Posted: April 7th, 2014 by Alan Rinzler @

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Q: I have a terrific story to tell, but it didn’t actually happen to me. Is it possible to write with authenticity about something you haven’t experienced firsthand?

A: Many great books are written by authors who seem to have nothing in common with their character’s experiences. Different gender, culture, time in history, geographic location.

Stephen Crane wrote The Red Badge of Courage, an amazing description of a bloody hand-to-hand combat and death during the infamous Civil War battle of Chancellorsville without ever having any experience in the military or violent conflict of any sort. The entire Civil War, in fact, occurred before he was born.

Henry James wrote Portrait of a Lady, though he was certainly nothing at all like Isabelle Archer, the spirited young American girl who inherits a lot of money and has a hard time dealing with the consequences.

Tom Robbins, despite bogus rumors to the contrary, doesn’t have hooves, or smell like a goat and dance about playing pipes in the hills of Greece, as happens in his excellent book Jitterbug Perfume, which features the goat god Pan.

Writing vicariously

Most of all, you need authentic passion for the story. Then, you need to plunge into the homework. Your research must be impeccable, every detail dead-on accurate. If you’re recreating an historical epoch, you should read profusely about it, and interview experts or participants if possible. If your story is from the perspective of someone completely different from you, find models and study them as closely as possible — in person, face-to-face.

You may find that your early drafts take you in unexpected directions. Stay flexible and true to the new world you’re creating.

Four writers on how they did it

I’ve worked with many authors who’ve written about something they haven’t experienced directly. Here are four writers and their responses to questions I sent each of them about how they did it.

Jillian Thomadsen is the author of the novel Infiltrate about an idealistic young Fixed Income Analyst at a major investment bank who tries to shift internal policies towards more altruistic long-term goals but finds herself increasingly drawn into a culture of greed and corruption.

Neville Frankel is the author of Bloodlines, a novel about how the struggle against apartheid nearly destroys a Jewish family in South Africa which engages in violent terrorism during the early years of Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress.

Kimberley Pettinger is the author of The Quantum Affair, a novel about a strong woman’s struggle for freedom and power in a high tech company with a revolutionary new computer.

David Tomlinson is the author of American Prayer, a novel about the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing in the context of race relations, religious faith, and local politics.

What sparked the passion that motivated you to write this book?

Jillian Thomadsen:

I was reading an article about the Occupy movement, and it seemed like an effort in futility.  How was sleeping in a park going to cause change? I started to think that one angry person working inside an investment bank could do more than hundreds of protesters chanting outside.  And from that moment, the idea of a person who infiltrates and takes down a company she despises started to take shape.

I wanted to write about income disparity, the quintessential American Dream, and the current economic climate in the wake of the Great Recession of 2008.  A Wall Street investment bank seemed like a fitting backdrop for telling this story and I knew it was an environment where people pushed ethical boundaries in pursuit of their personal ambitions for money and power.

Neville Frankel:

I had returned for the first time 38 years after my family had fled South Africa before the end of apartheid when a man I’d never met before threw his arms about me and whispered in my ear, “Welcome home, brother.” I was overwhelmed by the unexpected sense of having come home. That was the  moment when I realized I’d never really left my homeland behind, and had unresolved issues that needed to be addressed.

I was so struck by the fact that the young South African people I met in their early twenties really had no historical perspective on what had happened in their country before Nelson Mandela was elected President. This despite the fact that every one of them had been deeply affected by apartheid, whether they were the children of victims or perpetrators. I thought that a novel about their country’s revolution told through the eyes of fictional characters – blacks, whites, Jews – could be a great way to provide that perspective.

Kimberly Pettinger:

I had a hard-earned eight-week sabbatical at the company where I worked. But I’d just had my second child and was sleep deprived most of the time, so there was no way I was going for a vacation to Paris or anywhere else for that matter.  I was frustrated that my life was rather dull and my career had plateaued.

I’ve always been intrigued with females in positions of power. Who were they? How did they get to the top? What struggles did they have?  In the corporate environment, females – especially technical leaders – are rare and exceptional.  I was also interested in playing out the idea of the next generation of computing which would likely accelerate a major shift in society. And I liked the idea of balancing the corporate intrigue with a love story.

David Tomlinson:

Running on the treadmill in my home office, I was looking out the window, listening to music, watching the sunlight hit the street, and had this image of a guy running along the railroad tracks, lit up by this same light. That guy turned out to be one of main characters in a new story, a Choctaw Indian named Dean Goodnight, who works for the Oklahoma County Public Defender.

I wanted to write a literary novel about the Oklahoma City bombing: an ambitious, political, heartfelt book set in the place where I grew up. And I hoped that people could see and understand and wind up caring about complex, difficult, prickly, larger-than-life characters who at first glance can be tough to love.

What kind of homework did you do to write about what you didn’t know firsthand or hadn’t experienced yourself?

Jill Thomadsen:

I kept abreast of news articles and stories about the 2008 financial crisis, the bursting of the US housing bubble caused by collapsing mortgage lending standards. I asked myself if could it happen all over again, but this time with unregulated and fraudulent student loans.  Since this never happened, and it isn’t a disguised memoir or anything I’ve observed or experienced directly, I allowed myself some creative license as well.

Neville Frankel:

I had to read books on history and  politics, South African fiction, the reports on the Truth and Reconciliation hearings. I also made three trips to various parts of South Africa, some remote, to speak with many, many people about their experiences under apartheid and to write accurately about the geography and natural beauty of the country.

Kimberly Pettinger:

My experience working within a large multi-national corporation and the inner workings of that machine allowed me to write about it authentically.  The one component I didn’t have access to was the underworld of computing.  I did some research online and just imagined what it would be like for one of my characters.

David Tomlinson:

I read a dozen or so books on basketball, race relations, faith, local politics, and the justice system, taking copious notes, reworking my outline the entire time. I interviewed an old college roommate, a Choctaw Indian, who used to investigate capital cases for the public defender’s office, who gave me insight in Dean Goodnight’s life and day job. You, Alan, suggested that I read Phil Jackson’s “Sacred Hoops”, which is fantastic. And my daughter started playing basketball around this time so I spent some extra time watching the coach interact with his players and soaking up the sounds and textures of the gym.

One of the characters in this story is a physical therapist named Aura, a black woman, who winds up having to care for a paralyzed, bigoted patient named Cecil. My wife is a physician, and so if I had questions about medication, terminology, or complications due to Cecil’s condition, she pointed me in the right direction.

It took four years to complete the novel. I felt myself having so much empathy and understanding for my characters, while living the arc of this story from each particular character’s point of view. So in a way, by the time I was finished, I actually had experienced it all.

_____________

What about you?

Have you written a story about a character with whom you had little in common? We’d love to hear more about it.

What was the original source of your passion to write the story? What kind of homework did you do? What was the most difficult part of writing your book?

We welcome any problems, successes, experience or advice on breaking the rule to write only “what you know”.

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Be Generous with Detail

Posted: April 4, 2014 in Publishing
Tags: , , ,

First Edition Design eBook Publishers

Posted at Editors Only on Monday, March 31, 2014

Present information that you’ve gathered to stimulate reader interest.

By Peter P. Jacobi

Successful paragraphs/passages/segments/parcels in articles require heavy-duty work. To write them so that potential readers care enough to actually read what you’ve prepared demands prior thought and preparation. It calls for information gathering. It begs for details.

I’ve chosen several excerpts for you to peruse, so to arouse consideration about what, besides good writing, it took to realize them.

Dateline: Moore, Oklahoma

From The New York Times, May 27, 2013, a story by Michael Shear:

“…Mr. Obama took a brief walk through the remains of what once was a thriving suburb south of Oklahoma City. American flags, flapping in the stiff winds of the warm spring day, were among the rubble.

“But the piles also contained reminders of the lives torn apart by winds that topped 200 miles per hour as the twister cut a roughly 20-mile path of destruction through town.

“There were 2012 yearbooks from the Plaza Towers School and a workbook titled ‘Jamal’s Surprise.’ There were several waterlogged encyclopedias and a pink baby doll stroller. In another pile was a purple plastic toy camcorder and a child’s pink parka. Every few feet, crumpled cars blocked the way, and twisted metal littered yards that once had lawns. The only trees remaining had no bark and no leaves.”

The writer spotted particulars in the rubble that made devastation specific, that addressed lives interrupted and possibly lost, that spelled tragedy, that carefully put the President into another consoler-in-chief moment. To pass along such an experience, a reporter must search for the details that travel readily and clearly from a distant scene to the printed page and the reader’s eyes, mind, and heart. Shear did so, not by overplaying his hand as collector of facts but by selecting from his notes sufficient details to frame a circumscribed picture of human grief, one scoped large enough for a far-off reader to grasp and understand what had happened in Moore but not so large as to emotionally overwhelm him or her. The power of details.

Family Time

A column in National Geographic Traveler, prepared for the June/July 2013 issue by Laura Willard, is a short one about “Kids Go ‘Round the World in Balboa Park.” She recommends:

“1. Jump on a century-old carousel, with original European hand-carved animals, for a five-minute whirl. 2. See how your face changes as you age, and peer through a microscope at real human cells at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center…. 8. Enjoy a free concert from one of the largest outdoor pipe organs in the world at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion on Sundays.”

Willard’s list of ten activities that a family can enjoy at inviting Balboa Park has been thoughtfully collected and then ever-so-briefly but specifically offered to the magazine’s travel-enthused readers. If San Diego is a possible destination, those readers who choose to go there now have ten things to do while spending time with family (or alone) in that famous preserve. The writing took very little time, I’d guess, but the information took care and time to gather. Without that information, of course, there is no column worth reading. The power of details.

Dateline: Dhaka, Bangaladesh

From USA Today, May 17–19, 2013, a story by Calum MacLeod focused first on 20-year-old Sheuli Akhter, a garment worker:

“Her mother, Ranjana, was found recently sobbing near the rubble of the Rana Plaza factory where her daughter worked, days after the eight-story complex collapsed and killed 1,127 people. Viewing dozens of corpses a day, Ranjana … still hoped her daughter had somehow survived and would join her for the 10-hour bus journey back to their village.

“The victims retrieved daily from the debris were crushed and unrecognizable in the South Asian heat.

“‘I am looking for her body, but they are all decomposed now. It’s getting harder to identify,’ says Ranjama, tears falling from her eyes.”

MacLeod located a mother still seeking but coming to realize that her daughter is among the victims. He used that mother-daughter tragedy as a humanizing detail to get at the message he sought to impart to his readers, which comes in the paragraph that followed:

“The scale of the mismanagement and breadth of the human tragedies in Bangladesh powerfully illustrated to the world in an instant what years of abuse, inhumane conditions and unthinkable danger could not: The workers in Third World countries take enormous risks and desperate measures to earn a living in Bangladeshi-owned companies that produce clothing for Western retailers.

“At the end of this global production line stand millions of American shoppers whose favorite companies and brands … use Bangladesh as a launching pad for the goods consumers crave.”

The human detail tells, shows, and sells the point that the reporter is striving to make: we’re helping to sustain a system that causes the sort of tragedy we’re suddenly sad about, so what are we — individually and collectively — ready to do, if anything, to bring about change? The power of detail.

Return Engagement

The New Yorker‘s eminent music critic, Alex Ross, wrote in the June 10, 2013, issue of the magazine about the return-from-injury appearance of conductor James Levine with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. Here is his opening paragraph:

“At the beginning of the Prelude to Wagner’s ‘Lohengrin,’ an A-major triad, evoking the Holy Grail, swells gently in the violins, oboes, and flutes, with four solo violinists playing silvery harmonics. For the orchestra, it is a scarily exposed moment: the violins must maintain purity of intonation in a high register, while the winds must materialize before the audience’s ears, with no audible splutter of attack. The musicians of the Metropolitan Opera, performing the Prelude at the outset of a concert on May 19th at Carnegie Hall, had no trouble meeting those requirements. But the sonority had an uncommon aura — something of the magical quality that Charles Baudelaire, in his 1861 essay on Wagner, described as a ‘wide diffusion of light,’ an ‘immensity with no other décor but itself.’ Moreover, the chord seemed to be in motion, like a crystal turning in space as light shone through it. Wagner, whose 200th birthday arrived three days later, could not have asked for a lovelier gift, in whatever region of the hereafter he may be found.”

Ross ascribed that moment in performance to conductor Levine, back after a two-year absence. “Perhaps,” he noted, “the musicians would have sounded the same if another conductor had been on the podium, but I doubt that the playing would have had such extreme concentration, such meditative intensity.”

This critic, of course, brings to all his assignments ears attuned to every note, bar, accent, solo responsibility, and ensemble development. That’s an inherent and trained part of talent he contributes to his job of evaluating music, and he can follow through, fortunately, with intelligent writing that makes the case. But look at the knowledge that peeks through, thanks to material he chose to construct his paragraph and what follows: of score, of instrumental capabilities, of Wagner, of “Lohengrin,” of James Levine, of the Met Orchestra. Some of that knowledge has become a given for Ross; he has it at his beck and call. But his research must have included going back to the score and also hunting up historic details about Wagner and “Lohengrin” (the Baudelaire quote, for instance). Ross obviously knew what he needed to prove his argument. The power of detail.

I have at least five more examples that I wanted to use in this month’s column, but I’ve run out of space. Detail is a subject worth recycling. I will again. In the meantime, don’t stint on detail. Be generous. Don’t overwhelm, but be generous. Be wisely selective, but be generous.

Peter P. Jacobi is a Professor Emeritus at Indiana University. He is a writing and editing consultant for numerous associations and magazines, speech coach, and workshop leader for various institutions and corporations. He can be reached at 812-334-0063.

Visit: www.firsteditiondesignpublishing.com

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Publisher – Aggregator – Master Distributor

Another great guest post from Duolit! by Adrienne from Design Roast.

tumblrTumblr is a must for any author looking to build a following of readers. It is a platform to promote your writing within a tight-knit community, as well as a place to dynamically tell the world about you and your books through videos, quotes, photos, reblogging, links and just some straightforward text too. The most popular way to share on this site, however, is through the creative use of animated gifs.

What do all of these forms have in common? They’re short, easily digestible content.

Today, a variety of literary figures can be found on Tumblr, including book reviewers, publishers, booksellers and, of course, authors. Tumblr has many opportunities for authors, so keep reading to learn how to get started.

Sign Up for Tumblr and Set Up Your Profile

tumblr-johngreen

For starters, create an account. This means uploading a photo of yourself and creating a unique username. Since your username will be a part of your tumblr URL, choose wisely.

Some established authors, like John Green, have gotten creative with their username — his isfishingboatproceeds. If you’re looking to build a following, consider using a familiar title from your books, or simply your name/pseudonym.

The rest of the account settings are pretty straightforward. In the “About” section, share a bit of your background, as well as a few of your book titles. You can also set your preferences by allowing, or not allowing, replies from people – and since you’re building a community, it’s a good idea to allow these comments.

Another great feature is the “Ask” section. By turning this on, your readers can ask you questions; just be prepared for them to potentially ask about everything from your favorite place to write to further details about your characters and when your next book is coming out!

How to Customize the Appearance of Your Site

tumblr-themegardenThere’s a variety of functionality you can add to your site; one way to really stand out is to personalize the look of your site with a theme (found under Settings > Edit Theme).

If you have a header or background that you’ve designed, you can upload these here. Alternatively, you can simply change the color background to set a tone for your tumblr site. This area of the Tumblr settings even gives you the ability to change your site’s font.

Just keep in mind: Every setting you choose creates an impression about you and your books. Choose colors that will be pleasing to your audience, and fonts that aren’t too hard to read.

If you need assistance with your design, check out the “theme garden” by clicking on Settings > Find Themes. This “garden” is full of choices that can reflect what you and your writing are about. There’s a plethora of options – they even have a storybook theme perfect for children’s authors.

While some of these themes are free, others do cost a nominal fee, which is much less than what you’d spend hiring someone to do the design work for you.  Plus, you can do some customization after choosing a theme, such as change up the features – color, font, etc. – to really make the site yours. Just keep in mind the theme will only change how your readers see your page; it won’t change your home feed (where you’ll make updates and monitor other people’s pages).

How to Enable Comments

Many of the themes available through Tumblr include the ability to add comments through Disqus. If Disqus isn’t enabled, the only way people can interact with your content is by liking it and reblogging it. If you’re looking for more interaction on Tumblr, start by making a Disqus account and then adding your Tumblr site under “Your Sites” in Disqus.

Next, visit your Tumblr settings and choose Settings > Edit Theme > Customize. Once there, put your Disqus-supplied username in where it asks for your “Disqus Shortname.” Disqus also gives you the ability to check if it was installed correctly and allows you can set rules in order to moderate your comments.

How to Promote Your Books on Tumblr

authorstumblrNow comes the fun part: building up the content on your site! While you’re free to post about whatever you want on your Tumblr page, as an author there are some things you should focus on:

  • Quotes: Not only can you offer an excerpt from your books, but you can also quote reviews of your work or even just quotes by others who inspire you. Then, you can comment on the quotes you post.
  • Videos: Think book trailers for your work or just content you think has some relevance to your brand and the topics you love to write about.
  • Images: Have a new book coming out? Tease what it’s about through images that inspired you while writing, and then post the book cover to Tumblr.
  • Links: The world is your oyster when it comes to posting links. Share articles you’ve written around the web, press coverage, links back to your personal writing blog where longer text content resides and more. Like videos and quotes, you can provide some commentary on any link you post.
  • GIFs: Animated gifs are by far the most popular way to tell a story or share a thought on Tumblr. They can be about a TV show you’re inspired by or simply something fun to share with your readers. Find gifs to use on Giphy.

No matter what medium you use to blog on Tumblr, be sure to tag each and every post with keywords, so users other than your followers can easily find you.

How to Gain a Following on Tumblr

For starters, start following others. You find others by searching their email, URL, or username. Alternatively, search for topics and blogs that interest you. You can focus on publishing-related sites, but follow sites that simply interest and inspire you too. Some people might follow you back, some might not, but it’s a start within the community.

As for gaining followers and readers of your own, simply interact with the site. Like other people’s posts and reblog. Spread the love among Tumblr, and Tumblr will spread the love right back.

While the functionality of Tumblr is simpler than writing a lengthy blog post every day, its offerings are immense. Don’t be intimidated by the site; just get started with an account, explore hashtags and other people’s pages and have fun with it. You never know how it might help you in your next writing endeavor!

Adrienne is a freelance writer and social marketer who loves analyzing social media campaigns to see what works. To see more of her work, check out her blog about design.

Visit: www.firsteditiondesignpublishing.com

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  writing for The Future of Ink, March 7, 2014

5 Ways to Generate eBook IdeasIt’s one thing to write a book, it’s quite another towrite a book that will sell. We all want to follow our passion, write our dream and dance creatively with our muse, but wouldn’t it be fantastic if, amidst all of this creation, we also managed toproduce a bestselling book?That is, after all, the dream. Specifically we’d all like high ranking on Amazon and though I’veaddressed that and reviews in other pieces,I thought that a step back to the beginning might be a good place to focus on.

Finding Bestselling Book Ideas

I know this gal who fraternizes with a lot of SEO people; for those of you not familiar with the term, SEO stands forSearch Engine Optimization.These are the folks who spend their life trying to get on the first page of Google. One day several years back, she and I were talking about the topic ofhow to create ideas that sell.She told me that many of her SEO buddies would write books literally just based on keywords. It had nothing to do with their passion or what they really wanted to write about; instead, they focused on saleable terms, meaning phrases that were getting a huge bounce in Google. Now this may not be how you would ever consider writing a book, but there aremerits to this methodology: Book focus:Where will you focus your book?Don’t get too caught up in a set plan.Leave some room for flexibility and consider what’s “hot” to write about right now. What is an immediate need? You may still stick with your original plan, but slant it a bit more towards seeing what’s hot in search or in the media. Keep in mind that the speed of book production often allows us to jump on a trend or hot topic so take advantage of that when you can. Book title:If you have identified yourbest keywords for this market(which we’ll focus on in next month’s article) then you can and should use them here. Keywords in a title can really help to boost your exposure not just on Amazon but on Google as well. Book subtitle:If you already have your title set in stone, consider usingkeywords in your subtitleto help boost your exposure in search. Book topic:Let’s say you know your market, but you aren’t sure what to write about. Sure, you could align this with “book focus,” but consider that you’re an expert in consumer finance and want to write a book on this topic. Knowingwhat consumers are searching on(as it relates to finance) could be a great way to address the immediate needs of your reader. This is where keywords come into play but the research I share further in this article will help with this, too. The other element here is tocreate a topic that’s narrower.Instead of focusing on one broad area, focus in more granularly. For example, I recently taught a class about this very topic and we brainstormed ideas on creating segmented topics within one broader umbrella. Consider the real estate gal who has a book on buying or selling your first home. I suggested that instead of trying to reach a big, broad and cluttered market, that she instead focus on isolated industries. The ideas we brainstormed were: Buying Your First Home for Singles, Buying Your First Home for Seniors, Buying Your First Home for Domestic Partners. You get the idea, right? Createa series of booksthat sits under a broader market. This will net you better sales. Consumers like specializedtopics that help solve a specific problem.And the books don’t have to be long, but we’ll cover that in more depth later. Once you find this market or niche, you’ll want to publish regularly to it. Amazon and the associated algorithms tend to trigger quicker when an author has multiple titles so consider that as well. So, let’s assume that you’ve done some keyword research or are at least familiar with the keywords in your market. Let’s see how these searches relate to popular topics on Amazon. Step-by-step,here is what you’ll need to do:

  • On the Amazon page,search in the Kindle store tab.I want you to isolate your searches there for now.
  • Plug in your search term andsee what comes up.You’ll generally get 5-10 suggestions. Click on one of them.

Amazon Look at the books that come up in search andclick on the “customers also bought”section. AmazonCustomersAlsoBought Your focus should be on books thathave a low sales rank.Depending on the category, it could be as low as 20,000 or as high as 50,000. You want to make sure there’s a variety of books in this segment, preferablymore than fiveand they should all have this range of sales volume. If it’s lower than 20,000 that’s great, but when you get into the super saturated or unpopular categories, neither of those will help you. Some Amazon experts say that a 20,000 rank indicates that the book is selling five copies a day, but I find this hard to prove either way. Just know that given Amazon’s volume, it’s definitely not languishing. Regardless,this research will really help to expose hot topics and market segmentswithin your area of expertise that are selling well.

 Staying on the Short and Narrow

While full-length books will never go away, there’s a surge towards shorter, niche books—books that “own” a narrow market segment. When I first publishedHow to Sell Books by the Truckload on Amazon,I was surprised at how the sales outpaced my other books. While I know the title had a lot to do with this, it was also the fact that the book was shorter and focused on one particular area. If you decide to do this (write shorter books), I wouldn’t suggest justkeeping the book short.While short is the new long, there’s still plenty of room for full-length books, too. So, in other words, if you can mix it up, that’s the best track for success. How short can short be? Ten thousand to seventeen thousand words is generally acceptable. Keep in mind that if you do short, you don’t have room for fluff. You’ll want to be ascrystal clearas you can be on specific instructions, maybe even include step-by-step instructions or checklists, which readers love.

 Other Ways to Develop Book Ideas

There’s an element of research that goes into every book you create, and I’m not just talking about the topic research, but content, too. When you’re developing your book idea and trying todecide what to include and exclude from the book,consider spending a bit of time doing a comparison with other, similar books in your market. Take a look at their book pages on Amazon, read through their reviews. In particular, the negative reviews that give constructive feedback about what the reader thought was missing, or things they wished had been expanded upon, will be particularly helpful. Readers will tell you what they want, and they’ll often do it in a review.

Readers will tell you what they want, and they’ll often do it in a review.

 One Final Note on Shorter Books

On Amazon there is the “look inside the book” feature. This covers just a short section of your book, so be cautious when you’re preparing your final content. If your book is too short, the “look inside” feature will reveal most of the book, or enough of it that readers may glean what they want and not buy it. You want to fill the book with sufficient content so that you don’t end up with this problem. If you’ve finished the book and it seems a bit too short,consider adding things like checklists, free resources or bonus chaptersfrom other books you’ve written that relate to this topic. Keep in mind that this isn’t meant to pump up your book page count just for the sake of doing that, but if the book looks too much like a white paper or report instead of a book, you may end up with a lot of window-shoppers who don’t end up buying. How short is too short?Anything under 50 pages is too short.Generally I’d recommend that you sit somewhere over 55 pages, ideally 65 pages to be safe. And again, don’t stuff your book with useless content. Make sure that if you need to add pages, you are adding helpful, useful information. Doing somebook researchis not just a great idea to help develop some high-selling product, but a great idea overall. We invest so much of our time and effort into our books that the more we can make sure we’re on target, the less time we’ll spend languishing in obscurity. Given that there are3,500 books published every dayin the US, whatever you can do tostand out above the crowdcan make all the difference.   Read the rest of this article on The Future of Ink: http://thefutureofink.com/create-bestselling-book-ideas/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+tfoi+%28The+Future+of+Ink%29

Penny Sansevieri
Penny C. Sansevieri, Founder and CEO Author Marketing Experts, Inc., is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. She is an Adjunct Professor teaching Self-Publishing for NYU. She is the author of twelve books, including How to Sell Books by the Truckload on Amazon and Red Hot Internet Publicity.

Visit: www.firsteditiondesignpublishing.com

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INFOGRAPHICS

The DNA of a Successful Book: INFOGRAPHIC

Reposted from GalleyCat: By Dianna Dilworth on January 23, 2014 3:20 PM

hiptypeHiptype has created an infographic called, “The DNA of a Successful Book,” which explores what goes into a good book.

According to the graphic, 300-page books have an 87 percent completion rate. Completion rates steadily drop the longer a book gets, with 700-word books only earning a 35 percent completion rate. The graphic also reveals that books that earned the most revenue cost an average of $3.99, while books that sell for $.99 are sold 12x as often as other titles.

We’ve embedded the entire graphic after the jump for you to explore further.

The DNA of a Successful Book

by NowSourcing.
Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community –Visually.

First Edition Design eBook Publishers

For those looking to predict what will happen in 2014, here is an interesting piece from back in October 29, 2013 by Thad McIlroy

If you read this entire blog entry your eyes are very likely to glaze over: it contains an overload of stats & calculations. So let me first offer an Executive Summary:

1. The five largest trade publishers in the U.S. published just 7.6% of all ebook titles between April 1, 2010, and May 21, 2012 (in other words, recently).

2. On the other hand their paltry title offering garnered roughly 50% of ebook sales volume during that period.

3. Still, despite those lopsided figures, ebook publishing is eroding the market share of the largest trade publishers, which stood at 65.1% less than a decade ago.

———————————

One of the latest filings in the ad nauseam Department of Justice struggle with Apple and the largest U.S. publishers (except Random House) offers some data nuggets that I find intriguing. The filing is a 103-page expert report from Roger E. Noll (PDF), hired by the state governments to estimate damages by the 5 publishers against consumers. (See Note 1 below.)

Publishers Weekly, quoting from the report, states that 1,348,121 ebook titles (excluding textbooks) were “purchased at least once” between April 1, 2010, and May 21, 2012. The top four e-book retailers at the time — Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, and Sony — accounted for 98% of all retail ebook sales.

Noll calculates that 83,463 titles were sold by the five settling publishers. Random House is not among them, yet was the largest trade publisher during that period. For the fiscal year 2012 Random House (Bertelsmann) provided an estimate (PDF) that “more than 47,000 English-, German-, and Spanish- language Random House titles are available as e-books.” Today I found 18,423 results for “Random House” in NOOK Books on Barnes & Noble. Adding the latter (more useful) number into mix suggests that the (now) Big 5 published roughly 7.6% of all ebooks offered in the period under discussion. (See Note 2 below.)

To understand this data, first the easy bit: total title output in some perspective. To quote from a decade ago:

U.S. Book Production Soars to 175,000 New Titles in 2003

May 27, 2004 — R.R. Bowker, the leading provider of bibliographic information in North America, today released statistics on U.S. book publishing compiled from its Books In Print database. Based on preliminary figures, Bowker is projecting that U.S. title output in 2003 increased a staggering 19% to 175,000 new titles and editions, the highest total ever recorded.

The latest print book output recorded by Bowker ranges from “328,259 titles in 2010 to a projected 347,178 for 2011.” Ebooks are adding an order of magnitude number to the total. (See note 3 below for further detail on the number of titles published annually.)

Now the tricky part: market share.

The Publishers Weekly article quotes from Noll’s expert witness report that “the 6% of e-book titles sold by the five major houses (excluding Random House) generated more than $1.54 billion” in sales.

BookStats, the joint AAP/BISG data collection project, reported total revenues for the U.S. trade book industry at $13.94 billion in 2010, $13.97 billion in 2011 and $15.05 billion in 2012, for a three-year trade sale total of $43 billion.

BookStats separately reported that ebooks made up 6.4% of trade revenue in 2010 ($905 million), 15% in 2011 ($2.074 billion), and 20% in 2012 ($3.04 billion). Total ebook sales for the three years are then $6.2 billion (14.4% of overall trade sales in the period).

PRHOf course we know next to nothing about U.S. market share data for Random House or for Penguin, though estimates of the now merged companies peg their combined worldwide marketshare at 25%. The ownership of the venture is split 53% for Random House owner Bertelsmann and 47% for Penguin owner Pearson. This is assumed to roughly reflect their book sale ratios (on a worldwide basis) when the deal was struck in 2012.

Noll’s assessment of the percent of the damages incurred by each of the five publishers charged pegs Penguin’s sales in the period at $481,408,045 or 31% of the total. If I add in (a roughly estimated) $500 million for Random House total sales for the big publishers would hit $2.05 billion.

In the trading period covered by the DOJ suit, if we accept the there’s no significant seasonality to ebook sales, total trade publisher ebook sales would be just over $4 billion. The big 5 (formerly Big 6) then account for roughly 50% of ebook sales volume in this period.

To put this data in perspective I turned to The Culture and Commerce of Publishing in the 21st Century by Albert Greco, Clara Rodriguez, and Robert Wharton (Stanford University Press, 2006). A chart on page 15 of the book shows that in 2004 the 10 largest trade publishers (which, through consolidation, are roughly equivalent to the top 5 today) held 65.1% of the market; let’s call it two-thirds. Based on this data ebooks are starting to have a significant role in reducing the industry dominance by the largest publishers. Can that be a bad thing?

Next we have to focus on the all-too-dominant online retailer.

Notes

1. The damages calculated by Prof. Noll, given that he represents the plaintiffs, could naturally tend to the high side, consistent with how expert witnesses ply their trade (this aspect has been criticized in some of the trade press). But the underlying sales estimates, based as they usually are on published reports, are less pliable than the deductive techniques an expert might use to extrapolate damages from this core data.

2. Some variables lie outside of this data, mainly that we don’t know exactly when the titles that were purchased were published, which could throw the calculation off. But as book buying skews heavily to recently-published titles the factor should not be large.

3. Bowker recently reported that the number of self-published titles (both print and digital) in 2012 “jumped to more than 391,000, up 59 percent over 2011.” That puts the number of self-published titles at 231,000 in 2010. In 2012 Bowker noted that “while print accounts for 63 percent of self-published books, ebooks are gaining fast. E-book production in 2011 was 87,201, up 129 percent over 2010.” Bowker recorded roughly 265,000 self-published ebooks in the three years 2010-2012, suggesting that a million or so ebooks came from publishing houses, a number that isn’t borne out by other studies. It’s well known the many self-published authors aren’t using ISBNs and so don’t show up on Bowker’s radar but the figure nonetheless seems surprisingly large.

November 6, 2013

Over at Dear AuthorJane states “I’m not sure I agree with McIlroy’s final conclusion – that ebooks are having a significant role in reducing industry dominance by the largest publishers.”

I replied:

Thanks Jane for covering my blog post. I appreciate the critique.

The best marketshare figures I can find that are more recent than those quoted on my blog are Michael Hyatt’s , which showed 57.7% marketshare for the top 5 in 2009, a relatively modest decline from the 65.1 in 2004 (particularly because these numbers are always a little slippery).

I should have been more explicit in my argument. We know from numerous sources that ebook sales are eating into print sales, certainly for the largest publishers. With ebook sales now accounting for roughly 23-30% of the largest publishers total sales, and with their print book sales shrinking, the only way that these publishers can maintain their current market share is either by replicating their market dominance in ebooks, or by significantly increasing their market share in the remaining print book market. Neither seems likely.

Self-published authors, small & nimble, though still with modest sales volumes on a relative basis, are proving far more adept at learning how to successfully market their work than are the big trade publishing groups. That to me suggests that as ebook sales continue to grow as a percentage of total book sales, self-published authors will gain market share.

I’m not trying to imply that the mighty Random Penguin should have sleepless nights. But for the first time in many decades the publishing industry has a chance of becoming less dominated by a very small cadre.

- See more at: http://thefutureofpublishing.com/2013/10/largest-publishers-supply-less-than-8-of-ebook-titles-achieve-50-of-ebook-sales/#sthash.l6jTWJWy.dpuf

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Posted: 11/20/2013 5:06 pm on Huffington Post

There are a lot of bad grammar posts in the world. These days, anyone with a blog and a bunch of pet peeves can crank out a click-bait listicle of supposed grammar errors. There’s just one problem — these articles are often full of mistakes of one sort or another themselves. Once you’ve read a few, you start noticing some patterns. Inspired by a recent post titled “Grammar Police: Twelve Mistakes Nearly Everyone Makes,” I decided to make a list of my own.

1. Confusing grammar with spelling, punctuation, and usage. Many people who write about grammar seem to think that grammar means “any sort of rule of language, especially writing.” But strictly speaking, grammar refers to the structural rules of language, namely morphology (basically the way words are formed from roots and affixes), phonology (the system of sounds in a language), and syntax (the way phrases and clauses are formed from words). Most complaints about grammar are really about punctuation, spelling (such as problems with you’re/your and other homophone confusion) or usage (which is often about semantics). This post, for instance, spends two of its twelve points on commas and a third on quotation marks.

2. Treating style choices as rules. This article says that you should always use an Oxford (or serial) comma (the comma before and or or in a list) and that quotation marks should always follow commas and periods, but the latter is true only in most American styles (linguists often put the commas and periods outside quotes, and so do many non-American styles), and the former is only true of some American styles. I may prefer serial commas, but I’m not going to insist that everyone who doesn’t use them is making a mistake. It’s simply a matter of style, and style varies from one publisher to the next.

3. Ignoring register. There’s a time and a place for following the rules, but the writers of these lists typically treat English as though it had only one register: formal writing. They ignore the fact that following the rules in the wrong setting often sounds stuffy and stilted. Formal written English is not the only legitimate form of the language, and the rules of formal written English don’t apply in all situations. Sure, it’s useful to know when to usewho and whom, but it’s probably more useful to know that saying To whom did you give the book? in casual conversation will make you sound like a pompous twit.

4. Saying that a disliked word isn’t a word. You may hate irregardless (I do), but that doesn’t mean it’s not a word. If it has its own meaning and you can use it in a sentence, guess what — it’s a word. Flirgle, on the other hand, is not a word — it’s just a bunch of sounds that I strung together in word-like fashion. Irregardless and its ilk may not be appropriate for use in formal registers, and you certainly don’t have to like them, but asStan Carey says, “‘Not a word’ is not an argument.”

5. Turning proposals into ironclad laws. This one happens more often than you think. A great many rules of grammar and usage started life as proposals that became codified as inviolable laws over the years. The popular that/which rule, which I’ve discussed at length before, began as a proposal — not “everyone gets this wrong” but “wouldn’t it be nice if we made a distinction here?” But nowadays people have forgotten that a century or so ago, this rule simply didn’t exist, and they say things like “This is one of the most common mistakes out there, and understandably so.” (Actually, no, you don’t understand why everyone gets this “wrong,” because you don’t realize that this rule is a relatively recent invention by usage commentators that some copy editors and others have decided to enforce.) It’s easy to criticize people for not following rules that you’ve made up.

6. Failing to discuss exceptions to rules. Invented usage rules often ignore the complexities of actual usage. Lists of rules such as these go a step further and often ignore the complexities of those rules. For example, even if you follow the that/which rule, you need to know that you can’t use that after a preposition or after the demonstrative pronounthat – you have to use a restrictive which. Likewise, the less/fewer rule is usually reduced to statements like “use fewer for things you can count,” which leads to ugly and unidiomatic constructions like “one fewer thing to worry about.” Affect and effect aren’t as simple as some people make them out to be, either; affect is usually a verb and effect a noun, but affect can also be a noun (with stress on the first syllable) referring to the outward manifestation of emotions, while effect can be a verb meaning to cause or to make happen. Sometimes dumbing down rules just makes them dumb.

7. Overestimating the frequency of errors. The writer of this list says that misuse ofnauseous is “Undoubtedly the most common mistake I encounter.” This claim seems worth doubting to me; I can’t remember the last time I heard someone say “nauseous.” Even if you consider it a misuse, it’s got to rate pretty far down the list in terms of frequency. This is why linguists like to rely on data for testable claims — because people tend to fall prey to all kinds of cognitive biases such as the frequency illusion.

8. Believing that etymology is destiny. Words change meaning all the time — it’s just a natural and inevitable part of language. But some people get fixated on the original meanings of some words and believe that those are the only correct meanings. For example, they’ll say that you can only use decimate to mean “to destroy one in ten.” This may seem like a reasonable argument, but it quickly becomes untenable when you realize that almost every single word in the language has changed meaning at some point, and that’s just in the few thousand years in which language has been written or can be reconstructed. And sometimes a new meaning is more useful anyway (which is precisely why it displaced an old meaning). As Jan Freeman said, “We don’t especially need a term that means ‘kill one in 10.’”

9. Simply bungling the rules. If you’re going to chastise people for not following the rules, you should know those rules yourself and be able to explain them clearly. You may dislike singular they, for instance, but you should know that it’s not a case of subject-predicate disagreement, as the author of this list claims — it’s an issue of pronoun-antecedent agreement, which is not the same thing. This list says that “‘less’ is reserved for hypothetical quantities,” but this isn’t true either; it’s reserved for noncount nouns, singular count nouns, and plural count nouns that aren’t generally thought of as discrete entities. Use of less has nothing to do with being hypothetical. And this one says that punctuation always goes inside quotation marks. In most American styles, it’s only commas and periods that always go inside. Colons, semicolons, and dashes always go outside, and question marks and exclamation marks only go inside sometimes.

10. Saying that good grammar leads to good communication. Contrary to popular belief, bad grammar (even using the broad definition that includes usage, spelling, and punctuation) is not usually an impediment to communication. A sentence like Ain’t nobody got time for that is quite intelligible, even though it violates several rules of Standard English. The grammar and usage of nonstandard varieties of English are often radically different from Standard English, but different does not mean worse or less able to communicate. The biggest differences between Standard English and all its nonstandard varieties are that the former has been codified and that it is used in all registers, from casual conversation to formal writing. Many of the rules that these lists propagate are really more about signaling to the grammatical elite that you’re one of them — not that this is a bad thing, of course, but let’s not mistake it for something it’s not. In fact, claims about improving communication are often just a cover for the real purpose of these lists, which is…

11. Using grammar to put people down. This post sympathizes with someone who worries about being crucified by the grammar police and then says a few paragraphs later, “All hail the grammar police!” In other words, we like being able to crucify those who make mistakes. Then there are the put-downs about people’s education (“You’d think everyone learned this rule in fourth grade”) and more outright insults (“5 Grammar Mistakes that Make You Sound Like a Chimp“). After all, what’s the point in signaling that you’re one of the grammatical elite if you can’t take a few potshots at the ignorant masses?

12. Forgetting that correct usage ultimately comes from users. The disdain for the usage of common people is symptomatic of a larger problem: forgetting that correct usage ultimately comes from the people, not from editors, English teachers, or usage commentators. You’re certainly entitled to have your opinion about usage, but at some point you have to recognize that trying to fight the masses on a particular point of usage (especially if it’s a made-up rule) is like trying to fight the rising tide. Those who have invested in learning the rules naturally feel defensive of them and of the language in general, but you have no more right to the language than anyone else. You can be restrictive if you want and say that Standard English is based on the formal usage of educated writers, but any standard that is based on a set of rules that are simply invented and passed down is ultimately untenable.

And a bonus mistake:

13. Making mistakes themselves. It happens to the best of us. The act of making grammar or spelling mistakes in the course of pointing out someone else’s mistakes even has a name, Muphry’s law. This post probably has its fair share of typos. (If you spot one, feel free to point it out — politely! — in the comments.)

Jonathon Owen is a copy editor and language writer with a master’s degree in linguistics from Brigham Young University. He blogs about usage, editing, and linguistics at Arrant Pedantry, where this post first appeared.
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Reposted from Folio.

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Facebook leads in volume, but other portals have stronger demos.

Michael RondonBY MICHAEL RONDON 
11/14/2013 -16:44 PM

Twitter has gotten more attention lately, but Facebook still has massive advantages in content consumption.

The latter is a news portal for close to a third of all American adults, according to latest study from the Pew Research Center’s Journalism Project. Used for news by 10 percent of Americans, YouTube is actually a more-viewed source than Twitter (8 percent).

That’s good news for publishers with a lot of “likes,” but it doesn’t mean the other channels can be ignored—content probably isn’t going to reach people on multiple channels. Two out of three of U.S. adults get news from one, and only one, social network.

Younger, richer, lefty: Most of the platforms in the study skew younger with mid- to high-level income users who are predominantly left-leaning politically, but distinctions did emerge.

Notably, Facebook’s user base is 58-percent female, while YouTube (57 percent) and LinkedIn (67 percent) cater to male audiences; Twitter is 50-50. LinkedIn also stood out in age—half of its users fall in the 30-49 year-old demographic; just 18 percent are under age 30—and income—63 percent of LinkedIn users earn at least $75,000.

Where else do they look: Twitter users are the most insular when it comes to consuming news content, according to Pew. Out of all social network users, they’re the least likely to turn to print, TV or radio.

Twitterers will look down at their phones when they want news though—54 percent “often” consume their news content via mobile devices. LinkedIn was the second-most mobile news source (51 percent), with Facebook (38 percent) and YouTube (37 percent) failing to crack 40 percent.

reddit…America’s No.1 source for news: By one measure, reddit was the most popular news site of all—more than 60 percent of its users get news on the site, Pew says.

Despite the high percentage of news consumers, its small base—Pew puts the figure at about 9 million users; for comparison, they say Facebook has 202 million and Twitter has 50 million—means that just 2 percent of the U.S. population gets its news there.

Michael RondonBY MICHAEL RONDON – Michael Rondon is associate editor of Folio: magazine.

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By Jason Boog on October 30, 2013 3:42 PM
Originally on GalleyCat!

recordplayerHave you ever quoted song lyrics in your book? Music can set the mood, evoke a certain setting or channel a particular emotion.

However, writers need to be aware of copyright issues surrounding music in books. We caught up withCopyright Clearance Center‘s author and creator relations director Christopher Kenneally, discovering the key questions authors should ask before including a song. Kenneally explained:

Consider not quoting the song. Lyrics, like all creative expression, are copyrighted. Copyright gives the author or creator the exclusive right to republication of the work. Any writer who wishes to quote lyrics, or for that matter, passages from another’s book, must obtain permission first. It’s probably worth asking how necessary or vital such quotation is to any particular creative work.

Kenneally added:

If it’s used to set a mood or establish a period, it’s easy enough to refer to song titles, which, under U.S. law, are not copyrighted. However, some novelists and short story writers – Ann Beattie is perhaps the most famous example – find it essential to quote from song lyrics as a way of establishing credible characters or settings.

We posed the same question about self-published books, and received this answer:

Just because you’ve made yourself the publisher, doesn’t mean you have the right to make up your own copyright law. Self-publishing has, in many respects, freed authors to express themselves as they wish. But it has also added greatly to their responsibilities. Today, self-published authors must not only write, but also market, sell and obtain rights permissions.

Finally, Kenneally explained the steps authors need to take to get permission to use song lyrics:

For any permission request, the first step is to identify the copyright holder. This is not as easy as it sounds. Look for the copyright symbol on the CD sleeve and the name of the publisher. However, in an increasingly digital world where downloads are more common, this sort of “metadata” is not always immediately available.

If you contact the publisher, don’t expect a fast reply. He or she will usually need to contact several different rightsholders who may be on tour or (as it happens in rock) have recently climbed the stairway to heaven. Do expect that for all but the most obscure artist, the reuse fees may be significant. If you run into a roadblock, there are organizations that will provide assistance. Such “content management organizations” include ASCAPBMI, as well asCopyright Clearance Center.

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An awesome guest post over at Catherine, Caffeinated!

As promised, today we have another guest post from editor Robert Doran, whose ‘copy-editing explained’ post on Tuesday gave this blog a visitors spike. (As did his previous guest posts on the subject of all things editing –Structural Editing for Self-Publishers and Why Hire An Editor?). This morning, his focus is on proofreading…

“There exists a common misconception that if your manuscript isn’t in great condition, it needs a structural edit; if it is in reasonable condition, it needs a copy-edit; and if it’s in pretty good condition, a proofread is all that is required. Well, I have some bad news. The truth is rather different, and it goes something like this: every manuscript needs all three, because each of the three contributes something distinct and valuable to the project. OK, Ian McEwan or John Banville will get away with skipping the structural edit, but there are very few manuscripts that wouldn’t benefit from one.

Copy-editing and proofreading, on the other hand, are both essential if you want your book to reach the minimum industry standard. I think that bears repeating – the minimum! In previous posts we’ve looked at structural editing and copy-editing; now we’re going to take a closer look at proofreading and its place in the publishing process.

hardcover-books

The clue is in the name, really: the original function of the proofreader was to read the typeset manuscript (proof) and check it against the copy-edited one. They made sure that the copy-editor had marked up the manuscript correctly and that the typesetter had interpreted those marks as intended. Essentially, they were the quality controllers, ensuring that the editor and the typesetter had done what they were supposed to and correcting any errors that remained.

Today, this quality-control function continues to be central to the role but the manuscript is generally read ‘blind’ (i.e. without reference to the copy-edit). Checking the typeset manuscript independently speeds up the process and also, in my opinion, takes greater advantage of the proofreader’s skills: less time checking one script against another means more time spent finding errors and inconsistencies.

In addition to correcting any typesetting errors and any errors that have slipped through at copy-edit stage, proofreaders are responsible for making sure that the layout and design, pagination, cross-referencing, images and captions, front and back matter (acknowledgements, imprint page, contents page, bibliography, index, etc.), headings and basically everything that goes into making a book are present, consistent and correct. That’s quite a long list, and it’s not even an exhaustive one. It’s also a list that clearly distinguishes the proofreader from the copy-editor, who is more concerned with the correctness and effectiveness of the author’s writing. Much of what the proofreader is responsible for checking didn’t even exist at the copy-editing stage, and it’s not uncommon for the copy-editor to never even see the typeset manuscript before publication.

You can see where I’m going with this: these are different jobs, so don’t expect your proofreader to copy-edit your book. Proofreading is not a lesser function, it’s a different one, carried out at the end of the publishing process.

Your manuscript should already be both complete and very clean by the time it reaches the proofreader (i.e. it should be edited). There are several reasons for this. First, it is expensive to make changes to a typeset manuscript (typesetters don’t work for free), so the proofreader is generally instructed to stick to correcting errors and to make only the changes that are absolutely necessary. This means that it is not the time to rename characters, to introduce a new plot element or to rewrite the introduction. All that should have been put to bed before the copy-editing stage.

Also, any substantial changes or rewriting need to be carefully checked, not just to make sure that they are correct but also to establish that they fit within the context of the paragraph, the chapter and the book. I have worked with authors who have made last-minute changes that introduced a glaring contradiction because they forgot to make a corresponding change in a later chapter. Essentially, such changes create the need for a new copy-edit, but because nobody is prepared to pay for that, things get missed.

The greater the number of errors that remain in your manuscript the more likely it is that some won’t be corrected. If you didn’t have your work copy-edited, and the proofreader is faced with, for example, page after page of incorrectly punctuated dialogue, that is likely to become their focus – to the detriment of other issues.

So it’s important to think of proofreading as a final check, not as an opportunity to make your manuscript better – that’s the purpose of editing. By hiring a proofreader you are accepting that you have moved beyond this point and are ready to publish. And it’s important that you proofread your own manuscript too. Although you are likely to have a degree of copy-blindness by the time it gets to this stage, you should never publish without having parsed the final version yourself. To that end (and to show that this slightly ranty post has a practical purpose!), here’s a list of things you should look out for:

Spelling

  • Be particularly aware of homonyms. ‘Your’ and ‘you’re’; ‘compliment’ and ‘complement’; ‘their’, ‘there’, and ‘they’re’, etc. These slip through easily.

Punctuation

  • Check that full stops, commas, colons, semicolons, etc., are used correctly.
  • Quotation marks and apostrophes are sometimes reversed. Check them carefully.
  • Check for double spaces, particularly after full stops.

Typesetting [for print books]

  • Check that the font is consistent throughout the text.
  • Check that the leading (space between lines) and kerning (space between characters) are consistent. Because the text is justified, the tracking (space between words) will vary, but it should be neither too loose nor too tight.
  • Ensure the paragraph after a section break is not indented.
  • Paragraph indents ought to be consistent throughout.
  • Mark any orphans and widows (a single line at the bottom of a page or part of a line at the top of a page).
  • Running heads need to be consistent and have the proper information, e.g., book title, chapter title or author name. It’s easy to make a mistake with these, so check them thoroughly.
  • Chapter openers should also be consistent. Does each chapter start in the same place on the page and contain the same elements in the same order?
  • Check that subhead spacing and alignment are uniform. Also, check that chapter numbers are in sequence and word ‘Chapter’ is used (or not) consistently.
  • Check that page numbers are present and in sequence. Odd-numbered pages should be on the right. Check that numbering is consecutive.
  • Blank pages should have nothing on them – including no folios or running heads.
  • Check page references. If you refer to something as being in Chapter 3 or on page 98, is that still correct in the final version?
  • Check that all necessary information on the imprint page is present and correct, including ISBNs.
  • Check that the page numbers on the Table of Contents correspond to the chapter openings. Check the vertical alignment of the page numbers.

Cover/Blurb

  • Check that the title, subtitle and author name are correct on the cover and the spine, if applicable. Check the direction of the text on the spine.
  • Check that there are no typos or inconsistencies in the blurb.
  • Check that the ISBN is correct, if applicable.

Authors have come to expect an awful lot from proofreaders, and proofreaders sometimes go far and beyond their remit. The rise of self-publishing has broadened the scope of the function, pushing the proofreader into areas traditionally occupied by the editor. I’m not sure this is a good thing. It’s worth remembering that proofreading developed as a specific editorial function for a reason, and that it should be carried out as an individual task because it’s an essential part of the publishing process that consolidates the work of the author and the editor.”

Robert Doran works as a freelance editor and is Editorial Director at Kazoo Independent Publishing Services (www.kazoopublishing.com), a one-stop shop for indie authors who want to publish industry-standard books. He has nearly twenty years’ experience in bringing books to market and has worked as an editor, project manager, sales manager, and bookseller in Ireland and in the UK. He is a big fan of the Oxford comma. Follow him on Twitter @RobertEdits or visit www.robert-edits.com .

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