Saturday 25 April 2020

Lockdown Projects

As I stay at home during lockdown on shielding I am completing Edit 2 on Allison’s collection. In between editing there are various projects underway such as cross stitch, knitting, artwork and painting the fence. All things are staggered around lots of rest for me.

Stay safe and stay home everyone.

Sunday 19 April 2020

Proof-reading issues


A surprising average number of mistakes

Did you know that the average number of grammatical mistakes and typos that elude the proof-reader in an average-sized novel is fifteen? I’ll give it the Big Five – they have very few and produce some books that have none at all. They’re less good at formatting for Kindle and other e-books but that’s for another post another day. And of course the average number becomes fifteen because some, but only some, self-published books haven’t been properly proof read.

The importance of proof-reading and how we do it

We certainly shouldn’t take short cuts with proof-reading. Employing an independent proof-reader is money well spent. In our imprints we’re old-fashioned enough to go through three stages of editing and the third is almost a proof-read. Thereafter we get two people in-house to proof-read. One will be the original editor and the other one of three of us who are used to proof-reading.

This final proof-read is of the camera-ready PDF that will form the inside of the book. We ask the author to look at this too, not so much to look for typos, spelling mistakes or grammatical errors but to check that the formatting is correct. Sometimes they’ve embedded some code in that will make the text format in special way. We’re sometimes not sure whether the author wants the text to look the way they presented it or the way that the coding suggests. But if they happen to find anything else, good. They’re helping us to get the book to be the best it can be.

Yes, we still miss the odd thing but we come out well below the average of fifteen. And we’re careful. Very careful.

Reviewer’s delight

Unfortunately there are a few reviewers who seem to delight in taking a type of moral high ground about this but some of them fall badly.

I recently read and reviewed a book I’d enjoyed and put my four star review on Amazon and Good reads. I was appalled to find another review there that said this:

“I would ask why this book is so badly edited? It contains spelling error, grammatical errors, and missing words.”

Really? I need to make several points here. First of all, I didn’t spot a single thing wrong with the text. And believe me, as soon as I spot one of those fifteen errors I jump out of my absorption in a text. There are two possible explanations here: either there were no mistakes and the reviewer doesn’t understand grammar, or the book was so absorbing that even I failed to spot the mistakes. However, I doubt the latter is true as I gave the book four stars, not five, as it didn’t absorb me completely.

But let’s look at that review. The writer “would” ask. Why a conditional? In which circumstances would they ask? Why not just say they don’t know or even better just state that there are spelling and grammatical errors. Yes, errors, not error. Of course  one can say “spelling error” is grammatically correct but stylistically this doesn’t work so well. I’m pretty sure anyway that it’s a typo. The writer probably meant “spelling errors and grammatical errors” which would have been better as “spelling and grammatical errors” anyway. Why the question mark at the end of a statement? And there really is no need at all for an Oxford comma.

For one of the books we published a review said “does suffer from occassional misspellings and one or two grammatical errors”. Oh yes. Sic. It didn’t actually anyway. Deliberate choices had been made by the author for the sake of the voice in the text. The editor had agreed. Yes we should know the grammatical rules and only break them when we really know what we’re doing. Grammar is there after all to help us make our meaning clear. But we also would do well to remember there is no ultimate authority on English. The only thing that really matter is whether we communicate effectively..

Point-scoring? Kettles, pots and black?

Or should I be more lenient and admit that those two reviews work so it doesn’t matter about the mistakes within them? However, if both reviewers went on the way they’re going they’d score more than the fifteen in 46,000 words. And I can’t quite take them seriously which brings us right back to just how important proof-reading is.                                       

Sunday 5 April 2020

The All Important Call to Action

Web site review

When we publish a new author we go through a series of certain marketing routines. One action is the offer of a web site or blog review. One glaring era we see on many authors’ sites is a lack of call to action.

What is a call to action?

This is the means by which you make it easy for your readers to act on what you’re telling them about, so it might be:
A link to your book on Amazon or similar
A link to where people can download a free sample of your work
A link to an event you’re holding

How does this square with avoiding ‘buy my book, buy my book, buy my book’?

First of all, I personally have no objection at all to people putting direct links on social media or their sites to their book on Amazon or somewhere else where you can buy it. If it’s a book that sounds interesting I’ll buy it. If it’s not the type of thing I’m into I’ll just not click through. I can still appreciate that the author wants to let us know about their work. If I’m not sure, I’ll click through anyway and read a bit more about it and perhaps look at a few reviews.

But here’s the thing - if I’ve got to go and look it up myself, well I can’t be bothered.  Life is too short.

I actually find many of the books I end up buying by reading about them on Twitter or Facebook.  

I post links to my own books and other books we’ve published on social media too  but keep strictly to the 20/80 rule. Only 20% of what I post on social media should be direct calls to action. In fact it’s probably only about 10% though I do ads for our books that haven’t cleared their set-up costs and stories on CafeLit that haven’t had at least twenty hits.

Bios on CafeLit

I’m always a little puzzled when authors on CafeLit don’t provide a bio. Is it shyness? Do they expect me to dig out an old one?

Well they shouldn’t be shy. If you’re a writer, you’re running a business. We don’t offer payment for stories that appear on the daily postings though some will get into the Bet of book and receive royalties. We do offer authors the right to shout out about themselves and their achievements. Why shouldn’t they? People don’t have to follow the links if they don’t want to but it can be frustrating if they would like to know more and there’s nothing there.
No, I’m not going to dig an old one. I don’t have that sort of time. Besides we all move on. Pretty well as soon as you’ve written a bio it’s out of date. Bios anyway can be post specific. If you’ve written a story based on potholing something about your experience of potholing might be interesting. But not if you’ve written as story based on skiing. Our submissions guidelines specify that writers should provide a bio and whilst we don’t preclude people from being published by us if they haven’t followed the guidelines to the letter and their submission is the best on the day but if we have two equally good ones and one has all the components we’ll go for the more complete one.  

Our magnet book

This is a major call to action. We’re giving away a splendid selection of many of our authors in exchange for folk joining a mailing list – a mailing list that is GDPR compliant and which they can opt out of at any time. We’ll mail out to people on that list news of our new books and of offers on our backlist.

And guess what: within the pages of the book are other calls to action which take reader to more works by an author they’ve enjoyed.

If you’re in the book, or even if you’re just published by us, because you will still benefit form that mailing list, do feel free to use the image and the link to create a call to action on your own site. Or just copy the concept to make your own call to action.