authors, Editing, helpful hints, Indie book publishing, self publishing, writing

LET’S EAT GRANDMA: The Importance of Proofreading

kathyideOne of the things I enjoy most about my current role is the opportunity to meet and interact with some amazingly creative and professional people. A few weeks ago when I gave the key note address at the West Coast Writers Conference Indie Author Conference, I had the opportunity to meet Kathy Ide.  Kathy is a published author/ghostwriter, editor/mentor, and writers’ conference speaker.  Her latest book is Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors is a must read for every aspiring authorShe is also the founder and coordinator of The Christian PEN: Proofreaders and Editors Network (www.TheChristianPEN.com) and the Christian Editor Connection (www.ChristianEditor.com).  

I asked her to share some of her wisdom and experience with my readers through a blog post. Her post is what follows and I think you will find it to be very helpful.

 

LET’S EAT GRANDMA: The Importance of Proofreading

Have you seen the plaques and T-shirts that say:

Let’s Eat Grandma.

Let’s Eat, Grandma.

                        Commas Save Lives.

I love that! It shows how one tiny bit of punctuation can change the entire meaning and tone of a sentence.

You may think that as long as you’ve got life-changing content in your nonfiction manuscript, or an intriguing story with lots of conflict and interesting characters in your fiction manuscript, that should be enough. And yes, content and story are extremely important. But no matter how good those things are, you’ll be running some pretty big risks if you don’t bother proofreading your manuscript carefully for typos, inaccuracies, and inconsistencies … and learning the industry-standard rules regarding punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling.

OK, you won’t be putting your grandmother’s life on the line or joining a tribe of cannibals. But tiny mistakes in your writing can have disastrous consequences. Here are my top ten:

 

  1. Mechanical errors can decrease your chance of acceptance by a traditional publisher.
  1. Mechanical errors can cause miscommunication.
  1. Mechanical errors can cause confusion.
  1. Mechanical errors can give an unprofessional appearance to publishers and readers.
  1. Mechanical errors can be embarrassing.
  1. Mechanical errors may cause readers to take you and your message less seriously.
  1. Mechanical errors can affect the sales of your book.
  1. Mechanical errors could cost you money.
  1. Mechanical errors can be distracting
  2. Mechanical errors can give you a poor reputation.

 

Professionalism Is Key

Proofreading Secrets_FrontCoverIf you’re writing just for family and friends, it may not matter so much whether every comma is in exactly the right place or if you have a few typos here and there. But if you want to get your book published in today’s highly competitive commercial market, you need every edge you can get. If you expect people to buy what you write, you need to take the time to do it right.

If you have a hard time finding typos, inconsistencies, and “PUGS” errors in your writing, consider hiring a professional proofreader. If you go to http://www.ChristianEditor.com and fill out the form for Authors Seeking Editors, you’ll be connected with established, professional editors who can make your manuscript shine.

A comma may not save Grandma’s life. But a careful proofread might make a life-or-death difference for your manuscript.

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authors, book selling, Publishing, self publishing

Science says reading print books provides a number of pretty interesting benefits

Recently, someone forwarded me a link to an article, titled Science Has Great News for People Who Read Actual Books, on a site called Mic.com, which I had seen before.

In this fascinating  article, Rachel Grate cites a number of recent studies that report the benefits of reading a paper book that e-readers don’t provide. She draws from a number of different studies that all seem to point to the same conclusion. Reading paper books help us in ways we may not have been aware.

I tried to find a way to summarize her work and just hit the highlights, but I found that task difficult. Her content and writing style are excellent. So rather than short change you, I have decided to provide the text of the article below. Or if you prefer, you can read the original article and the comments by clicking here.

Credit: New Dork Review of Books

Credit: New Dork Review of Books

From Mic.com and written by Rachel Grate

It’s no secret that reading is good for you. Just six minutes of reading is enough to reduce stress by 68%, and numerous studies have shown that reading keeps your brain functioning effectively as you age. One study even found that elderly individuals who read regularly are 2.5 times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s than their peers. But not all forms of reading are created equal.

The debate between paper books and e-readers has been vicious since the first Kindle came out in 2007. Most arguments have been about the sentimental versus the practical, between people who prefer how paper pages feel in their hands and people who argue for the practicality of e-readers. But now science has weighed in, and the studies are on the side of paper books.

Reading in print helps with comprehension. 

A 2014 study found that readers of a short mystery story on a Kindle were significantly worse at remembering the order of events than those who read the same story in paperback. Lead researcher Anne Mangen of Norway’s Stavanger University concluded that “the haptic and tactile feedback of a Kindle does not provide the same support for mental reconstruction of a story as a print pocket book does.”

Our brains were not designed for reading, but have adapted and created new circuits to understand letters and texts. The brain reads by constructing a mental representation of the text based on the placement of the page in the book and the word on the page.

The tactile experience of a book aids this process, from the thickness of the pages in your hands as you progress through the story to the placement of a word on the page. Mangen hypothesizes that the difference for Kindle readers “might have something to do with the fact that the fixity of a text on paper, and this very gradual unfolding of paper as you progress through a story is some kind of sensory offload, supporting the visual sense of progress when you’re reading.”

While e-readers try to recreate the sensation of turning pages and pagination, the screen is limited to one ephemeral virtual page. Surveys about the use of e-readers suggest that this affects a reader’s serendipity and sense of control. The inability to flip back to previous pages or control the text physically, either through making written notes or bending pages, limits one’s sensory experience and thus reduces long-term memory of the text.

Credit: Motivationgrid.com

Credit: Motivationgrid.com

Reading long sentences without links is a skill you need — but can lose if you don’t practice. 

Reading long, literary sentences sans links and distractions is actually a serious skill that you lose if you don’t use it. Before the Internet, the brain read in a linear fashion, taking advantage of sensory details to remember where key information was in the book by layout.

As we increasingly read on screens, our reading habits have adapted to skim text rather than really absorb the meaning. A 2006 study found that people read on screens in an “F” pattern, reading the entire top line but then only scanning through the text along the left side of the page. This sort of nonlinear reading reduces comprehension and actually makes it more difficult to focus the next time you sit down with a longer piece of text.

Tufts University neuroscientist Maryanne Wolf worries that “the superficial way we read during the day is affecting us when we have to read with more in-depth processing.” Individuals are increasingly finding it difficult to sit down and immerse themselves in a novel. As a result, some researchers and literature-lovers have started a “slow reading” movement, as a way to counteract their difficulty making it through a book.

Reading in a slow, focused, undistracted way is good for your brain.

Slow-reading advocates recommend at least 30 to 45 minutes of daily reading away from the distractions of modern technology. By doing so, the brain can reengage with linear reading. The benefits of making slow reading a regular habit are numerous, reducing stress and improving your ability to concentrate.

Credit: telegraph.co.uk

Credit: telegraph.co.uk

Regular reading also increases empathy, especially when reading a print book. One study discovered that individuals who read an upsetting short story on an iPad were less empathetic and experienced less transportation and immersion than those who read on paper.

Reading an old-fashioned novel is also linked to improving sleep. When many of us spend our days in front of screens, it can be hard to signal to our body that it’s time to sleep. By reading a paper book about an hour before bed, your brain enters a new zone, distinct from that enacted by reading on an e-reader.

Three-quarters of Americans 18 and older report reading at least one book in the past year, a number which has fallen, and e-books currently make up between 15 to 20% of all book sales. In this increasingly Twitter- and TV-centric world, it’s the regular readers, the ones who take a break from technology to pick up a paper book, who have a serious advantage on the rest of us.

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Author Solutions, authors, book marketing, book selling, Indie book publishing, self publishing, writing

My 2nd most popular post: The 7 key elements of a great book cover

One of the great things about analytics on a blog is they tell you what people are reading most and what search terms they use to find your blog.  My post popular blog post by far is The 5 Essential Elements of Every Good Story. However, the second most popular post is the one I am reposting below, The 7 key elements of a great book cover. Hopefully you will find this helpful and you don’t even have to search for it.

Along with an eye-catching design, this cover employs a great subhead to help the reader know the benefit of reading this book.

Along with an eye-catching design, this cover employs a great subhead to help the reader know the benefit of reading this book.

The 7 key elements of a great book cover

Do first impressions matter? Of course, they do. For your book, your cover will make the first impression on readers. It is your three-second introduction to the reading public. When readers are browsing the bookstore shelf or the internet,  your book cover needs to grab their attention, but also make a promise as to what readers will find on the pages inside.  So here are seven elements of cover design you should  give thought and attention to as you get ready to publish.

  1. Your title. Place yourself in the reader’s shoes when making your final decision for your book’s title. Will your title make sense to the reader? Is it easy to remember? When choosing your title make sure it conveys your message and fits the design you have in mind. As a writer, try not to get too caught up in creating a clever title, when a straightforward title will do. Creativity can sometimes interfere with clarity.
  2. The subtitle. If needed, elaborate on your book’s subject with a subtitle. A good subtitle provides additional information through a descriptive line which compliments your title. Include any searchable keywords that are not in your title  in your subtitle if appropriate.
  3. Cover design and layout. Your title should be legible at a glance and you should avoid small or faint text as well as busy backgrounds. Select a font or two for your text, staying away from decorative fonts that are hard to read. Choose a strong image that helps people remember your book and integrates with your title. A single image usually impacts more than multiple images. Remember your image should not overwhelm your title, so beware of overpowering your words with pictures. Above all, make sure all text is easy to read.
  4. Back cover or panel copy. This should be a short summary of your book that gives readers a preview or teaser for what to expect when they read it. It should not be about why your wrote the book or a table of contents. It should work like an ad to draw in potential readers.
  5. In this soon-to-be released book, the cover draws the reader in and hints as to the story of the book.

    In this soon-to-be released book, the cover draws the reader in and hints as to the story of the book.

    Endorsements and reviews. Endorsements and reviews help add to the credibility of your book. So if you have endorsements from influential people or reviews, think about including them on your back cover or jacket flap if you have a hard cover edition. If you have an endorsement from a well-known personality you may want to consider putting a mention on your front cover.

  6. The spine. Make it simple, easy to read, and viewable sideways. In most cases, you do not want to include your subtitle due to space limitations.
  7. Your author bio. Briefly state who you are and your most recent accomplishments. Try to keep your author description around three sentences and establish your credentials if you are writing a non-fiction book and your personality if you are writing a fiction book. Readers love to know things about the author. It helps them connect with the book in a different way. Use your author bio to help readers feel like they know something about you.

You have likely spent months and maybe even years working on your manuscript. Make sure you take the time to give your cover the attention it deserves. After all it is the first impression most readers will have of your book.

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Author Solutions, authors, book marketing, Editing, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing

The Guardian newspaper in the UK suggests $6,000 needed to effectively self publish. Debate ensues.

Last week, Suzanne McGee, penned a feature  in the Money section of the Guardian, with the headline, You can try to be the next Hemingway — for $6,000 and the subhead, Self-publishing has made it possible to get your writing out in the world. But it hasn’t made it cheap.

In her article, she suggests based on her interviews with a number of self published authors, there are some critical elements you need to consider if you are going to self publish. Those include

  • An ISBN number
  • Editing
  • Cover Art
  • Paid reviews
  • Promotional print copies of your book

The GuardianShe suggested the total cost of the project would be around $6,000 with the two-thirds of that budget going to editing. Not surprising her article generated 80 comments and many opposing views.  Some were civil in their comments and some were rude.  Based on her response to the comments I think she was simply trying to point out that self-publishing is not and should not be considered a “free” opportunity as some might lead you to believe.

Certainly you can spend more or less than the amount she suggests, but those who were debating the number I think missed the most helpful points of the article.

  1. You are going to have to invest in editing to have a good book--I think this is the most important thing every self published author needs to remember and good editors are not cheap or free.
  2. You will have to invest time and money in promotion–She suggests paid reviews and many debate the value of those, but the point is you can’t just publish a book and wait for people to find it. You are going to have to spend some coin to garner interest and publicity.
  3. You will have to give things away before you see sales—In her article she suggests you need promotional copies of your book to hand out to media or others to get word of mouth about  your book started.  I think that is true, but there are other things you may want to consider as well.

The other great value to an article like this is it points out the need to have a simple way to evaluate the options out there for authors. I have written extensively about this topic and have a white paper title The Four Paths to Publishing, that layouts out the different opportunities available today for authors to get their books in the hands of readers.

If you would like to read the complete article in The Guardian, you can find it by clicking here.

 

 

 

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Author Solutions, authors, Publishing, self publishing, Thomas Nelson, writing

From blog to book: Westbow Press author Mark Eckel tells how he did it.

I just need time to thinkI speak to bloggers all the time who generate content on a regular basis and contemplate creating a book from their blog, but they never quite seem to get the goal.  That’s why I was pleased to speak with Mark Eckel, who has turned his blog content into a book titled, I Just Need Time to Think: Reflective Study as Christian Practice, which was published by Westbow Press.

Mark (meckel@lbc.edu) is Professor of Leadership, Education, and Discipleship for Capital Seminary & Graduate School.  Indianapolis,  Dr. Eckel has written and published curricula, peer-reviewed journal articles, periodical essays, book and movie reviews, as well as his weekly blog Warp and Woof.

I was curious to find out how he accomplished a goal many bloggers talk about but never accomplish.  I think you will find his answers to my questions  very helpful and motivating.

What inspired you to start writing your blog?

Compulsion. I was induced and coerced into putting pen to paper. As a Christian I know that being compelled to write comes from The Spirit of God who lives in me. In our culture, the natural means for writing is what has come to be known as “blogging.” I was inspired from the inside to write, inspired from the outside to blog.

What have you found most enjoyable about maintaining a blog?

Everything. I enjoy all of life and revel in the whole of the world. The title for someone like me in a university setting is “interdisciplinarian.” I believe everything crisscrosses everything else creating a unity we know is there but cannot see. A blog allows me to explore everything I read, see, hear, and do. Enthusiasm about knowledge and excitement about sharing what I have discovered with others brings a smile to my face.

What made you decide to turn your blog into a book?

Credibility. The immediacy of blogging is clear: information floods our world so we can access the data instantaneously. A book has the power of physical, visible influence. Rightly or wrongly, people gauge some authority based on what a person can show they have accomplished. As an academic I wanted to have three books available for people who would demonstrate my ability in reflective study, movie review, and teaching-learning.

Why was it important to have your content as a book and not just as a blog?

Credentialing. As a teacher for over 30 years I have had to document the outcomes of my craft. As an author, I now have a record for others to assess. By writing a book I am holding myself accountable to others who can now critique my work as an academic. But I am also answering questions that everyone ponders in one way or another. A book says to people, “You cared enough to organize your thoughts about a subject so that we could read them in one whole book.”

 What advice would you give someone who wants to start a blog?

Eckel blog

Author Mark Eckel took his blog http://www.warpandwoof.org and turned into a book from his post.

 Write. Just write. Don’t wait, write. Write when you want to, write when you don’t want to. Write now, write then. Set up a time that is best for you to write, but then, write. For me, I have the most creative energy in the morning. I normally wake up by 4 a.m. or before. I stay away from email and internet. I read at least 40 to 50 pages of periodicals or books. I take notes. I write while I’m reading and note-taking. But my counsel is always the same: write, write, write.

What advice would you give someone who wants to turn his or her blog into a book?

 Plan. A book is very different from a blog. If you read my website (www.warpandwoof.org) you will see I write about a lot of different subjects. But when I’m planning to create a book I have to ask myself my purpose for my subject. For instance, when I was writing my current book When the Lights Go Down: Movie Review as Christian Practice (Westbow, September, 2014 release) I wrote weekly for six months toward the book. My plan about writing a book about movies was first generated through my blog.

 What has been most surprising to you once you published your book?

I Just Need Time to Think: Reflective Study as Christian Practice (Westbow, 2014) gave me vigor to write again. I did not expect to want to put another book together immediately but I was energized to do When the Lights Go Down and am now planning the third in the series Education is Ownership: Teaching-Learning as Christian Practice (working title, forthcoming). Instead of being tired of writing, I want to write more!

 Anything else you would want to tell readers?

Read. If you don’t read you won’t write. You can read a tablet, laptop, or hold the spine of a book in your hand—but read. Read everything you can get your hands on about your passion. Read people who disagree with you. Read authors you don’t know. Read to learn more and understand by reading, how much more you don’t know. Reading should be a humbling experience. Now I want to tell people about what I read. If I want to write, I have to read.

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Author Solutions, authors, Ebooks, Editing, helpful hints, Publishing, self publishing, writing

Mistakes spell check would miss, but a good editor will catch.

One of the most important things self-published authors can do is have their book edited by an experienced professional. Spell check does not count as editing despite what some first time authors may think. Let me just give you a few examples of mistakes in the following sentences that spell check would miss.

  1. I did not here the gate change for my flight; so I did not get there bags on the plane.
  2. Once I realized I needed to move myself foreword: I had the angel I needed to see what I needed to sea.
  3. He was so surprised. He looked like a dear in the headlights.

See if you can find them all and post your answers in the comment section.

In a few days, I will post the answers.

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Author Solutions, authors, book marketing, book signings, Indie book publishing, self publishing

Confused about how to do book marketing? Here is a simple way to build an effective marketing plan.

Book Marketing sign postIt wasn’t that long ago that the biggest challenge for a writer was getting published. Clearly that has changed because now there are four paths to publishing which I have written about extensively. So getting your book into the hands of readers is not the obstacle it once was. Now what I hear from authors is confusion about how to market their books. They seem overwhelmed or not sure where to start.

Knowing this POEM will help you.

So in this blog post I want to give you a simple framework and acronym for how to think about book marketing that will take some of the mystery out of the process. Any good integrated marketing campaign has four key activities. Publicity. Online. Events. Multi-Media. That forms the acronym POEM, which is an easy way to remember what you need to do.

Publicity is using the traditional media to make sure people know about your book. By traditional media, I mean newspapers, television and radio. To be effective in this activity, you need to be clear on the elevator pitch for your book and the audience you are trying to reach. Tactically, you will likely need a press release and a simple media kit you can use to pitch producers and journalists. The key with publicity as with the other categories is being clear on what you are going to do and what you need to hire someone to do for you.

On-line is perhaps the biggest opportunity for all authors. I believe a key element is having a blog. This is a way to create an ongoing connection with your audience. Use keywords and tags to make your content show up in searches. And be sure to have an email for media who want to reach you.

You should also be selective and strategic about social media platforms. What I have learned is Facebook is good for some books and worthless for others. Same thing with LinkedIn and Twitter and Instagram and Pinterest and whatever the next platform that will appear. Try some things and figure out what works best for your book. Use the analytics available to you to see what creates traffic and engagement. Also, be sure to gather email addresses. That way you are building a list to which you can market future opportunities.

Book signingEvents is the third area where you should focus. The first and most important event is your book launch party. You can do this in very creative ways, but every author should celebrate the publication of the book. Then look for other opportunities for book signings and speaking engagements in your area with groups that would be interested in your topic. Libraries are also a great place to connect with for events.

Multi-media is the fourth area of a solid integrated marketing plan. We are an image driven culture so I believe having a video or book trailer is critical. If you do one, make sure it is produced well. You want it to make a good first impression and you can use it to help you with your other areas. Post it on your blog. Send it as part of your pitch to media. You may also want to consider creating an app for your book depending on what type of book you have.

 

Putting POEM to work for you.

Marketing is work, but with POEM you have a framework for creating the right type of plan to make sure you are engaged in the right activities and not missing something. However, even with a plan, the biggest challenge for many authors is persistence and consistency. It is easy to get discouraged, but the most successful self-published authors I know just keep at it.

Questions to ask as you get started.

So look at what you are doing right now. Do you have plans or activity in each of the four key categories of an integrated campaign? If so, that is great, but no matter what you are doing now, you should still write down a six or twelve month plan to keep yourself accountable. Then once you do that, you should make an honest assessment of what you can do yourself and where you need help.

Hopefully you find POEM helpful and please use the comment section to let me know what else you are doing to organize your marketing activities.

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