Insert Controversial Title Here

Yale Professor Amy Chua is at the center of a firestorm of late, but I contend not because of what she wrote in her book but thanks to a time honored practice that has grown decidedly more aggressive: giving articles controversial titles.

Her editor at the Journal, no doubt to make waves in the vast sea of information readers are forced to wade through every day, entitled an excerpt from Ms. Chua’s book, “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior.” While the title did its job, it also did a great disservice to the author.

The problem with titles is that people assume they are written by the author and therefore what the author believes. Psychologists Edward Jones and James Harris, as summarized by Dr. Robert B. Cialdini in Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, demonstrated this with an experiment where they showed people a pro-Fidel Castro essay and asked the participants to guess the true feelings of its author. The result was that even when participants were told that the author was required to write the pro-Castro essay, the participants believed the author was pro-Castro.

Every author has to expect a certain amount of opposition, but I’ve been surprised by the level of vitriol aimed at Ms. Chua – a level that only a judgment could produce. The wording of the title turned a reflective excerpt into a scathing indictment. No one likes to be looked down upon which any mention of “superiority” automatically implies. And when a reader is defensive a reader’s cognitive abilities are focused mainly on managing his emotions, leaving precious little to actually glean the message – she has a different style of parenting the consequences of which she is negotiating.

Nowhere, in interviews or her book, does Ms. Chua say that she believes Chinese mothers are superior to anyone. Her tone, in fact, is quite self-mocking and the book far more nuanced then the excerpt allowed. Yet that is all blown away by an editorial fanning of the flames as it were.

It’s enough to give any other person with a different viewpoint great pause – which is the cause for concern. As it is women voices in national media, even Wikipedia are grossly underrepresented. While headlines have been tweaked since time immemorial to sell newspapers, it can go too far and subvert the very voices it aims to promote.

Still I hope for more from voices not traditionally represented in media. The issue is will they be heard above the roar?

I write like

I thought this site was interesting. It's a site that analyzes your writing style.  I pasted in two different samples of my writing. An essay I pasted in came up as like Chuck Palahniuk - he's the author of Fight Club.

Another essay I pasted in that was mainly dialog came up as like J.D. Salinger!

There is likely no science involved and is just a great way to make writers feel better, but in any case, I'll take it.




I recently attended a reading by an author of a best selling memoir about a mother daughter relationship. I went because I'm interested in writing a memoir. As the author talked about her book, which I had not read, it occurred to me that the author's daughter was standing in as a proxy for the emotions the author didn't allow herself to have about her own mother.

After the reading, I had a quick quiet moment with the author. So I decided to pose the question:

"I hope this isn't too personal, but do you think your daughter has served as a proxy for the emotions you didn't allow yourself to have about your mother?" I said.

She touched my arm. "You haven't read the book, but yes. You're so perceptive," she said.

She was then called away to sign some books.

I didn't get a chance to complete my thought. Which was I hope she takes her daughter off the hook. I hope she gives her daughter permission to have her own relationship with her (the author's) mother. While the process may be painful to the author (she doesn't have a good relationship with her mother), I think the result would be beneficial to everyone - grandmother, mother, daughter, alike.

I understand having a difficult relationship with a family member, but letting a bad relationship affect a third party, is detrimental and in the end, only exacerbates the dysfunction.

Finding the Words

“Emotions, in my experience, aren't covered by single words. I don't believe in "sadness," "joy," or "regret." Maybe the best proof that the language is patriarchal is that it oversimplifies feeling. I'd like to have at my disposal complicated hybrid emotions, Germanic train-car constructions like, say, "the happiness that attends disaster." Or: "the disappointment of sleeping with one's fantasy." I'd like to show how "intimations of mortality brought on by aging family members" connects with "the hatred of mirrors that begins in middle age." I'd like to have a word for "the sadness inspired by failing restaurants" as well as for "the excitement of getting a room with a minibar." I've never had the right words to describe my life, and now that I've entered my story, I need them more than ever. ”

― Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex

Ten Steps to Publish an eBook

These are the steps I took to publish my first eBook.

1. I wrote a book less than 60 pages in Microsoft Word

-  I typed it in 12 point Times New Roman, and didn’t use any fancy fonts – only bolds and italics. Note: when you convert your file you are likely to lose any fonts. That’s because today support across all devices for various fonts is inconsistent. There's no way to guarantee that a page in Times New Roman actually appears in that font on a reader's screen.

-  I didn’t create my own table of contents in Word

-  I didn’t number my pages. Note: most ebooks do not have page numbers because eReaders allow readers to re-size the text. It’s called making the text “reflowable".

-  I made sure each one of my chapters was titled then I separated all my chapters into different Word doc (not docx) files


2. I decided on a title and had a friend do the cover art.


3. I chose eBookBurn to convert my Word doc into the two ebook publishing formats, epub and mobi

-  I created an account and uploaded my cover art file. Note: to be sure it displayed correctly in Kindle, make sure it’s sized to 600x800. I’ve seen sites that say 600X900 but I found that size didn’t work for a Kindle.

-  Then I uploaded each chapter file I created to eBookBurn and added the chapter title in their title field box (this helps them automatically create a table of contents for you)

Note: I did NOT copy and paste my doc from Word – as they advise against. Word has all sorts of hidden formatting issues and this can cause problems.

-  I then went through each chapter on eBookBurn to make sure their WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor captured everything in the uploading. I found one chapter where some of my text was mysteriously cut off. So I just deleted that chapter and uploaded it again and the issue resolved.

-  Next I went through each chapter that I had inserted an illustration or image and deleted the image that came through in the editor. Then I went to and created an account. I uploaded my images to that account. I copied the html link to those images (simply click on the image you uploaded to Imgur and copy the link under “direct link”) and using the eBookBurn image uploaded in the editor of each chapter, I pasted the link. This displayed my image and let me see if I liked the proportions (any images in your text should be less than 600X800 in size for optimal viewing – I used mainly 400X400).

-  After one more review I generated my ebook on the site for $19. It presented two buttons to download the epub and mobi formats. I just downloaded and saved them to my computer.


4. I purchased an ISBN. To sell direct iTunes requires an ISBN, but you can sell through Amazon and Barnes & Noble without one.


5. I went to the Amazon website and downloaded the Kindle previewer. I imported my mobi file to the previewer and checked it out. That’s when I caught an issue with tables. One of my chapters had a table in it. On the previewer I was also sure to pick all the different Kindle versions and see how my mobi file looked in each one.

I was glad I did this before going straight to publishing because I could see where things went wonky and fix it before publishing it. I then went back into eBookBurn and the chapter with the table and ended up deleting the table. I just rewrote the information in another format. I chose this because it was the fastest and easiest solution. You can insert tables using eBookBurn’s editor, but I saw that the tables still came out funky when I previewed the book. (Yes – this meant I ended up generating my ebook three times!)


6. I created an account on Amazon’s Kindle publishing platform KDP.

-  I entered my title, description of my book, an author bio, keywords for searches and selected categories for my book.

-  I uploaded the mobi file of my book

-  I chose to price my ebook $2.99 and the 70% royalty rate

-  After I hit submit, the ebook went on sale in 24 hours


7. I created an account on Barnes & Noble’s Nook publishing platform PubIt.

-  I entered my title, description of my book, an author’s bio, keywords for searches and selected categories for my book (up to 5)

-  I uploaded my ebook and priced it at $2.99; there are no royalty choices

-  I previewed my ebook in the Nook previewer

-  Once I set the ebook for sale, it hit the store in 24 hours


8. I applied to sell my ebook on iTunes. Note: you will have to have a separate iTunes Apple Connect account for selling ebooks. It took about two weeks to hear back that I was approved. Once I was approved I had to download iTunes Producer – which only works on a Mac. The Producer is Apple’s own software that you upload your epub file to iTunes through. It took another two weeks before my ebook was live in the iTunes store.


9. About two days after I published on Amazon I received an email from Amazon with a link to create an author page on Amazon. So I set that up.


10. Finally, I emailed all my friends, sent out a newsletter from my blog, wrote a blog post, tweeted about it, and posted about it on Facebook and LinkedIn.


Voilá! My first ebook was published. It took about three hours to do everything outside of writing the ebook.  Now you can do the same.