Choose love

I’ve been lax about talking with Metatron in recent years, though I’ve talked with a number of other inhabitants of the spirit realm about a number of topics, including layered realities. More on that another time.

In 1996, when Metatron starting talking with me, one of the topics he spoke about, and spoke about repeatedly over many years, was what I translated as a world shift. Some people call it the ascension, but that’s not what I was seeing.

Metatron told me that the world shift is the world moving into the fifth dimension, in which an infinite number of earths exist. He said it wasn’t 2012, as so many had said, but was 2020.

As part of the process of this world shift, as we moved through time to 2020, people would be gently given the information and help they need to make a simple choice: the choice between love and fear. Those who choose love will go to their worlds. Those who choose fear will go to their worlds. No punishment, just a sorting.

Metatron said it would be gentle because what would be the point of bringing people into a more loving world in a way that causes fear?

Help for moving out of denial

Every year, I’ve been told what each year’s theme is–that is, what the overall choices laid before humanity were that year, and what the energies coming into the planet would be supporting. I don’t remember the themes, though they’re recorded somewhere. I remember that 2018’s theme was about owning your power–accepting that you have the right to be yourself, and that no one else has the right to control you.

In 2019, my spirit friends told me that in 2019 and 2020, energies were being provided to this planet to help everyone move out of the fear and denial they are in. I experienced that myself in 2019 and 2020 about some personal events, and it felt amazing and wonderful and a huge release to have the scales fall from my eyes and see what had been under my nose the entire time.

(I haven’t asked yet what 2021’s theme is.)

I mentioned this to some people, and even said it on Facebook, not that Facebook is anything more than an ephemeral social platform. Still, I know that messages will be seen by those who need it, even if they aren’t ready for it. Never underestimate the power of planting a seed. (Not saying I’m the only one planting seeds–many of us are planting seeds of love, hope, faith, and truth.)

But I didn’t realize until 2020 how much we all need to move out of denial. Even now, I see people not only still in denial, but digging more deeply into it. I see people hugging their fears to their chest, afraid to let go of their fears of the other. Afraid to trust that maybe, just maybe, there isn’t a huge conspiracy to make them even smaller and more helpless than they already feel.

And on the topic of conspiracies, I once asked my spirit friends about that–is there a global conspiracy to try to control everyone? The answer surprised me. “Yes,”  I was told, “but a higher spiritual power is in place.” Basically, there’s no need to worry.

Fear and free will

Because of free will, we can choose to stay in fear. Choose to think people who don’t look like us or think like us or believe as we do are somehow less. Are somehow an “other” that doesn’t deserve our respect.

Or we can choose to believe, as I do, that everyone–every single living being on this planet and in this universe–is a spark of love, a spark of good, a spark of the divine at their core.

Now, I hardly ever tell people that I’ve encountered beings that I will call demons, for lack of a better word. I don’t talk about it because some people will just flat not believe me, and I used to care more about what people thought.

I used to be terrified of demons. They do their best to terrify, and when they know you’re scared, they can and will do things to you.

But then I discovered something. Even demons have a spark of the divine in them. And they are the way they are because they started making choices long ago to follow a dark path. To turn away from love. Away from compassion. Away from accepting their fellow beings. Instead, they chose fear.

But that choice is reversible. If you can choose fear, you can choose its opposite, love.

After that realization, when I encountered demons, I wasn’t afraid. When I spoke with them, I approached them with compassion and understanding. And you know what? It touched them. I’ve been able to convince many of them to turn around, to stop walking that dark path, to turn their faces toward love and away from fear, and to start the long journey back home.

The path to redemption

And it is a long journey. There’s a path to walk. Demons and other evil creatures have a clear path toward redemption, just as we all do. You can’t jump from being as nearly pure evil as any living thing is capable of and suddenly find yourself immersed in a different world. You have to walk back, one step at a time.

So demons and other beings are given jobs to do, jobs of support and help, and as they work through their challenges and purify themselves of the dross of their evil choices, they graduate from one type of job to another. I have a lot of information on that, but that’s not tonight’s topic.

Human choices and free will

A few years ago, a woman came to me for help. She was full-on possessed: weird voices, barking grunts and shouts, twisting her neck at weird angles, the whole enchilada. Not just by one demon, but by legions of demons possessing and controlling her.

I convinced those legions to leave by talking calmly and compassionately to them of love and fear, and about the infinite justice and mercy of the divine, and how even they, after everything they had done, would be received with love were they to choose to come back from the hell they’d banished themselves to, and how that was their choice and no one was going to make them do anything they didn’t want.

So they left.

However, the woman herself did not want to let go of the biggest demon, and he was quite content to continue possessing her. If she had said “no” to him, he could not have remained, but she’d decided long ago that she wasn’t capable of dealing with life without him in charge.

She was in denial about her own abilities. She was in denial about how she wasn’t a victim but had instead made choices that led to her choosing to open her soul’s door to possession. I wasn’t as convincing with her as I was with the legions, which I find bemusing.

Choosing to stay in denial?

Circling back to the 2019/2020 being years supportive of moving out of denial, I see people making the choice to stay in denial. They have the facts right in front of them, from multiple, credible sources, and they choose not to accept those facts. That’s their right. No one can, nor should anyone, force them to see the truth.

Someone once told me that denial stands for “don’t even know I am lying.” One form of denial is denying the truth when it’s sitting across the table having breakfast with you. That’s possibly the most insidious. Another form is when someone says you did something, and you deny it and refuse to accept all responsibility for the harm done and, if you’re far enough gone, blame someone else.


When someone’s actions lead to harming others, they need to learn about consequences.

Heaven is open to everyone

In all my years of being a psychic, including talking with the dearly (and not-so-dearly) departed, I have never seen any of the folks I talk to in the afterlife residing in anything resembling hell.

Instead, I see what I will call heaven. There I see infinite compassion, love, justice, and mercy.

Heaven is a place of many expressions. It looks like our physical world, but is more responsive to our thoughts, intentions, and desires. Do you want to go golfing? You can instantly be on an infinite golf course. Want to lift a stein in an Austrian inn with friends and family? Done. You’re there. Want to visit the redwoods, then go skiing? All yours. I think this is what Jesus meant when he said, “In my father’s house are many mansions.”

Everyone is there. Everyone. But if, when you were alive, you lived irresponsibly, harmed others without owning your actions, you are sent to a special school in heaven, isolated from the rest of heaven. The closest word I can come to that special school is purgatory: it’s inside heaven, but is a place where you learn to be responsible. You learn the consequences of your actions, and you learn how you’ve harmed others through your irresponsibility. The lessons and teachers are loving and gentle, and of those people in that school that I’ve been allowed to talk with, they’ve all been content to be there. Those people are in that school as a consequence of their behavior in the living world. They didn’t choose to learn when in a living body, and now they are learning in the afterlife.

With the help coming into our planet at this time, we all have an incredible opportunity to keep moving away from fear and toward love. We have tons of spiritual help to make that choice.

Don’t blow this opportunity. Don’t end up after you leave your body in the school of responsibility. Choose to move out of your fear. Choose to stop lying to yourself and move out of denial. Choose to accept yourself and your fellow human beings now, while alive and in a body. Choose to be responsible for yourself and your experiences.

Choose love.

Some tips on giving gifts

December is a good time to talk about a few gift-giving principles, with some illustrative stories. First, the principles:

  1. When you give a gift, truly give it. Let it go. Don’t hover over the gift forever after and be invested in what the receiver does with it. That’s not a gift, that’s an obligation.
  2. Give gifts that are ready to use. Don’t give gifts that need repair or assembly unless you know the person will love doing that work.
  3. Give gifts the receiver will like, not gifts that you would like. Sometimes your taste and the receiver’s will intersect, but not always.
  4. Give gifts within your means, but don’t be cheap about it. You’ve heard, “It’s the thought that counts.” True. But if you’re using that as an excuse to give a cheap gift (cheap isn’t the same as inexpensive–cheap means you are cutting corners), then the thought is “you aren’t worth my time and thoughtfulness.” Give gifts within your means, yes, but don’t give gifts that are insulting. (Unless you want to insult someone. Then by all means, go ahead.)
  5. Give gifts because you want to give gifts, not out of obligation. Especially, don’t try to buy someone’s approval with a gift. Any approval you get that way isn’t true approval; it’s manipulation.

1. Truly give gifts

Some people give gifts, then expect to be able to dictate how and when and whether the receiver uses it. Please don’t be that person.

Here”s a story that illustrates this principle.

The broody hen

A friend once gave me some lovely wine glasses she’d purchased in Italy and had schlepped all over Europe. When she gave them to me, she explained how much trouble she’d gone through to take care of them and to get them to me intact.

But she couldn’t stop nagging me about them. “Are they still intact? Are you using them? Are you enjoying them?” For YEARS.

I finally decided I didn’t like living with a gift that would someday, inevitably, break. Then I’d have to face my friend’s huge disappointment that I hadn’t taken better care of them. (Which, as a side note, was ironic, because when she smashed a vintage mixing bowl my mother had given me, she blithely told me, without apology, that “everything glass gets broken eventually.”)

Anyway, when I divorced, I let my soon-to-be-ex husband take the wine glasses. The feeling of relief I felt on seeing the last of those wine glasses was very telling.

My friend was disappointed and upset, and I told her then that her constant hovering and nervousness over the wine glasses had made them an obligation and a burden.

Now, those were lovely wine glasses, and it did mean a lot to me that my friend had taken such care to bring them to me.

But it wasn’t a gift; it was a loan.

If you act as though you have the right to dictate anything about what the receiver does with a gift, you haven’t actually given anything.

As a side corollary, if you give your child a gift, that is now your child’s property and you have no right to take it away, dictate its use, etc. I have so much I can say about that, but I’ll reserve it for now. This post isn’t about child-rearing.

2. Give gifts that are ready to use

This story falls into both #1 and #2 on the list.

When my mother was alive, she had a habit of giving me “gifts,” often broken, then stealing them and giving them to someone else once I repaired them.

For example, she gave me a shabby, painted wooden rocking chair, saying I could keep it if I refinished it (an odd thing to say in any case). I stripped the paint and refinished the rocking chair. Then she stole it from me and proudly presented it to my oldest brother and his wife as a gift from her.

Another time, she told me that I could have her antique Lane cedar chest, which had been her hope chest, if I retrieved it from her friends’ house and refinished it. I called her friends and found they’d been storing it outside. As you might imagine, the finish was in terrible shape. I hauled it home, stripped it, and refinished it with tung oil. Those of you who have worked with tung oil know it’s a lovely finish, but takes a long time and a lot of work to do right.

It was gorgeous once I’d finished it. A few years later, she asked for it back. Uncharacteristically for me, I refused, and because it was so large, she couldn’t steal it, but she did keep asking for it.

I’d like to think no one else in the world does this kind of thing, but because I have some friends who give me gifts that “just need a small repair” (though at least they never take them back), I know my mother wasn’t unique.

Don’t be like that. Don’t give someone a gift that needs work–repair, assembly, whatever–unless you know absolutely for sure that the receiver will welcome having to do that work. Otherwise, all you’re doing is giving them an obligation and something to feel guilty about.

And for all that’s holy, don’t ask for the gift back, and don’t steal it back. I feel I shouldn’t have to say this, and yet, my experience shows that some people do this kind of thing. (Granted, my mother was a narcissist–and I don’t say that to mean someone who thought a lot of themselves, I say that meaning a genuine, clinically narcissistic person, so she was a bit of an outlier.)

3. Give gifts the receiver will like

I love handmade gifts. I love to make them, I love to give them, I love to receive them. Anything from home-canned preserves to my absolutely fabulous snow-covered gingersnaps, to embroidered art–I love it all, I cherish it when I get it, and I love to give such items as gifts.

But others have different preferences. I’ve given embroidered projects that I spent tens of hours on, only to have the receiver be less than thrilled. (I tell a pertinent story about one such gift when I discuss #5.) Or I’ve given a book I love, only to have it just not be the receiver’s cup of tea.

About the only handmade gift I’ve given that has met with unanimous and consistent approval is a batch of my snow-covered gingersnaps. The recipe has been in the family for several generations and has been a life-long favorite for good reason–the cookies are flat-out amazingly delicious. (You can find the recipe on page 86 of my desserts cookbook.)

So when choosing gifts, take a moment to ask yourself if the person you’re giving the gift to will truly enjoy it. If you suspect they won’t, but you can’t think of what they might like, consult with someone who knows them.

4. Give good-quality gifts that are within your means

There’s no excuse for giving cheap gifts. But “cheap” has nothing with value, and “good quality” doesn’t always mean “expensive.” You can be dirt poor and still be able to give something thoughtful and tasteful. For example,

  • You can create great gifts with very inexpensive supplies. (Though homemade gifts might not welcome by everyone–see #3.) Does your friend like to grow things? Buy some inexpensive waterproof paints and terra-cotta flowerpots and paint the flowerpots. Does your friend have a baby or a cat or dog? Knit or crochet a baby blanket. Don’t worry about artistic merit–homemade is always charming, and we crafty people tend to see all the flaws in our own creations. Nobody else will see them. The Internet (or your local library) can be a great resource for finding do-it-yourself projects at all skill levels. (Though unfortunately, a number of DIY video people fake it and you’ll never be able to get the results they claim they got.)
  • Shop at thrift stores. Some of them have great finds for just a few dollars. (If you’re local to Sonoma County, check out Pick of the Litter, my favorite thrift shop. They have some top-notch items. And as a bonus, Forgotten Felines runs it.)
  • You can give gifts of your time. For example, if you have friends with a small child, offer to babysit for them so they can have a night off. Or maybe a friend needs help or even just your company doing chores or running errands. Or just needs someone to spend some time with them.

If you have money, some people welcome it (including me), but some people see money as a gift that says “I can’t be bothered to pick out something I think you’ll like.” So just be aware that some people get insulted if you give them money.

5. Give gifts because you want to

You should never give anyone gifts because you feel obligated or are attempting to buy someone’s approval. That’s the opposite of the idea behind giving gifts. Only give gifts because you truly want to.

The money snob

Here’s an example of giving gifts out of obligation. When I was in my early 20s, I dated a young man who came from an upper-middle class family. Money was the only yardstick by which his mother measured anything. If it was expensive, or if a person had money, they were good in her eyes. Otherwise, forget about her having any respect for you.

Since I came from a dirt-poor family, you can imagine what she thought of me, let along that I was dating her son. It didn’t matter that I came from a highly educated family or that I was on the Dean’s list almost every quarter (being on the Dean’s list means I earned straight As) at a private Jesuit university. (I was putting myself through by earning scholarships, getting grants and loans, and working 20 hours a week during the school year and full-time in the summer.) All that mattered to her was that I didn’t have money and I didn’t come from money.

The young man was hugely tense about giving his mother gifts. He said that he always had to give her something from Gump’s in San Francisco. (Gump’s is–or at least was–the kind of place where, if you had to ask how much an item was, you couldn’t afford it.) It didn’t matter what the gift was, or how graceless–if it was from Gump’s, it was acceptable to her–barely.

The one Christmas the young man and I were together, I couldn’t afford anything from Gumps, so I spent tens of hours hand-embroidering a lovely winter scene. The finished piece was about 2′ by 3′ (yes, that’s feet.) I framed it in a wide, solid-oak frame.

When his mother unwrapped it, she wrinkled her nose and said in a tone that said it all, “Oh. It’s handmade.” (In the same voice she might have used for, “Oh, It’s human excrement.”) She then said, “I guess we can hang it in the den.” (Nobody ever went into the den.)

That gave me some inkling of what her son was going through. He had failed out of the same university I was attending, and worked at a pizza parlor, and she constantly reminded him of what a disappointment he was.

The point here is that although her son was giving her gifts because he wanted to, he was also giving her gifts he couldn’t afford because he was trying to buy her approval. No one should ever be in that position. If your family doesn’t love and accept you as you are, they aren’t family.

Announcing my desserts cookbook!

You can now purchase Delicious Connections volume 1: Delectable Desserts from Amazon. It’s available in print now, with a Kindle version coming soon. It’s the first in a series of cookbooks.

Front cover of Delicious Connections volume 1: Delectable Desserts. Has the title, author (Marina MIchaels), and a photo of jars of flour, sugar, and cocoa, with brown eggs, vanilla beans, and a rolling pin.
Volume 1 of my cookbook series!

I love so many things about this cookbook, starting with the fact that I’m finally putting into print a lifetime’s collection of recipes, some old, some rare, some original, all good.

I started cooking and baking at a young age, learning from my mother. She was one of those gifted cooks who could just put ingredients together without a recipe. She could also take a refrigerator full of leftovers and convert them into an entirely new meal, and no one would know the meal started as leftovers.

Over the years, I’ve collected recipes from everywhere. If a recipe worked, I kept it, and kept making it, refining ingredients and processes so the recipe took less time and effort and produced tastier results.

What’s inside?

Delectable Desserts contains 108 of the best of the best of our favorite dessert recipes. (Volume 2 is our favorites across the spectrum of eating: breakfasts, appetizers, main dishes, vegetarian dishes, preserves, spice blends, and much, much more. I’ll also include more dessert recipes, such as a favorite baklava recipe.)

A photo of a panful of fig brandy baklava
Fig-Brandy Baklava. You’ll find the recipe in Delicious Connections volume 2.

For each recipe, I include a note (called a headnote in the recipe-printing trade) in which a tell a small story about the recipe, give some tips, include a line or two of the history (for example, did you know cheesecake dates back to the ancient Greeks at least?), and so on.

A few of the recipes are my own originals. Some are from my mother, from whom I could only get a recipe by watching her cook and writing down the ingredients and steps. Some were handed down through generations of my family. For example, the Snow-Covered Gingersnaps: everyone I’ve ever baked them for has always wanted more. You can find the recipe on page 86 of my cookbook).

Baking from scratch

My mother didn’t cotton to those new-fangled kitchen appliances, so if we were going to make something, we stirred, kneaded, or whipped it by hand. Because I grew up baking and cooking that way, I didn’t join the kitchen appliance revolution until quite late. (I got my first food processor in 2015.)

So for the most part, each recipe’s instructions don’t specify a tool. You can, of course, use any kitchen appliance you want, but if you’re off the grid and are craving a dessert, and all you have is a wood stove and some mixing bowls and spoons, you can still make most of these recipes. (Preppers might like to hear this!)

There’s a lot packed into this cookbook, all presented clearly and succinctly.

Some things I love about my cookbook

Some things I love about my cookbook:

  • I designed it myself, so I had complete control over things like how big the type is, and what to index.
  • I made the type large, with one recipe per page. No tiny fonts!
  • I researched readable fonts, especially for people with dyslexia, and chose a font that is highly readable.
  • I put the ingredients in the order in which you use them in the recipe, and made the steps in each recipe clear and separate. You won’t find any two-step recipes in which each “step” includes a bunch of instructions. I know why publishers do that, but it’s frustrating (and wasteful!) to find you missed a step in that huge paragraph of instructions that cookbook had.
  • I included several useful tables, such as this table of oven temperature equivalents.
A table of oven temperature equivalents: Fahrenheit, Celsius, gas mark, and old-fashioned "slow, warm, hot"
Lots of us have very old cookbooks that specify cooking in a “warm oven.” Whatever does that mean? This table to the rescue!
  • And this table that you never knew you needed on egg weights in different countries.
A table of official egg sizes and weights in different countries.
Cooks rejoice! Here’s a table of official international egg weights for you. AU = Australia, CA = Canada, EU = European Union, NZ = New Zealand, and US = United States.

More table goodness

It wasn’t economically feasible to print the book in color, so the book is in black and white. If you’re interested, add a comment to this post and I’ll post some of the other useful tables in color. I have tables on

  • baking pan sizes (in US inches and cups capacity and metric centimeter and milliliter capacity)
  • egg sizes (if a recipe calls for 3 large eggs, how many medium eggs do you need to use? Or goose eggs, for that matter?)
  • common ingredient weights in different measuring systems
  • US terms and their UK equivalents
  • buttercream frosting types and what distinguishes them from each other

Plus useful information on freezing eggs, and index entries for every recipe that uses just egg whites or egg yolks.

More to come

Also if you’re interested, I can start posting my photos of things I’ve made from my recipes. I’m very definitely not a food photographer, so my photos are as homemade as my desserts, but not in the good way that a homemade dessert is.

A photo of a bowl of apple-berry-oatmeal crisp
My delicious, gluten-free Apple-Berry Crisp (page 122). I am not a pro when it comes to food photography.

If you buy my cookbook and you like (or love) it, would you be so kind as to post an Amazon review on it? Good, bad, or indifferent–I pay attention to reviews and will do my best to improve as needed.

Thank you!

What does it mean to be a friend?


In my early twenties, I hung out with a group of people whose company I greatly enjoyed. They were educated, interesting, creative, and fun. I invited them over for dinner parties, costume parties, just-get-together parties, and to spend time by the pool at the apartment complex where I lived.

Sometimes I would hear that Bob (I’m not using real names here) had had a dinner party and hadn’t invited me. Or that Mary had had a get-together, again without inviting me. Fair enough, I thought. Sometimes you only have so much room at your place, or you only want to be with certain people.

But as time passed and I heard about more and more of these occasions, I realized that it wasn’t just sometimes, it was all the time. And it wasn’t different people being left out, it was only me.

On this realization, I started thinking about what friendship means to me.

  • Does it need to be mutual? Yes. If I consider myself your friend, but you don’t want my friendship, then I’m not showing friendship by sticking around. (Though I can still be your friend from afar.)
  • Does it mean we accept each other as we are, with all the quirks and imperfections we human beings have? Yes. I know I’m different. Some people “get” me, and some don’t. My friends accept me as I am, just as I accept them.
  • Does it mean you spend time together? Yes. What’s the point of friendship if you don’t communicate with each other? If they’re far away, you can text, email, telephone, or Skype.

So I did an experiment. I stopped calling, stopped writing (this was pre-text, pre-email days), and stopped inviting anyone from that group over to my apartment. I was interested in seeing if anyone would reach out to me the same way I’d been reaching out to them.

Weeks passed, then months. After about six months, one of them sent me a card saying that she noticed I hadn’t been in contact with any of them, and asked if everything was okay. I never heard from anyone else. So, with the exception of the woman who wrote the card (she and I are still in touch decades later), I made the experiment permanent and dropped everyone else in that group from my mental list of friends.

Mind you, this was no harm, no foul. Although my feelings were hurt, I didn’t blame them. I just accepted that I didn’t have the relationship with them that I wanted, and I didn’t want the relationship they wanted with me. We weren’t friends; I was a useful and accommodating acquaintance who made no demands on them. This realization was a big step for me, the first in a long series of lessons in which I was learning that it serves no one to be convenient for others and let them take from you without reciprocity.

Over the years, I’ve continued to think about what friendship means, and what I want from a friendship, and what I have to offer in a friendship. For example, in addition to the items I listed above, I’ve come up with the following core values. Other people will have different values and priorities, so each person’s list of what they want and what they believe they have to offer will be unique.

  • Friends share similar ideas about what’s important. While lots of fun, nothing that is physical is important: not our technology, not our belongings, nor our outward appearances, material wealth, gender, ability, or anything else like that. Instead, what matters is the human inside. For me, honesty and integrity are hugely important, so I want friends who are honest and have integrity, and I feel quite strongly that friends deserve the same from me. I also value compassion and a generally positive outlook on life.
  • Friends help each other become better people. If I’m on a wrong path, I want my friends to care enough about me to say something, and I hope they’re open to the same from me. (Though if they’re not, that’s okay too. We’re all where we are.)
  • Friends share their life styles to a certain extent. For example, I love live music, and I want to share that enjoyment with my friends. I enjoy reading books and watching movies and talking about them afterward. I’m not into drugs, and although I don’t judge people for using them, there’s a whole lifestyle, way of thinking, and approach to life that goes along with using drugs, so I want friends who don’t use drugs.
  • Friends treat each other with courtesy and respect, and honor their commitments with each other. A friend of mine spent months planning an elaborate, themed party. She told all her friends well in advance, with frequent “save the date” notifications. Then, a short while before the day, one of her friends decided to host a party on the same day. Most of my friend’s friends ditched her in favor of the other person’s party. When I commented on how hurtful that must have been, and how it’s bad etiquette to not stick to a commitment, my friend’s roommate said, “Nobody does that. You just go to the party you want to go to.” (Privately, I thought, “You just don’t have hang out with the right kind of people,” but I didn’t say that out loud.)
  • Friends deserve the benefit of the doubt. If a third party tells me bad things about a friend, I don’t blindly accept it. If I have any doubt, I ask my friend about it and give them a chance to set the record straight. I’ve been on the receiving end of not being given the benefit of the doubt, and it’s hard. Though it’s revealing to find out who’s willing to believe bad things about you and who isn’t.

My concepts of friendship continue to evolve. What about you? How do you feel about friendship? What do you value in your friends?


Growing up with poison

What‘s it like growing up with an emotionally abusive parent?

Imagine that every meal you eat is poisoned. Not enough to kill you, but enough to make you feel nauseated all the time. Every meal makes you sick, sometimes so sick you are afraid you‘re going to die.

If you try to tell the person poisoning you that the food they are serving you is making you sick, you just get served more poison.

This goes on from birth, and continues into your adulthood, so the poison is just an everyday part of your life. You think it‘s normal to be fed poisonous food, and to always feel sick after every meal, though you know vaguely that something isn‘t right.

The consequences are that you are wary of any food. You want food, you long for it, but you are afraid of it at the same time. You‘ve been trained that food = poison; it can never be trusted.

More perniciously, you expect poisonous food; you don‘t even know that wholesome, nurturing food, food that leaves you feeling good after eating it, even exists.

When anyone new offers you food, you just know it will make you sick, so you refuse it if at all possible, and you sure as hell don‘t ask for it.

Unfortunately, in your adulthood, poisonous people gravitate to you, because they sense someone they can manipulate and use, and because they have their own issues to work out.

And you don‘t know any better, so you let those poisonous people into your life. Even though some people tell you that not all food is poisoned, you don‘t believe them, because you‘ve never experienced wholesome food.

And even after you start to believe that wholesome food exists, you know at a visceral, preverbal, cellular level that you‘re never going to get wholesome food. You just know it.

Now take the word “food” and replace it with the words “safety,” “love,” and “acceptance.” (So, “Imagine every offering of “love” is poisoned…”)

That‘s what it‘s like to grow up with an emotionally abusive parent. Everything they say and do is a savage attack on your emotional and mental health and well-being. Your experience with anything having to do with emotions is that you aren‘t safe, you aren‘t loved, and you aren‘t accepted for who you are.

You carry those learned expectations into your other relationships. You allow people to abuse you because you think that‘s just how it has to be. Even when you see others in safer, more loving and accepting relationships, you know you can‘t have that for yourself. Even if you have loving people in your life, people who genuinely care for you and want to give you gifts—of safety, love, and acceptance, you are deeply, deeply afraid of accepting those gifts.

Eventually, you might start to heal. Something might happen in your life that gets you thinking, or you might be lucky enough to have had a teacher in college who started you on the path of the self-examined life, or you might come across a book that opens your eyes. You may find a book that helps you learn how to forgive the abusive parent (and others). Forgiving that parent is incredibly hard, but you do it, and forgiving them feels great.

But the fear of accepting the food of love is harder to overcome.

Self-publishing tip #5: Hire professionals to design and typeset the interior

This post is part of a series on self-publishing. You’ll find links to all posts in this series in the first post.

Try this: flip through a half dozen books from your bookcase. What do you notice? How do the pages look? What about the fonts? Are they intrusive, or do they match the subject of the book? How do the paragraphs look? Are they too crowded, or too far apart (either of which is a mark of an amateur layout)?

Just as your book’s cover needs to be professional, the interior of your book also needs to be professional. Even if you don’t consciously know the difference, you’ll subconsciously know whether a book is professionally designed and typeset. Something will feel off, or the book will be hard to read because it isn’t professional.

Interior book designers and typesetters know things that you don’t, and know how to do things that you don’t, all of which make the difference between “terrible” and “professional.”

Those professional touches tell people how much they can trust the author. Lower trust, less credibility. Higher trust, higher credibility. That’s just how it is.

Another reason for having your book’s interior professionally designed is that then your book is unique—it won’t look like all the other independent authors who used a Microsoft Word template.

How does interior book design and layout work?

At the 10,000-foot level, a designer creates the template, and a typesetter brings the manuscript into a design tool and lays it out. (Most magazines, newsletters, and publishing houses use Adobe’s InDesign for layout.) Usually the designer can also lay out your book.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • How big do you want your book to be? 6″ x 9″ is a typical paperback size, but you may want a different size. The designer must know the finished size of your book in order to make the text fit.
  • Do you want to use any color in your book? In the publishing trade, printers charge for one color (usually, people use black). If you want, say, your headings to be blue, that’s considered two-color printing (blue for the headings, black for the text), and printers will charge for two colors. (Though you could have your entire book in blue instead of black if you wanted, which can be a nice way to add some uniqueness without extra costs.) If you have photos you want in full color, that’s going to cost more. I’ll talk more about colors when I discuss printing, but you need to decide at the design stage what you want to do about color.
  • How do you want your book to feel? Friendly? Formal? Historic? A good designer will offer you fonts and an interior design that will convey the feeling you want.

How much does it cost?

A lot. For a 200-page book, probably a few thousand to have someone design and lay out your book.

Why is it so expensive? Typesetting is painstaking work that requires a lot of meticulous care and attention. Even if your book is simple. If you have more complex needs (images, sidebars, other special formatting needs), your typesetter is going to work a lot harder. I won’t go into the details, but trust me, it gets gruesome. Designers/book layout specialists can afford to charge so much because it’s a difficult job that requires a lot of skills that are honed through experience, and not many people want to do the job.

Yes, you can find cheap book designers, but the resulting design/layout will be horrible. In this field, like so many, it really is “you get what you pay for.”

If someone offers to both design and typeset your book, they might charge a flat fee to design your book, then $35 per page (and up!) to typeset it, or they might just charge a flat fee based on the number of pages. A flat fee is usually better.

Some people will offer a package deal: cover design, interior design, and lay out, all for one fee.

Working with a designer and typesetter

When hiring a designer/typesetter, get bids from three different people/companies, then pick the one that you feel most comfortable and sympatico with. Give them as much information as you can: number of pages, whether you have any images or special requirements, whether you want to use color, whether you have a favorite font you want them to use.

In their bid, they should specify how many rounds they’ll do on the design before finalizing it. After they lay out your book, they should prepare it so it is ready for the printer.

Once you’ve selected a designer/typesetter, it can be helpful to pick a book whose layout you like and show the pages to the designer to give them an idea of your taste.

You could just hire someone to design a template for you, then you could lay out your book yourself. The advantage of that is that you can then use the same template for your other books of the same size, though you may want to vary some things to keep the look fresh and unique for your book. See the next section for going the do-it-yourself (DIY) route.

Cutting costs by doing it yourself

If your budget is super tight and if you know what you’re doing, you can get away with not using a professional. Instead, you could use a premade template and your book will likely look okay. But if you choose that route, take the time to find an excellent template (and be prepared to pay for it).

Or you could take the path of total DIY and make your own template and lay out your book yourself.

Whether you buy a pre-made template or go all out with doing it all yourself, you absolutely must teach yourself the basics of design and typesetting.

That way you won’t make rookie mistakes that shout “amateur” to anyone looking at your book.

In case you’re thinking that you’ve seen a lot of Microsoft Word templates hanging around, and you’re wondering why you can’t just use one of those,

I don’t recommend using a Microsoft Word template. It is impossible to get a professional-looking interior using Word.

Word is a fantastic tool when you’re writing (though if you’re up for learning a new tool, Scrivener is also a fantastic for writing, just for its organizing capabilities alone), but Word is not capable of doing the sorts of things you need to do. Even Microsoft, back in the days when they were producing printed manuals for their products, didn’t use Word. They used FrameMaker, which is InDesign’s more techy sibling.

If you get someone to design an InDesign template for you, you’re going to have to learn how to use InDesign. Santa Rosa Junior College offers excellent online courses in InDesign (online means you can take them from anywhere), and so does (check out courses by David Blatner, Anne-Marie Concepción, and Nigel French).

Are you an author?

Hey, if you are self-publishing (or if a publishing house is publishing your book), feel free to post a link to your book in a comment to this post (or any of the other posts in this series). Thanks!

Self-publishing tip #4: Hire a professional to create your cover


This post is part of a series on self-publishing. You’ll find links to all posts in this series in the first post.

You know that expression, “you can’t judge a book by its cover”? And yet we all do it when it comes to books. Your book cover is part of your marketing. You only have one chance to make a good first impression. Your book cover is your first chance to intrigue people enough to pick up your book and look inside.

If you want your book to look professional, and if you don’t have the graphical chops to create your own cover, hire a professional cover designer/firm.

A cautionary tale about bad covers

As a favor to a friend of mine who is the friend of an author, I once read that author’s self-published book. The cover is terribly amateurish. Because of the cover, I expected the book to be as badly written as the cover was drawn.

Surprisingly, the book is good. Not just passably good. Good in the sense that the author could go places with her writing. But, because of the cover, I would never have read the book.

To make matters worse, the writer skipped the step of hiring a professional editor, and it shows. From page one, typos and grammatical errors abound. Again, if I hadn’t been reading the book as a favor, I would have stopped after the first three pages because of the numerous grammatical errors.

Don’t be that author. Give your readers a reason to open your book. Don’t skimp on the cover.

Book covers for softcover and hardcover books

Your book cover needs depend on the type of book you want to self-publish.

  • If you’re self-publishing a paperback book, you need art for the front, back, and spine. (If you want flaps, you’ll need art for those as well.)
  • If you’re publishing a hardcover book, you won’t normally need art for the book’s cover (though you might), but you will need art for the dust jacket: front, back, and spine, plus flaps.

You’ll also need to decide what size your book is going to be (6″ x 9″, for example). You’ll need to know this for the cover, for the interior, and for the printer. A cover designer can work with you before your book is typeset, but will need to know your book’s final page count before they finalize the spine, because the size of the spine will vary depending on how many pages in the book.

Finding a professional cover designer

Shop around and find several people or companies who do good work. A quick Google search using the keywords “book cover designers” results in thousands of cover designers. Skip past the ones marked “Ad” and choose the top ten. Browse those sites, look at their samples, then get competitive bids from at least three to five designers (more, if you want).

Once you have the bids in hand, compare what’s being offered and choose the one you feel the best about. Notice I don’t say “choose the cheapest.” Instead, I recommend choosing someone ethical (as far as you can determine) and whose work draws you.

Once you decide to go with a bid, I strongly advise you to do the following:

  • Get the agreement in writing. A signed contract is best. Make sure the agreement spells out every detail.
  • As part of your agreement, ask the artist to give you at least three options to choose from initially. After you see those options, choose one and ask them to start refining it.
  • Make sure you have the right to ask for a reasonable number of revisions. (“Reasonable” can vary, but you should be able to ask for at least three major revisions and a larger number of minor revisions.)
  • Super important: in your agreement, specify that this is a “work for hire,” which means that you are buying the copyright; that is, you are buying all rights to use the work as you see fit. This means the artist can’t use the work in any way without your permission. If the artist balks at this, ask them why. If they just want the right to show it as an example of their work (for example, in their portfolio), they only need your permission to use it in that way; they don’t need the copyright. If they refuse to do the work as a work for hire, look for a different designer.
  • Make sure they agree to deliver their own original work and not clip art. They might need to purchase a photo, which is fine, but the photo should come with the right to use it.
  • Make sure that when the work is delivered to your satisfaction, you will get the source files so you can use them again. For example, if you are writing a book series, you may want to use similar covers.

What to expect to pay for a cover design

On average, cover designs range from about $500 to $700, though prices can be as low as $150 and as high as a few thousand, depending on what’s involved. (Dustjackets, flaps, and so on will cost more.)

For example, text plus a solid-color background and maybe a stock photo should be less expensive; original artwork, as in drawings and paintings, is going to cost the most.

A cautionary tale about paying upfront

Learn from my mistake: I strongly recommend that you do not pay anything until the work is done to your satisfaction. Many years ago, I got burned by a logo designer. He demanded $600 up front, then delivered crappy options, which I naturally rejected. I’m not a graphic artist, but I know bad work when I see it.

Two very similar logos--the original on teh bottom and the copied version on top--show what can happen if your designer isn't ethical

A logo designer delivered the top logo to me. I found the bottom one on the Internet. The two logos have too many points of similarity: if I had unknowingly used what he delivered, I would have risked a lawsuit for copyright infringement.

Then suddenly he delivered a wonderful, professional logo (at the top of the figure). I loved it and was quite ready to pay the balance of his fee. Only problem was, he had delivered a logo that was a copyright infringement of someone else’s logo.

Fortunately, I found this out before I paid him anything more. I don’t think he expected me to find the original, though I still shake my head at the fact that he submitted something that would have gotten me into deep legal trouble had I accepted and used it.

I asked him to stop working on the project and to refund my money, but I never heard another word from him. I was out hundreds of dollars that I could ill afford. In retrospect, I should have insisted on only paying after delivery of an acceptable draft.

Of course, the flip side is that sometimes people take advantage of a designer: they make the designer do a lot of work, then don’t pay them. So if a designer asks for a down payment, be cautious but reasonable. Get references from others who have worked with them (and make sure the references are genuine clients, not the designer’s cronies). If the references pan out, consider giving some earnest money upfront, with the balance due on acceptance and a guarantee that you don’t have to pay if the work isn’t to your satisfaction. (But don’t think to refuse the work, then copy it yourself. That’s dishonest and unethical.)

Some resources

I know someone who used JD&J for his nonfiction text. The results were crisp and professional and the price quite reasonable.

The Creative Penn is a great blog-based resource for all things self-publishing, including lists of cover designers she recommends.

If your budget is super tight, you might have some luck on Fiverr. However, use extreme caution. You might hit pay dirt, but you’re more likely to get what you pay for; that is, cheap, disappointing, and unusable work, work that is most likely a ripoff of someone’s copyrighted work.

On the topic of logos, if you want an excellent, top-notch, professional logo from an ethical designer, you can’t go wrong hiring Jeff Fisher LogoMotives. I can’t afford Mr. Fisher yet, but when I can, I am totally going to hire him to design my logo. (He’s also ferocious about protecting his designs, so when he designs that killer logo for you, he’ll do his best to find and challenge the miscreants who try to copy it.)

Working with a designer

Be very specific about what you want, but also give the artist leeway to apply their expertise to the job. If they are truly professional, they know what they’re doing, and they know what works and what doesn’t. Yes, graphics are a matter of taste, and there’s nothing wrong with having taste that is different from the mainstream. But you want to sell your book. Unless ransom is a key theme in it, you don’t want ten different fonts on the cover (for example).

If you and the designer really can’t work together, don’t be afraid to walk away and keep looking.

Are you an author?

Hey, if you are self-publishing (or if a publishing house is publishing your book), feel free to post a link to your book in a comment to this post (or any of the other posts in this series). Thanks!

How to self-publish step #3: Get your book professionally edited

This post is part of a series on self-publishing. You’ll find links to all posts in this series in the first post.

Imagine your doctor has written you a note recommending a course of treatment. It goes something like this:

U r going 2 b ok. Eat tree meels a day, and take tow tablets of this medecasion with each meal.

This doctor may have the best credentials in the world and may come highly recommended, but instinctively, you’re not going to trust them. Like it or not, typos, grammatical errors, and inappropriate use of text-speak give the impression of ignorance and a lack of intelligence.

Just as with this hypothetical doctor, you’ll lose credibility and your readers’ trust if your book has typos or grammatical errors in it. Enough errors, and you’ll lose all credibility and trust. You might be the greatest writer in the world, but that won’t matter.

Publishing secret: you’d be surprised at how many excellent writers have terrible spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Their editors make sure those errors never see the light of day.

You might plan to use your writing software’s spelling checker, but a spelling checker won’t tell you that you wrote “lightening” when you meant “lightning.” That’s one reason to hire an editor to read your material: to find the words that are spelled correctly but are the wrong words. A human eye can spot what a computer can’t. A good editor will also find all the other errors you’ve made, and, depending on what kind of editing you’ve asked them to do, will suggest some wordsmithing—that is, smoother and clearer ways to say something.

You might think you can edit your own writing, but it’s extremely rare that a person can edit themselves. One reason is that you are so familiar with what you wrote that your eyes will glide right over the mistakes—the typos, the missing words, the bad punctuation—because you know what you meant when you wrote it.

Having someone edit your work is one of the distinctions between a professional writer and an amateur. So if you want to be a professional writer (and be perceived as one), hire someone else to edit your work.

This post focuses on

  • what editors are and what they can do for you,
  • what a style guide is and why you should use it, and
  • if you are writing nonfiction or fiction based on facts (say, historical fiction), why you need a fact-checker or even a researcher.

I cite some resources throughout.

What editors do for you

Editors come in several flavors; here are four major types:

  • Developmental editor. A developmental editor helps you plan your manuscript from the start, gives you suggestions on organizing your material, gives guidance on storytelling (if you’re writing fiction), and (if your agreement allows for this) encourages you and does their best to keep you motivated. A developmental editor might also do everything an editor (described next) does, but that varies. You hire a developmental editor at the start of your writing project, and, assuming it’s a good match, you keep working with them until your book is done. If you feel you need help putting your ideas together, consult with a developmental editor. Even a one-time consultation when planning your book can save you a lot of time and trouble down the road.
  • Editor. An editor fixes typos, grammatical errors (including English as a Second Language errors), and unclear or awkwardly written sentences. They use your style guide and make sure your writing matches that style. An editor also digs deeply into your writing and makes suggestions on organizing your material. Your developmental editor might also edit your manuscript, but that’s separate from the developmental tasks. You hire an editor when your manuscript is almost done, then you make one last revision based on this editor’s suggestions. After that, your manuscript is ready for the copyeditor.
  • Copyeditor. A copyeditor (CE) does much of what an editor does except for the digging deeper part. A CE fixes typos, grammatical errors (including English as a Second Language errors), and unclear or awkwardly written sentences. CEs make sure your writing matches your chosen style guide. You hire a copyeditor when your manuscript is ready to be typeset.
  • Proofreader. After your manuscript has been typeset, a proofreader reads through your manuscript looking for typos and punctuation errors. They pay no attention to grammar or how you word things or whether anything you’ve written makes sense or is accurate, but they are ferocious on typos and punctuation errors.

When you look for an editor or developmental editor, look for someone who is familiar with the genre or topic of your book. And make sure you’re compatible; if you aren’t, it won’t be a productive relationship. Feel free to fire an editor and hire another if it isn’t working out (and make sure your written agreement—which you will have, right?—leaves room for either of you to exit the relationship).

I’m an editor and developmental editor, so you can hire me. And I can recommend a few excellent copyeditors and editors; just ask. You can also check the Bay Area Editors Forum to find an editor and to learn more about the different kinds of editors. These are just some resources; I’m sure you’ll find many more with a little Google fu.

How much should you expect to pay an editor?

Expect to pay a fair price for editing, though “fair price” is regional. Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, I charge 4¢ per word to edit a manuscript. For a 50,000-word manuscript (about the size of a small novel), that would be US$2,000. In other parts of the US, you can expect to pay a lot more. Though it’s surprisingly hard to find out what people charge upfront. Most of them want you to contact them to get their rates.

I and many other editors charge by the word. Some editors charge by the page or the hour.

Like charging by the word, charging by the page is straightforward: if your manuscript is 200 pages, and the editor’s rate is $20 a page, you’ll pay $4,000 to get your manuscript edited. There should be no surprises.

A “by the hour” rate tells you nothing about how much you will eventually pay. Excellent editors can be slower than other excellent editors (or much faster), so a “by the hour” rate is the least fair way to bill a client. For editors who are slow, the client ends up paying much more than if they had hired a faster editor. Conversely, the faster editors get paid much less than slower editors for the same amount of work.

If an editor wants to charge by the hour, ask them to instead quote you a per-page or per-word rate. If an editor balks at giving you a per-page or per-word quote, ask them to add a “not to exceed” amount. A “not to exceed” quote would look like this (where of course you negotiate the not-to-exceed amount with the editor):

Editor’s name will bill your name $20 per hour for a 200-page manuscript (about 50,000 words), with the total not to exceed $2,000.

But don’t abuse that “not to exceed” amount. If you hand your editor a 200-page manuscript, then add another 100 pages, you can’t expect them to do half again as much work for the original amount. Be fair and honest. It will serve you well in life.

Also in your written agreement, specify

  • how many passes the editor will make through the manuscript (usually one pass),
  • how they will bill for it (every two weeks? at the end of the job?),
  • if you want another pass, how you will pay for it (normally you pay for it as though it were a new pass, though possibly you can negotiate a reduced rate for a second pass),
  • how they will deliver their work (I like to use Dropbox to exchange files, though Box is also good), and
  • what happens if you write new material (normally, you add that new material as an addendum to your contract, and you pay additional for that work).

And spell out schedules and deadlines. You don’t want your editor to cause you to miss a deadline because they’re moving too slowly.

Cautionary tale about editors who charge by the hour

I once contracted as a technical writer with a major software manufacturer. As always, I familiarized myself with the company’s in-house style and followed their rules. After I wrote some material, the in-house publications department handed my work over to a contract editor who charged by the hour. She was unfamiliar with the house style, and she “corrected” everything I had done to things that were not to the house style or were even grammatically incorrect. When I pointed out to her that she’d introduced many errors per page, she laughed and said that she was paid by the hour. She said she’d just fix her errors and bill the company for the time she took to fix the errors she had introduced. In other words, she got paid to mess up a manuscript, and then she got paid to fix it. That seemed to be her modus operandi. It was unethical, of course (she should have fixed the problem without charging for it), but she didn’t care.

You don’t want that editor.

And sorry, no, I don’t remember her name, and I wouldn’t say it anyway. That was a long time ago, she was young, and she might have grown some ethics since then.

Cautionary tale about inexpensive editors

Tempting though they may be, those cheap, cut-rate editing houses aren’t going to do a good job. A few years ago, I designed and typeset the interior of an author’s book. He couldn’t afford my editing rate, so he paid a big-name self-publishing service to edit it for a bargain-basement price.

When he sent the edited pages to me for typesetting, I found an average of five errors on each page. In most cases, the errors had been in the original manuscript and the editor missed them (and so didn’t fix them, which is bad). But in too many cases, the editor introduced new errors. The author could have avoided this if he had realized that

if a quote for editing sounds too good to be true, it isn’t going to be worth the price

(As a special favor for that author, I fixed the errors as I typeset the book and didn’t charge him extra.)

Use a style guide

The English language is marvelous and strange. You can say things in many different ways, and punctuate them in many different ways, all of which are grammatically correct. A famous example is the serial comma (also called the Oxford comma) versus the open comma. People get quite emotional over which is “correct.”

I’m sure I’m going to catch flack for saying this, but they are both correct. It’s simply a matter of which style you prefer. (Though the serial comma is much better at clearing up ambiguities.)

The same goes for many other punctuation and word-related choices, so in order to be consistent, people use style guides. A style guide spells out a set of guidelines on which styles to use (serial versus open commas, for example). When you use a style guide, you follow its guidelines all the time. So, for example, if you use the serial comma once in a piece of writing, you use it every time.

Why do people care about being consistent? Consistency

  • shows that you know the field of writing,
  • builds trust in your readers, and
  • reduces the cognitive load on your readers (especially if you are writing nonfiction).

If none of those are convincing, here’s another reason why you should care about consistency:

Consistency is another mark of the professional.

To attain the goal of consistency, every professional group or company that produces written material uses a style guide as a basis, and usually has an in-house style as well. The most-used style manuals are

  • the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS). Most publishers and software companies, along with many academic communities, use CMOS. CMOS is firmly in the serial (Oxford) comma camp.
  • the AP Stylebook. Most periodicals (newspapers and magazines) use the AP Stylebook. The AP Stylebook is firmly in the open comma camp.
  • the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (usually referred to as the APA format or style). Many academic communities (especially the behavioral sciences and social sciences) use the APA. The APA is firmly in the serial comma camp. If you buy it for no other reason, the APA has excellent guidelines for non-biased writing on gender, race, disabilities, and so on.

I recommend you buy each of these. (I own all three, though the astute reader will have already figured out that CMOS is my preferred style guide.)

Instead of buying the book, you can subscribe to CMOS, and/or you might be able to find what you need from the Chicago Manual of Style at this site. (Mostly for fun, but also to learn a lot about tricky style questions, see the CMOS’s Q&Q site.)

When you hire an editor, copyeditor, and proofreader, tell them which style guide you use.

If your book is nonfiction, hire a fact checker

If you are writing a nonfiction book, you also need to check your facts. I don’t mean by doing a quick Google search and trusting the first source you find. And no, Wikipedia is not a reliable source either. I mean checking your facts with solid, reliable information sources. Depending on your topic, this might mean poring over some scientific research papers, or reading some reputable books on the topic. If your book has any possibility of influencing someone, especially in relation to their health and safety, you owe it to your readers to make sure your facts are impeccable.

When you hire an editor, you can also ask them to check your facts, but be prepared to pay more for that service. Fact-checking is a job in itself. When done right, fact-checking takes a lot of time and isn’t easy. You can also find a list of fact checkers at the Bay Area Editors Forum. Fact checkers usually charge by the hour.

Cautionary tale about fact checking

I once started reading a book on improving one’s health through dietary changes and fasting. The book was obviously self-published and unedited: the design was amateurishly done and the text was filled with typos and grammatical errors. I kept reading it because I know that typos don’t mean someone doesn’t know their stuff, and I thought I might learn something new.

However, when the author stated that humans only need to eat three ounces of protein a week, I closed the book and stopped reading. We need about two ounces each day, not per week. I knew that fact was wrong, but what about readers who didn’t know? I had been willing to put up with the typos, but if she had also neglected to fact-check herself, or to have someone else fact-check her book, then nothing she had to say could be trusted. Possibly some of what she had to say was correct, but I would have had to fact-check everything to find out which parts were correct.

It was supremely irresponsible of her to publish a book on health without checking her facts. If someone trusted her information, they could have seriously injured their health.

Don’t be that writer.

Using a researcher

In the step 1 post in this series, I said that if you need to research, you should research while writing (not before, except when you need the information in order to write). But what if you just don’t know how to research?

Depending on how much you need to look up, you can rely on your local reference librarian to look up some facts for you. Whether Vikings wore horned helmets, for example. But if you need more in-depth information, and you don’t have much confidence in your ability to do the research, you can hire someone to research for you. Again, this is going to cost you (by the hour), so it might be better to learn how to research yourself. And no, you can’t just Google it or rely on Wikipedia. Really.

Some resources for finding researchers (be sure to ask your researchers what sources they use)