Tag Archives: books

Freelancers weigh in on what it takes to successfully write a book at #AHCJ17

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health and the author of "Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America." She can be reached at mary@healthjournalism.org.

Photo: Len Bruzzese/AHCJFreelance journalists take notes during a panel that focused on writing books.

“Can you afford to write a book?”

This question keeps many journalists awake at night. It also served as the title for a compelling panel discussion at Health Journalism 2017.

The harsh and rewarding realities of taking on a book project – from the original moment of inspiration to the promotion of the final product – were explored by experts, including publishing industry veteran Amanda J. Moon. Continue reading

Sullivan, autobiography recognized with NAACP Image Award

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

Photo: Len Bruzzese/AHCJ

Photo: Len Bruzzese/AHCJ

Louis W. Sullivan, who spoke to Health Journalism 2014 attendees about his just-released autobiography, has won an NAACP Image Award for the book.

Sullivan, the founding dean of the Morehouse School of Medicine – the first predominantly black medical school – served as secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under President George H.W. Bush from 1989-93. Continue reading

E-books may become new outlet for journalists

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

This is a guest post by Stephen Beale, an AHCJ member and editor of Bulldog Reporter’s Inside Health Media and news editor of Bulldog Reporter.

Interest in e-books is soaring as Kindles, Nooks and iPads fly off the shelves and readers increasingly consume content in digital formats. For journalists, the e-book marketplace also provides an intriguing new way to reach their audiences. With this in mind, the San Francisco Bay Area AHCJ chapter sponsored a panel discussion, “E-Books: New Opportunities for Health Journalists?” at the San Francisco offices of Yoga Journal on Nov. 12. About 20 people attended.

I was one of the panelists and served as moderator. Many AHCJ members know me as the editor of Bulldog Reporter’s Inside Health Media, but my background is in technology journalism, specifically the use of technology in publishing and graphic design. I figured this placed me in a good position to provide an overview of the topic, especially as it relates to self-publishing.

Joining me on the panel were Jim Azevedo, Angela Schiavone and Katrina Ramser Parrish. Azevedo and Schiavone work for Smashwords, which describes itself as the world’s largest distributor of “indie e-books.” Parrish provided a real-world perspective as the self-published author of “Fears to Fins: Overcoming Water Fears With Children.”

My own presentation covered a lot of ground, and rather than going into the details here, I’ve adapted my comments into an e-book that’s available for free download (details are below).

Some key points from the meeting:

E-books are just the latest in a long succession of media technologies that have proved to be empowering but also disruptive. Perhaps the most dramatic example is the World Wide Web, which has upended the business models that supported print media. But I think e-book publishing has the potential to be disruptive in a way that’s beneficial to journalists. It enables a new book-publishing model in which you can deal directly with online retailers and earn a 60 percent to 70 percent royalty on your sales. The tools are readily accessible – all you need is a web browser and a program capable of producing Microsoft Word documents.

As you might expect, there’s also a downside. You’ll find a lot of self-published crap out there, and this includes the health category.

Azevedo put it this way: “When people ask, ‘What’s the best thing about Smashwords?’ we say, ‘We make it fast, free and easy for any author anywhere in the world to publish and distribute a book.’ When they ask, ‘What’s the worst thing about Smashwords?’ we give them the same answer.”

Aside from having a good book, the key to success in e-book publishing boils down to marketing. The author becomes the publisher and takes responsibility for drawing attention to the book on Amazon.com and other marketplaces. No doubt, this will be a new experience for many journalists, but you can find plenty of guidance on websites and in e-books such as the free “Smashwords Book Marketing Guide.”

So far, the biggest success stories in independent e-book publishing have come from the world of fiction. The most notable example is Amanda Hocking, who began self-publishing her fantasy novels in 2010 at the age of 25. Her titles proved to be popular, and a year later she signed a $2 million book deal with St. Martin’s Press.

Her story is an exception, however. Smashwords founder Mark Coker cautions that “some Smashwords authors don’t sell a single book. Some authors sell thousands of dollars’ worth of books each week. … Authors should publish their books on Smashwords not because they’ll make a lot of sales today, but as a long-term investment in their writing career.”

Ramser Parrish has worked for many years as a swimming instructor and freelance writer, so publishing an e-book on swimming “was a natural combination for me,” she told attendees. One decision that e-book authors have to make is which tasks to do themselves versus hiring outside services, and Ramser Parrish largely opted for the latter. She gave shout-outs to production consultant Damon Brown, copy editor (and AHCJ member) Heather Boerner and Jux.com, an online service that makes it relatively easy to set up a website (Editor’s note: This service no longer exists.). She published her e-book via Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program.

“Marketing I did myself,” she said, though much of this has been to her existing clientele. Her book appeared in April, and sales so far have been modest but steady, she says.

My day job largely involves interviewing health journalists, including freelancers. I know from these conversations that many freelancers are struggling, and e-books seem to hold potential as a new source of business for these writers and for health journalists in general. It’s still a new category, and we’re definitely at the frontier stage. But my hope is that in future years we’ll find that e-book publishing success stories become more common not just among fiction writers, but health journalists as well.

My presentation, “E-Books: New Opportunities for Health Journalists?” is available for free download in MOBI and EPUB formats:

AHCJ member news: Books, awards and job changes

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

Luis Fabregas‘ new book, “A Transplant for Katy,” takes the reader behind the scenes of the transplant capital of the world, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, where college student Katy Miller underwent a liver transplant. The 2005 surgery went awry, prompting a feud between Thomas Starzl, known as the father of transplantation, and administrators at the medical center. Fabregas is a reporter at the Pittsburgh (Pa.) Tribune-Review.

Steve Fredman‘s book, “The Troubled Health Dollar: How it Affects the Care We Receive,” has been published.

Kenny Goldberg, health reporter at KPBS, received the 2012 Inspiration Award for Media from the San Diego Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness for his coverage of suicide.

Joe Goldeen, health care reporter at The Record in Stockton, Calif., received the 2012 Media Champion Award from the Healthy San Joaquin Collaborative “in recognition of … contributions to changes that promote, support and encourage healthy choices and environments in San Joaquin County communities.”

Journalist Frederik Joelving ‏ is leaving Reuters Health to travel and do long-form journalism.

Richard L. Peck, former editor-in-chief of Long-Term Living, has written a book, “The Big Surprise,” that advises families on dealing with the long-term care system. He describes it as “a small book of readable, bite-sized blogs updated from ones I did originally for the facility search site SnapForSeniors.com.”

Maria Simbra‘s report, “Heart Attack Survivors At Risk for Developing PTSD”, has been nominated in the 2nd Annual Media & Mental Health Awards in the TV news segment category. The Media & Mental Health Awards are presented to stories that accurately report behavioral health within television, radio, print, and online media in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Jocelyn Wiener and Emily Bazar of the CHCF Center for Health Reporting received a California Journalism Award for stories they did about a lack of access to dental care for children under Medicaid in California.

Do you have news to share with your fellow journalists? Send it to info@healthjournalism.org for a future blog post.

AHCJ members tackle job changes, book publishing and earn awards

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

Health journalists have been busy, with a number of job changes, awards and new books out. Here’s the latest news about AHCJ members:


Conscious Living TV recently launched its latest media platform: taxi screens in New York City, Chicago, Boston and Seattle. Bianca Alexander is a correspondent/executive producer of the news show about the eco-movement.

Joe Carlson (@MHJCarlson) has a new beat covering legal affairs for Modern Healthcare magazine. He received the print journalism award this summer for best story in trade-circulation category from the National Institute for Health Care Management Research and Educational Foundation for his 2010 story, “Bad for Business.”

Bob Mitchell has been named editor at CMIO Magazine, based in Providence, R.I. The online and print publication reaches chief medical information officers.

The Oakland Tribune ran Beatrice Motamedi‘s three-part series on inner-city teens and stress, called “The Long Arm of Childhood,” on the front page for three days in May and June. The series was a project of the California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships at USC/Annenberg.

Following the terrorist attacks in 2011, PJ Noonan found families who had babies born on Sept. 11, 2001, and told the stories of six of them in USA Weekend. For the 10th anniversary, Noonan located the six children and their parents for a feature in the Sept. 11, 2011, issue of USA Weekend.

Marie Powers has joined BioWorld Today as a staff writer. With 15 years on the health care beat, Powers will cover breaking news on public and private companies for the biotechnology industry’s daily newspaper and contribute to affiliated reports.

Jennifer Ringler has started the master of science in health communication program at Boston University. She is the volunteer associate director, grants and media relations, for the International Cancer Advocacy Network.

HealthNewsReview.org publisher Gary Schwitzer, who is a member of the FDA’s Risk Communication Advisory Committee, contributed a chapter on health care journalism to the FDA’s new “Communicating Risks and Benefits:  An Evidence-Based User’s Guide.”  Australian journalist Melissa Sweet has written a review of the guide.


Health columnist LJ Anderson won second place for her Palo Alto Daily News’ feature columns in the 2011 Greater Bay Area Journalism Awards, sponsored by the San Francisco Peninsula Press Club.

WebMD’s Daniel J. DeNoon, senior medical writer, Laura J. Martin, M.D., and Sean Swint, executive editor, won a 2010 Sigma Delta Chi Award for Online Deadline Reporting (Affiliated) for “Gene Test, Preventive Surgery Save Women’s Lives.”

Steven Kussin, M.D., has opened a community-based, non-academic Shared Decision Center. His book, “Doctor, Your Patient Will See You Now” was published on Aug. 28.

Maryn McKenna, an independent journalist and an AHCJ board member, won a 2011 Science in Society Journalism Award, sponsored by the National Association of Science Writers, for her book “Superbug: The Fatal Menace of MRSA” (Free Press).

Jennifer Meckles, who recently began a job at WBIR-Knoxville, Tenn., as a multimedia journalist, won a Mark of Excellence Award from the Society of Professional journalists in the Television News General Reporting category for “New Signs for Boomer Eyes,” a piece about the government changing road sign policies due to the failing eyesight of the Baby Boomer generation. She was a finalist in the Television News In-Depth Reporting category for “Target 8: Fulton Hospital,” an investigation into a maximum security Missouri prison and mental rehabilitation center.

HealthSource and Florida Doctor – North magazines, published by Beson4 Media Group, were honored by the Florida Magazine Association. HealthSource received a Charlie Award for Writing Excellence in Best Service Coverage for its November 2010 diabetes issue. Florida Doctor – North received a Bronze Award for General Excellence in Best Overall Magazine/Trade/Technical for its August 2010, January 2011 and February 2011 issues. Vanessa Wells is the editor at Beson4 Media Group.


William “Lee” Dubois‘ book, “Diabetes Warrior: Be your own knight in shining armor. How to stay healthy and happy with diabetes,” has been published.

John Hacker, managing editor at The Carthage (Mo.) Press, and Randy Turner have written “5:41: Stories from the Joplin Tornado.” It is Hacker’s story about covering the tornado, along with stories from other survivors and obituaries for the 160 people who died.

Harriet Hodgson, B.S., M.A., an independent journalist based in Rochester, Minn., has just had her 29th and 30th books published. “Happy Again! Your New and Meaningful Life After Loss” was published by Centering Corporation in Omaha. “Real Meals on 18 Wheels: A Guide for Healthy Living on the Highway,” is a nutrition book for truckers written with Kathryn Clements, R.D.  The seed money for the project came from a major trucking company and the pair self-published it using CreateSpace.

Dave Parks, a freelance journalist in Birmingham, Ala., has just authored a book published through Apress, “Health Care Reform Simplified.” It describes the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, translating the law’s complex language into terms that are easy to understand. Parks blogs about health care reform.

Launching Your Dietetics Career” (American Dietetic Association, 2011) is the sixth book written by D. Milton Stokes, M.P.H., R.D., C.D.N. It explains the pathway to becoming a registered dietitian and features more than a dozen interviews with professionals in the field. Stokes is working toward a doctorate degree in health communication from the University of Connecticut.

Reading lists for health care journalists

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

In her column for Generations Beat Online, AHCJ member Eileen Beal offers a reading list for health journalists and focuses on two books in particular that she believes will help prepare reporters for the first wave of baby boomers, which will hit Medicare next year (scroll down to item 4, “Beal’s Beat”).

bookPhoto by Beverly & Pack via Flickr.

The subjects these books cover, doctors’ decisions and statistics, are broad enough to be useful to even those journalists not focused on aging coverage.

Her suggestions include “How Doctors Think,” by Harvard professor and oncologist Jerome Groopman, and “Know Your Chances: Understanding Health Statistics.

In an e-mail separate from her column, Beal pointed out that Covering Health readers also might be interested in an edited, ranked and extensive list of health resource books compiled by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality that includes general and specific offerings.