/Beth Wareham
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During some of my forays into publishing, I wasn’t prepared for the people that came after me with various questions and off-the-wall ideas. A young woman in Paris did her dissertation on a small humor book I wrote and sent reams of questions each week. How did she find meaning in the pages of that little mental fart? She did and I took her work as seriously as she did. I hope she got an A, or AH as it were. I don’t know what any of it meant, really.

I spoke at a conference and a woman there seemed to just want to follow and touch me. I’d smile, introduce myself and try to talk. She wasn’t having it. She just wanted to follow and touch. Follow and touch. When someone asked her if she had bought my book, I overheard her say, “she wrote a book?”

The real terror of old-fashioned publishing were the live call-in radio shows. I remember a guy – a first time author – who edited a book of famous writers talking about dogs. During his first question in his first interview for his first book ever, the disc jokey of a live radio show in North Dakota asked, “why do dogs lick their butts so much?” I could hear his tears behind their suppressed sniggers.

I got talked into a corner during a live radio show in Louisiana where a young woman on the phone came unhinged during our exchange. Seems her elderly neighbor had been conning her into during her laundry for months and her rage was at a break point. Maybe this wasn’t about the laundry but BOY was she upset. The host excused herself to make sure the young woman got the number of a hotline of some kind. I forgot what I talked to her listeners about while she was gone.

Don’t ever miss the “glamorous” days of publishing. It was weird and kinda dumb and the last thing anyone seemed interested in was the book. Famous writers would have to travel from city to city, going on local radio shows and chucking water balloons at commuters or passing out cookies at the door of a store.

Today, books are sold off samples and never before has the actual writing been more important. Thank God. I can sell it instead of talk to a woman who won’t talk back and keeps trying to touch me. It’s the way a book should be sold – like music – you hear or see a piece of it and want to buy it and explore it further and deeper.

I miss little about the days of yore and love the anonymity of the internet.:) I just can’t go to any more of those conferences.

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THE NEW TOOLS: Book-making’s Newest, Most Useful Widget…or Something

/Beth Warehamimages-1

I’m a black ops publisher. I named the company Shadow Teams so that authors would understand that we come in, camouflaged faces and knives between our teeth, find that manuscript and WiFi connection and make a book. Then, we float off in search of more writers in distress. Our website gets a lot of hits from Afghanistan.

Being a black ops publisher means you need the latest tools before they hit the streets. You need to be on them, assessing their use for your client, and tossing it in the “stupid” or “useful” bin, depending. A Shadow Team is always learning the secrets of the competition – except if it’s Sony Pictures. Then we run away, vowing to never do what they did.

That is one definition of “shadow team.” Another definition of “shadow team” has to do with Silicon Valley: You hire the entire team away from a competitor and get a huge chunk of corporate knowledge. We did that too.

The most difficult aspect of this black ops publishing company is selling books. Since the highly structured, hugely anachronistic publishing industry began to fall in 2007, retail possibilities for books have all but dried up. You either place your book in that cyberspace landfill known as “amazon” or you email it to your friends so many times, they buy it and never invite you over again.

Try Consider it our Holiday Gift to you. Pull your book out of the amazon ghetto. Add bonus value to your core readers. Bundle books. Change your content or advertising copy. Get paid directly.

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Cultural Wars: Hackers Harsher Critics Than Religious Zealots

/Beth Wareham


North Korea just plunged everyone everywhere into the Theater of the Absurd with their hack attack. Heavily tanned and exfoliated executives at Sony showed how willing they were to stand up for their artists. The answer was NOT AT ALL. I mean, really, didn’t you laugh at Pineapple Express?

Let’s pop over and see some cultural terrorism in the literary department. Oh look! It’s Salman Rushdie.

Mr. Fatwah himself was surrounded by executives and artists that laid their heads on the executioner’s block before they’d let Islamic fundamentalists have Salman Rushdie. His publishing company was routinely evacuated from bomb threats, so were booksellers. Stephen King made the call to Barnes & Noble saying that if they didn’t sell Salman, they could not sell him.

No one cared that the novels of Rushdie are virtually unreadable. I’d call them crap and to his face. His children’s books are great, but that’s not the point. The point is no one cut him loose. The “literary” community fought like honey badgers for his right to publish.

Now let’s pop back to Hollywood. “The Interview” is probably BARELY watchable and pretty hilarious if you watch it stoned. It is a cultural fart. The fact that North Korea chose it to go after is even more hilarious. But the one thing that needed to happen in all this: Sony executives had a moment to make a stand for every artist, for everyone trying to achieve something creative in this world, and creativity is the only way this world might have a chance of lasting.

Sony was given a rare moment to be a hero, a defender everything American.

Unfortunately for them and for us, hero was not something Sony could be.

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The Reading Cure






/Beth Wareham

Broken brain. You know it. Trauma. Stress. Upheaval. Downheaval. Poor diet. No sleep. Powerlessness. Suffering.

After a certain age, you hit periods of great difficulty in your life: elderly parents, teenage children, health issues, the endless feeling you are an ATM. I have experienced it all.

I’ve tried everything I’ve ever heard of to cure my broken brain: drugs, sleep, drugged sleep, long, island vacations, exercise, sex, pouting and of course, shopping like a Santa Monica housewife.

My behavior continued until my mind began to quiet. In grief terms, that’s years. It’s different for everyone, I’m told. In all aspects. I also got tired of hemorrhaging money for therapists and trainers and MasterCard bills and yogis. I mean, I needed food.

As I worked these problems over, my brain finally coughed up the memory of a lovely older man, a florist from my youth, who used to say ‘Dahlin’, cure for a depression is a good long book. Other books cure being lovesick or being extra nervous about something.” In my mind today, that man was a character out of Winesburg, Ohio.

But think of the wisdom of it: A long book lets you spend a lot of time away from your troubles, testing the oft-quoted “time heals.” A long book usually provides a bunch of characters whose troubles are much worse than yours are. Most triumph at the end, as will you.

Below are my favorite long books, books I started in one frame of mind and ended in another. I hope it works for you as it has worked for me:

 Click on the cover to buy. Proceeds go to E-book Africa



This 800+ page novel begins in 1951 and rambles brilliantly through the second half of the 20th Century. Some characters such as Sammy Jr and Dean are real, others are not, but all are haunting. The image of the war planes – hundreds upon hundreds – grounded out and fanned over the Mojave will stick with you for years. I consider a “cool” reader that knows this work and Infinite Jest.

INFINITE JEST BY DAVID FOSTER WALLACE  is huge, hilarious, heartbreaking, part philosophy part language so dazing you need to wear your shades. A new biopic in 2015 may get more people to tumble back into this world. I hope so. I will never forget one character’s passionate soliloquy to the one-hitter. Something bends your mind on virtually every page.


Politically incorrect, GONE WITH THE WIND BY MARGARET MITCHELL is still a hell of a great big great read and this edition includes Pat Conroy’s magnificent Preface. Scarlett is an incredibly modern woman. You can almost see her in a Valentino gown at an Atlanta deb party giving her rich lawyer husband hell.  This book is an artifact of a world long gone though if you travel down South, you see vestiges of the culture everywhere.

51OzjjUS28L._SL75_51KszqojYtL._SL75_51Ixq9CQkfL._SL75_HILARY MANTEL’S WOLF HALL and BRINGING UP THE BODIES  are historical narratives that show Thomas Cromwell’s rise in Henry the VIII’s court. These books recreate Henry VIIIs world in a way no writing before has captured. The third installment is due out this year. This is true immersion in history in the most entertaining of ways.

As collars got pointy again and pads slid back onto shoulders, the 1980s rose it’s ugly head in fashion. Wall Street has learned little from those dark days of wild money. TOM WOLFE got it so right in BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES, you’ll laugh until you’re pajama bottoms fall off. You’ll also learn in this book about the women of New York who make their living being skinny: You just can’t see much other use for them.


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Chop Chop Writers


by Beth Wareham
So, this meat clever is kinda scary. Blood. Animal? Human? Ha!

This is writer’s blood. From the way the red rises in the middle of the cleaver, forensics tell us someone was killing whole paragraphs. (Little splatters on the end suggest adverb and adjective removal.) Consistent smears along the blade tells us it was a sentence hunting mission. CSI for Writers: The Cleaver Tells All.

Every writer must be a ruthless editor, meat cleaver worn on a tool belt as he or she types. This editing is one of the hardest aspects of writing – we all think our words should be carried around on little velvet pillows – and that thought often embarrasses you later when you have an overwritten, indulgent book no one wants to read.

So, in a wildly simplistic list, here are the things your clever should do for you to progress in your life as a writer:

1. Adverbs and adjectives: CLEAVER THEM. AS MANY AS POSSIBLE.

2. Vary sentence length for dramatic affect. Consider these two scenarios:

“Walter walked in the back door, throwing his jacket to the floor, and commenced his feral wandering from room to room, beer in hand, waiting for a child or slow moving aunt to verbally ambush.”

“The door slammed. Walter threw his coat on the back of the chair. He immediately walked over to the refrigerator, pulled out his customary beer, and began to pace the first floor of the house. The living room was empty as was the front porch. He really wanted someone in his family to appear so he could burn off some of his darker feelings.

3. Don’t go down alleyways. Writers have curious minds and it is easy to write yourself off course. The cleaver must come out if you go on, say, a two page chat about derivatives in a South American love story. Stay on story or it’s the cleaver for you.

4. Don’t say the same thing in a bunch of different ways. We all assume a writer has the skills to tell us a story using different devices. Have enough faith in yourself to pick one story and tell it the way you want to….no hemming and hawing.

5. Write a book of appropriate length. You are writing in the age of the internet, not the 19th Century when entertainments were a bit slower moving. Keep it tight. Test yourself. Use the poet’s skill of distilling words to write prose. Practice writing short on twitter. Write to your time. Word selection is the 21st Century game of the highest importance. Just look at Search Engine Optimization. 🙂

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Stephen King Touched My Girdle

by Beth Wareham

Spanx, actually. I was standing beside a conference table, hand up my dress, (my own hand) pulling an anaconda-like roll of latex down my leg when he struck. With a touch more appropriate for inside the covers of 50 Shades of Grey, Stephen King pinched the roll of latex and gave it a yank, taming — and at once setting free – both it and me.

I heard a voice say, “We’re late for the meeting” and with a soft kiss on my neck, I heard him moving away. I whirled around, just as a pair of holey blue Converse, low-tops, turned the corner. I yelled “Congrats on the Red Sox!” and he yelled back, “I’m farting through silk!” A publicist ran by, smiling like a baby with gas. I was left alone to deal with the current of electricity running up and down my spine. I knew I would never see him again.

I’ve been told about Stephen King getting pulled over for speeding with just his giant turtle in the car. Another editor remembers looking down at the treadmill next to her in the hotel at a book convention and wondering who set it on .5 to work out. The Converse, low-tops, were her first clue.

When Salman Rushdie’s fatwah went down, make no mistake, it was Stephen King and Stephen King’s call to booksellers that kept Rushdie’s books on sale. To paraphrase, Mr. King said, you don’t sell him, you don’t sell me.

When I read Stephen King, it’s like being locked in a trunk with my brothers, shit-weasels both. When I read Stephen King, I am deliriously happy. I remember the stupid jokes and haven’t boarded a plane since Dream Catcher without saying “sit up front, first to the crash site.” As a teenager, I was reading Salem’s Lot when a boy knocked on my window, causing me to urinate in fright. My Mom called me “Window Pee” for a week.

Yeah, these books are scary. But they are are also hilarious and few humans have a greater mind when it comes to American pop culture than Mr. King. You are so immersed in your country’s own inside jokes, it is also feels like hanging out with your siblings. It’s all familiar.

I cannot presume to review the body of Mr. King’s work – my 401K won’t hold that long. However, here are some of my favorites.


Herion addiction, men of fallen faith, and rock and roll collide in a deal even the devil wouldn’t make. The publisher says it’s the scariest ending he has ever written. You be the judge.

Stephen King Stickers – Only 6.99, I put mine on my lunch box.

Bag of Bones is a ghost story, a story about grief, on a lake in New England.

On Writing is simply one of the most entertaining, interesting, useful, no bullshit book on writing I’ve ever read. The reading list in back makes it worth the purchase.

Salem’s Lot, the generator of dreaded “window pee”, was cool long before everything had a vampire in it. This is a scary book.

The Stand introduces recurring characters in a post-apocalyptic world dedicated to his wife Tabitha. My husband would attach me to “post-apocalyptic” too.

51D0welpt7L._SL75_Mr. Mercedes is Stephen King’s foray into self-described “hard boiled detective fiction.” He’s so good he can shift from horror to ghost to detective to cute stickers for my lunchbox.



For baby boomers, 11/22/63 resonates as the day a certain idea of America died. John F. Kennedy was killed in Dallas and no one has ever stopped guessing about his end, including Mr. King.



In Doctor Sleep, little Danny Torrance from The Shining grows up and works in a hospice. This is classic scary King.

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Rejection: A Case Study for Writers

-Beth Wareham

Getting through the layers of agents and editors used to be the great head-bangers ball for writers. With as many opinions as there are interns, most books are DOA in the mail room. They sit there, they slowly move upstairs, an assistant opens them and puts them in a big pile, an editor assigns the first read to a younger editor, an assistant or even unpaid help. Someone doesn’t read far enough, doesn’t understand the history or context, spills their Starbucks on the manuscript. The agent calls and inquires as to how the editor liked it. The editor has not yet seen it and around we go.

Helplessness. The creative’s helplessness in the face of the publishing machine has always been a monumental problem. The arrogance of one side and the sheer powerlessness of the other made publishing toxic. The new world order is changing this and books now go straight into production at the author’s behest. They go on sale that way as well. Publishers now approach authors that have broken the sales code in hopes of hitching their wagon to a self-publishing star.

If this new world leaves questions in your mind, I offer a look into the rejection of some of the great writers who came before you. If they could take it, so can you.

16 literary agents and 12 publishers rejected John Grisham’s A Time to Kill

Stephanie Meyer, author of the Twilight Series, was turned down by 14 agents until an employee at Writer’s House picked it up out of the slush pile. That employee now has a job for life.

Alex Haley’s Roots had 200 consecutive rejections and went on to be an international bestseller and Pulitzer Prize Winner, showing American publishing that black people DO buy books.

Mom, a Bloomsbury editor, wanted to reject a book, but her 8-year old daughter insisted she get to finish reading the manuscript about a kid named Harry Potter.

Agatha Christie received editorial rejection letters for 5 years until her first acceptance. She is second in sales only to William Shakespeare.

Louis L’Amour read 200 letters telling him he couldn’t write until Bantam Publishing disagreed. One letter from an editor said, “You have no business being a writer and should give up.” With Bantam, he published 330 million books.

Richard Bach was famously jeered at for his little book about a seagull. Turned down by every publishing company at least twice, a young female editor interested in flying picked up the book and Jonathan Livingston Seagull flew out.

When “Chicken Soup for the Soul” made the rounds of publishing houses, the overwhelming response was “no one reads anthologies.” I mean, I just don’t know what to say about how wrong that is.

When Random House rejected his first novel, The Long Walk, he shelved it and began again. Stephen King got a contract on his next book.

So, writerly-types, the world is getting better. Tons better. It is even HARDER to get inside a publishing company these days, but I think you will find less and less reason to do so as the world develops.

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by Beth Wareham

After a much publicized and embarrassing fight between Hachette and Amazon, Hachette today announced they would sell books directly off twitter! Let’s have a parade.

Big news! How many self-published authors and digital book companies have paved the way using and others to sell their content and books on twitter. is great, but it is a great big comedown from wrestling amazon to the ground.

The more I observe, the more I see big publishing taking it’s cues from us on the ground. They fail at huge negotiations and cry in their saucer of milk, then turn to see what the working folk have been up to. We’ve been selling books.

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Tough Writer’s Manifesto: Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop, Never Stop

/Beth Wareham

Richard Bach, author of that 20th century pop icon, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, said a mouthful with “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” Richard – who once let me fly his plane – would not like what I have to say about much of his writing. But his work on aviation is magnificent. He was also based in the same squadron as a really professional writer – one James Salter – during the Berlin crisis. Salter, author of A Sport and A Pastime, among others, never chose a wrong word in his life.

A tough writer, amateur or check-casher, doesn’t quit. A tough writer works through problems, wipes out pages, starts over. A tough writer knows how you can get inside a book and slip and slide in it, failing to accomplish much of anything. A tough writer understands the words “begin again.”

Below is some pretty interesting advice I’ve heard from authors and editors in a 20-year career in the larger publishing houses of New York. Some of it will depress you and some will set you free.

You must remember, though, that part of the extreme joy of reading and writing is the discovery of the new voice, seemingly from nowhere, who changes your point of view.

What you also must remember, sitting glumly at your keyboard, is that voice just might come from you:


1. No one is watching you.

The great Ilene Beckerman, author of Love, Love and What I Wore, confessed that what she liked about writing was that nobody saw when she wrote a sentence like “She carried the steaming tureen to the table.” Allow yourself all the mistakes you need until it feels right to you.

2. Plan and destroy. Plan and destroy.

Map a plot. Change it. Flush out characters, modify, remove, add more. Throughout the process of putting a book together, you need the plan of a soldier who is ready to shift positions at any moment for a more effective line of attack. Rigid flexibility. Think on it.

3. Who are you writing for?

Too often, especially in non-fiction, authors are writing for peers. That’s fine, if you want to sell books to the 200 other forensic accountants in California. Who is your reader? Who do you see in your mind’s eye as you work on the book? Act accordingly. Don’t use technical words if you trying to reach the layman. Choose communication over showing off.

4. Feed a fever; Starve a cold

If you don’t believe in the muse, then you don’t believe in Faulkner, Mozart and Beethoven. Whole chunks of finished passages just appeared in their heads and the test was to write it down quickly enough they didn’t lose it. This is true of you as well. If you become deeply engaged in writing a scene, stay with it. Sitting down at a computer and doing 500 words a day is the drip, drip of sinuses disengaged from the passion of writing. Stop word counting and start throwing your soul into it.

5. Facts are not the truth.

In fiction, there are no facts but abundant truths. Since all writing is autobiographical to a degree, never got bogged down in the actually memory of a room or character. Remake them anew to meet the truth of what you are writing. You owe no one an explanation for your art.

6. Raw is good.

The closer you can get to the bone, the more you feel what you write, the more your reader will too. This is what Hemingway meant by his comment that being a writer was no big deal, you just sat down and bled on a keyboard all day. Readers know when they are being kept at arms’ length and most don’t like it. Bring them in to you and the story.

7. Detail isn’t everything, but it’s almost everything.

Every detail you choose should further your plot or give us more information about your characters and the “truth” of your book. Here’s a simple example of how you might or might not choose detail for a character:

Meyer’s suit was blue and his shoes were brown.

Meyer’s blue suit shined at the elbows, leading the eye downward to a pair of brown crepe-soled
work shoes.

Simple, right? And no one ever talks about the writer’s eyes; the painters get all that public relations.

8. Simple formulas make powerful books.

A) Tell your story from the beginning and end at the end. Simple. Never fails

B) Try the song form: A,B,A. Used for thousands of years, you can see this form best in a series
like Lord of the Rings: A is the Shire, B is the adventure, C is a return to the Shire with
lessons learned and evil vanquished.

9. Edit like Stalin.

Everyone, EVERYONE, uses too many words. Edit yourself ruthlessly. Any word that is not absolutely necessary to further your story should go. You owe this to your reader: don’t waste their time with overwriting. Proust covered that already.

10. Let the manuscript rest before final carving.

Polishing a manuscript brings up an interesting combination of anxiety and joy. You are close to a finished book. Give it that last read and polish it up. Remove the final unnecessary adverbs and adjectives. Tighten descriptions. People will read it soon, thus the anxiety. People will read it soon, thus the joy.

Some will judge you positively, some might not. But somewhere, someone will read your book and it will change his or her life.

And that, my friend, is why you do it.

Stay tough.

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OH, GIVE THE CHAMP HIS CHANNEL: YouTube and 500 Clicks 

/by beth warehamDSC00123-3

He is the cutest man who ever lived, the only man that can turn a boxing loss into an infomercial for his grill.

The Art of Sales and Marketing, a new book pubbing in December, explores the day by day the building of a one million dollar a week juggernaut that changed popular culture, the George Foreman Grill.

Click on your YouTube account and subscribe. The Champ needs 500 set of eyeballs to get his channel. (You may have to copy and paste in your browser although I SWEAR my linking skills are better.)

Here’s to George! He might not have been the greatest boxer, but he IS the greatest salesman and can teach you how to sell anything almost as well.

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