Formatting a CreateSpace Book in 2014: One Quick Tip

I’ve gotten some good feedback from the post touting the still-timely advice of Guido Henkel and his e-book formatting guide. But what about formatting for print-on-demand? That’s no less confusing – and I never found a Guido Henkel to serve as my Virgil.

So it’s Googling, and more Googling, and a lot of trial and error. Eventually I came up with something I was very happy with and a second try that turned out even better, so I thought I’d mention at least one CreateSpace trick that worked for me. Continue reading

A History of Jacke in 100 Objects: #1 – The Padlock

I have a theory that everyone has what I call the Personal Singularity. This is the period in your life when some trend or phenomenon so defines you, so matches where you are in life, so inspires you to be all that you can be in a particular direction (for better or worse), that you will never be that in sync with anything else in your sorry little life, ever again.

For a long time I thought my own moment of Personal Singularity had come when I was in high school and David Letterman’s show was on NBC (I want to be Dave! I can be Dave! I AM DAVE!). Now that I’m a warped and frustrated old man I realize it was actually the years I spent with this guy:

The odd thing about the Personal Singularity is that it’s rarely disputed. People around you—all your loved ones—can agree on what it is, and you yourself probably won’t argue.

Saturday Night Fever? Yep (embarrassed laugh) I was REALLY into that. Young Tiger Woods tearing up Augusta? Hey, my golf clubs are still in the trunk of my car.

For my friend’s father, it was Sanford & Son. Nothing has made him laugh harder than Redd Foxx and his son Lamont in the junkyard. He still does the “I’m coming to join you, Elizabeth” routine.

Yes, yes: life was good for Monte Strunz when he had Sanford & Son to look forward to each week.

For our high school football coach, the Moment of Personal Singularity was the 1985 Chicago Bears. Continue reading

Who’s Cheating America: Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Image Credit:

No, no, this isn’t about the divine Audrey Hepburn. We didn’t catch her cheating, thank god. It’s just a boring old insurance company dispute with Tiffany’s, the world-famous jeweler’s. So boring, in fact, I had to jazz it up with a photo. Here’s another:

Image Credit: Elegant Audrey

Sigh. Now onto the case, which is captioned Those Interested Underwriters at Lloyd’s, London who subscribed to the policy of insurance numbered BO80111433 v. Lederhaas-Okun et al.


I thought this was about Tiffany’s? You mean there’s more…?

Indeed there is. Continue reading

Self-Publishing Update: Reading on a Smartphone

Ugh, is there anything worse for today’s author than to think about someone reading their book on a smartphone? We like the image of a reader luxuriating with a stately hardcover, a sleek paperback, or—in a pinch—an e-reader. But a tiny-screen phone? Is no tradition sacred? Why not throw words out too, while we’re at it?

Ah, reader. You probably know me well enough by now to know I am a positive thinker. (When I’m not cowering in fear of my Dark Lord.) So I direct your attention to Clive Thompson, who points out that 18th-century books looked like smartphone screens:

Image Credit: Google Books via Clive Thompson


Thompson explains:

That small-page format was quite common back in the 18th century. It’s known as octavo with pages that are about 6 inches by 9 inches. The entire Conjectures is only about 8,000 words long, but it was common to print essays in this pretty little style, because it had great ergonomics: It made for easy one-handed reading and portability.

Thompson has much more on his blog, including a brief history of printmaking (explaining the size) and photos comparing it with today’s smartphone screens. He even offers this personal benefit of the format:

In fact, one of the oddly useful things about reading War and Peace on your phone is that the octavo-like format makes the epic enormity of the tome less intimidating: It’s just one little page after another, each one oddly inviting. I tend to blow up the font on my phone to quite large, so each page has only a few hundred words on it, precisely the way that [an 18th-century book] is laid out…

Fascinating. And of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that my books The Promotion and  The Race are available in a variety of formats, and from a variety of booksellers. Happy reading!

Small Press Shout-Out: Pantera Press!

We’re headed down under for this week’s small press shout-out. And what a trip it is! Even the most seasoned, curmudgeonly book buyer will find it hard to return from the Pantera Press website without wearing a smile. This press exudes friendliness and charm, from their mission-like statement “our passion is publishing books readers rave about by discovering & nurturing talented new authors, & fostering debate,” to their trademarked slogan “good books doing good things,” to their “strong ‘profits for philanthropy’ foundation.”

This is a press that’s unashamed to say, “We’re thrilled about what we’re doing. We hope you get excited too!”

I’m getting there, Pantera!

Actually, their entire statement is worth quoting: Continue reading

One Flew Over the Law Firm (The Promotion Excerpt #5)

In Which the Narrator Hears the Name That Will Forever Alter His Future

We started, as lawyers always do, by defining ourselves according to our practice areas. She nodded when I gave my little sentence about being a specialist in government and internal investigations, some white collar, a lot of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act work lately…

“We have overlap,” she said, nodding. “I do compliance for investment advisers.”

I couldn’t think of much else to talk about except recruiting, a topic I was trying to hold in reserve, because once we finished with that we’d head back to the office, where I had nothing to do. I asked her how things looked in the “compliance space” these days.

“Awesome,” she said. “Everyone is scared shitless.”

I was struck by how the word shitless emerged through her perfect white teeth, which did not ever open very far when she spoke, as if she were thinking hard about each word or had some kind of pain in her mouth.

It turned out we had some clients in common, including Fortinbras Capital Management, a very large investment firm I had helped with an FCPA matter involving a woman they’d hired in China who had stolen money and—it turned out—was having an affair with the mayor of Shanghai. The matter had taken a year to resolve and had resulted in a thirty-slide PowerPoint and a decision by the DOJ not to prosecute.

“That was you?” she said, displaying a level of surprise that another person might have found offensive. I merely nodded and asked how the CCO was doing.

“She was fired,” Linn said. “Too many bad emails at that place.”

I said that it hardly seemed fair to hold a chief compliance officer responsible for the emails of hundreds of employees, especially in a place like Fortinbras, where pushing the envelope was standard among the business folks.

“They were her emails.”


Linn went on to describe an examination that Fortinbras had just gone through. Overall the exam had gone well. The SEC had cited them for a few deficiencies, which was expected, but these were minor and had not led to any enforcement actions. Management was pleased, except for one thing.

“And what was that?” I asked.

Linn’s eyes narrowed. “Mina Meinl,” she said.

Next: In Which the Narrator Tiptoes into the World of the Mysterious Mina Meinl

Need to Catch Up? Check out The Promotion Minisode #4: In Which the Narrator Meets the Deputies Who Will Make or Break His Fortune

Can’t wait to read the whole thing? A full version of The Promotion is available on in paperback and Kindle versions.

What They Knew #30

“High and fine literature is wine, and mine is only water…”

– Mark Twain

“…but everybody likes water.”

– Mark Twain