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A massive wake up call… 493 million women worldwide cannot read this headline

For someone whose chosen career is to help authors publish meaningful books and connect those books with the readers they will benefit, I am, perhaps surprisingly, a fairly light reader. I love to read; I just haven’t done very much of it lately. Let me clarify – I haven’t read many books lately. I have a Kindle Fire with nearly 100 ebooks on it, but I use it mostly to check email and read articles and blog posts. My husband and I own hundreds of books – and I still buy them frequently enough. But sometime over the last few years, I’ve gotten out of the habit of making dedicated time to read books.

illiteracy

Until one Sunday about two months ago, when my husband and I decided to go to the library and explore. Since then, I’ve been reading more. But I still hadn’t committed to reading one book all the way through. I’m a reader who always has multiple books going at one time. One in my bag, one in the car, one by my bed, one in the bathroom (yes, the bathroom). Until my last visit to the library, when I picked up a brand new paperback copy of the 1996 novel Pope Joan, by Donna Woolfolk Cross.

This book captivated me from the first page. I’m now 143 pages into a book that truly lives up to that frequently-bandied-but-seldom-true description: page turner. It is the fictional account of the 9th century woman who disguised herself as a man and rose to become the only female to sit on the papal throne. Of course, detractors say her existence is mere myth – but whether she was an actual person or not has absolutely no bearing on this fantastic story.

The initial part of the story deals with Joan’s desire to become educated at a time when women were considered “by nature, quite incapable of reasoning.” … “Their natural humors, which are cold and moist, are unpropitious for cerebral activity. They cannot comprehend the higher spiritual and moral concepts.” (Pope Joan, p. 82)

So here’s this impactful story about a 9th century girl who bucks trends and odds to become educated when even most men could neither read nor write. She read not one, but at least three languages. And while her struggles were a  moving part of the story for me, they were simply plot points. Until, this morning, when I found myself pausing in amazement, yet again, that this story was devised from 26 characters that its author has turned into words that paint such vivid pictures that I can imagine the scenes as if I were watching a movie.

And then it hit me – what an utter misfortune it is for those who cannot read a book for pleasure. And then, of course, the next natural conclusion finally struck me: What about those who cannot read, period?

I set the book down and jumped online to do some basic research, and the statistics are amazing!

  • Approximately 14 percent – or 32 million – U.S. adults are unable to read.
  • In the U.S., two-thirds of students who cannot read proficiently by the end of fourth grade will end up in jail or on welfare.
  • One in four American children grow up without learning how to read.
  • Literacy is a learned skill. Illiteracy is passed down from parents who can neither read nor write.
  • As of 2011, the U.S. Was the only free-market OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) country where the current generation was less  educated than the previous one.
  • Nearly 85 percent of youths who face trial in the American juvenile court system are functionally illiterate.
  • More than 70 percent of America’s prison population cannot read above a fourth grade level.
  • Of Americans who receive food stamps, 75 percent perform in the lowest two levels of literacy, and 90 percent of high school dropouts are on welfare.
  • Teenage girls ages 16 to 19 with below-average literacy skills are six times more likely to get pregnant than girls their age who can read proficiently.
  • Reports show that low literacy directly costs the healthcare industry more than $70 million every year.
  • Long Beach, California has been ranked the country’s most illiterate city, followed by Mesa, Arizona (neighbor to my home city of Phoenix), and Aurora, Colorado.
  • Worldwide, 774 million people are unable to read – 66 percent of them (or 493 million) are women.

I don’t know about you, but I’m inspired to do something about this. ProLiteracy is one place to begin. Or you can do a search for Literacy Volunteers in your area.

Definitely more on this to come – maybe even my next book. A bit ironic, isn’t it?

Laura

RESOURCES

https://beta.dosomething.org/facts/11-facts-about-literacy-america

http://www.statisticbrain.com/number-of-american-adults-who-cant-read

http://www.proliteracy.org/the-crisis/overview

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below."Practical Philanthropy" book cover

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Check out Laura’s newest book, Practical Philanthropy: How ‘Giving Back’ Helps You, Your Business, and the World Around You. A percentage of all book sales is donated to Art4TheHomeless.org and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

14 reasons I love books…

What better time to celebrate our love for books than Valentine’s Day?

Here’s a collection of gorgeous book images, with a little about how I came to be a book person, why I read, what I read, and how I read. Please share your own similar stories in the Comments section below.

Book-Love 10

I taught myself to read at about age 4 because I wanted to be able to read the comics in the Sunday paper to myself. I had my dad read me the same Golden Books again and again so I could memorize the words.

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Book-Love 3

I was in second grade when my dad took me to the library for my first “research project” on the Great White Shark. He taught me how to use the card catalogue so I could find my own way around the library later. It worked. I seldom needed help again.

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Book-Love 1

My favorite thing about elementary school was the chance to order new books through the Scholastic Book Club leaflet. The longest days of the school year were the days between handing in my form with my dad’s check, and the day that magical brown box showed up on the teacher’s desk so she could distribute our books.

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Book-Love 2

Summers were spent reading 40, 50, as many as 100 books as part of the library’s Summer Reading Program. Encyclopedia Brown. Nancy Drew. Madeleine L’Engle. Laura Ingalls Wilder. I read them all…

“You have to write the book that wants to be written.
And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups,
then you write it for children.”
– Madeleine L’Engle

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Book-Love 6

I met my best friend in a summer program at ASU between eighth grade and our freshman year in high school. The classes we took together included an etymology class and a sentence-combining seminar. My writing improved vastly that summer! I went from an average of 6 words per sentence to an average of 21 words per sentence. Thirty-some years later, I still find the information and processes I learned in those classes helpful.

Jane lived in a small Southern Arizona town; I lived in Phoenix. This was before the Internet. So we wrote letters – the old-fashioned kind with ink and paper. Jane’s letters were long, funny missives in purple ink, most of which I still have.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When I began at the University of Arizona, each freshman was required to take a Library Skills course. Again, this was pre-Internet. The course was supposed to take up to 21 hours to complete. I did mine inside of 3 hours – and I remember being very grateful to my dad at the time.

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Book-Love 5

I’m not a person who can read just one book at a time. At any given moment, I’ve got a book in the bathroom, one in my shoulder bag, and at least one on my nightstand. That doesn’t even take into account the Kindle.

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Book-Love 7

I read all kinds of things – fiction and nonfiction. Love stories, historical novels, literary fiction. Spiritual books, marketing and business books, political books, personal growth books. Our reading taste is one place my husband and I diverge. He reads music biographies and autobiographies, as well as horror/thrillers from Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and the like.

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Book-Love 8

Did anyone ever finish The Thorn Birds? When I read it, I got within about 50 pages of the end of Colleen McCollough’s 692-page tome before simply losing interest. I didn’t intend to abandon the book; it just happened. But then I began asking all my friends who’d read it/were reading it, and no one finished the thing. The first book I ever quit on purpose was Pat Conroy’s Beach Music. Having really enjoyed Prince of Tides, I had high expectations for this book. It was boring and tedious from the start. I kept thinking it would get better, but by page 120, I knew that wasn’t going to happen. It was a big deal to give myself permission to quit reading a book. So glad I finally got over that issue.

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Book-Love 13

I love libraries and bookstores because I love the touch and feel of books. I love knowing that people spent hours researching and writing them. I love the thought that I might be one of hundreds of people to read a single library book. I love the concept of BookCrossing.

It’s really astonishing to think that all our communication, all the English-language books and letters, are derived from 26 little symbols:
a – b – c – d – e – f – g – h – i – j – k – l – m – n – o – p – q – r – s – t – u – v – w – x – y -z.

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Book-Love 9

I love that books can take us places, create visions, share knowledge, engage ideas – in short, call us to a higher purpose. Certainly not every book serves those roles, but they are, to be sure, the books toward which I gravitate. And in my work with self-publishing authors, my goal is to work with socially conscious authors and would-be authors.

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Book-Love 11

Chick lit is my guilty pleasure – along with romantic comedies, when it comes to movies. But good stories with well-drawn characters. Remember, I’m not afraid to drop a book like a hot tamale if it’s not worthy of my time. I bought 50 Shades of Grey out of curiosity. Didn’t make it past the first gawdawful chapter. One massively underrated book is Helen Fielding’s (Bridget Jones) first novel, Cause Celeb.

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Book-Love 12

This weekend my sister, husband, and I will attend the 58th annual VNSA Book Sale in Phoenix, where we’ll surely by a couple dozen more books. We had a yard sale in the fall which allowed us to clear out space in our floor-to-ceiling bookcases, so now there’s at least a little room for the newcomers!

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Book-Love 14

While I fully appreciate the ease, necessity, practicality, and inevitability of ebooks, printed books will always be first, and forever, in my heart.

Happy Valentine’s Day to the readers, writers, authors, and book lovers among us!

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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Want a professional book cover that doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg? Visit our website to Template 5peruse our selection of 25 book cover templates, and download our complimentary special report, “Book Elements:

january tip of day

January 28 Book Marketing Tip: Listen to your body!

I am not a science gal. Shocking admission, I know. In college, I fulfilled my requirement for 3 science courses with two semesters of astronomy (good choice in Tucson, as the University of Arizona is home to the Steward Observatory) and one semester of environmental biology.

Everything else I know about science I’ve pretty much picked up through reading, surfing the Internet, and watching documentaries. In my self-taught learning, I’ve discovered that science is much more interesting than I realized in my teens and 20s. OK, so I’m a slow learner at some things.

One thing I’ve discovered over the years is the role of the autonomic nervous system. Now in case you’re science challenged like I am, I’m going to try to make this as simple as possible. The autonomic nervous system controls the function of the body’s internal organs — things like heart function, digestion, respiration, perspiration, eye function, and many other routine bodily functions. The autonomic nervous system is comprised of two subsystems: the parasympathetic nervous system and the sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system controls what we know as the “fight-or-flight” response, while the parasympathetic nervous system allows for relaxed activities like digestion and food absorption.

fight vs relax

Under normal circumstances, the two work together so that our organs function properly and we can perform the actions that daily living requires (eating, breathing, sleeping, moving, etc.). A shift in this balance occurs when the body becomes stressed. Frightening or emergency situations cause sympathetic nervous system to take over, causing an increase in heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels, preparing us for quick, strenuous action. Once the emergency has passed, the parasympathetic system takes control, decreasing our heart and breathing rates, and diverting blood supply back to routine activities.

The thing is, in today’s over-connected world, we’re receiving near-constant stimulation, so much so that our bodies don’t ever fully recover to regain proper balance between these two systems. Think about you to-do list. Even if you don’t make a written task list every day, the myriad thoughts still run through your head:

  • ŸŸI’ve got to finish editing my second draft.
  • Need to go to the grocery store.
  • Three more blog posts till I finish the Ultimate Blog Challenge.
  • Gotta update my book marketing plan.
  • The kids have a field trip tomorrow.
  • Don’t forget to call Sandra back about that speaking engagement.

And on and on. And now, with our Smartphones, we’re almost never disconnected. We carry our contact lists, email, and social media with us everywhere. It’s almost as if we’re worried that if we just set the phone down or — gasp — turn it off for a minute, we might miss something.

Here’s a little experiment. Stop reading this post. Sit back in your chair, feet flat on the floor and hands in a relaxed position. Close your eyes. Take a deep breath that fills your belly with air. Exhale slowly. Do it again. And one more time. Go ahead — do it now.

Did you notice anything during this tiny, little breathing exercise? Did you notice anything when you opened your eyes? Maybe there was a tightness in your jaw you hadn’t even realized was there. Maybe you feel more clear-headed now. Perhaps you’re just a little more relaxed, like all those things on you to-do list have stopped bombarding you, at least momentarily.

Our bodies are magnificent machines that are designed to give us clues when they’re not functioning optimally. Regardless of how much you have going on in your life, you aren’t working to your best ability if you never give your parasympathetic nervous system a chance to engage so you can calm down and relax. Meditation works. A walk around the block works. Just getting up and stretching once an hour works. Find the method that’s right for you, and incorporate it regularly. You’ll be amazed at how much more centered, at peace, and ultimately productive you become.

Here’s to listening to the signs when your body speaks to you!

Laura

Resource: http://lifeforcetampa.com/autonomic-nervous-system/

There are lots of charts and sites out there to give you a fuller explanation. Just Google autonomic nervous system.

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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Want a professional book cover that doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg? Visit our website to Template 5peruse our selection of 25 book cover templates, and download our complimentary special report, “Book Elements:

january tip of day

January 27 Book Marketing Tip: Get your “ask” in gear!

My friend Connie Kadansky is an international coach and sales trainer – and this is her tagline: “Get your ask in gear!” Connie specializes in helping salespeople overcome their fear of prospecting and self-promotion. Mostly, that means getting out of your own way and recognizing your value and the value of what you’re selling. In the case of most of this blog’s readers, that would mean your book!

Well, this weekend I heard a story that perfectly bears out the rewards of honoring and living by Connie’s tagline.

My husband’s grandmother, Mary, is 90 years old, but she’s still vibrant and spry. Every Christmas, John gets her tickets to a concert beachor show. Engelbert Humperdinck is her absolute favorite (they’ve seen him together 5 times!), but tickets to his show weren’t on sale yet at the holidays, so instead John got her tickets to see Dick Van Dyke and the Vantastix. This is a quartet comprised of Van Dyke and three youngish guys.

As John retold the story, one of the guys – Mike – saw Van Dyke at a Starbucks in Malibu. Rather than being starstruck, he approached the talented veteran and complimented his lengthy and esteemed career. The two got to talking and it turned out that Mike was also a vocalist. One thing led to another, and the group now performs at benefits and children’s events, and has just released a children’s album.

This never would have happened if (a) Mike had not had the nerve to ask the obvious question, “Hey, you’re Dick Van Dyke, aren’t you?” and (b) Van Dyke had not been receptive to the conversation.

It would be folly to suggest that everyone you ask will say yes – or be receptive to your advance or suggestion. But can you tell from looking at someone whether they’ll say yes or no? Of course not! That’s why you have to ask. And ask. And ask.

Ask people to write blurbs for your books.

Ask venues to host your book signings.

Ask people to help with your Kickstarter campaign.

Ask for speaking engagements.

Ask and ask and ask.

Here’s to getting YOUR ask in gear!

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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Want a professional book cover that doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg? Visit our website to Template 5peruse our selection of 25 book cover templates, and download our complimentary special report, “Book Elements:

january tip of day

January 24 Book Marketing Tip: Togather.com can boost your book tour

What author hasn’t been in Andrew Kessler’s shoes? Author of a book called Martian Summer (Pegasus Books) about the 90 days he spent in NASA’s mission control center for a Mars exploration project, Kessler heard it all when it came to the value of book tours. “Publishing people told me, ‘yes, events are the best way to sell books’ and then ‘don’t do events because they’ll be a disaster,’” said Kessler in a post by Jeremy Greenfield for DigitalBookWorld.com.

In an effort to generate interest in his book, Kessler helped his publisher manufacture roughly 1,000 articles about his book launch. While those articles didn’t lead directly to sales, Kessler said they did lead to speaking events, which led to sales. So Kessler derived that a book tour would be his ticket to sales.

Publishing insiders warned him, however, that his book tour would be a disaster. “And it was,” he says in Greenberg’s post. “I would get there and there would be three people in the audience.”

togather

That’s when Kessler came up with the idea for Togather.com. It’s a platform designed to allow an author – or any interested party – to propose or create an author event, while giving authors and publicists the ability to guarantee the success of the event on their terms or cancel it altogether.

I haven’t used the platform – but it looks exciting!

From the Togather.com website:

We offer tools to make event marketing easy.
Our all-in-one platform makes it easy to create hundreds of events
and attract the right audience.

I guarantee I’ll be checking it out for the upcoming launch of Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World.

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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Want a professional book cover that doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg? Visit our website to Template 5peruse our selection of 25 book cover templates, and download our complimentary special report, “Book Elements:

january tip of day

January 23 Book Marketing Tip: Pick the social networking vehicle your reader is driving!

If your social marketing is to be useful, it needs to be two things. Who wants to guess what the first one is? OK – I haven’t mentioned it in a while, but you seriously should not need this reminder. Social marketing needs to be SOCIAL. But all the social marketing in the world could be a waste of time (and money if you’re hiring out any aspect of it) if it’s not aimed at your target readers.

As we’ve mentioned in the past, every author needs to answer 1 question before they begin their marketing: Who is my reader?  However, if your social marketing is to do you any good, you need to take that question a step further and answer the next question: Which social network does my reader use most?

There was a funny meme that made the rounds on the social networks 12 to 18 months ago. It involved bodily fluids and how each network would report on release of said fluid. We posted a version in a blog titled How are you incorporating social media into your book marketing strategy?

Last night at the Phoenix Social Media Marketing Meetup, I heard a more useful analogy, which I want to share with you here. Thanks to Giselle Aguilar, the Meetup coordinator, for this analogy. Definitely track her down if you need help with your social media strategy.

Social Network Users Are Like Drivers

 

  car sport Twitter users are quick. They like the fast-paced nature of a busy Twitter feed, and prefer easy-to-digest short bursts of info, links, quotes, and images. They are very social themselves, the most adept sharing the tweets they like.For me, Twitter is a huge information resource. My Twitter feed keeps me up to date on marketing, publishing, and social media trends in a way no other social network can.

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 car luxury Due to its nature as a site for businesspeople, LinkedIn draws the highest net worth users of any of the social networks. Like luxury vehicle drivers, these people prefer clean, elegant, useful information. Frills are OK, as long as they have a purpose. You won’t catch LinkedIn users sharing pictures of cats or zombies or kids.

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 car mini Attracting the second-highest net worth users, Pinterest users are like minivan drivers. Pinterest is the place for women – specifically moms.Interestingly, though, photos with people are repined much less frequently than those without. Images that are longer than they are wide are more often shared.

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 car convertible Convertible drivers want to be seen – and YouTube is the social network for users who appreciate the visual. With more than a billion unique visitors each month, YouTube is the #2 search engine on the web. As much as 80 percent of YouTube’s traffic comes from outside the US, so if you’re looking for international readers, this may be the place for you. According to Nielsen, YouTube reaches more American adults ages between 18 and 34 than any cable network, which is worth noting if your readers are younger. (This one is mine – not from Giselle.)

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 car suv I love this comparison: Facebook is multipurpose, like an SUV. Facebook users are inherently social, posting everything from pictures of cats, zombies, and their kids to quotes, links, political messages, music, videos, and event listings.Facebook’s reach is vast, to be sure, but don’t assume it’s your reader’s number one online hangout. Do your research and find out for sure before you pour endless hours into it that don’t do much to boost your visibility as an author.

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 car pickup Here’s another great comparison. Like pickup drivers, Google+ users just want to get it done. Google+ has circles and hangouts and authorship. It’s got the versatility of an SUV, but its more workmanlike in its approach.With more than 540 million users in less than three years, Google+ is catching on in a huge way, because it’s so versatile – and proper integration can be an enormous boost to your blog/website traffic.

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Does this mean that you should use only one social network? Of course not! Many people/families have more than one car – or dream of having a second vehicle. Their taste is diverse. Likewise, your reader probably uses more than one social network. But if you want to see a return on your social marketing ROI, you must dedicate your time/energy/money to the networks where your reader is hanging out. If they have a Twitter account but send one tweet a year, and you’re doing lots of Tweet Chats and employing a big Click to Tweet campaign, you are probably missing each other – like two cars passing on the highway.
Have a presence on all the social networks, but focus on the one or two that will connect you with the most readers.
Here’s to identifying your readers’ favorite social networks!

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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Want a professional book cover that doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg? Visit our website to Template 5peruse our selection of 25 book cover templates, and download our complimentary special report, “Book Elements:

Just a quick hit to share an image Facebook friend and fellow author Jo Michaels posted on FB today. It fits our recent theme about the importance of your book cover.

Jo’s post:

Woot!! Guess what’s gonna be mailed out tomorrow to all those LOVELY ARC readers of I, Zombie? Heck yeah! They FINALLY came! Feels like it took forever.

zombie

Congrats, Jo! Wishing you every success.

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

Want a professional book cover that doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg? Visit our website to Template 5peruse our selection of 25 book cover templates, and download our complimentary special report, “Book Elements:

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