Archive for September, 2009

Midwest Booksellers Trade Show Revelations

Harry and I had our booth, as we always do, at the Midwest Booksellers Trade Show this past weekend. One of our authors signed her books and many booksellers and librarians talked with her about doing an event across the region. Expert Publishing doesn’t charge authors for the booth space, unlike many publishers, and we connected her with people who sell books. She keeps ALL the proceeds from sales. We don’t pretend to pay her royalties on books she’s already paid to publish. The books are hers and she gets to keep all the money when they sell.

While we’ve watched the show get smaller over the past few years, we were surprised to see how very much smaller it was this year.

Most of the major New York publishers weren’t there. Of those who came, some had booths the same modest size as ours. Others had booths half the size they had in years past.

Most notable to me was the absence of perennial exhibitors like Publishers Weekly magazine, Midwest Fiction Writers, and the University of Chicago (publishers of the Chicago Manual of Style, the book industry standard).

Of course, none of the puppy mill Internet presses were represented except Outskirts Press. There was one lady, an author who published with them, sitting there trying to sell her one book all day–it cost her almost $500.00 to be there (booth, association dues, parking,  etc.). I asked her about her experience with Outskirts Press and she said she paid for the book development, then whenever she sold a book, Outskirts paid her $1.00 a book. I said, “So, you’ll have to sell about 500 books to break even for being here today.” She lowered her eyes and shook her head “yes.”

I don’t understand why any author would pay to develop and print their book, then pay again every time a book is sold!

It was good to see so many of our author friends and our publishing colleagues–sort of like an “old home” weekend.  I boldly asked one of my royalty-published authors how sales were going on her children’s picture book and how her royalty publisher was helping in marketing.

“They don’t help at all,” she said. “I had to buy the books from them to show here today. I couldn’t even get a sell sheet from them. ” So I asked about her royalty and she responded, “My royalty is 36 cents a book.”

I read her story as a manuscript about four years ago. It took a year or so to find this publisher, then it took the publisher almost two years to get the book to the marketplace. The author’s willing to market it obviously, but can’t  get a sell sheet from the publisher to help her? Amazing.

I also have a success story to share. I’ve known Monica Ferris since the early 1990s. She wrote eleven royalty-published mysteries (under two other names) and never drew a royalty check (you have to pay back the advance first) before her agent sold Monica’s very successful needlework mystery series. Her latest, Blackwork, is also number thirteen in the series. It comes out in October in time for Halloween, but I got my signed copy Saturday!

Please forgive the long post. It’s important you know what’s going on in the book publishing industry if you want to be part of it. You get to decide how you want to participate–go with a royalty publisher, become a self-published author (which means YOU–Duh, “self”–own the publishing company), try a subsidy puppy mill Internet publisher, or work with an equity publisher. Choose wisely.

Happy writing!

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Guide Your Reader with Puncutation: Dash It Anyway

Some writing teachers say dashes indicate sloppy writing. These teachers suggest good writers prefer commas, colons, or parentheses. If you got that message about dashes, dash it anyway.

Of course, I don’t want to you overusing dashes any more than I want to see you overusing exclamation points, but dashes can be very effective if you use them correctly.

Dashes do two things. They summarize (that’s a single dash) and they create a sharp break (that’s a pair of dashes). Commas create breaks too, but the break is softer. Parentheses create breaks too, a little stronger than commas, but not as strong as dashes do.

Your reader knows how dramatic your break is by the punctuation you select.

Here’s an example of dash showing summary. Serious writers do three things–observe, read, and write. (Summarizes what they do.)

Here’s an example of dash as a sharp break. What Jerry thought about his boss–if he thought about him at all–was unflattering. (Sharp break in sentence.)

Now that you know when to use a dash,  give some thought about formatting dashes.

Hyphens are those short lines that join words (two-year-old).

En dashes are the width of the letter n and are used between inclusive numbers (2009-2010).

Em dashes are the width of the letter m and are used between words (see above).

3-em dashes are used in bibliographies for successive works by the same author.  They are also used to show letters are  omitted from the text (example: It was reported that Mrs. O___ and Mr. B___ were seen in a compromising position.)

Notice there are no spaces either before for after the dashes.

The most popular word processing programs allow you to create a shortcut key for the em dash and the en dash. Some are programmed to have two hyphens automatically become an em dash. But it’s up to you to assure there are no spaces around the dashes.

Happy writing!

Guide Your Reader with Punctuation – Colon

It may help if you understand what impact the colon is supposed to have on your reader. Simply put, the colon is supposed to create a sense of anticipation.

Here’s how:

  • Use the colon to introduce a list, a summary, a long quotation, or an explanation of what preceded the colon. NOTE: you capitalize the first word after the colon only if that first word begins a complete thought or quotation or if more than one sentence is required to finish the thought.

Some of you may remember Victor Borge, a comedian who put sound to punctuation. He said, “Santa Claus had the right idea: Visit people once a year.” His quote shows how to use a colon and capital.

  • Use a colon with “as follows” or “the following.” Example: Every writer needs the following: a good dictionary, a thesaurus, and a grammar book.
  • Use a colon with formal salutations (Dear Dr. Hyde:) and in ratios (3:2).
  • Use colons in dialogue.

Ellen: I won’t go to that dumb old dance.

Mom: You will go and you will enjoy yourself.

  • Use a colon to separate your book’s title from it’s subtitle. Example: Encouraging Your Heart: 15 Ways to See, Hear, and Know God Better.

One error I see too often is using a colon after a verb. Here’s an example of what not do. Things you need for camping are: a tent, lantern, sleeping bag, wood, and matches. Delete the colon.

Remember, the colon is supposed to set your reader up for anticipation. Use it the way it’s intended.

Happy writing!

Guide Your Reader with Punctuation – Apostrophe

Now that school is back in session, I’m seeing a lot of student writing along with the writing I see in my editing business and in our publishing  house.

Writers seem to have a lot of issues with punctuation, so I decided to offer a few posts on various punctuation marks and how to use them.

Of course, being an editor, I need to start with A!

Apostrophe not only begins with A, it also rises to the top of the list of most misused punctuation.

Here are some tips:

  • Use an apostrophe to show possession. Add ‘s for singular words (employee’s paycheck, for example).  Add ‘s for plurals that don’t end in s (children’s book). Add only the for plurals that end in s (employees’ lounge).
  • NEVER use an apostrophe to show possession with pronouns (yours, hers, his, its, ours, whose, theirs).
  • Use an apostrophe to indicate omission of letters (don’t, can’t) or numbers (’80s, ’63). So many people use the apostrophe like this: 1970’s. That’s just WRONG unless something belonged to the 1970s (then you use apostrophe for possession).
  • Use an apostrophe for plurals formed in abbreviations containing periods (M.D.’s) or in letters used as words (x’s and y’s) or in words used simply as words (I don’t want any if’s, and’s, or but’s from you.).

Punctuation guides your reader through your prose. Use it correctly and your readers will love you for making it such a joy to read what you write.

Happy writing!

When You’re Done, You’re Done

I’m not sure if it’s because writers love to write or if it’s because once they’re on a roll, it’s so hard to stop, but for whatever reason, many writers don’t stop writing when they’re done.

What am I talking about? I’m talking about ending whatever piece you’re writing when you’ve accomplished what you set out to do.

Are you writing a mystery and your protagonist solved it? Guess what? You’re done!

Are you writing a curriculum/textbook/instructional piece and you’ve explained the concepts, the how-to? Guess what? You’re done!

Are you writing a memoir and you’ve laid out all the memorable points in your life? Guess what? You’re done!

Well, you get the idea. Have a purpose for your writing and when you’ve accomplished that purpose, end the piece.

My parents owned their own business and my aunts and uncles were all farmers. Growing up, I had one foot in the city and one in the country. One thing I noticed about my country relatives is how hard it was to say good-bye.

We’d head for the door and they’d walk with us, telling us how much they enjoyed our visit.

We’d get out the door and head for the car and they’d follow us, reminding us we didn’t come often enough and should plan to come back real soon.

We’d get in the car and roll down the windows as they stood close to the car, smiled at us, and told us to have a safe trip home.

We’d turn our car around in the driveway and they’d smile some more and wave a big country wave.

We never saw them turn and go inside because we were down the road before that happened.

Here in Minnesota, those good-byes could be challenging in the winter months. But that’s how it was every visit. I don’t offer the story as criticism. I loved the ritual. But not everyone in the car did.

How long does it take you to say good-bye to your reader? Not every reader wants the long good-bye ritual. When you’ve accomplished what you set out to do with your writing, write the ending and let your reader go. It will serve you well.

Happy writing!

The Last Thing A Writer Should Do

Harry picked up a voicemail last Monday morning. It was left at 9:30 Sunday night.  The person asked if we were publishers since he was looking through the phone book, then said something about wanting us to call him back with some tips on how he could sell his writing. He left his name and phone number–then repeated it to make sure we got it okay.

After listening to the message, Harry asked me to listen to it. We both agreed that while the person was probably sincere about wanting us to give him tips, the call left much to be desired.

The first thing the caller needed to do was research–research the company he was calling, research writing sites (both on the Internet and local establishments/courses), read blogs, subscribe to Writer’s Digest magazine (and read the articles), and learn all he can about his customers (publishers he wants to sell to).

The last thing the caller should have done is call a publisher outside of business hours and ask the publisher to educate him.

Publishing is business and publishers want to deal with professionals. There are myriad of classes on publishing. There are websites and blogs filled with information for writers. There are writers groups, writers conferences, and writers organizations all ready to help fledgling writers learn the publishing business. And, finally, there are books and periodicals (many are available free at libraries) to help.

Any writer who’s serious about writing for money should invest in himself or herself by learning as much as possible about the opportunities and options available. But don’t pick a publishing company out of the phone book and leave a voicemail asking to be called back and provided tips on selling your manuscript. That’s the last thing a writer should do.

Happy writing!

Why Every Author Needs A BOOK Editor

Good writers understand the importance of a good editor. Wannabe writers take a little longer to acquire that knowledge.

No one would go to a dermatologist for a heart problem. A doctor is not a doctor is not a doctor. Each one specializes.

And so it is in many other fields, including editing.

An English major is not a book editor and a newspaper columnist is not a book editor and a novelist is not a book editor and your friend who loves to read is not a book editor either. Each of these examples COULD be book editors, but only if they edit books.

At Expert Publishing, we often get proposals that claim to be already edited. When we don’t see any evidence that the manuscript follows book editing standards, we ask who did the editing. The answer is typically one of the above cited examples–a English teacher, another writer of some sort, a friend who loves to read.

All of these are excellent sources for critiquing your writing, but they are not necessarily excellent sources for serving as your book editor.

We tell our authors that books are in print a long time. We strive to assure there are no errors, but  humans are involved in the process, so errors can and do occur.

Thank your friends with degrees in English or who love to read or write for their willingness to help you. Let them offer you comments/critiques on your manuscript. But find a book editor–and ask for their credentials.

For example, I took my editing training at the University of Minnesota. I’ve edited over a hundred books, some of which won book awards. I can give you the basic requirements found in The Chicago Manual of Style (the book publishing industry standard). If your editor can’t give you the basics of Chicago off the top of his/her head, you’re not working with a book editor. You’re talking to someone who edits, period.

Notice I didn’t say your book editor should have a degree in English. I didn’t even say your book editor should have a degree. I have a graduate degree in management and administration, not English.

Experience counts. It’s very important your editor does more than cross out words or add punctuation. Your editor should make your manuscript clear and cohesive as well as assure it follows correct punctuation,  capitalization,  spelling, and grammar. There’s nothing like experience for creating a good book editor.

So now you know that anyone can claim to be a book editor. Your job is to find the right one for your manuscript.

Happy writing!