Scottoline and Lieber on Writing Columns -- and Books

By: Dave Astor Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Dave Lieber is doing pretty well as a self-published author, but does regret that one of his books didn't have as much content about dogs as the "Marley & Me" runaway bestseller by former Philadelphia Inquirer columnist John Grogan.

The book by Lieber -- also a former Inquirer staffer -- was "The Dog of My Nightmares." But despite the title, it had "only one chapter on a dog and the rest on people. Big mistake!," Lieber said during a Saturday session at the National Society of Newspaper columnists conference on columnists becoming authors (and vice versa).

Representing the vice versa side was panelist Lisa Scottoline, a lawyer and divorced single mother who struggled for five years to get a novel sold before becoming a best-selling author of legal thrillers. Then the lifelong Philadelphia-area resident approached the Inquirer about writing a column, and the paper started running her weekly "Chick Wit" feature this March.

Scottoline explained that she has admired columnists such as Ellen Goodman and Anna Quindlen over the years, and said to herself: "I wish I could be in the newspaper."

Meanwhile, Lieber is writing two "Watchdog" columns a week for the Star-Telegram, but still has time do give two or three local speeches a week. After talking, he mentions to the crowd that he has books available, and ends up selling about 30 per appearance.

Sales of "The Dog of My Nightmares" recently reached 10,000. And, since the self-published book costs only $1.50 a copy to print and sells for $10 a copy, Lieber makes a good income to supplement his Star-Telegram salary.

Lieber, Scottoline, and other panelists also said having their own Web sites is a great way to sell books and market themselves.

"A site is very important," said Scottoline. "You can put anything on there and make it reflect your personality." And when people e-mail her via the site, she writes back -- which may lead to more book sales from readers pleased that she took the time to respond.

Other panelists included author/"Bear's Den" columnist David Walks-As-Bear, who's also a game warden and private investigator; and Infinity Publishing Special Projects Director John Harnish.

Panel moderator Jennifer Weiner is also a former Inquirer reporter who became the author of novels such as "Good in Bed," "In Her Shoes" (which was turned into a movie), and "Little Earthquakes."


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