already pointed out one important factor,
"E-Books can be apps - and a programming team has to make the app. Increasingly, the writer may be only one part of a team making a 'product'."
The writing journey need never be lonely, and at least four reputable organizations offer contract help: American Society of Journalists and Authors,, Authors Guild,, The Authors Registry,, Text and Academic Authors, and Writer's Union (Canada)

Years of visiting Ivan Hoffman's web site,, has made me prudent enough to consult an intellectual attorney as well.

My fascination with the future of publishing hasn't abated one little bit, offering as it does new dimensions to enhance my life.

In April, 2011 I launched The North Palouse Washington e-Newscast, It fills the void left when the local weekly newspaper ceased publication.

Never fear to take that one step forward in your writing career, and you will reap great rewards!

Mona welcomes help from tech-savvy readers! Email her at

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