Friday 28 April 2017

Proof-reading and grammar

You have to smile. A recent review of one out books stated: “…. does suffer from occassional misspellings and one or two grammatical errors”. Pots and kettles come to mind.  

All of the imprints I work with proof their scripts three times. The original editor,  the author and one other person in the company read the camera-ready script.

If I’m going to be picky, I could really slam the sentence above. A book is not sentient so cannot suffer. Please learn to spell “occasional”. One or two errors? How many is it?

English grammar is peculiar, anyway. There is no definitive authority over it and it is governed more by precedent and usage. Some say we should not split infinitives but part of Star Trek’s charm is how it has dared to boldly split infinitives the way no man has ever split them before. Indeed, there is a subtle difference in meaning between boldly splitting infinitives and splitting infinitives boldly. Australia has lost the accusative. Australians regularly use “I” when “me” is more normal here and in the States: e.g. “Will you accompany Jason and I?”   

I’m actually quite a fan of grammar. I went to a grammar school where in the first year three of our six English lessons were about grammar. We then went on to learn French, German and Latin via the grammatical method. It’s up there with algebra problems and crosswords. Importantly it gives a backbone to the language and clarifies. Language is more than just words. How they relate to each other is important. Noam Chomsky recognizes a universal grammar. Every language needs to be able to express certain ideas that come not from the words alone but from how they relate to each other. I have it all pretty well nailed.

With another hat on I teach Creative Writing in higher education. I encourage students to write with what might be considered “correct” grammar and take heed when the spell check says “Fragment, consider revising.” If a text is presented without “grammatical” mistakes it’s easier to sell in on the other side of the Atlantic. That of course is a huge market. Only go against the conventions if doing so allows the words to have more impact.

In the collection of flash fiction we’re looking at here some oddities of grammar are to do with the voice of the character in the story. That is fine. We distribute to the USA as a matter of course anyway.  
By the way, the average number of typos / spelling / grammatical mistakes in a publication that has gone through all of the stages of editing is fifteen. In a very few there are none at all. In some self-published books there are hundreds. I usually manage to find four or five when I’m reading.    

Wednesday 5 April 2017

Writing to reviewers

Reviewers are really our life blood. We need those all-important 50 reviews on Amazon before they’ll actually start promoting us. It really doesn’t matter if some of them are only 1*, 2* or 3*. Yes, those can hurt but I know many a book I’ve enjoyed I’ve only read some books myself because of my curiosity about why they got such a poor review.

You have to grow a thick skin.

It’s good to send a nice letter, and further tailor it to the particular reviewer.

Here’s my example:

Dear ( put reviewer’s name here),
I wonder whether you would care to review my book. I can send it to you as a PDF, an –e-mobi file or in hard copy.

(Put your blurb here and be sure to include the title of the book. In fact, what you have  here should be part way between a blurb and a synopsis. It shouldn’t give the game away and it should have all the melodrama of a normal blurb, but it may need a few more acts as well, like target audience, a sense of genre and maybe what the reader might be like. What else might your reader read.)

Your review will mean a lot to me.

I hope to hear from you soon.

Your name. 

And don;t forget to thank them after they've written your review.  

Next up we’ll look at where you might get some reviewers.