The host announces the next author. She walks to the lectern, offers a synopsis, and begins reading aloud. It’s not bad prose—and I can’t say that for every writer here—but after three pages of preface and another six of chapter one, I fantasize about ringing a gong and approaching the stage with a shepherd’s crook. I pretend to look interested and engaged, but that train jumped the track ten minutes ago. How can this well crafted writing become such an anesthetic when read aloud? This article offers tips for reading aloud that will help you keep listeners’ attention.
Why Reading Aloud Fails
According to ReadingSoft, the average adult reads prose text at 250 to 300 words per minute. The best readers consume over 1000. In its guide to Reading Aloud, The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America suggests that 150 words per minute is a suitable pace for reading aloud. In other words, the best and most efficient way to transfer ideas from author to reader is by distributing printed words on paper. If you want to share text exactly as you wrote it, hand out printed copies. Why read aloud if audience members can consume your work faster and focus on it more deeply on paper?
The ability to make eBooks with WordPress solves a number of publishing problems. I offeried a free Webinar with Toni Ressaire of pub.ink that walks you through the process of creating eBooks with WordPress and publishing them. That webinar is archived in this post along with my previous webinar about eBooks in the web browser.
One challenge facing authors and publishers is the limited set of tools available for creating eBooks. It’s easy enough to export an eBook from Adobe InDesign or other software, but if you want to edit an eBook, the process is too technical for most writers. The PubML WordPress plugin tools make eBook editing easy, visual, and intuitive.
And the state of eBooks is such that every reader renders them with a not-so-slightly different appearance. Though eBooks are based on HTML and CSS (the standard coding conventions used to render content on the web) eReader devices and software interpret these “standards” with wide variations.
Writers often ask about the difference between “straight” or “dumb” quotation marks and traditional printers’ quotes, commonly referred to as “smart quotes” or “curly quotes.” Add in the need to distinguish between left single quotes and apostrophes, and the primes used to specify feet and inches or minutes and seconds and you end up with a typographic conundrum that confounds many a capable author. This article examines the various types of quotes and primes and explains how to use them.
Book Design Basics: Straight or Dumb Quotes
Straight quotes evolved to facilitate informal writing situations. When typing into a discussion forum, twitter feed, or comment box, use your apostrophe and double-quote keys for all the special characters (except the “degrees” symbol.) “Dumb” text editors don’t try to figure out which direction to slant your punctuation. “Dumb” writers don’t have to go to the “insert special characters” dialog box or remember special key sequences for each type of mark.
Consider the various punctuation styles needed to render the following example:
Straight quotes make it quick and easy to express a thought. You don’t have to be a typographer to make yourself understood. In the right situations, “dumb quotes” are a smart idea. Continue reading →
Clark Douglas Burris discusses his new book Walk & Roll, in which he tells the story of how he started the Miami Beach Senior High Rock Ensemble while battling the progressive effects of multiple sclerosis. Doug Burris shares his thoughts on writing, publishing, and book design.
Two-word clichés are perhaps the least obvious kind. Unless we’re vigilant, they sneak into our prose, steal color, mask our individual writer’s voice, and make us sound like millions of other writers who mindlessly employ the same worn out word combinations. I find countless examples even while editing the work of accomplished authors.
I explored traditional clichés in an earlier post, suggesting that writers who employ phrases like “loose cannon,” “fly off the handle,” and “bitter end” should do so with an understanding of their origins. A loose cannon could do tremendous damage on a rolling ship. An axe head that flies off its handle could easily kill someone. Hanging on to the bitter end of a rope is prerequisite to fastening it (to the bitts or cleats) on the dock. Every cliché has a story, and writers who understand the origins of clichés use them in more meaningful ways.
The two-word cliché is a different animal. Though it may have historical roots (or be a useful-but-tired metaphor like “low-hanging fruit” or “level playing field”), it’s usually comprised of two words that have stuck together and fallen into popular use—often an adjective and a noun. These pairs become inseparable to a point where writers rarely use one word without the other. Continue reading →
Tom Morkes recently published The Perfect Book sales Page on his blog. I’m usually the first person to reject formulaic approaches to book marketing. Many well-written books are horrible products. But what I like about Tom’s template is that it forces you to ask important questions that can help determine whether your book is a marketable commodity. And it adds basic sales elements that communicate value to the prospective reader. Even if you haven’t written your book yet, consider how filling in the various sections in Tom’s template might change the way you write and publish.
Like this? Learn how to sell more books with Tom Morkes.
The Perfect Book Sales Page: Section 1 – The Big Picture
The Perfect Book Sales Page: Product Summary
At the top of the Perfect Book Sales Page, the title and cover that you’re selling a book, along with some bullet points that illuminate its key selling points. Stop! As simple and obvious as these may seem:
Does your title convey what your book is about?
Is your cover engaging?
Can you name at least three compelling reasons why a reader should buy your book?
So many authors never ask these basic questions. Smart publishers use them to determine what manuscripts to acquire and invest in. Writers who want to sell books ask these questions to help determine what to write. Yes, your book has to be good—but it also has to be a marketable product.
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 →