Category Archives: publishing

10 Steps To Hero: How To Craft A Kickass Protagonist OUT NOW

Most people think their hero is the most important character in their book. I argue it’s the villain. After all, the villain is – for the most part – the source of conflict in your story. And without conflict you don’t have a story. Conflict is your hero’s catalyst for change, which means it’s quite literally the holy grail of story telling.

So your villain is important. But surely your heroes are too?

Yes. Yes, they are.

Your hero is the lens through which your reader experiences your story. Without your hero there is no narrator, no filter for which the story can be told. It would be like going to the movies and wearing headphones and a blindfold.

That’s why I wrote 10 Steps To Hero: How To Craft A Kickass Protagonist.

And guess what?

It’s out today.

Grab my copy of 10 Steps To Hero

Want to know more? Read on…

After writing 13 Steps To Evil, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to write another non-fiction book. I wrote that book out of a passionate rant. An itch in my own personal villainous-shaped heart that needing scratching. I loved villains, and they were neglected by the plague of hero worshippers. But as time wore on, I realised two things:

  1. My passion for writing craft stretched further than just one character. My passion was becoming parasitic. I was obsessed with every part of the craft. I wanted to study and understand as much as I could. And if I was going to study obsessively, then why not share what I learn too? Thus, heroes was born. (I mean, as much as my ego wants to be a villain, I’m probably an anti-hero at best and even the greatest anti-heroes have to balance good and evil). As were a raft of other non-fiction book ideas… *stay tuned*
  2. I realised that despite my love for villains, heroes are just as vital to your novels as the villain.

What will you learn in 10 Step To Hero?

  • The most common mistakes writers make when designing their protagonist
  • What the web of story connectivity is and how to implement it in your own novels
  • What a hero is and isn’t and the foundations, traits, soul scars and aspects of personality you need to create depth
  • The myth behind archetypes, what they really are and how you can use them
  • Character arcs
  • How to craft killer conflict
  • Cliches and tropes
  • And my personal fave in Step 10 – The Hero Lens, what it is and how to maximise the use of it

And of course, much, much more.

Here’s the blurb

From cardboard cut-out to superhero in 10 steps.

Are you fed up of one-dimensional heroes? Frustrated with creating clones? Does your protagonist fail to capture your reader’s heart?

In 10 Steps To Hero, you’ll discover: 

+ How to develop a killer character arc

+ A step-by-step guide to creating your hero from initial concept to final page

+ Why the web of story connectivity is essential to crafting a hero that will hook readers

+ The four major pitfalls to avoid as well as the tropes your story needs

Finally, there is a comprehensive writing guide to help you create your perfect protagonist. Whether you’re writing your first story or you’re a professional writer, this book will help supercharge your hero and give them that extra edge.

These lessons will help you master your charming knights, navigate your way to the perfect balance of flaws and traits, as well as strengthen your hero to give your story the conflict and punch it needs.

First, there were villains, now there are heroes. If you like dark humor, learning through examples,and want to create the best hero you can, then you’ll love Sacha Black’s guide to crafting heroes.

Read 10 Steps To Hero today and start creating kick-ass heroes.

You can get your copy absolutely everywhere, TODAY, right now. You should probably go grab a copy… just saying.

Click the button/image to go to your favorite store.


Grab my copy of 10 Steps To Hero from a different store


Don’t forget to sign up to get your free 17-page cheat sheet to help you create superbad villains, as well as bonus tips and my latest book news by clicking the button below:

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The Burnout Bitch: writers beware

Here’s the thing. Burnout is inefficient. And there’s literally nothing I hate more than inefficiency. It’s my archnemesis. It slows me down, makes me angry and ragey, and mildly violent… (toward my keyboard)1

But worse, if you’re anything like me, you’re completely incapable of realizing you’re tired, let alone reaching the brink of total burnout. I’m blind to burnout. It’s like fighting a custom built invisible demon while blindfolded and strapped into a straight jacket. Suffice to say, I’ve probably gone through at least six months of piss poor writing performance, chronic exhaustion, a terrible mindset and insomnia. Because I know what’s useful when you’re tired, NOT SLEEPING.

Okay, I’ll wind my neck in because I like to be a sparkling ray of positivity here.


We all know I’m a scathingly cynical, intensely sarcastic rage-beast from the depths of your nightmares.  But that slight tangent aside, I do like to be helpful.

So here’s me being helpful:

Look, the only real way to get around burn out is to rest. And I mean really rest. The feet up, Game of Thrones binge watch type rest. But when was rest ever fun? If like me, you’d rather stick a fork in your eye than slow down, then here are some suggestions to help you re-focus and produce more.


I’ve talked at lengths about focus and productivity. There’s no one size fits all method for mastering productivity.

Except there actually is.

Forget the plague of ‘multitaskers’ and ‘plate spinners’ it’s all an illusion baby. They’re not really being productive, they’re giving themselves a one-way ticket to a fractured and overwhelmed mind and a severe case of cortisol-induced heart failure.

One task at a time people.


One book.

One story.

One word.

It’s the only way to be truly productive. Science and Cal Newport (author of Deep Work) says so. I’ve written about how narrowing your focus and just working on one task is better for your brain, for your productivity, and for your output

Newport’s point is that we’re plagued by notifications and distractions and minutia. It floods our tiny brains and nukes our ability to focus. No focus, no output. The point is, you need to purge yourself from being switched on all the time. Grasp the silence like the holy grail it is. It’s okay not to reply to comments or check every Facebook notification. The only thing you’re missing is Aunt Bessy’s missing cat and the shit replica of Jamie Oliver’s latest recipe that your long forgotten school friend attempted.

Silence is golden. So is one task.

You can get Cal’s book here: AmazonUK AmazonCOM


When you’re burned out, chances are, even a to-do list of three things is going to feel like an anvil to the head. It does for me. As soon as I’m tired (which is all the time), I slip into MUST DO ALL OF THE THINGS mode… Every tiny detail gets slapped on an obscene sized to do list and I stress and worry about all of them. Until I take a breath and remind myself that no one is going to die if an Instagram photo isn’t taken, or if I haven’t tweeted, or set up a new AMS ad.

What’s the big picture here?

No books, no sales. No sales, no full-time writing.


Words are always the priority. Everything else can wait.


Ask yourself what are the things only you can do? Realistically its anything that involves your creativity i.e. your books, your podcast, speaking gigs etc. Everything else can be done by others. If you’re on the brink of burn out, then seriously, it’s time to ask for help. Get a cleaner, find a Virtual Assistant, splurge on scheduling software, get an accountant. Whatever, but it’s time to accept you’re not a superhero and you need help.

Collaboration is efficient. You’ll do more in less time.

It’s okay to ask for help.


You know what else is okay?

Not to be okay.

I mean it. Writers are so hard on themselves. We’re expected to churn out words, market like a machine, hold down day jobs, mom like a master and still be a sane spouse. We’re just one person. We can’t do everything, we can’t run houses and full-time jobs and author businesses and still be resolutely positive. And if you can, take your candyfloss colored cheer pants over to the corner and face the wall.

It’s okay not to wear your big girl pants. Accept that you’re not okay, let the feelings exist, and then, when you’re ready, pick yourself up and soldier on.

Oh, and try meditation.

Who else has suffered from burnout? Let me know in the comments – what top tips do you have for recovery?


  1. No keyboards have been harmed… although they may have been sworn at, smeared in coffee and had sugar crumbs smushed into their crevasses.


If you want awesome writing tips, you can grab a copy of my book 13 Steps To Evil – How to Craft Superbad Villains. Click this link and tap the logo of your reading device or regular bookshop and it will take you to the right page. You can also get a FREE villains cheatsheet by joining my mailing list just click here.

You can also find me on  Instagram, FacebookTwitterPinterestGoodreads

On Rejection

Recently I had the privilege of reading a book proposal which the author shared in hopes of being published. It was a beautifully written treatise, well structured, nicely paced, logically argued, and thoroughly researched. The author had clearly poured time, thought, and years of lived experience into the text. The topic had relevance for our professional UX design audience, and the reading experience of the proposal alone was entertaining.

We turned it down.

I publish books, and it turns out the main job of a publisher is deciding which books not to publish. Accordingly, we give strong consideration to quite a large number of book submissions—and reject more than a few of them.

A few of these books are clearly targeted at A Book Apart’s readers. Some suffer from structural or conceptual problems. Others are too niche to interest more than a handful of readers.

But many submissions we receive are from qualified authors who are familiar with our catalog and mission. Many of these writers are subject matter experts, and stylists with distinctive voices and particular points of view. They know how to design narratives that engage the heart and persuade the mind. They write books that deserve to be read. When we decline to pursue even some of these proposals, it is not because there’s necessarily anything wrong with them. It’s because they don’t fit into our particular series of brief books for people who design, build, and write web and digital content. It’s because they’re good—but not for us.

Love means having to say you’re sorry

Over the years we have turned down more than a few gorgeously articulated proposals. In one case we even had to say no to a beautifully written, fully finished book. Some of these works found other publishers, others got self-published. Several books we rejected have gone on to be quite successful. And their authors’ success thrills us.

Here’s a secret. In most cases, we’ve turned down the successful ones knowing in advance that they would be successful. Do this long enough and you get pretty good at knowing when a submitted manuscript has genuine breakout potential.

So why did we turn down books we knew would sell? Because, again—they weren’t quite right for us.

The loneliness of the long-distance publisher

At least four books we’ve rejected in the past few years were written by friends and colleagues of mine. It hurt to say no to these people. I dread conflict and am even more fearful of inflicting pain. I love my friends. If one of them comes to us with a solid book idea, I want more than anything to be able to say yes. But these beautiful, elegant, useful books didn’t fit into our schema. They weren’t right for our audience. And for a small trade press like us, that’s what matters most.

Respecting those constraints is what makes us who we are; over time, it’s what builds the brand our audience comes to trust. For a publishing house brand, rejection over time equals design. It’s as important to our brand as the content we choose to help shape and publish. You can rejection as whitespace.

We’re not trying to be the most popular publisher in design and tech. We don’t even sell through Amazon because, although it might broaden our reach, it would impair our ability to pay our authors fairly. A Book Apart is a particular canon for a particular audience. It’s both a brand and a curriculum.

Ensuring that we only publish material that fits both criteria—while also ensuring that every book we publish has a unique authorial voice that comes through, and that every book we publish is both thought-provoking and useful—is our job. It’s also the job of other deliberately small design and UX publishers whose books you may know and love. (Waves to friendly competitors.)

As a good designer, developer, or editor, you work like hell so your customers/users/readers don’t have to. Publishing books is the same.

Keep those cards and letters coming in

Don’t fear the Reaper. Authors, keep those proposals coming in. We strive to say yes to books that belong in our curriculum.

And if you’ve sent us a proposal that ultimately wasn’t for us, don’t be afraid to try again if you write something new—and most importantly, believe in yourself and keep writing.

The post On Rejection appeared first on Zeldman on Web & Interaction Design.

L.A. Times CEO Under Investigation Over Allegations of Sexual Harassment

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The parent company of the Los Angeles Times is investigating allegations of inappropriate behavior by Ross Levinsohn, the newspaper’s CEO and publisher.

The company, Tronc, began the investigation Thursday after a National Public Radio story detailed two sexual harassment lawsuits that named Levinsohn while he worked at Alta Vista and News Corp, as well as complaints from employees who said he fostered a fraternity-like atmosphere.

“We are immediately launching an investigation so that we have a better understanding of what’s occurred,” a company statement said. “At Tronc, we expect all employees to act in a way that supports a culture of diversity and inclusion. We will take appropriate action to address any behavior that falls short of these expectations.”

Levinsohn, who was given the job in August, has not been suspended.

He did not comment to NPR for its story but the network said Levinsohn called NPR CEO Jarl Mohn on Wednesday and said the allegations against him are lies. He declined comment to The Associated Press.

One of the sexual harassment lawsuits named Levinsohn and other executives at internet search engine Alta Vista, NPR reported. In testimony, Levinsohn acknowledged that when he was a vice president there in 2001 he rated the relative “hotness” of female colleagues during office banter with other male employees, and speculated aloud about whether a woman who worked for him was a stripper on the side.

Another lawsuit, filed in 2007, alleged that Levihnson and other executives at News Corp., then the parent company of several Fox television properties, allowed a culture of sexual harassment to flourish.

Both lawsuits were settled for undisclosed amounts.

Former colleagues also told NPR that in 2013 Levinsohn used a gay slur to describe the crowd at a luncheon for Hollywood stylists to an executive at the Hollywood Reporter.

The investigation comes a day before the National Labor Relations Board is set to announce the results of a vote by Times employees on forming the newspaper’s first union.

Members of the union organizing committee said they were “appalled” by NPR’s findings.

“Ross Levinsohn should resign or be fired immediately,” a committee statement said. “Tronc and its board of directors must be held accountable for their failure to properly vet Levinsohn for one of the most important positions at the company and in American journalism.”

© Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed

Christmas Calendar 2017 #6

I am good at starting and making plans to seek the truth about my goals. Where I get stuck is finishing them off. I am often distracted along the way by great excuses, but they don’t help.

The main truth I want to achieve in 2018 is to be a published writer. In order to get there I need to focus on completing the editing phase and pluck up the courage to hand my manuscript over to my publisher. It has come along way since the first draft many years ago, so let’s bring on its time to shine.


The post Christmas Calendar 2017 #6 appeared first on INSPIRING MAX.

Trump Wrangles With Time Magazine Over Person of the Year Choice

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump says he’s not playing ball with Time magazine as it decides its Person of the Year. The magazine counters that Trump has it all wrong.

In a tweet Friday as he spent the Thanksgiving holiday in Florida, Trump sounded dismissive of the honor he received last year and could well receive again.

He tweeted: “Time Magazine called to say that I was PROBABLY going to be named ‘Man (Person) of the Year,’ like last year, but I would have to agree to an interview and a major photo shoot. I said probably is no good and took a pass. Thanks anyway!”

Time later posted a tweet of its own disputing Trump’s account: “The President is incorrect about how we choose Person of the Year. TIME does not comment on our choice until publication, which is December 6.”

Trump frequently brags about appearing on the cover of the iconic magazine. He has falsely claimed to hold the record for cover appearances.

Time’s Person of the Year is defined by the weekly as “a person (or people) who has had the most influence over the news in the last 12 months.” Awarded since 1927, the accolade has gone to a wide variety of people — even Adolf Hitler, in 1938, and Joseph Stalin, in 1939 and 1942.

© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed

Tom Brady’s Formula For Peak Performance

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — It’s not an accident that NFL star Tom Brady has remained among the best in the game from the playing fields of Serra High School in San Mateo to Super Bowl glory with the New England Patriots.

Brady has left nothing to chance when it comes performing at the peak of his ability.

In his new book – “The TB12 Method: How to Achieve a Lifetime of Sustained Peak Performance” – Brady gives an inside view to the regimes of his everyday life that keeps him at the top of the game.

tb book Tom Brady’s Formula For Peak Performance

In an interview with CBS’ Norah O’Donnell, Brady gave a glimpse at the diet.

O’Donnell: “What about coffee?”

Brady: “I’ve never tied it.”

O’Donnell: “Salt?”

Brady: “A little bit.”

O’Donnell: “Sugar?”

Brady: “On occasion.”

O’Donnell: “Dairy?”

Brady: “Almost never. Unless it is really good ice cream.”

Brady’s new book from Simon & Schuster (a division of CBS) arrives at bookstores on Sept. 19 and also is available as a audiobook on

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