Linda Carlson – Internet Safety and Your Family

What is your most recent book? What inspired you to write this book? Tell us a bit about it.

For Parenting Press I’ve written Internet Safety and Your Family, which was prompted by my finding out how easy it was to use the Internet to get lots of information about kids at absolutely no cost—and when I discovered that not being online does not protect you from having personal information available to those who ARE online. So this little book—it’s only about 40 pages—is intended to explain what phishing, spoofing and other cybercrime is, how people of all ages can be cyber-bullied, and how you can try to protect yourself and your family from being stalked. It’s full of examples, and a few horror stories.

How did you choose the title?

Because book titles are usually truncated in databases, I wanted a short title that said what the book was about and who it was for. I also wanted a short title because I knew that meant it could be larger on the cover. That’s important because in catalogs and on some web sites, cover images are only about an inch high. The book subtitle is very long, and it was designed to be much more specific: “A parent’s best guide to phishing, spoofing, spam, filters, blogs, gaming, social networking, and online worlds.”

What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published? How did you overcome them?

This book was written for Parenting Press, to replace a simple brochure that was outdated and incomplete, so there was no “selling” of the project as there has been with most of my other projects. However, we wanted to offer this book as a downloadable from the Parenting Press site, and as a bound book through Amazon.com, which means we worked with a print-on-demand service that was not very far along at the time. If you are considering print-on-demand (POD), I recommend that authors and publishers thoroughly understand digital printing so they can talk knowledgeably with the customer service people, who are salespeople rather than printing experts.

How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?

Oh, I wrote from the beginning of time! My first “published” piece was a poem about Valentine’s Day that my sixth grade teacher had mimeographed and distributed to everyone in my school! Then in junior high, I won a contest for writing a story that incorporated song titles in the text. I don’t think I have a copy of the story, but it used titles like “It’s Judy’s turn to cry” as dialogue. I also edited my junior and senior high school newspapers, wrote for the school district newsletter to voters and got paid pennies for contributing to the daily newspaper’s “student” page. My first free-lance piece was a story about Norwegian traffic circles published in the travel section of the daily paper when I was 18; I was paid $15.

Tell us something about yourself.

I’m from western Washington, started out with a college degree in journalism from Washington State University, editing a small town paper in eastern Washington, and free-lancing for a Spokane daily paper. About the time I was getting ready to start graduate school in Boston, a friend and I roughed out a proposal for a how-to book on marketing for architects and builders. A year or so later, we were offered a contract by a company that is now part of John Wiley to do the book—if we broadened it to include all small business people. My friend was busy with a full-time job, lots of free-lancing, and didn’t want to make those changes or pursue the project, so it became mine alone. By the time it came out, I had my MBA, had returned to the Northwest, was working in marketing and became active in the regional chapter of my MBA alumni association. That resulted in my being contacted by a lot of people who wanted to come to Seattle for work. I became so frustrated with how little people knew about the regional job market that I wrote a job-search guide that became a regional best-seller. Over 12 years I wrote and published seven editions of “How to Find a Good Job in Seattle” and two spin-off books, one on part-time jobs and one on executive search.

While self-publishing, I became active in Book Publishers Northwest, which is how I met Carolyn Threadgill, the publisher at Parenting Press. When she lost her marketing person in mid-2000, I offered to come on a part-time basis for the summer, until she found someone else…and I never left. Besides writing on Internet safety, I create two newsletters for the Press, a quarterly for professionals, Parenting Education Practitioners Talk, available by subscription, and a complimentary monthly, News for Parents. I also dream up most of the promotional campaigns, write most of the web site copy, all the press releases and brochures, and coach authors before their media appearances.

Along the way, I wrote “Company Towns of the Pacific Northwest,” a history of company-owned towns that was published by the University of Washington Press in 2003 and resulted in my spending four years on the speakers bureau for Humanities Washington, a wonderful opportunity to meet people who had lived in timber, mining and dam towns in the first partt of the 20th century. I edited the Dummies guide to digital book printing for John Wiley and the Book Industry Study Group, which provides real how-to’s on POD and short-run digital printing. Now I also write 30 pieces a year for the monthly published by the Independent Book Publishers Association, which is a fabulous resource for small and self-publishers and for authors who want to understand the publishing industry and its markets.

Do you have any writing rituals?

When I finish an interview or reading a book for a review, I try to summarize it in a catchy way in my mind, and often that becomes the lead paragraph. You might say I talk to myself mentally, as if I were describing the book to someone else. Which, of course, is what you do in a review.

When I do a book, I usually start with a list of what I want to cover—a rudimentary outline. Then I sit on the floor with my notes and sort them into stacks, one for each chapter, and see if that works. For example, should the book be chronological, or by industry or by topic?

Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book? What?

“Internet Safety and Your Family” was my first experience with print-on-demand, and my first experience working with people who knew nothing about offset printing. It was excellent background for the Dummies guide that I wrote a few summers later.

What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?

The last book I read for fun was “Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet,” by Jamie Ford, which I loved. A fabulous story, a Seattle setting, and so many tie-ins to my life and previous work: one of the illustrators we work with at Parenting Press had been interned at the same camp that is described in the book. I read dozens of professional books and research reports for reviews in the Parenting Press newsletters, and that limits both my time and energy for leisure reading.

Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

I’d love to write a book about the traveling merchants who sold in remote communities like the timber and mining camps, or one about the “circuit-riding” ministers called “sky pilots” who use boats to reach waterfront villages on the Canadian west coast and on the Alaskan coast…but right now I have no extra time for the research.

What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

Writing isn’t easy. To write a good book, you have to be willing to look objectively—in fact, critically—at your outline or your first draft and acknowledge what is missing and what is extraneous. You have to be willing to go the extra mile to fill in the gaps, to provide solid information instead of a couple of generalizations, and you have to be willing to ditch the wonderful little anecdotes or descriptions that don’t contribute to the flow or to the objective of that chapter. You also have to be willing to work with your publisher’s staff, to accept that it will have reasons for making demands. For example, I had to cut 75 pages from the manuscript of my company towns book to make the book cost-effective at the price point the publisher had selected. And if you can’t meet deadlines, you’ll have trouble being successfully published.

To be financially successful, a writer also has to be committed to promotion. There’s a maxim about writing a book being 5 or 10 percent of the job, and the rest being promotion, and that is really, really true. For most of us, that means speeches in bookstores and libraries, usually at night or on weekends, and sometimes early morning appearances on radio or television programs. Today it also means Facebook and Twitter.com.

Who is the perfect reader for your book?

The perfect reader for “Internet Safety and Your Family” is the parent, grandparent, youth group leader, coach or teacher who needs to understand how easy it is to find information on the Internet, and how many ways cyber-bullying and cyber-crime can occur. So many people overlook the importance of privacy settings on Facebook, for example, or they don’t have their blogs password-protected—even though they’re putting the names, schools and teams of their kids and grandchildren on those blogs. And when a coach or scout troop leader uploads a photo and tags it with the names of every player…! What most people don’t realize is that combined with the information in telephone directories, you can use the Internet to find most people’s names, addresses, pictures of their houses, where they work, the names of their children, and often where their children attend school. And for $1.98 most “people search” engines provide lots more detail.

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?

Click on through to www.parentingpress.com/media/media.html for the online media kits for Parenting Press titles and scroll down to the cover of “Internet Safety and Your Family.” That will lead you to more information about the book, and you’ll be able to order it as a downloadable if you like. Or visit Amazon.com. My other books are described at www.lindacarlson.com.