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Did your editor actually deliver what they promised?

Having  begun my publishing career as a professional editor, I’ve written a number of posts about how important editing is to your success as an author. Whether it’s your first book or your twenty-first, you’ve got to pay for editing if you intend to make the best book you can. I realize that many authors are struggling to budget time and money to get their books published. Sure, 3 cents a word sounds like a LOT of money, especially when you’re talking about a 100,000-word novel. But you get what you pay for – and if you want a book that’s not only error free, but that makes sense, follows a logical story arc, and is eminently readable, you will spend the money.

money with red pen

Editing fees vary wildly, but the pros I know (myself included) run from about 2.5 cents/word to 8 cents/word. And depending on your work, you may need several rounds of editing: content editing (developing the story); line editing (making sure you’re using the right tenses, word choices, syntax); and proofreading (eliminating typos and misspellings). Most authors go with one editor for everything – and this can be a mistake. You need someone other than yourself – even if they’re not a professional – to read the final proof after it has been typeset.

Typesetting means moving the document out of Microsoft Word or Pages into a book design program like InDesign. When the text is pasted into the design program, all formatting is lost and must be re-created. Things like bold, italics, and all caps must be reformatted in the design program. Additionally, the cut-and-paste operation likely happens in pieces, leaving open the possibility for dropped words or phrases. If you’re going to publish a professional book, you will have a proofreader go over the book after it’s been laid out – not while it’s still a Word doc that has many iterations still to go.

So here’s the million dollar question: How do you know you’ve received your money’s worth from your editor/proofreader?

I recently read two books by local authors I know personally. One was a magnificent story told with lyrical writing that literally took my breath away at times. And I was unable to give it a 5-star review because it had enough typos in it that it wasn’t a perfect read. They were small things, like inconsistent use of the Oxford comma (either use it or don’t – just be consistent about it) and occasional use of the nonexistent word alright – things many a reader might have missed or overlooked. Still, it was enough to stop me at times. The other one may be a good story, but it has so many typos, misspellings, omitted words, and wrong words (e.g., sequenced when the word should have been sequined) that it is virtually unreadable. I am unable to get past the mistakes long enough to see the story or care what happens to the characters. I headed to Amazon to see what others thought about the book. There are only two reviews so far, and both are 5-start reviews – which makes me think those reviewers must be friends of the author.

Both authors paid for alleged professional editing. And, I presume, they thought they were getting an even exchange – quality work in exchange for whatever fees they paid. Not knowing how much each paid, I can’t say who took the bigger hit – but I have a guess. One used an editor “who came highly recommended through Bay Area Independent Publishers group.” The other used a local guy who is known for being fast and inexpensive. Surprise that the BAIP-recommended gal didn’t deliver – not so much with the guy who promises to beat anyone else’s prices.

I contacted each author and gave them my feedback – and explained my hesitancy to write reviews of their books as I had read them. I wouldn’t typically have said anything to the authors, but both of them personally asked me to review their books. That means they opened themselves up to my professional advice, so I provided it honestly. I made suggestions to the first author about simple ways to nudge my review of his book from 4 stars to 5. I told the second author I recommended he pay for another professional edit/proofing (with a different editor/proofreader) before sending his book out for any further reviews.

So back to our question: How do you know you’ve received your money’s worth from your editor/proofreader?

This is something of a troubling conundrum. One would expect professional writers to recognize mistakes like tense and subject/verb incongruities, but some don’t. And it’s reading out loudparticularly difficult to see errors in your own work – in large part because you’ve spent so much time with it and are so close to it that it’s easy to read over the mistakes, to add in the missing word and just keep going. So one thing I would advise is that an author read their work out loud, after the final proofreading has occurred. That’s when you notice everything, because you’re reading to speak, not skimming or assuming. So missing words jump off the page at you. Wrong tenses catch your ear. Of course, this won’t help if you don’t already know that the correct spelling is always all right.

Secondly, you’ve paid a professional to edit your work – but now you need to find a trusted friend, track down your high school English teacher, or locate someone in your circle who earned an English degree prior to the turn of the century and have them read your book. If they don’t have the time (or want to be paid for the task) to read the whole book, have them spot-check different chapters and sections. Make sure your editor didn’t go gangbusters at the start, and then rush to finish and do a shoddy job on the last three chapters.

Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, editing will probably be the most expensive aspect of your publishing process. Make sure you budget well – and then, double-check to be certain the editor/proofreader delivered as promised.

Laura

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Recycle your clothes and your ideas – it’s National Thrift Shop Day!

No one would ever accuse me of being a fashionista. I have lots of clothes – but I honestly cannot remember the last item (other than delicates) that I bought new, because I predominantly shop thrift stores and resale shops. It’s not about affording new clothes and other items – although I’ve never been a brand-name shopper – as much as it is the recycling, giving still-usable goods new life, and the thrill of finding something completely unexpected.

thrifting

After we recently moved house, some of the things I came across during my thrift shopping included:

  • Tea kettle – $4
  • 6-bottle wine rack – $5
  • 6 curtains – $12
  • Like-new air popcorn popper – $4
  • Coffee grinder – $5
  • Pair of shorts for my husband & 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle – 54 CENTS!

As it happens, today is National Thrift Shop Day. I don’t know about your community, but thrift stores are popping up everywhere in the Phoenix area.

NARTS, the Association of Resale Professionals, reports that the resale industry in the U.S. has buffalo exchangeannual revenues of about $16 billion, including antique stores. In that same article, NARTS references Buffalo Exchange, a resale clothing store that began in Tucson, Arizona (home of my alma mater, the University of Arizona). The company got its start with a 450-square-foot shop in 1974, and has grown to 45 stores, plus three franchises, in 17 states. It employs more than 700 people and had annual revenues of $81.6 million in 2012. Amazing! I used to live around the corner from the store that was its second home, on Helen Street, near the UA campus.

The thing about Buffalo Exchange is that it really is a place for people who know fashion. If that’s your world, you’ll probably be thrilled to talk shop with the knowledgeable staff and offer your trendy or vintage clothes for consignment. I am not such a person, so trying to sell clothes there has always caused me a bit of trepidation. I did have a great victory back in college, though, when the (snooty?) Buffalo Exchange buyer paid me $6 for a top I had made from a Simplicity pattern on the little Singer I kept in my dorm room.

Founded by an entrepreneurial husband-and-wife team, Kerstin and Spencer Block, Buffalo Exchange was a trendsetter. After Spencer passed away, his wife and daughter compiled some of his writing into an ebook called The Way of the Buffalo, in which they share “the funny, poignant, and always down-to-earth insights of a truly alternative entrepreneur whose values keep Buffalo Exchange the vibrant and ever-changing company it is today.”

Here are just the tip of the iceberg, 10 Basic Beliefs and Values of Buffalo Exchange:

way of buffalo

This is not a perfect book, by any means. But it’s a thoughtful book and a labor of love that preserves the best of the concepts that enabled the tiny acorn of a dream to grow and flourish into a multimillion-dollar business.

It’s certainly not the first time a brand has used a book to further its mission and message:

  • In October 2014, Renaissance Hotels released a coffee table book, The Art of Discovery, in partnership with the Creative Coalition, a social and political advocacy organization for the entertainment industry. The volume features 100 celebrities sharing their personal stories of discovery. The hotel chain’s goal with the book is bring to life its tagline, urging travelers to “Live life to discover.”
  • In April 2011, Pam Gaber published Gabriel’s Angels: The Story of the Dog Who Inspired a Revolution, about the work she and her Weimaraner did to launch the pet therapy field for abused, neglected, and abandoned children.
  • Back in 2009, I met Gary Kadi, the entrepreneurial dentist and author of Million Dollar Dentistry, a book that coaches dentists to transform and grow their practices.

For a business owner or entrepreneur with a success story to share, a book may be one of the very best ways to do that. And it doesn’t have to be long to be effective. It doesn’t even have to be printed to reach the masses, although printing is easier and less expensive than it’s ever been – so it’s probably a good idea to do both an ebook and a printed book.

If you’re ready to explore how easy it really is to write and publish your book, talk to us! We can walk you through the outlining and writing process, editing, cover design, and formatting your book for both print and ebook. And when it comes to marketing, we’ve got the knowhow to get your books into readers’ hands.

Why not recycle the ideas that brought you so much joy, satisfaction, and success – and put some extra money in your pocket in the process?

Laura

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SOURCES:
http://www.buffaloexchange.com/about-us

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/13/business/media/renaissance-hotels-lives-up-to-its-brand-name-by-sponsoring-a-book.html?_r=2

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________Anatomy of a Book Launch

If you’re getting ready to launch your book and would like help to put together a successful event, download my free special report: Anatomy of a Book Launch. Then CALL me at 602.518.5376 to schedule your complimentary 15-minute consultation. It’s never too early to begin planning!

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Increase your exposure: Buy your own book on Amazon!

My longest-term client publishes a holistic health newspaper, known online as Natural Healing News. One of the most significant features of the paper, known in print as AZ Networking News, has been its bimonthly publication of book and movie reviews. The books my client receives from authors all over the world run the gamut from very badly self-published editions to gorgeous hardback books from larger players in the traditional publishing world – and everything in between. It was a natural fit for her to create an online bookstore through which to offer links to the books’ Amazon pages.

As we were uploading the articles for the August/September 2015 issue of the newspaper to the website earlier this week – and creating Amazon links for the books and music – I was reminded of a very simple, yet potentially effective marketing idea I learned from my friend and promoter extraordinaire, Raleigh Pinsky.

Q What happens whenever you look at a book – or purchase a book – on Amazon?secrets - new

AYou are shown a string of other titles under the heading: “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought.”

Just for demonstration purposes, I searched for one of the best books I’ve ever read, Secrets of Attraction, by Sandra Anne Taylor. As soon as I clicked the title link, I scrolled down a little to reveal the following:

also bought

You’ll likely notice something about the books: they’re all very similar in theme to the book in my original search.

Assuming your book is on Amazon – and I COMPLETELY understand if it is not – next time you purchase a book (or other product) on Amazon, buy a copy of your own book, too. That way, the next time someone even looks at the book you bought, they’ll see your book come up under: Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought. This has the potential to expose your book to people who might not be seeking it, but might have an interest. And depending on your contract with Amazon, if they buy your book you’ll probably get something back on the deal.

Here’s to getting more eyeballs on your book!

Laura

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ANSWERS to Tuesday’s Trivia Questions

In Tuesday’s post, Word Trivia: Which Author Coined Which Word?, I promised to post the answers to the trivia question today. Without further ado, I give you…

1.      William Shakespeare is said to have first written bedazzled in The Taming of trivia answersthe Shrew.

2.      Ernest Hemingway is credited with the first English use of cajones.

3.      John Milton gave us pandemonium, the capital of Hell in Paradise Lost.

4.      Sir Walter Scott first used freelance in Ivanhoe.

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________Anatomy of a Book Launch

If you’re getting ready to launch your book and would like help to put together a successful event, download my free special report: Anatomy of a Book Launch. Then CALL me at 602.518.5376 to schedule your complimentary 15-minute consultation. It’s never too early to begin planning!

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Word Trivia: Which Author Coined Which Word?

Some girlfriends and I got together the other night, united in one goal: be the evening’s Masters of Trivia! Out of nine teams competing in Team Trivia at CHARR American Burger Bar, we came in 3rd place. Not bad for a ragtag group of gals. One of our team knew that the father of Krusty the Clown (of Simpsons fame) was a rabbi. Another knew that Ole Evinrude was the inventor of the outboard motor. Through a team effort, we determined that retired U.S. women’s soccer star Mia Hamm is married to retired MLB pitcher, Nomar Garciaparra.

Marcie team trivia

The one that stumped us was the final trivia question. We were tied for 3rd place and were able to wager up to 15 points. As in Final Jeopardy, however, if we wagered and were incorrect, we’d lose all the points we’d bet.

Time, now, for you to test your own knowledge of etymology. I will post our final trivia question, as it was asked. Feel free to make your own stab at the answer in the OneSmartCookieComments section below. Of course, I’m hoping the honor system is still alive and well. One condition of Team Trivia is that Google, phoning a friend, and cell phones in general are disallowed because – duh! – it’s unsportsmanlike. I’ll have no way of knowing whether or not you cheated – but I hope Marcie’s readers are an honorable bunch. No prizes for the right answers – just the satisfaction of knowing you’re one smart cookie. I will post the answers at the end of Thursday’s blog post (8/13/15).

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Which of the authors listed below [all men, I noted] created the adjacent words. Please note, there are 5 authors and 4 words – meaning you won’t use one of the authors for your answer. In order for your answer to be “correct,” you must accurately identify the creators of all 4 words.

1. Charles Dickens a. freelance
2. Ernest Hemingway b. pandemonium
3. William Shakespeare c. cojones
4. Sir Walter Scott d. bedazzled
5. John Milton

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In case you’re wondering, we got one author/word pairing correct – meaning we lost 3rd placethe 2 points we’d wagered. We wound up taking 3rd place, which we considered a victory!

Outside the competitive nature of Team Trivia, those with a trivia fascination might want to check out TriviaCafe.com, where you can sign up to receive a daily trivia question via email. Additionally, my friend Kebba Buckley Button recently introduced me to WordSpy.com, which claims to be “The Word Lover’s Guide to New Words.” And if you ever want to know what the kids are thinking or what that crazy term you heard on the subway means, check out Urban Dictionary. Beware, however; certain entries in UD are not for the faint of heart.

Here’s to continued learning!

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________Anatomy of a Book Launch

If you’re getting ready to launch your book and would like help to put together a successful event, download my free special report: Anatomy of a Book Launch. Then CALL me at 602.518.5376 to schedule your complimentary 15-minute consultation. It’s never too early to begin planning!

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A Dog by Any Other Name

In my last post, I mentioned the idea of reading one’s work out loud at an open-mic 3d coverstyle event. I recently read the first chapter of my novel – still in the works after nearly 11 years – aloud at a reading event hosted by the Arizona Authors Association. Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World is about a guy who packs up his dog, his car, and too many belongings to set off on a trip around the world. It depicts the life of a Wall Street investment banker and his female friend, a New York City artist, and also deals with social issues like homelessness and international poverty.

This was the first time I’d ever read it out loud, and boy was it a stumblefest! I highly recommend the process to every writer, whether you will ever actually schedule a formal reading of your book or not – because in the process of reading aloud, you catch things you just don’t see or hear when you’re reading to yourself.

One audience member at the reading asked a question I’d never even considered.

Stan and Isis in Bangor, Maine

Stan and Isis in Bangor, Maine

“Did you write this before all the stuff started up in the Middle East? Because I couldn’t really get past it as I was listening to you read.” Stan, the main character, has a Jack Russell terrier by the name of Isis. Yep – same name as the Egyptian goddess AND the jihadist/terror group. There’s a whole segment in the novel about how the little dog got her name – and even though I’ve done a considerable amount of work on the book in the last year, I never gave even one thought to the fact that the dog’s name is the same as a group of terrorist radicals. The book is set in the very recent past – beginning in the spring of 2011 and ending in the fall of 2012 – before ISIS had become a household word. So mentioning the shared name in the text of the book would be anachronistic.

As far as I understand it, the idea of giving a reading such as the one in which I participated is to elicit constructive feedback from the audience. While Toastmasters has a built-in mechanism for delivering and receiving such feedback, audience members at this reading event were much more forgiving – most of them heaping praise, even on (in my opinion) undeserving work. I was the only reader who received any negative feedback at all – and it wasn’t so much intended as negative as it was one woman simply raising an issue I had not considered. Another woman in the audience commented that she’d not thought about ISIS, the terror group, at all – she had gone immediately to picturing Isis, the Egyptian goddess.

Nevertheless, this one woman’s question and strong, visceral reaction have caused me to question whether I should change the dog’s name or leave it as it is. At present, I am leaning very much toward leaving Isis’ name as it is. If you have any sort of feedback on this issue, I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.

Controversy can sell … so maybe the question has already answered itself. In the meantime, the marketing ideas continue to percolate. Blog posts upcoming, contests unfurling, crowdfunding unfolding. And, of course, social media strategies applied to all.

 rose by any other name

Here’s to naming your characters well!

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________Anatomy of a Book Launch

If you’re getting ready to launch your book and would like help to put together a successful event, download my free special report: Anatomy of a Book Launch. Then CALL me at 602.518.5376 to schedule your complimentary 15-minute consultation. It’s never too early to begin planning!

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Use – or create – a style guide for a professional finish

You may remember it: the woman athlete running with a giant sledgehammer in hand. The unnamed heroine hurls the implement at a giant screen, saving humanity from “conformity” and thereby introducing the Macintosh apple-1984-runnercomputer to the world during a break in the third quarter of the 1984 Super Bowl. While I sincerely doubt my father ever saw this ad (he was not a sports fan and seldom watched anything on TV besides the news and PBS), he was on the cutting edge, as he bought my sister and me the very first Mac Classic to aid in our studies. This was pre-pre-pre-Internet. Today we regularly send email attachments larger than the 4 mg memory of the entire Mac Classic.

So I grew up a Mac user. And it was in the book The Mac Is Not a Typewriter that I was first introduced to the idea that with desktop publishing applications, it was no longer necessary to use two spaces after a period. The reason for this is that the letters on typewriters were all uniformly spaced, meaning that a lowercase “i” or “l” took up the same amount of space in a line of type as a “w” or “m” even though the latter two are significantly wider. If you want to see this at work, check out the Courier typeface example below.

courier

In modern typography, letters take up only their actual width, so the shape of a word contributes to its readability. In documents created on traditional typewriters, every letter took up the same amount of space, so the extra space between sentences was necessary to indicate the end of a sentence for the reader. I never took a formal typing class, so I’ll admit that this was not an enormous adjustment for me to make. However, I’ve recently been doing lots of editing for a group blog by authors for authors, and I’m noticing that many, many of our authors still use two spaces after a period. I’m guessing they didn’t get the memo.

So what, right? Sort of. The thing is, since I coordinate and edit this group blog, I get to decide on the styles we use. What does that mean? It means using H2 style for every subheading. One space after periods. OK, as opposed to okay. Putting all resource boxes in italics. En dashes ( – ) with one space on either side, as opposed to em dashes with no space (—). No http:// to start web addresses. Using periods to break the segments of a phone number. You get the idea.

The particular styles matter less than consistency in applying them. If you haven’t adopted a professional style guide for your books/writing, you may want to think about creating one of your own – particularly if you write fantasy or use a language, symbols, or terminology of your own creation. IntelligentEditing.com offers an excellent post with tips for creating your own style guide.

While there’s no rule that says you must use a style guide, adopting or creating one will give your editor some standards to follow and give all of your writing a more finished, professional look.

Here’s to consistency in your work!

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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PHOENIX-AREA BOOK LOVERS: Come out to meet me and 50+ other local authors for this one-of-a-kind book Logo w backgroundlovers’ event. Several first-time authors, award-winning authors, and authors of a wide variety of genres will be on hand to sell and sign books. Genres of all sorts – from fiction to spirituality to leadership to personal finance. The first 200 attendees to register will receive goody bags! Giveaways on the half-hour. Learn more and get your complimentary ticket at HolidayAuthorEvent.com.

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december tip of day

December 6 Book Marketing Tip: Watch your words!

I attended a networking event today where an interesting thing happened. Within the space of three introductions, two different people used words in a way that caused me to sit up and take notice. The first is a retired school teacher, who stumbled as she said, “I used to teach learning abled … I mean disabled … kids.” I thought to myself, Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we changed our language to reflect this woman’s seeming error? What if, rather than referring to people as learning disabled, we instead began to think of them as learning abled? Yes, it’s a far-fetched idea, but it delighted me enough to write it down.

Another intro passed without incident, and then the third woman spoke. She works in real estate, and I have no doubt that she meant the word REALTOR when she introduced herself as a “re-luh-tor.” But then I started to dismantle that word and realized that she’s probably more correct than she realizes – because doesn’t every successful REALTOR need to be a relater?

impossible

Sherry Anshara is a Phoenix-area author, medical intuitive, and energy healer who frequently dissects words in this way. She refers to the practice as “wordology.” If you’ve never stopped to think about your words, I encourage you to take some time out to do so. And not just as they relate to marketing your book, but as they relate to the totality of your life, your book, your business, your relationships.

Here are a few  simple word messages we can deconstruct:

The disease we experience in our bodies comes from being in dis-ease.

Change IMPOSSIBLE to I’M POSSIBLE.

Change NOWHERE to NOW HERE.

If you want to explore this concept a bit on your own, you can use WordPlays.com (or many other similar sites) to plug in a word or phrase and see what kinds of smaller words it contains. Just for fun, I put in my name – LAURA ORSINI – and it returned 287 words. My favorites? SAUNA and AURORA.

The more you pay attention, the more you’ll begin to see the words within the words, and how quickly the message – and your perception – can change when you alter your perspective just a bit.

Happy wording!

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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Getting ready to launch your book? Be sure to visit our website to download our complimentary special report, “Anatomy of Book Launch TODAY!” Even if you’re not a novice and have a book launch or two behind you, this report will give you the timeline to help you experience even more success.

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A grammar rant: “me and him” is ALWAYS wrong!

You know things have gone haywire in Grammarland when you take notice of people using language properly. I’ve touched on it before, but this Facebook ad put me over the edge this morning, so I feel I MUST address this specific grammar problem, yet again.

The word ME is virtually never the subject of a sentence. (I say virtually, because it might have been the subject of that previous sentence, had I omitted “The word” and just begun with “ME,” but I figured that might just have confused folks, so I decided to leave well enough alone.) Yet we hear and see “me” used as a subject everywhere. And from smart people, too! The final episode of my favorite TV show ever, West Wing, aired on May 14, 2006, yet I still remember John Spencer’s character using the “me and him” construction. David Letterman uses it. I saw it in a David Baldacci novel. My niece and husband use it. It’s so ubiquitous – and soooooooo incorrect!

I feel a little validated that I’m not the only one annoyed by our collective migration to this ridiculously wrong use of grammar. Heidi Stevens touches on the topic in the August 22, 2012 Chicago Tribune. What I’d really like to figure out, though, is how we can shift people back to the correct usage.

For the record, here’s the grammar lesson again.

When do you use “I” and when do you use “me”?

“I” is a pronoun that must be the subject of a verb. “Me” is a pronoun that must be the object of the verb. The easiest way to decipher the two is to remove the other noun from the sentence and see if it still makes sense.

Correct use:

  • I went hiking.
  • My family and I went hiking.
  • My family went hiking with me.

Incorrect use:

  • Me went hiking. <— This is wrong and makes no sense.
  • Me and my family went hiking. <— This is WRONG and makes NO SENSE.

It feels a bit futile to make this argument, and yet I can no longer stand silently by as this oh-so-incorrect construction continues to permeate our language. Please do your part to help me clean up this small, but toxic, grammar challenge.

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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Check out our newly launched newsletter, the Creative Quill! We will use it to share tips and ideas on creativity, writing, and book marketing for self-publishing authors. If you’d like us to address specific topics, please be sure to let us know! 602.518.5376

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Professional EDITING: It’s essential to your marketing success!

Yep, I’m a professional editor, and as such, I’ve always advocated that authors hire the best editor they can afford. But in this advice, I have more than my own self-interest at heart. Here’s the thing: it’s estimated that a person browsing a brick-and-mortar bookstore (a building where piles of books are available for sale to people who drive there in cars) will spend about 8 seconds looking at the front cover of a book they pull off a shelf and 14 seconds on the back cover. Provided the cover is enough to stimulate their interest, what’s the next step? They OPEN the book! And READ the words. So if your words are garbled, your grammar poor, or your text mistake-riddled, that person’s probably going to plop the book back on the shelf and keep browsing.

A good cover will get someone to open the book,
but the words are what sell it.

Now let’s extrapolate to the eBookstore. In ePublishing, the buyer often sees only a thumbnail of the cover before they’re taken straight to the sample chapter. In this case, there’s no 22-second marketing plug from the cover. The entire onus is on the words themselves. And if the words themselves aren’t polished and professional, people will stop reading and won’t buy your book.

What’s worse, they won’t recommend it – and may write a bad review about it.

TRUE STORY

I recently downloaded a free book called Dying to Get Published byJudy Fitzwater. This is the opening paragraph:

The jail cell was cold. Cold and gray and ugly. Jennifer ran her hands through her long, taffy-brown hair and sank wistfully against the wall. The chill reached through her sweater and embraced her shoulders. She shot straight up on the backless bench and shivered. She felt as though something were crawling down her back, something with many legs, but she knew it was her imagination. She prayed it was her imagination.

I’m not kidding – I haven’t altered a word. In her attempt to be descriptive, this author WAY overused the adjectives and adverbs. My first thought was, “Ohhh, nooo. It’s going to be that kind of a book.” Nevertheless, I decided to give it a chance and kept reading for a bit. Then I came to these sentences:

Your dad is a famous astronaut. He’s on the first manned flight to mars and won’t be back for three years.

Seriously. If Ms. Fitzwater couldn’t do me the service of even proofreading her book – let alone editing it – I definitely don’t owe her the service of reading it.

But it’s a FREE book, what do you expect? I can hear the arguments now. So let me ask you a question: What is the entire point of giving away books for free?

Promoting the author’s work, right? The goal, therefore, is to create enough interest so that people will buy their other books, recommend them to friends, and write positive reviews. How is that possible if the author didn’t make the free book as good as one he or she charges for? Dying to Get Published is a terrible book. If it’s in any way autobiographical, I can tell the author right now, a good place to start is with some quality editing!

For most bad books, it might end there; in this author’s case, I happened to have her book on hand to use as an example to you, my author friends.

Point of caution: DON’T DO THIS TO YOUR READERS!

Why does editing matter? Because it can turn a hum-drum manuscript into a book people will not only want to read, but want to recommend. And some of the best marketing for an author is word-of-mouth marketing.

Here’s how I might have rewritten the opening paragraph of Dying to Get Published:

Jennifer slumped against the wall of the ugly, gray jail cell. The chill reached through her sweater, embracing her shoulders as she combed her hands through her hair. Suddenly, she felt the shivery sensation of a many-legged critter crawling down her back. Jennifer bolted upright, knowing the bug was just her imagination – praying it was her imagination.

Notice we went from 72 words to 57 words – that’s a conservation of 15 words, and it’s much more fluid and easier to read.

Here’s a breakdown:

  • What’s the point of repeating the word cold? Unless the coldness is important to the story (it’s not), this is utterly unnecessary.
  • Next – it’s the first paragraph; we have plenty of time to get to the long, taffy-brown description of the hair. Is it germane to the meaning of the opening paragraph? If not, lose it.
  • The backless bench? It’s a jail cell – most people have an idea of what a jail cell looks like. Unless this one’s special, no need to oversell the austerity of the scene.
  • Save the bulk of the words for the interesting aspect of the opening: the perhaps imaginary bugs crawling down Jennifer’s back.

Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction – you’ll do your readers AND your sales a favor by spending what you can afford on a professional editor.

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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Visit our website to view/download your free eBook, The First-Time Author’s Guide to Hiring the Right Editor for YOU. If you’d like more information about our editing services, email us or call us today for your complimentary 30-minute consultation! 602.518.5376

 

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All about the alliteration…

As I was musing over ideas for today’s post, I started doodling and making notes about the random thoughts that popped into my head. As it turns out, three of those thoughts began with the letter P: planning, polarizing, and paying. So it doesn’t take a cryptographer to figure out how the rest of the post unfolded.

The thing is, there is power in word play. As Simon Smith notes in a post for Right Spot Media:

To some, the connection between a strong brand and the repetition of sounds might seem farfetched. But researchers have studied the impact of alliteration and found that it may indeed aid memorability. In fact, studies have shown that alliteration is such a powerful mnemonic that providing students with alliterative sentences can help them more easily learn a new language.

Consider some very popular name brands:

Best Buy

Dunkin’ Donuts

Krispy Kreme

PayPal

Volvo

Weight Watchers

Phillip Davis of SmallBusinessDelivered.com notes the efficacy of alliteration in branding small companies, as well:

We made use of this technique with one of our clients: Park Place Garage. Not only did the name have alliteration with the two Ps, but it also contained a double entendre (Park Place is both a place to park a car and a name associated with high end real estate).

So here’s my stab at an alliterative alphabet of writing- and marketing-related phrases. Some are even whole sentences unto themselves! One thing to note: alliterative sounds needn’t all contain the same letters. Also, you can carry the alliteration through internal syllables.

Authentic authors aspire to achieve astute audiences.

Bountiful branding builds your business.

Conscious consistent connection creates continuing contacts.

Drip e-mail develops dedicated devotees.

Editing enhances your exposition.

Funky freelancers fulfill fantasy niches.

Good graphics generate great get-up-and-go.

Hot headlines hit hard.

Internet interest is increasing by the hour.

Journalists justify juggling jewels and junk.

Clever keywords capture knowledgeable niches.

LinkedIn allows a legitimate look at one’s work life.

Messaging makes media move.

No longer neophytes, Larsson fans await the next new novel, unaware there will be no more.

Once you overcome the obstacles, Outlook offers many opportunities to achieve your e-mail objectives.

A promising platform is the first step to prestige.

Quixotic quips … quick questions … quite the quandary.

Readers are ready to reel in this old writer’s ruminations.

Sentence structure will set your essay to sink or swim.

Trendy taglines transform text without trickery.

Once uniquely useful, Facebook has become ubiquitous and unoriginal.

Vocal variety creates vibrancy.

WordPress wizards write regularly.

eXcellent designers employ eXtreme devices.

Youthful yearning is a customary storyline in YA fiction.

Zippy zingers zap the readerz’ eyeballz.

OK, tell me what you really think. At least I had fun with it! If you decide to try it yourself and come up with anything really outstanding, please come back and share it with us in the comment section below!

Happy alliterating –

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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In honor of our 1-year anniversary (May 2, 2012), we’re hosting the Author Blog Challenge! It starts June 2 and is open to published authors, authors-in-progress, and would-be authors. Come check us out and register today!

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Today, we’re proud to share with you another GUEST POST! Please read up, and take some hints about avoiding simple mistakes from Yael Grauer, as she has excellent advice about making the most of your pitches. Please share your thoughts below in the comments section.

Put your best foot forward when pitching editors, agents, and corporate clients

by Yael Grauer

When communicating with potential clients, we all strive to put our best foot forward. And yet editors, agents, and corporate clients are often quick to advise aspiring writers to avoid what seem like glaringly obvious errors.

“You’d be surprised,” they all say, recounting dozens of stories of misspellings, inappropriate inquiries, and instances of bizarre behavior.

We all laugh at these amateur mistakes when they’re made by others, but I’ll reluctantly admit that I once noticed I’d sent an e-mail to a dream client with “copywriter posiion” written as the subject line. Needless to say, I didn’t get the job.

How do we avoid these embarrassing errors? Here are five tips to keep in mind.

  1. Check your spelling. This includes that of the person you’re addressing your inquiry to, the company they work for, and the entire text of your e-mail or letter. And not all of these mistakes are easily caught by spellcheck, either. Businesses often have non-standard capitalization, spaces where you wouldn’t think there’d be any, or other unexpected oddities. Being oblivious to these idiosyncrasies makes you seem inattentive to detail, so take the time to show that you’re paying attention.
  2. Double-check the addressee of your inquiry. “This article would be perfect for Woman’s Day,” an editor of a different women’s magazine recalled reading in a query. Her knee-jerk reaction: “Then why don’t you send it to them?” Although the time-consuming process of personalizing each and every pitch isn’t always feasible, at least tailor the addressees of your query letters.
  3. Make sure your pitch is appropriate. So you know how to spell the name of the person you’re trying to reach and the name of their business or publication. Now, make sure the idea you’re pitching them is actually something that will interest them. That means that you don’t want to send a pitch about Android apps to Macworld, or a kid’s story to AARP, or something about making ham for Easter to Tikkun Magazine. It means you’re not going to send a proposal for young adult fiction to an agent who only represents biographies, or poetry to a magazine that only publishes articles. Not sure? Check the FAQ section of their website, or any back issues (if appropriate). If it’s not immediately obvious, check with someone in the know or consider picking up the phone to contact the company in question directly.
  4. Don’t be a stalker. Following up a couple of weeks after you’ve made an inquiry is acceptable. Following up the next day (and the next day and the next day) is not. Sending a holiday card to someone you’ve worked with is a nice touch. Mailing a gift to someone you’ve never worked with is not.
  5. Don’t argue. If someone chooses not to use your services and you’re lucky enough to get an explanation, say thank you and move on. Bickering with the decision-maker about why they’re wrong isn’t only unhelpful, it’s also obnoxious. Try to learn from the feedback, using it to restructure future pitches to either avoid the error you might have made or to avoid the misperception of one. If you suspect you’re not getting the whole story, it’s possible that there’s actually a different, more complicated, or political explanation the person you’re communicating with chose not to share with you. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and try again. You’ll be better for it.

What seemingly obvious errors have you seen people make, and what steps could they have taken to avoid them? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Yael Grauer is a freelance writer and editor based in Minneapolis, MN. She blogs about health, fitness and the freelance life at yaelwrites.com/blog.

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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Visit the Write | Market | Design Facebook page to meet other authors and aspiring authors who have a sincere interest in writing, publishing, and selling the best books they can. And if you need a self-publishing consultant in your corner for anything from advice on structure to developing a marketing strategy, drop us a note at MarcieBrock@WriteMarketDesign.com or give us a call at 602.518.5376!

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Crazy, gay, retarded … is it time to reevaluate our choice of words?

The other day, a friend of mine commented about the cavalier way in which salespeople seem to be hyping the upcoming Mothers Day holiday. You see, my friend’s mom died some years ago, so Mothers Day doesn’t have the same meaning for her that it does for others. Some people have great relationships with their moms; some have love-hate relationships; the mothers of others are anything but maternal.

How can you know the status of someone’s relationship with their mom (or father, siblings, or children, for that matter) by looking at them? Simple answer: you can’t. Does that mean you should never mention any of those holidays to anyone, for fear of potentially upsetting someone? Of course not.

It does, however, give us reason to pause and examine the casual ways in which we sometimes use potentially harmful language.

I’m a birthmom in an open adoption. I placed my son with his adoptive family at birth. Occasionally parents make comments to their kids to the effect of, “I should have put you up for adoption when I had the chance.” I always cringe a little when I hear that – for two reasons: (1) I did place my son for adoption after a long, thoughtful decision-making process; (2) it’s a pretty shitty thing for a parent to say to their kid.

Another friend of mine has a mentally ill son. She takes offense when people make comments like “I’m going crazy” or “they’re driving me nuts.” Another acquaintance has a daughter with cerebral palsy, a group of disorders that involve brain and nervous system functions, such as movement, learning, hearing, seeing, and thinking. He finds it offensive when people use the ubiquitous “retarded” to describe boneheaded behaviors and attitudes. Then, of course, there’s the overuse of the word “gay” as a derisive or derogatory term.

In another incident, a friend who’s a professional speaker was using music to set the mood for her presentation. Suddenly, one of the women in her audience burst into tears. It turns out that the lady’s husband had recently died, and she’d used my friend’s innocuous music at his funeral service. My friend said, “That’s it – I’ll never use music again!” That’s an awfully extreme response. How could she possibly have known that one person would be so dramatically affected by an otherwise innocent piece of music?

The thing is, virtually everyone has a hot-button topic – some issue they are sensitive to. Is it ever possible to completely avoid offending all the people we will encounter? Of course not. Like the idea of being all things to all people, being inoffensive to all people is probably never going to happen.

This doesn’t mean we can’t try. Many of the comments mentioned above are generally used in a negative connotation. Couldn’t we make an effort to reach for more positive language, generally, and less offensive language specifically?

Wikihow offers 5 steps to begin eliminating the objectionable use of the word “gay,” but they really apply to the habitual use of almost any kind of language you’d like to change.

  1. Recognize that that particular language/word has a derogatory impact. It’s important to understand that using the word gay, retarded, or crazy to insult something or someone implies that you think there’s something wrong with being gay, mentally challenged, or mentally ill. Without realizing t, you may come off as prejudiced and/or ignorant.
  2. Understand the word you want to avoid using. Get to know the full meaning of the word/language you wish to change. People have the right not to be constantly harassed about any aspect of themselves, whether they’re a different race, religion, or even have a different eating preference, such as a vegetarian or vegan.
  3. Pay attention to your use of derogatory words or phrases. Every time you find yourself using a word to refer to someone or something you don’t like or think is stupid, wrong, or bad in any way, make a mental note. Examine why you want to use that word, and then try to use a different, inoffensive word. If something truly is annoying, stupid, or wrong, then use those words – with precision.
  4. Identify alternative words or phrases. When using replacement words, remember that they apply not only to your spoken language and writing, but most importantly to your thinking. If you constantly challenge yourself to use alternatives, over time you will become more proficient at using them, perhaps eventually eliminating the negative words altogether.
  5. Expand your vocabulary. Developing a wider selection of words to have at your disposal is amazingly useful. For one thing, it makes you appear more tolerant and intelligent to the casual observer. Scour your Internet thesaurus for synonyms of words you might have a habit of using disparagingly. Maybe it would be worth investing in a word-of-the-day calendar.

One last thought on this idea of thoughtless language: How do you respond when people say things you find objectionable? One giant peace of the harmony puzzle is releasing our need to be offended. We don’t have to take things personally – we choose to take them personally.

So, next time you find yourself on the receiving end of an unwelcome comment, how will you respond? Will you dig in and get defensive? Will you use it as a teaching moment? Or will you simply let it roll off, knowing the person who made the comment is – just like you are – doing the best they can?

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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In honor of our 1-year anniversary (May 2, 2012), we’re hosting the Author Blog Challenge! It starts June 2 and is open to published authors, authors-in-progress, and would-be authors. Come check us out and register today!

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