If you’re not using your Word Processor’s Track Changes function, you’re missing out on one of the best writing tools of the digital age. The good news: it’s quick and easy to learn. This video tutorial will show you how.
Track Changes is perhaps one of the most useful features in MS Word. This toolset is valuable because it promotes a collaborative relationship between writer and editor. Many first-time authors fear the editing process because they’re concerned an editor will “process” their work and remove their unique, authentic voice from the prose. Track Changes prevents this from happening. By its very nature, Track Changes revolves around discussion; it allows the editor to make suggestions and the author to accept or reject them. And if an editor makes a correction that doesn’t have an obvious rationale behind it, that correction can have an explanatory comment attached to it. Track Changes does what its name implies: it tracks changes. Every revision is saved; author and editor can toggle between the edited text and the original.
Gone are the days when typed paper manuscripts were annotated with proofreader’s marks and comments in the margins were attached with lines to circled phrases. Track Changes is an essential tool that helps guide your narrative from rough draft to polished manuscript.
Tip: Be sure to accept or reject all changes and close or respond to any comments each time you receive an annotated document for review. The right margin fills up with comments and corrections quickly, and these create untenable clutter if they’re left in place. Over time, the document will evolve toward a final version as fewer and fewer changes and discussion points remain.
Watch the video full-screen at 1080p for a better view.
I recently re-posted my article about Publishing Scams and How they Work. I wonder why so many authors, after spending thousands of hours working on a book, fail to conduct a few critical hours of research that will save them thousands of dollars and immense frustration. Perhaps it’s because the system that preys on uninformed authors is so powerful, enormous, and far-reaching that it sounds like a wacky conspiracy theory. It can’t be true. This sounds like Bermuda Triangle stuff.
Rarely do I republish a blog post, but I just got another email from a writer who didn’t do his homework.
Many self-publishers start their book projects with unrealistic expectations and misunderstandings about how publishing works. A huge industry has arisen to prey on writers who are unsure of the path. This article explains the basics of how publishing scams work and how writers can avoid them.
Publishers must learn the risks inherent to their business. If you fantasize you’ll earn your investment back as soon as you get on Oprah’s show, it’s not the supply chain’s job to pressure-test your assumptions.
“If I’m a painter and you want purple zebra stripes on your pink house, someone’s going to take your money; it might as well be me.”
Though that kind of business practice isn’t strictly unethical, it overlooks the fact that the most important thing publishing service providers can sell is guidance. Too many author service companies take advantage of the fact that it really is your responsibility to know what you’re getting into.
To understand where the bait-and-switch usually happens in publishing scams, it’s essential to understand how the bookseller’s economic pie gets sliced.
Should you give away books for free? The value of book giveaways can’t be assessed by formula. The prevailing mythology suggests that the goal of publishing is to sell books, but the huge majority of indie publishers don’t do the math. Assuming you make (approximately) $5 per book, figure out how many you need to sell in an hour to make any kind of reasonable income.
Big publishers release 90–120 books each quarter through proven distribution channels. They have the funds to license the latest Disney princess story, and between perennial favorites (e.g. Dr. Seuss) and collections of (out of copyright) timeless classics, they’re prepared to move books in volume. Taking a “mutual fund” approach, they know that most of their books will go to the shredder, but if they can get one runaway hit (e.g. Harry Potter), the portfolio will be a win.
Indies typically have a single book, or perhaps a few more. They don’t have access to bookstore tables and tours, and they don’t print and distribute large volumes (20–30,000 copies) on spec. Assuming a typical book costs $4000 to produce (costs of professional editing, typesetting, and design), it has to sell 800 copies to break even—and this doesn’t return a penny for the time spent writing and researching.
I’m an enthusiastic indie publisher of 6 books; some are nonfiction and some are fiction. Here’s my take on book giveaways: Continue reading →
Certain writing style patterns weaken your prose and render it awkward, generic, and impersonal. As we hike the writer’s path of never-ending refinement, we must learn to see patterns that were once invisible to us. Some of these patterns are revealed through the lens of experience; others are shown to us by editors and friends. But until we learn to recognize these patterns, our writing is likely to resemble the work of millions of other authors.
The goal of The Writer’s Guide to Powerful Prose is not to define particular usages as right or wrong or good or bad. When we speak, ideas pour instantly and spontaneously from our mouths, but good writing is not such an automatic process. Writers have the luxury—the responsibility—of editing their ideas before sharing them. Writing style patterns become trigger points for conscious decision making. Could I use a better adjective? Is my metaphor a tired cliché? Does my sentence work just as well without “that” in it? Or do I want to leave this sentence as I wrote it?Continue reading →
This article explains how to produce and market a professional quality audiobook using Amazon ACX. Through ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange), I was able to audition voiceover talent, choose a professional producer, review the work in progress, and make my audiobook available through popular audiobookstores without spending a cent.
The market for audiobooks is currently worth over US$2 billion. Audible.com claims to offer over 150,000 titles. Split that catalog apart by genres and even if you’re small fish, the endless ocean of books available in print or eBook form becomes a small pond. My book is one of only 5,936 books available in the “Personal Memoirs” category. The same category on Amazon.com contains 92,014 titles.
As with any form of publishing, a chasm exists between “getting your book out there” and producing a quality, professional product. Reading your book into your computer’s microphone doesn’t cut it. Audiobook production requires professional recording gear and talent. A quality audiobook has no dogs barking in the background, no aircraft flying overhead, and no sirens blasting down the street in front of your house—and though this might sound self-evident, the equivalent happens with self-published printed books all the time. Aficionados of audiobooks can hear “amateur” the moment they sample a self-produced audiobook.
Amazon ACX offers an alternative to DIY. This service connects writers with voice talent, monitors production progress, and handles distribution and payments.
I used ACX to publish an audiobook version of The Blue Monk, my sailing memoir. I had the good fortune to meet my narrator/producer in person when he sailed through Miami from the Carolinas. The video footage in this article shares our discussions about audiobooks. Continue reading →
This article explores ergonomic solutions to writers’ repetitive stress problems. As static as it may seem, writing is a physically demanding endeavor. I’ve spent decades sitting in a chair staring at a screen, tapping on a keyboard. During that time, I’ve experienced neck pain, shoulder pain, elbow pain, wrist pain, forearm pain, and back pain—sometimes to a point where I questioned whether I’d be able to continue writing, designing, programming, editing, or any of the other computer-centric activities from which I derive income and enjoyment.
Caveat: I’m not a doctor and this isn’t medical advice (insert customary legal disclaimer here). If the commonsense writing ergonomics adjustments described in this article don’t work for you, see a physician. Repetitive stress injuries can end your writing career, and some injuries do require surgical fixes. Continue reading →
Inkitt.com is an interesting new online platform where writers post their best work and readers find stories to engage with. Inkit’s free contest opened February 2, 2015, and the horror theme is, “You are in the darkest place in the world.” Submit short stories: blood-curdlers, spine-tinglers, skin-crawlers, and hair-raisers to share your writing, scare readers, and win great prizes like Amazon gift cards, custom notebooks and mugs, and story covers!
As storytellers, teachers, and thought leaders, writers must cultivate a skill for communicating without blocking the spotlight, don’t you think?Now tell me, isn’t it annoying when you’re watching a movie and one of the characters turns, faces the camera, and makes some remark to “the audience”—as if he’s in a live show and you’re sitting somewhere in “television land,” ready to cheer or shout advice? I’m sure you’ll agree that audience engagement must be managed cleverly. The Rocky Horror Picture Showpulled it off masterfully, but the editorial “we” has the potential to ruin the relationship between the reader, the narrator, and the characters in a book—even if the narrator is the main character. Talking to the reader is fine (and often inevitable) but the editorial “we” implies a partnership that hasn’t been sanctioned by both parties.
Talking directly to your reader from the inside of a story is a bit like hugging a stranger. As warm and personal as that gesture may be, it will likely be perceived as an invasion of space. Your book is about what you think. Your reader doesn’t owe you an opinion and even if she did, you can’t be “sure she’ll agree with you.”
This article explains the tab ruler found on every word processor and typesetting application. Understanding the simple and elegant split ruler and tab functions opens up a world of formatting opportunities.
Digital typesetting and word processing inherited a number of outdated conventions from the typewriter. When producing a paragraph indent on a typewriter, it makes no difference whether you hit the tab key or type a few consecutive spaces, but on a word processor, those approaches create problems as your manuscript moves from editing to final page layout. Though the “two spaces after a period” convention was not descended from the typewriter as is popularly thought, consecutive spaces are generally considered bad practice in the digital world. And though a half-inch paragraph indent (along with double line spacing) is perfectly suitable for manuscript work, the typesetter’s convention has long been to use an indent of one em (the width of a letter “m” in the analog world. In the digital world, the convention is to use the point size of the typeface, so if you’re setting 12-point type, your indent would be 12/72-inches or 1/6-inch). And yet, the old habit of repeatedly hammering the space bar to position elements on the page persists—even to a point where centered elements are sometimes left-aligned text preceded by dozens of spaces. Continue reading →