Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

Two Valuable Books on Marketing Your Newly-published Book

28 Oct

I have a plethora of books in my library on writing, but a dearth on marketing what I’ve written. That’s a mistake. Most authors I know end up spending as much time marketing their books as writing them. Why don’t we get professional guidance as often for the latter as the former?

One reason for me: I have trouble finding books that address the types of online marketing that are affordable (or free–that’s nice) and doable for an author who’d rather write than market. Recently, I found two books I think assist with marketing the newly-published book:

Online Marketing for Busy Authors: A Step-By-Step GuideOnline Marketing for Busy Authors: A Step-By-Step Guide

by Fauzia Burke

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

View all my reviews

I met Fauzia Burke when she was presenting at a San Diego writers conference and came away with no doubt she knew her stuff. I wasn’t surprised she has marketed books for some of my favorite authors (Jeffrey Archer, Dean Koontz, and Daniel Silva to name a few). When her how-to book, Online Marketing for Busy Authors (Berrett-Koehler Publishers 2016) became available on NetGalley, I grabbed it.

Based on what I’d seen at her presentation, I expected expert advice that would kickstart the online marketing campaign for my latest novel  in a down-to-earth voice with suggestions achievable even for the novice marketer. And that’s exactly what I got. It’s important to note: If you’re looking for a palette of marketing options that includes physical events such as book tours and radio interviews, this may not be the book for you. If you’re looking for online events you can participate in that are low-no cost and the payback on time spent is excellent, this is the right book. Fauzia specializes in showing authors how to use readily-available online tools to market their books such as blogs, websites, social media, and more.

She calls this an introductory book but don’t let that confuse you. I consider myself pretty savvy with online marketing–I’ve published dozens of ebooks over a decade–and I found nuggets that I can make use of immediately. Fauzia organizes the book into three parts:

  • Getting organized
  • Turning Your Thinking Into Action
  • Staying the Course

Each has relevant subtopics like personal branding and know your reader, as well as worksheets to help writers organize their efforts around the specific topic. Here are some of my favorite ideas:

  • The best part about online marketing is that it levels the playing field.
  • How do you prevent your brand from getting lost in all the social media noise? The answer: Be uniquely you. Aim for authenticity. 
  • …building an effective brand is a marathon, not a sprint.
  • Over the years, authors have told me interesting things when it comes to their audience. Most of the time it’s half the planet. “My audience is women…” [this is part of the chapter on knowing how to narrow your audience].
  • Develop a long-term relationship with your readers…
  • You don’t have to be an early adopter and chase every new social media tool. Use tools that have a track record for success.
  • When you look at all the different elements of online marketing, you may feel overwhelmed. But here’s the thing: You don’t have to do it all. You can start slow and small and grow gradually.
  • Double down on what’s working and ditch what’s not.
  • The bottom line is this: Don’t spam ever, on any network. Always show respect for others and their time.

Overall, this book is highly recommended to all authors who are trying to market their book and just need a few meaty suggestions to make that go well.

Your Book, Your Brand: The Step-By-Step Guide to Launching Your Book and Boosting Your SalesYour Book, Your Brand: The Step-By-Step Guide to Launching Your Book and Boosting Your Sales

by Dana Kaye

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

View all my reviews

Dana Kaye’s Your Book, Your Brand: The Step-by-step Guide to Launching Your Book and Boosting Your Sales (Diversion Books 2016) came recommended by several friends when I was whining about the lack of success I was having marketing my latest novel. While Kaye doesn’t have even a decade of experience in publicity, she does have a fresh eye and addictive enthusiasm. Once I got started reading, it was easy to see why her ideas were so valuable to writers.

Rather than the linear approach to marketing in Fauzia Burke’s book above, Kaye writes about typical problems writers might have with marketing and how to fix them using both online and physical solutions. She includes topics such as branding, online media, pitching, social media, in-person branding, and promotions, often with worksheets so readers can determine how to fit the topics into their world. A nice inclusion is a sample campaign and a suggested timeline for events.

Here are some of my favorite suggestions:

  • Book promotion is more of an art than a science. What works for one author may not work for another…
  • The first step is to always write a good book.
  • All authors, regardless of audience, will need an author website. This serves as your online business card,
  • All websites should include the following: [and then Kaye tells you what the critical pieces are].
  • …always pay for your images through stock photo companies; never pull images from the web.
  • To stay focused, answer the following questions: Does your audience prefer print or e-books? Where do they get their information (TV, radio, websites)? What else do they read (newspapers, magazines, blogs)? Where do they buy their books (online, grocery stores, chain bookstores)? What social media platforms do they utilize (Facebook, Twitter…).
  • There are many companies that will charge you thousands of dollars to boost your SEO, not telling you about the many easy ways you can do it for yourself. One of those ways is securing online media coverage.
  • A press kit is like a highlight reel, an expansion on the one-sheet that encapsulates all aspects of you as an author. It should feature all your books, showcasing the most important titles, as well as a longer bio and more in-depth talking points. It can also include any or all of the following: [and then Kaye lists those for readers].”
  • …Google+ is less about social networking and more about search engine marketing.

Overall, this could be an important part of the professional library for authors who are new to marketing.

–I received free copies of both of these books from NetGalley in return for my honest reviews.

More books on the business end of writing:

29+ Ways to Market Your Book

4 Reasons You Want a PLN and 13 Ways to Build One

Top Ten Marketing Tips for Your Ebook

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, and the thriller, To Hunt a Sub. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  a columnist for TeachHUB, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.


Book Review: The Path

24 Sep

The Path: A One-Mile Walk Through the UniverseThe Path: A One-Mile Walk Through the Universe

by Chet Raymo

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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The Path: A One-Mile Walk Through the Universe, by Chet Raymo, is one of the most fascinating books you’ll ever read. Chet Raymo is a scientist, a thinker and a consummate inquirer. Everything excites him, draws his attention and I suspect threatens to distract him from his real job as professor emeritus of physics and astronomy at Stonehill College. Every morning, he walks to work along a course that covers approximately one mile. Having the type of mind he has, he can’t help but muse over every building, every smell, each part of his journey. It is in this book that he records his musings. Being a scientist with a passion for history, they are couched in the story of our Universe.He sees not just the upturned rock, but the forces that moved it to its current position and canted it at the odd angle. He sees not the flower by the stream, but its historic pilgrimage from Europe to its current home in New Hampshire. Read the rest of this entry »


It’s Here–8th Grade Technology Curriculum!

01 Aug

8th grade technologyThe eighth grade technology curriculum prepares students for their future not by teaching widgets and programs—though that happens—but by showing them how to be life-long learners. How do they decide what program works best for what inquiry? How do they acquire the use of tools they have never before seen? How do they self-assess their knowledge, insuring they acquired what they need? Don’t expect black-and-white answers. Success is more likely predicated on student transfer of knowledge than their ability to check off boxes on a rubric.

Here’s a quick overview of what you will find in this textbook:

  • Scope and Sequence aligned with ISTE and Common Core
  • Themed units tied into inquiry
  • Experiential learning with real-world applications
  • Opportunities for students to express and grow in their creativity
  • International mindedness
  • Articles on tech pedagogy

Each Unit includes:

  • an emphasis on comprehension, problem-solving, critical thinking, to prepare for career and college
  • Common Core Standards covered
  • ISTE Standards covered
  • essential question
  • big idea
  • materials required
  • time required to complete
  • domain-specific vocabulary
  • problem solving
  • steps to accomplish goals
  • assessment strategies
  • ways to extend learning
  • project examples where appropriate
  • grading rubrics where appropriate

Read the rest of this entry »


Book Review: K-8 Keyboard Curriculum

20 Jun
keyboard curriculum

A keyboard curriculum for K-8

K-8 Keyboard Curriculum: The Essential Guide to Teaching Keyboarding in 45 Minutes a Week

You may think it impossible to find an effective keyboarding curriculum for the skimpy forty-five minutes a week you can devote to keyboarding. You teach what you can, but it always seems to be the same lessons—hands on home row, good posture, eyes on the copy. You wonder if it’s making a difference, or if it matters.

Yes, it does and there is a way. It requires a plan, faithfully executed, with your eye relentlessly on the goal, but if you commit, it works. In this book, The Essential Guide to Teaching Keyboarding in 45 Minutes a Week: a K-8 Curriculum, I’ll share a unique keyboarding curriculum for K-8 that I’ve seen work on thousands of students. The book includes:

  • A summary of the literature
  • Answers to the most-asked questions like ‘Can youngers learn to keyboard—and should they?’
  • The importance of the teacher to early keyboarders

The K-8 curriculum includes a lot more variety than keyboard exercises on installed software. Here’s a rundown of the pieces used:

Read the rest of this entry »


It’s Here–7th Grade Technology Curriculum!

09 Jun

7th grade cover--frontThe National Board of Governors Common Core Standards expect technology to facilitate learning through collaboration, publishing, and transfer of knowledge. Educators want students to use technology to work together, share the products of their effort, and employ the skills learned in other parts of their lives.

Finally, a 7th grade (8th grade I hear is due in August) tech curriculum that addresses those needs. Published by Structured Learning, it includes:

  • 32 units, each aligned with Common Core and ISTE
  • Grades 6-8 Scope and Sequence (aligned with Common Core and ISTE)
  • Step-by-step weekly lesson units
  • Articles that address tech pedagogy
  • Each lesson reflects Common Core emphasis on comprehension, problem-solving, critical thinking, preparing students for career and college
  • Students are expected to understand the process, not replicate a skill
  • Focus is on transfer of knowledge and blended learning
  • Collaboration and sharing is often required
  • Online support is offered FREE through a help blog

Book Review: A Short History of Nearly Everything

05 Jun

A Short History of Nearly EverythingA Short History of Nearly Everything

by Bill Bryson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So often scientific books lose us lay people with their PhD language. Not Bill Bryson. Using his infamous skill as a story-teller, he approaches the history of science with the same non-threatening approach John McPhee applied to the geology of America. Technicalities are dispensed with broad, non-pedagogic strokes while the surrounding humanity draws the reader into the intellectual excitement that is science. Readers can’t fail but want to read more.

Here are some of the topics he covers: Read the rest of this entry »


Book Review: Horse Soldiers

28 May

Hhorseorse Soldiers

by Doug Stanton

My rating: 5 of 5 starts

View more of my reviews

For those of you who think cyber-intel and technology are the tools of war, read Horse Soldiers by Doug Stanton. What an eye-opener. Here’s an excerpt:

“…the dramatic account of a small band of Special Forces soldiers who…rode to war on horses against the Taliban. Outnumbered forty to one, they pursued the enemy across mountainous terrain and…captured the city of Mazar-i-Sharif…essential if they were to defeat the Taliban. The bone-weary American soldiers were welcomed as liberators, and overjoyed Afghans thronged the streets. Then the action took a wholly unexpected turn. During a surrender of six hundred Taliban troops, the Horse Soldiers were ambushed. Dangerously outnumbered, they fought for their lives…”

Two things about this excerpt caught my writer’s eye:

  • Horses? Now that sounds like fiction. How can I add that sort of creative thinking to my techno-thrillers?
  • Greeted as liberators? Wasn’t that Paris in WWII? I didn’t hear about that on the news. What else am I missing? Read the rest of this entry »

Book Review: The Forest People

24 Mar

The Forest People (Touchstone Book)The Forest People

by Colin Turnbull

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I just finished a wonderful book, Colin Turnbull’s The Forest People. Turnbull lived ‘a while’ (pygmies don’t measure time with a watch or a calendar) with African pygmies to understand their life, culture, and beliefs. As he relays events of his visit, he doesn’t lecture, or present the material as an ethnography. It’s more like a biography of a tribe. As such, I get to wander through their lives, see what they do, how they do it, what’s important to them, without any judgment or conclusions other than my own. Read the rest of this entry »


Perfect Gift for the Teacher in Your Life

04 Dec

digital citizenshipOrder Digital Citizenship Curriculum for K-6

Why do teachers need to teach Digital Citizenship?

Education has changed. No longer is it contained within four classroom walls or the physical site of a school building. Students aren’t confined by the eight hours between the school bell’s chimes or the struggling budget of an underfunded program.

Now, education can be found anywhere, by collaborating with students in Kenya or Skyping with an author in Sweden or chatting with an astrophysicist on the International Space Station. Students can use Google Earth to take a virtual tour of a zoo or a blog to collaborate on a class project. Learning has no temporal or geographic borders, available 24/7 from wherever students and teachers find an internet connection.

This vast landscape of resources is available digitally, freely, and equitably, but before children begin the cerebral trek through the online world, they must learn to do it safely, securely, and responsibly. This conversation used to focus on limiting access to the internet, blocking websites, and layering rules upon rules hoping (vainly) that students would be discouraged from using this infinite and fascinating resource.

It didn’t work.

Best practices now suggest that instead of protecting students, we teach them to be good digital citizens, confident and competent in the use of the internet.

What’s included in K-6 Digital Citizenship curriculum?

This 70-page text is your guide to what our children must know at what age to thrive in the community called the internet. It’s a roadmap for blending all the pieces into a cohesive, effective student-directed cyber-learning experience that accomplishes ISTE’s general goals to:

  • Advocate and practice safe, legal, and responsible use of information and technology
  • Exhibit a positive attitude toward using technology that supports collaboration, learning, and productivity
  • Demonstrate personal responsibility for lifelong learning
  • Exhibit leadership for digital citizenship

Each grade level includes 3-8 lessons, a full year of instruction for K-6 in non-sequential order so it fits nicely into your school schedule or current technology curriculum, with a project for each topic. Here’s a schedule of what topics are covered at which grade level. Some start in kindergarten and are reinforced each year. Others, we wait until students have the maturity to understand the concepts:

digcit topics by grade

Can I see the Table of Contents?

Absolutely. Here’s a complete list of each lesson in each grade-level:

digcit tofcMore?

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K-8 Digital Citizenship Curriculum Print (through Amazon): $29.99 + p&h

Digital: $21.99 + p&h

Combo: $46.99 + p&h

Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor of a K-6 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, creator of two technology training books for middle school and six ebooks on technology in education. She is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blog, Technology in Education featured blogger, IMS tech expert, and a bi-weekly contributor to Write Anything. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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Book Review: Talking Back to Facebook

27 Nov

Talking Back to Facebook: The Common Sense Guide to Raising Kids in the Digital AgeTalking Back to Facebook: The Common Sense Guide to Raising Kids in the Digital Age

by James P. Steyer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

View all my reviews

James Steyer, acclaimed founder of Common Sense Media, has written often in articles and websites on the affect that social networks are having on our children. In his latest book, Talking Back to Facebook (Scribner 2012), Steyer discusses worries on every parent’s mind about the social media engulfing our children.

With so much of education and play time revolving around digital devices like iPads, computers, Wii, apps, and more, parents have a right to be concerned and should question whether this tsunamic trend is healthy for a child’s developing cognitive and psychological functions. Steyer’s premise is that the obsession with Facebook and its ilk, as it seeps into younger and younger age groups, can be dangerous and must be controlled. To support his hypothesis, he covers important topics such as:

  • Self image
  • Addiction issues
  • Your child’s brain on computer
  • Loss of privacy
  • Why your child is at risk
  • The end of innocence
  • Embracing the positives of digital media
  • Kids as data to marketers

He also provides a much-needed guide for parents on digital media topics their children face at different ages and what parents can/should do about it, including:

  • An age specific summary
  • What parents want to know
  • What parents need to know

Pleasantly, much of his advice is common sense. Moderation is good. Extremes are bad. Pay attention to your child’s life. Don’t be afraid to step in. He gives parents permission to trust their instincts and create rules/guidelines for the digital natives they are raising. His approach in dispensing advice is to act as a mentor–a trusted adult from whom we seek advice. Rather than a pros-and-con factual summary of available information, he chooses data that supports his hypothesis. I’m not denigrating this approach. It’s one of two common approaches by which we-all arrive at a conclusion:

  • Deductive reasoning–look at all the facts and draw a conclusion
  • Inductive reasoning–state a hypothesis and do the research to prove (or disprove) it. Of course, if Steyer had disproved his premise, he wouldn’t have written the book

For as long as man has problem-solved (which could be as long as a million years, but I’ll leave that factoid to the paleoanthropologists), we have used either deductive or inductive reasoning. I’m fine with his use of inductive. What made me scratch my head a few times was what he considered ‘supporting evidence’:

  • I don’t know why Chelsea Clinton is qualified to write the forward on a book about parenting and social media. What is her expertise? I was left wondering if it was her celebrity.
  • I have to believe there are more reliable sources on technology in education than (page 85). ISTE comes to mind. How about the Department of Education?
  • Too often (which in my case is more than twice), Steyer made broad statements and/or cognitive leaps that he presented as commonly-accepted facts, not bothering with proof. Yes, we as parents may believe them, but we’re reading the book to buttress our argument. For example:

In Egypt…one of the most important leaders of the movement that overthrew President Hosni Mubarak after nearly three decades of dictatorial rule was a Google executive who posted key messages on the Internet that helped coalesce the protests. (pg. 85)

Really? I’ve never read that before. My mind is open, but where’s the proof? Here’s another:

…in 2004, Google announced it would digitize all the books in the world. That was a cool idea. But the company didn’t bother to ask the permission of the authors who wrote those books… Google folks apparently failed to consider or at least underestimated the intellectual property and personal ownership issues involved… (pg. 89)

Am I supposed to believe a behemoth like Google figured no one would notice their infringement on intellectual property laws around since 1978 (or longer)? Prove this and I’ll pull all my books from Google Play. He provides no proof.

In fairness to Steyer, there are many times he provided evidence from sources everyone would accept as legitimate. Maybe the above examples are simply bad editing–he could have cleaned them up, but Scribner didn’t think it necessary. Who knows? What I do know is their presence in an otherwise exemplary book casts doubt on his agenda in writing the book.

In the end, though the premise of the book is manifestly believable, empirical evidence is lacking at critical moments. For the reader to reach Steyer’s conclusions often requires a high level of trust in the author’s words and logic. That’s why I gave it three stars. That rating notwithstanding: Read it. Draw your own conclusions. You’ll benefit from thinking through these topics and hearing this man’s point of view.

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Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor of a K-6 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, creator of two technology training books for middle school and six ebooks on technology in education. She is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blogger, a columnist for and TeacherHUB, Technology in Education featured blogger, IMS tech expert, and a bi-weekly contributor to TeachHUB and Write Anything. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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