My book has been pirated! Now what?

Last month, one of our authors spotted something unusual.

She came across her book on sale for $16.99 on a couple of websites she didn’t recognize. It was obvious something was wrong. The regular retail price of her medical training book was far higher than what seemed to be a fake price tag.

She immediately contacted us. “Is this legal?” she wanted to know.

No, it was not legal. These two online retailers didn’t have the authority to sell her book, and their sales were not legitimate. This meant that our client wouldn’t be compensated for any sales of her book through these sites.

Unfortunately, piracy is becoming increasingly common. Here are a few things you can do to prevent it from happening to you — and steps you can take if it does.

Register your work with the U.S. Copyright Office.

According to copyright laws, your work is already considered copyrighted as yours as the author. However, you cannot actually sue someone for copyright infringement until you register your work. This simple step provides enhanced protection.

Use a reputable publisher and/or distributor. 

A reputable distributor only partners with retailers that apply digital rights management (DRM) to book files when selling to customers. DRM serves as a means of copyright protection of digital media and prevents illegal copying or re-distribution.

Stay attentive.

Regularly search for your book title, keeping tabs on where it is being sold online. Your publisher or distributor can provide a list of approved online retail partners to help you identify illegitimate sales.

Know the difference between piracy and scams.

In this case, our author did everything right. Her work was registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. We distributed her book through the oldest, most reputable distributor in the industry. And she was checking online regularly.

So what’s the deal?

What appears to be piracy is sometimes simply a scam. There are hundreds of websites that seem to be selling work or giving work away for free, when in fact they are not.

Here’s how they do it: Scammers scrape Amazon and other retailers for inventory then create bogus websites that appear to be hosting your work. To make the sites more believable, they even list a fake number of downloads. When you attempt to download your book, you will be asked to either add your credit card or perform a series of tasks, such as signing up for a trial for software or buying a magazine subscription.

We were fairly certain our author was dealing with a scam, particularly when our emails suddenly landed in our Spam folders. The website links that we were discussing in our emails were flagged as harmful by our email account filters.

So what’s the next step in the case of a scam?

It’s certainly your right to contact the website and ask for your book not to be listed. Many authors don’t bother going beyond that to take legal action because it’s difficult to pin down scams.

As for our author, she is engaging with an attorney to decide whether she’ll take further action. And as for you, be sure to keep these steps in mind for the best protection of your work.

EllaElla Ritchie is the founder of Stellar Communications Houston, a book publishing team that provides a peaceful process and pride in every product for nonfiction authors, business leaders and federal government agencies. For more information, connect with her on LinkedIn or check out the website.

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How to lure your audience – and keep them to the end

Remember the old fairy tale Hansel and Gretel? A boy leaves a trail of pebbles in the woods, promising his sister it’ll lead them back home.

Good communication works like that. An audience is lured by the promise of a destination. They want indicators that help them know where they are along the way. And they’re satisfied when they end up at the big ending.

Good communication is really about earning the trust of your audience – and then fulfilling that trust.

This principal applies to books. Readers want to be certain there is a clear path to a worthy destination. They want to know they can trust an author to take them where they want to go.

The key to building the trust of readers – and to keeping your promise – is the structure of your book. The structure conveys a trusted pathway that helps readers reach a worthy conclusion. Readers appreciate when you build in indicators that let them know where they are on the map.

Let’s take a look at a few ways our authors have developed strong structures. While the methods are different, they each follow through on the author’s promise.

Maps

Perhaps the most literal example is Reverend John Miller’s forthcoming book, Journey to Paradise. The cover of the book promises a bold destination: Readers will discover the deepest desires of their heart. Everything about his words and design implies that he and the reader will embark on a trek together.

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As soon as the reader peeks inside the book jacket, Reverend Miller gives a glimpse of the journey ahead.

Inner jacket flap

And then in the first few pages, a two-page spread shows the complete map. Again and again, Reverend Miller is reassuring his readers that he knows where he’s taking them.

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Along the way, each chapter represents one stop on the trek. As readers are reminded where they are on the map, Reverend Miller is keeping his promise.

Pieces of a Whole

Another example of strong structure is Medicine at the Crossroads, a collection of newspaper articles by cardiologist Dr. Michael Attas. The purpose and promise of the book is to unify the three different parts of a broken healthcare system.

To illustrate unification, his cover design shows three shards of stained glass welded together into one picture.

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Inside the book, there are three sections that correspond to the three shards of glass. These are the different parts of the healthcare system that Dr. Attas promised to address in his book.

Although the book looks at many topics and viewpoints related to medicine, readers are provided a solid structure in which they can explore concepts without getting lost.

Timelines

A third example of structure is Contraflow, by Bill Herrington. Its promise is to tell a gripping eyewitness account of loss and leadership in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005.

The Table of Contents is organized according to the timeline of the events.

To create a sense of impending doom, some chapters serve as a countdown to the storm. And to emphasize the urgency of the situation, the digital time is updated throughout the chapters.

The Take-Away

Effective communication is about fulfilling a promise to your audience.

When it comes to your book, ask yourself, “Where do I want to take my readers?” Then consider, “What is the best pathway to lead readers there?”

Maps, pieces of a whole and timelines are only a few examples. There are many mechanisms you can use as “pebbles” to lead readers and bring clarity to your ideas.

Ultimately, when you and reader arrive at the conclusion, you’ll both be thankful for the journey.

EllaElla Ritchie is the founder of Stellar Communications Houston, a book publishing team that provides a peaceful process and pride in every product for nonfiction authors, business leaders and federal government agencies. For more information, connect with her on LinkedIn or check out the website.

Author interview: A doctor’s stories forge a vision in American health care

Just when I thought I had heard the best stories that Dr. Michael Attas had to offer, he surprised me.

We had just wrapped months of revising and expanding a collection of his stories, and it was time to write “About the Author.” My task was to sum up Dr. Attas – a renowned cardiologist, retired Episcopalian priest, and founder of the Medical Humanities Program at Baylor – into one succinct biography.

But something was missing. I gave him a call.

“You know, it just occurred to me. I don’t know how you got started. What made you get into medicine in the first place?” I asked. It’s a question posed in his book.

“Ah,” he chuckled lightly. “Well, that’s an interesting story. . . .”

A few minutes later, I hung up the phone, shaking my head incredulously. How could that have happened to him? And how is it that I’m just now hearing about it?

I looked again at the “About the Author” page and smiled, rolling up my sleeves. I suppose it’s only natural that the life of a storyteller should be told through a story.

Because that’s what Dr. Attas is. He is a storyteller—a masterful one at that. And he is unveiling the best of his stories in his new release, Medicine at a Crossroads.

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Medicine at a Crossroads is a 200-page collection of stories and conversations to forge a vision for health care. It is for physicians, patients, and anyone in the American healthcare system. In other words, it’s for all of us.

In it, Dr. Attas addresses the most pressing questions in medicine today through the lens of the medical humanities. Individually, each story of illness, medicine, and healing provides a tiny, fragmented glimpse into the heart of a problem. Collectively, the stories forge together to help us find our way to compassionate, humane health care—and, ultimately, healing for all.

We asked Dr. Attas a few more questions to learn how his stories came together.

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Dr. Attas at his alma mater, Baylor University. Photo courtesy of the Marketing and Communications Department.

You mention in the Introduction that the collection took shape in the classrooms of Baylor University, where you founded the Medical Humanities Program. What was it like to establish the first program of its kind in the country?

The biggest challenge in the early years was getting other well-established and successful departments to think outside of their own boxes about premedical education. They had to “buy into” the notion that physicians might benefit from an exposure to the humanities.

At that time in Baylor’s history, funding for a particular department was directly proportional to the number of majors. So in a very real way, when a student decided to major in Medical Humanities instead of Biology, it resulted in less administrative funding for Biology. That system, thankfully, has now been changed, and is seen as less “threating” for the classic sciences. Academic “turf wars” are very real, as anyone in higher education can tell you.

We’re grateful for your persistence because the Medical Humanities Program has redefined how students prepare for a career in health care. Of all of the classes offered, what was your favorite class to teach?

I called it Philosophy of Medicine: the Nature of the Patient/Physician Relationship. We explored various models, history, literature, and current political/economic debates. It was so very timely. Students still contact me with ideas and questions in real life that they are struggling with.

One of your former students, Dr. Allison Sellner, confesses in the book to feeling uncertain about what others would think of her untraditional path. “As an early medical student,” she writes, “I felt that my Medical Humanities major needed an explanation, sometimes even an apology. ‘Oh, but I minored in Biology and Chemistry,’ I would say.” She adds, “I realize now that this perceived ‘weakness’ is, in fact, a tremendous asset.” Do you think this stigma still exists? 

There is a nationwide shift in realizing that medical students who are exposed to the humanities actually perform better. Despite this, there is still powerful cultural bias that they might somehow not be able to learn the sciences at the level they need to. Luckily, students like Allison are breaking down those stereotypes.

We’re excited that you’ve collected your best stories into a book for everyone. Do you have a favorite story?

Yes, it’s in a chapter in the Physician section called, “A Moral Claim.” It’s a story about a rancher who had been my patient for nearly twenty years. I had come to know him and his family quite well. After repeated hospitalizations for congestive heart failure, he was running out of options. All he wanted to do was go home with his family to look at his cows in fields of bluebonnets. His land, his cattle, and his family had defined his life, and he wanted to die in their presence.

It still tugs at my heart strings. At some level, it captures the notion of the type of physician I always wanted to become. It took me a while to “get there” I suppose, but hopefully that type of lesson is one that young students will take seriously.

It’s certainly not the only story that stirs emotion. You’re very candid in all of your stories. Have you ever been concerned about sharing any of your opinions or experiences?

I suppose any author wants to be affirmed, yet I’ve never worried too much about any pushback from the sharing of stories. I have had one or two negative emails about the ambiguity of medical ethics and the stories I tell to make a point. I suppose there are some people who like things in nice, tidy little boxes of black and white. Unfortunately, real world medicine isn’t like that.

You emphasize the importance of mentors in the real world. Who have you looked to for guidance over the years?

I had many mentors in my training years. After I went into private and academic medicine, I didn’t often run into many of them, but what they taught me bubbled to the surface at odd times. They became my lodestar when I would struggle.

In particular, a seminary professor named Will Spong – now deceased – was someone I could call on. He always provided a fresh perspective on my struggle to integrate medicine into the other components of my life. He was grounded in reality, not a pie-in-the-sky kind of religion or medicine.

You were already grounded in your work as a cardiologist, but you managed to earn a Master of Divinity alongside your career. What prompted this? And how did it impact your outlook and work?

It’s a long story, but briefly: I was always intrigued by religion and the notion of service. Early pastors who were ahead of their time in the 50s and 60s convinced me that a life of faith and a life of the mind were not mutually exclusive. I also became existentially convinced that both were calling me to a life of service. So, eventually, I knew that to study religion wasn’t a “shift” as much as a natural progression.

So, you’ve recently retired from a 40-year career. You discuss in one of your chapters the relationship between retirement and vocation. This chapter must resonate with you deeply now. How have you adjusted?

I miss my patients. Daily. At night. In my dreams.

I have not missed the chaos, the fatigue, the night call, the computers, and the stresses. 

I have loved the freedom to wander down rabbit trails intellectually, to travel, and to continue to learn and explore this fantastically beautiful world.

It’s one thing to have the freedom to tell stories. It’s another to write them. Tell about the process of writing the book.

The collection is an evolution of articles that I had previously written for The Waco-Herald Tribune. Revisiting them, organizing them, and focusing them was an emotional time for me. It brought back memories that were raw and often hard, yet it also brought back much of the joy that medicine provided me for 40 years.  

One thing that truly surprised me is how important it was to have an editor who “gets me,” both as a writer and as a human. I couldn’t have done this without her.

Ultimately, I have come to think of the book as my gift to my patients, my students, and to others who might read it. Whether it will “change” anything is out of my control.

Of course, your book involves more than the writing. Tell us about the “stained glass” cover design.

In the Introduction, I talk about my fascination with stained glass—the way fragments are hammered together into panes to forge larger scenes. It’s the same way I see medicine. Medicine at the Crossroads is about piecing together the stories of brokenness, grace, loss, and healing into a larger narrative truth. Three panes represent the three perspectives in the book: the physician, the patient, and the healthcare system.

If you could inspire your readers to do something, what do you hope it will be? 

I hope readers will simply ask themselves one basic question: “How will any healthcare system allow stories like this to flourish?”

Because any proposed model must, in my mind, allow for the gifting of stories and the listening of stories. Without this, all of the science in the world will fall on rocky ground.

As readers ask themselves this question and grapple with solutions, they may want to talk with you. How can they do that?

Now that I am retired, I would hope that I’ll always be available to walk with others through their own journeys.

I would prefer not to get into the “telemed” form of medicine that is taking off. I would rather help systems, patients, and physicians fine tune their own lives around creative changes and healthy responses. I also don’t think I have the heart or emotional energy to delve too deeply into the political side of things. I find the dialogue and heated rhetoric too simplistic and toxic. Surely we can do better than this.  

I will always be available for email advice. Except when I am on the river fishing. That is a cardinal rule. 

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An avid fly-fisherman, Dr. Attas is also the co-author of Fly-Fishing—The Sacred Art (SkyLight Paths Publishing, 2012).

It’s clear that you’re enjoying your retirement on the river! Before we leave your readers with the book, is there anything else you’d like to mention?

Yes. I told students that in order to survive and grow in this field, you need two things.

One is the willingness and be hurt and wounded and still love and give back. 

The second is community: spouses, friends, and colleagues. No one can do this alone. But if we surround ourselves with others who will honor our journey, then we can do this for the long haul.

Thank you, Dr. Attas. For more information:

Check out the book announcement

Purchase the book

Read the news story

 

Author portrait_MAttasMichael Attas, MDiv, MD, is a renowned cardiologist, retired Episcopal priest, and founder of the Medical Humanities Program at Baylor University, the first program of its kind in the United States. His revised and expanded essays on contemporary healthcare issues in Medicine at a Crossroads first appeared in The Waco Tribune-Herald. His first book, Fly-Fishing—The Sacred Art (SkyLight Paths Publishing, 2012), was co-authored with Rabbi Eric Eisenkramer to share lessons from fly-fishing on reflection, solitude, community, and the search for the Divine.

EllaElla Ritchie is the founder of Stellar Communications Houston, a book publishing team that provides a peaceful process and pride in every product for nonfiction authors, business leaders, nonprofit organizations, and federal government agencies. For more information, connect with her on LinkedIn or at the website.

 

 

What is a Library of Congress Control Number — and how do authors get one?

I didn’t expect to geek out at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., but that’s what happened. From the marble floors to the stained glass ceilings, the national library is a glorious place.

I had traveled there to get the scoop on control numbers for self-published authors. But before we get to that, let me share a few fascinating facts about the library itself.

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What is the Library of Congress?

It’s the largest library in the world, with about 838 miles of bookshelves and 167 million items. The Library of Congress serves as the research arm of the U.S. Congress.

After the congressional library was destroyed by British troops in 1814, this new library was established thanks to Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson had sold his personal collection of 6,400 books as a replacement. He believed that democracy was dependent on free access to knowledge.

The purpose of our universal library is to preserve and provide access to sources of knowledge in all subjects.

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The original Thomas Jefferson collection

What is a Library of Congress Control Number?

A Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN) is a unique identification number containing a year and serial number.

It’s assigned by the Library of Congress to book titles that are likely to be added to its collection. I say likely because the number is assigned before a book is published. The decision on whether a book is added to the Library of Congress happens after publication. A copy of the book is mailed to the Library for review, and a final decision is made.   

Ultimately, LCCNs help librarians find correct cataloging data for books that have been published in the U.S.

What is it not?

An LCCN isn’t the same as a copyright, although the Library of Congress houses the U.S. Copyright Office.

An LCCN is also not the same as an ISBN. Whereas each format of a book requires its own ISBN, only one LCCN is assigned to a book. You can find out more about ISBNs here.

Do I need an LCCN?

You are only required to have an ISBN for your book, which allows your book to be made available to retailers. You are not required to have an LCCN. You only need an LCCN if you want your book to be made available to libraries.  

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What does an LCCN look like?

An LCCN is located on the copyright page of a book. There are two types of LCCNs, so the way your LCCN looks depends on which type you are assigned.

One type of LCCN is called a Cataloging in Publication, or CIP. It’s a set of data that includes information like the author’s name and Dewey decimal system subject headings. It looks like this:

CIP

 

Another type of LCCN is called a Pre-Assigned Control Number, or PCN. A PCN looks short, like this:

PCN

Am I eligible for an LCCN?

It depends on a few factors.

Let’s start with the two basics. Is your book longer than 50 pages? Are you working with a U.S. publisher? (Self-publisher, this means you.) If your answers are yes, you’re eligible for an LCCN.

Now let’s figure out which type of LCCN is right for your book. You can be assigned a CIP or a PCN, but not both.

Are you working with a big publisher? A book that will be widely circulated by a big publisher is assigned a CIP.

Are you a self-published author or small publishing company? Most books by smaller entities fall under the PCN category.

If you’re still not sure which type of LCCN is right for you, here’s a simple rule of thumb: Will your books be printed on demand? If so, you are eligible for a PCN.

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How likely is it that my book will be accepted into the Library of Congress?

Almost all books with a CIP are accepted into the Library of Congress.

The acceptance rate of books with a PCN is surprisingly good, around 60 percent.[1] This is because one purpose of the Library of Congress is to preserve an account of the nation. Local history and genealogical information are more likely to be produced by self-published authors and small publishers. These materials are valued as part of a holistic view of the United States and its people.

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How do I apply for an LCCN?

Your publisher will register for an LCCN for you.

If you’re a self-published author, you can apply on the Library of Congress website at http://www.loc.gov/publish/pcn/. It costs nothing except your time, and it only takes about two weeks to receive an LCCN before your book is published. After publication, send a physical copy of your book to this address:

Library of Congress
U.S. Programs, Law, and Literature Divisions
Cataloging in Publication Program
101 Independence Avenue, S.E.
Washington, D.C.20540-4283

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What happens after my book is reviewed by the Library of Congress?

Your book will either be accepted into the collection or rejected. If your book is accepted, your LCCN will appear in the official Library of Congress catalog for librarians. You’ll be able to search it anywhere. If your book is rejected, your LCCN may remain on your copyright page, but it serves no purpose.

Perhaps the most difficult part of the process is finding out whether your book has been accepted or rejected. It can take six months to a year (or longer!) for your book to be processed, and you will not be notified when a decision is made. So be prepared to occasionally perform a Keyword Search of your book at https://catalog.loc.gov/vwebv/searchKeyword to find out your results.

All the best!

Ella

 

Ella Ritchie is the founder of Stellar Communications Houston, a business communications and book publishing team that brings clarity, quality, and integrity to nonfiction authors, business leaders, nonprofit organizations, and federal government agencies. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Facebook, or the website for more information.

[1] RJ Crayton. “Self-Publishers May Want to Try for Library of Congress Cataloging,” Indies Unlimited, https://www.indiesunlimited.com/2016/01/25/self-publishers-may-want-to-try-for-library-of-congress-cataloging, accessed July 20, 2018.

Three Ways a Book Publishing Plan That Seems So Right . . . Can Go So Wrong

Mike Ellerkamp thought he had done everything right.

The life coach was fully prepared to publish his first book, The Simple Little Rule: The Golden Rule Rediscovered. Mike was ready to reintroduce the world to the power of God’s ancient wisdom to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” He partnered with a big self-publishing company and a big marketing company for big results.

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But when the book was released, what he got was . . . big crickets.

Unfortunately, Mike’s outcome isn’t unique. Many self-published writers invest a lot of time and money into a quality message — with little to show but disappointment and disillusionment.

After that experience, Mike took a hard look at his assumptions about the book publishing industry. He regrouped. Now, as he prepares to publish his second book, the author candidly shares his three biggest lessons learned in hopes of helping others.

#1 A bigger company doesn’t necessarily mean a better process.

“My first mistake was assuming that giving a lot of money to a big publishing company was the safest route,” Mike explained. “As a new author, you don’t know who to trust. I bought into the sales pitch that a big company would know how to get this done.”

While not all big companies are problematic, Mike experienced several delays. “These large publishers are dealing with thousands of authors and agents,” he said.

Another issue was the growing cost. “I was assigned an ‘account coordinator’ who would ensure a ‘better experience,’” he said. “He did help during a couple of points in the process. But I now realize that he was mostly a sales person first. The company wasn’t unethical. It’s just that the mission of a larger publisher is to sell publishing services—lots of publishing services!”

#2 Bigger activity doesn’t necessarily mean bigger results.

Mike said his second mistake was his marketing plan. “My account coordinator suggested a bigger marketing campaign through ‘bigger and better’ contacts. He cast the bait, and I took it. Hook, line and sinker!”

The 3-month campaign involved a lot of activity. Reports showed that thousands had received his press release, and thousands more were reached through social media. It all looked dazzling. That is, until the sales report rolled in.

“I was excited to land a radio program. But other than that, there were no real results,” said Mike. “I spent a lot of money to speed the process, but it didn’t really enhance the process at all.”

Publicist Sandy Lawrence, the founder of Perceptive PR, said successful book marketing is less about money and more about time. “Most people don’t buy the first time they see. And so, because most first-time authors aren’t known, they first have to become known. Then they can begin to sell books. Naturally this process takes time and perseverance.”

#3 The experts aren’t necessarily smarter than your gut.

It’s critical to find a publisher you can trust. But even when you do, continue to pay attention to your instincts.

“I had done a massive amount of research before I began this new journey,” said Mike. “But I dropped all of that wisdom and listened to the folks at the publishing house instead. In hindsight, I think my money could have been spent in better ways.”

With this experience under his belt, Mike is applying his lessons learned to his forthcoming second book in The Simple Little Rule series. “I’m returning to my own research and following my own avenues to radio shows, newspapers and magazines,” he said, undeterred in his commitment. “I’ll continue to develop the brand the way I originally would have.”

And this time, Mike has a different plan for his resources. “I’m keeping the funding much closer to home and among people I know and trust.” He smiled, adding, “I know better now.”

AuthorMike Ellerkamp is a life coach, inspirational speaker, and Houston chapter leader of the Nonfiction Authors Association. He is the author of The Simple Little Rule: The Golden Rule Rediscovered, in which he brings to life a profound tenet through five principles and shares his own spiritual, philosophical and historical journey along the way. Contact Mike for a book event or speaking engagement, or connect with him on his website, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

 

 

EllaElla Ritchie is the founder of Stellar Communications Houston, a business communications and book publishing team that brings clarity, quality, and integrity to nonfiction authors, business leaders, nonprofit organizations, and federal government agencies. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Facebook, or the website for more information.

The Power of Publishing Your “Big Why”

You wouldn’t guess the long, emotional journey that has driven Dr. Alanna Bree to establish A Children’s House for Pediatric Dermatology – nor its nonprofit counterpart, A Children’s House for the Soul. Her face only beamed joy as supporters streamed in the doors of The Health Museum in Houston. They were there to support the first annual happy hour fundraiser for the nonprofit. Bill Brown, the longtime voice of the Houston Astros, emceed an evening of tasty bites, signature cocktails, and auction items.

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But Dr. Alanna’s whole-hearted commitment was evident when speakers began sharing the impact of A Children’s House. A child life specialist explained the deep needs that the nonprofit fulfills in children and teens with skin disorders and birthmarks. A high school student with a rare genetic skin disorder talked about the respite from bullying that he enjoyed at the “Love The Skin You Are In” Family Days. A woman with a highly visible skin condition praised the nonprofit for helping her to embrace her unique beauty as a teenager. Through each speech, tears flowed quietly down Dr. Alanna’s face.

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This is her “big why.” Her whole purpose is to cultivate this healing and hope in the world – not only physically but also emotionally and spiritually.

This is what the whole evening was about. It was about more than what Dr. Bree does (care for children and teens with skin disease and birthmarks). It was also about more than how she does it (with compassionate, holistic care, flexibility, and reasonable prices). It was all about why she does it.

In his TEDx talk titled, “How great leaders inspire action,” marketing consultant Simon Sinek says this approach is what makes Dr. Alanna different from other physicians. You see, true leaders share their “big why” to inspire people to take action. Sinek says, “People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.”[1]

This is the reason Dr. Alanna just released, A Children’s House: A Small Story About a God-sized Dream. The 140-page autobiography chronicles her journey to becoming a pediatric dermatologist – and the four unmistakable words she heard from God that forever altered her course. She tells with honesty how she quit a successful but unsatisfying career to find her ultimate purpose and fulfillment. It’s a stunning read for everyone: medical students, professionals, believers, and nonbelievers alike.

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It’s also a stunning example of the power of sharing your “big why” with others. Dr. Alanna is communicating from “the inside out,” as Sinek calls it. She’s sharing the drive behind her cause, the whole reason her nonprofit exists. And it’s already making an impact.

As guests streamed out of the Health Museum, stakeholders stopped to tell Dr. Alanna that they were inspired by her message. Patients were grateful she hadn’t given up. Board members were surprised by their impact on her success. Dr. Alanna smiled at each of them. Now that they understand her “big why,” they are empowered to make a difference.

PubAuthor Portrait_editedElla Ritchie (left) is the founder of  Stellar Communications Houston, a business communications and book publishing team that brings clarity, quality, and integrity to nonfiction authors, business leaders, nonprofit organizations, and federal government agencies. Connect with the team on LinkedIn, Facebook, or the website for more information.

Alanna F. Bree, M.D., (right) is a board-certified pediatric dermatologist and owner of A Children’s House for Pediatric Dermatology, where she specializes in holistic care and effective treatments for skin conditions and birthmarks in infants, children, and teens. She is also the founder and executive director of a nonprofit organization, A Children’s House for the Soul, which provides social, emotional, and spiritual support for affected children and families in the Houston area. Connect with the clinic on Facebook and Twitter, or connect with the nonprofit on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

[1] Simon Sinek, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action,” TED, https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action#t-21349, accessed March 29, 2018.

Author Interview: Co-authors work up laughter and hope in a self-help gift book for unemployed readers

Front coverUnemployment was no laughing matter for Roni Elayne Singer and Nancy DePrimo Zuromski. They both endured the shock and sadness of losing a job at the same time, and now the duo – both back in the workforce  – are setting out to help others.

Front cover

They are co-authors of a new gift book, Over 50? Menopausal? You’re Fired!!! It’s the humorous tale of Penny Pinkslip, from the humiliating day that she is fired through the five stages of losing a job and to the triumphant moment of accepting a new offer. Packed with colorful drawings and practical tips, the purpose is to provide beneficial job seeking advice and equal doses of hope and laughter.

 

Here, Roni (pictured above left) and Nancy (above right) reveal more about their own experiences and their new book.

Let’s get straight to the heart of the matter. You call unemployment a “rocky road.” What was it like for you?

Roni: It was the worst time of my life. I’ve actually been through several layoffs, but it doesn’t get easier. In fact, each layoff was worse than the last. To make matters worse, my husband left me while I was unemployed, so I had to find a new place to live. I can’t image anything worse for one’s confidence and self-esteem.

Nancy: One of the drawings in the book shows Penny walking with shackles on her ankles. That is exactly how I felt during each layoff.Penny Pinkslip in shackles

What would you say was the worst part?

Nancy: For me, the worst was not being able to say goodbye to the many employees who were not only friends but extended family. And, of course, knowing my income was just slashed.

Roni: My lowest low was being escorted out of the building. It happened to me twice. I was treated like a criminal, walking through the corridors with everyone looking at me. It’s truly humiliating and demeaning.

Nancy: Yes. I was escorted out of one oil and gas building where I had worked for over 15 years, and I remember looking down at the white lines in the driveway on my way out, knowing I would never see them again. My son had painted those parking lines when he had “worked” alongside me during one of his summer breaks to learn office skills.

Roni: Unfortunately, the inhumane treatment doesn’t stop there. I was surprised to discover that some people in Human Resources are nice, but most don’t want anything to do with you until they need you. They didn’t return phone calls, and I never knew if they were considering me as an applicant or if they even received my application. It felt very disrespectful.

Do you have any take-aways from that difficult season?

Nancy: I was surprised to learn how many other women in administrative roles were in the same situation as myself. This ah-ha moment made me realize that I must advance my skills so that I may move into another type of employment. I also learned not to take the incident personally and to remember that this was only a business decision, not a failure on my part. And I’ve become confident in the fact that, while I may be over 50, I am capable to offer employers years of experience, common sense and dedication. I’m no longer constantly worried about being laid off because I have proven to myself time after time that I am able to brush off the lint and become employed again.

Roni: Having experienced the heartache of being over 50 and job searching, I am now much more compassionate and empathetic with those who are looking for a job. I’ve also learned patience because the wheels of hiring move very slowly. And I’ve found out that I’m stronger than I thought I was.

Of course, another take-away is this new books of yours! Tell us how such a great collaboration emerged from such a terrible time in your lives?

Roni: The idea for a book came up during what Nancy affectionately calls a “girlfriend check,” our way of staying in touch ever since we became instant friends in 2003 in a performing choral group. It was during one of these “girlfriend checks” that Nancy and I realized we were both facing unemployment at the same time.

Nancy: I mentioned that I had started writing a book about my job search, and Roni piped up that she had started writing a book on her job search too! From there, we compared notes and decided to collaborate.

Roni: For me, it started as emotional therapy, just writing down my thoughts. Then, I was able to put a humorous twist on it. After collaborating with Nancy, we found we really have something good here and that pushed us forward. We were able to take a terrible situation and put a funny twist on it and, at the same time, keeping it very real.

Nancy: We had a common bond of sadness over our circumstances, but it also felt natural to work together because our personalities, the way we see the world, and our senses of humor are so similar.

Speaking of your sense of humor, your title is pretty bold. How did you come to the decision to name it Over 50? Menopausal? You’re Fired!!!

Nancy: We wanted something that was both accurate and attention-grabbing. We’ve seen so many others in our same situation.

Roni: Even though we’re joking about menopause, all people over 50 will easily relate to the book. Many men have read the book – a few have even endorsed it – and they’ve found that even though they can’t relate to the hot flashes, they can definitely relate to the emotions of being laid off. Penny’s lessons are truly unisex.

The book has some great artwork. Tell us about that.

Roni: As a technical writer, I always use graphics to visually describe what I’m writing. So it was a no-brainer for me that this book must have great graphics. Our extremely talented illustrator, Kathy, did a fantastic job in capturing our message exactly.

Nancy: Yes, we wanted to show everything that Penny was going through, even down to lamenting the “dust bunnies” under her bed.

Penny Pinkslip cleaning dust bunnies.png

What was it like to publish your first book?

Nancy: Being close friends helped with the ups and downs. We agreed that no matter what happens with this venture, our friendship is what matters most. Successes come and go, but true friendship is priceless.

Roni: Yes, we’ve always been very consider of each other. If we think we said something hurtful, we always talked about it. We bounced ideas off each other and laughed a lot! I can’t think of a better co-author.

Nancy: That’s why no part of the process was difficult. Not like a colonoscopy – now that is difficult! Between Roni’s unbelievable writing ability and our continuous communication, sprinkled with some times of hesitation and laughter, we’ve been able to create a gift for others who find themselves in this situation.

What has been the most surprising thing about publishing?

Nancy, laughing: That it’s actually being published!

Roni: I love this book and am proud of what we’ve done. But as therapeutic as it has been, I’ve found that it still doesn’t take away the emotional and financial pain that was suffered during more than 2 ½ years of unemployment.

That’s why we love that you’re sharing hope and wisdom with others. Do you have a bit of wisdom you want to share here?

Roni: I found networking groups to be the most helpful. They reminded me that I was not alone, and the people there were always very supportive. They are the ones who kept me focused and sane through the process. That’s why I stay in touch with them even though I’m gainfully employed. I want to help others with their resumes and interviewing skills like others helped me. I don’t want anyone going through what I went through.

Nancy: I recommend online training exams similar to those offered through Houston Unemployment and most temporary employment agencies. Testing has always been difficult for me, especially when it’s a make-or-break exam to land employment! So being able to sit in the comfort and peace of my home and challenge myself, by myself, built my confidence so that taking the placement exams elsewhere was easier. I also want to mention that even after we become employed again, we should always be ready for the bottom to drop, even when things seem to be calm seas. Unfortunately, in this economy, no position is safe from downsizing.

Any parting words for your readers?

Roni: I hope you will be able to see yourselves in this book – to see that there is a happy ending coming.

Nancy: Yes. Even at the lowest time in your lives, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. As a Master Spiritual Healer, it is my hope that this book will bring enlightenment to those who may not be able to see the rainbow light at this time in their lives. You are not alone as long as you reach out to others for help.

Thank you, Roni and Nancy! We’re certainly not alone now that we have Penny in our lives. To read the hilarious (mis)adventures of Penny Pinkslip, or gift it to someone you care about, we invite you to visit the following links:

Purchase the book

Check out the book announcement

 

EllaElla Ritchie is the founder of Stellar Communications Houston, a business communications and book publishing team that brings clarity, quality, and integrity to nonfiction authors, business leaders, nonprofit organizations, and federal government agencies.  Connect with her on LinkedIn or Facebook, or check out the website for more information.

Roni Elayne Singer headshot

Roni Elayne Singer is a trainer and technical writer in Houston, Texas,
with two grown children and two grown dachshunds. She enjoys singing, playing piano, cooking and being with her family and friends. Over 50? Menopausal? You’re Fired!!! is her first book. You can find out more at https://www.pennypinkslip.com/ or by emailing  Roni at pennypinkslip@gmail.com.

 

Nancy DePrimo Zuromski headshotNancy DePrimo Zuromski  is a financial account representative and
lives with her husband in Kingwood, Texas. She has two grown sons, three grandchildren, three cats and enjoys spoiling her family. Over 50? Menopausal? You’re Fired!!! is her first book. You can find out more at https://www.pennypinkslip.com/ or by emailing  Nancy at pennypinkslip@gmail.com.