I originally wrote this post for the Alliance of Independent Authors‘ blog, but I hope readers of my own blog will also find it entertaining. I certainly enjoyed writing it!
(This is an abridged version of the original post, but you can read it in full on the Alliance of Independent Authors‘ website here.)
Editors: Unsung Superheroes Who Save Authors from Themselves
No matter how well authors polish a manuscript before submitting them for professional editing, and regardless of how dazzling their prose, a good editor will always polish it further. In true superhero style, editors and proofreaders daily avert disaster, and I’m glad I’ve secured the services of two brilliant professionals to help me with my books, Alison Jack and Helen Baggott.
Classic Errors Spotted by Editors
Here are some typical errors recently shared by authors and editors on ALLi’s private member forum, spotted either in their own books or in books by other writers.
Continuity errors are too easy for an author to miss:
two unrelated characters sharing the same surname
eyes or hair spontaneously changing colour from one page to the next
a character’s medication changing from one chapter to the next
someone at the theatre sitting in mid-air (in the front row of the circle, they leaned forward to tap the person in front on the shoulder)
a character entering a flat twice without leaving in between times
a person landing at JFK before the flight has taken off from Heathrow (and in a different model of plane from the one in which the journey began)
Global search-and-replace can trigger disasters:
changing Carol’s name to Barbara was fine until the carol singing scene
swapping “ass” for “butt” resulted in a case of embarrbuttment
There are also comical typos that a spellchecker will let through because the words are correctly typed, but the meaning is wrong in the context:
a bowel full of sauerkraut left on the balcony to ferment
a female character becoming enraptured by the scent of a man’s colon
a trip on an udderless boat
the stoking of cats
an acute angel
the Suntan of Brunei
Serious Consequences (Bad Reviews) Averted by Editors
Author Geoffrey Ashe, in The Art of Writing Made Simple, classifies readers into three different groups:
the critical reader
the lazy reader who won’t make an effort
the one who has the eye for the comic or incongruous
If you’re an author, it’s worth keeping all three in mind while you’re writing and self-editing.
While an indulgent reader of the third kind might simply smile and move on, it’s also very easy these days for dissastisfied readers to post scathing reviews online, deterring others from buying your books in future.
So although this is a light-hearted post, the message is a serious one on the importance of the editor’s role in helping you publish your books to professional standards – or indeed anything else that you happen to be writing for public consumption, including blogs of business reports for work.
In Praise of MY Editor and Proofreader
While ALLi policy precluded me from giving a shout-out in the original post to the professional editorial people that I employ for my own books, I would like to take the opportunity to thank Alison Jack (www.alisonjack-editor.co.uk) and Helen Baggott (www.helenbaggott.co.uk) for regularly saving me from myself when editing and proofreading books for me.
I should add that this post has been edited only by me, so any errors it contains are entirely my responsibility – and proof of how dependent I am on the likes of Alison and Helen!
Every month, I write columns for two local magazines – the Hawkesbury Parish News and the Tetbury Advertiser. Both of these publications are lovingly put together by hugely experienced volunteers for the benefit of the local community.
The papers combine articles by local people and community groups with affordable advertising opportunities to help local businesses attract new customers. Both publications plough back any profit into local good causes and charities. They contribute significantly to the well-being of their local communities, both by enabling effective local communications accessible to all (and not just to those on the internet) and by improving local facilities and services – factors which are particularly important in rural areas such as ours. Such magazines may also be significant and much-needed customers for local print companies.
Serving The Whole Community
Impressively, they manage to keep the cover price of both papers low – Hawkesbury Parish News costs just 40p an issue (which includes free delivery by hand to your home) and Tetbury Advertiser is free. Thus not even a housebound pensioner on a small fixed income with no internet access need ever miss out on feeling a part of their local community. Even if they never get out to take part in any of the many local activities featured in these pages, they will still feel like they are part of the community. If I were in charge of the New Years’ Honours List, the volunteers who dedicate an extraordinary amount of time and effort into putting out these publications would not go unrewarded.
Every Household’s Favourite Read
One might be forgiven for wondering whether in this internet age, which threatens the viability of so many local and national newspapers, such magazines might be on the wane. A few years ago, working for a local private school that was trying to discover the most effective advertising media , I undertook a survey of the school’s current pupils parents to discover which were the best read newspapers and magazines in their households.
I expected to learn that upmarket newspapers and glossy magazines were their favourite – The Times and the Financial Times, perhaps, plus Country Life, Country Living and Tatler. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the papers of which they were least likely to miss an issue were local community magazines such as Hawkesbury Parish News and the Tetbury Advertiser. It’s not surprising that both of these publications have been gaining size, strength and readership year on year.
As you’ll have guessed, I’m proud to support and write for both of these great publications. To make my articles available to a wider audience, including the Hawkesbury and Tetbury diaspora, I post them up on my author website a week after each print issue will have landed on people’s doormats. To suit the interests of their readership, these articles usually relate either to the time of year or to local activity in our part of rural Gloucestershire. So here’s my first column for HPN in 2014, which manages to do both at once.
New Year, New Strategy
In an old notebook, I recently discovered a list of New Year Resolutions that I’d written down about 15 years ago. Although I don’t remember making the list, the resolutions were familiar, being pretty much the same ones that I make every year.
Why the repetition? Because like most people, I never manage to keep my New Year Resolutions beyond the end of January – though as an optimist, I never fail to make some.
But this year will be different, because I’ve hit upon a cunning plan: my 2014 list will be comprised of things I DON’T want to achieve. That way, by breaking them early on, I’ll reach my true goals. Thus:
“To spend more than I earn each month” will enable me to amass regular savings
“To consume more calories each day than I burn off” will precipitate steady weight loss
“To avoid training 3-4 times each week to prepare for the HU5K* Run” will ensure that I’m able to run it with ease, in a respectable time
Writing this column mid-December, I see no flaw in my lateral thinking, but will it actually work? I’ll tell you on Saturday 14th June as I cross the HU5K finishing line…
Happy New Year to you all, however you resolve to spend it!
* HU5K is the Hawkesbury Upton 5K Fun Run which I help organise to raise funds for the village school. It takes place the Saturday before Father’s Day each year, and 2014 will be the third annual event. For more information, please visit its website: www.hu5K.org.
My Previous Years’ Posts About New Year Resolutions (which, by chance, all have a connection with running!)
Beware of the Tetbury Advertiser – you never know where it might lead! I mean that in the nicest possible way, for a few years ago, the Advertiser was the starting point of a trail that led to the publication of my first book. Here’s the tale of how it came about.
In the summer of 2010, a few months after I’d started writing my Young By Namecolumn in the Tetbury Advertiser, I was contacted by one of its regular readers, the writer Paul Newnton. Though now living on the other side of the country, he kept up with local news via a postal subscription to this popular monthly magazine. Having enjoyed my column, Paul asked me to help him promote his new novel, the first in a proposed series. Despite my protest that I had no experience of book promotion, I agreed to meet him for tea in the Snooty Fox on his next trip to Tetbury. With the help of an excellent cream tea, he convinced me that by drawing on my long career in journalism, PR and marketing, I could be of valuable assistance. He was right: within a very short time, I’d arranged for his book to be stocked in the Yellow-Lighted Bookshop, generated news coverage in the local press, and fixed up an interview on BBC Radio Gloucestershire.
A few weeks later, a graphic designer friend mentioned that his wife, who runs the Bristol-based assisted publishing company, SilverWood Books, was enjoying the online version of my Young By Name blog. We arranged to meet, and I came away with a commission to write a self-help promotion handbook for authors. The book was particularly to address the rapidly expanding group of self-published or independent authors – but what author doesn’t want to sell more books, even those commissioned by traditional publishers?
To explain the jargon, self-published authors are those who produce their books independently of traditional publishing companies. Thanks to the latest developments in digital printing and e-book technology, it’s possible to put your book on the market without a publisher’s contract, thus avoiding the nerve-wracking round of submissions and rejection letters. Authors who are willing and able to master the necessary technology do this themselves, but for technophobes – or for those who prefer to spend their time writing – there exist excellent publishing consultants who can do this for them, adding value and expertise. These are far removed from the “vanity publishers” of the past, who simply took your money and treated your manuscript as a routine print job, often with dire results.
To fulfil my commission, I undertook extensive research, interviewing many authors – including Tetbury’s Paul Newnton, of course – and members of the book trade, not least Hereward Corbett, proprietor of Tetbury’s Yellow-Lighted Bookshop.
Pre-publication, the first reviewer of Sell Your Books! was so enthusiastic that she even agreed to write a foreword. This was no small compliment, as this reviewer was Dr Alison Baverstock, senior lecturer in the MA in Publishing at Kingston University and all-round publishing guru. She deems it to give “motivating, practial and cheerful guidance on the process. It raises the spirits and promotes author confidence. It’s an investment in your writing now – and your future development.”
In another bizarre demonstration of all roads leading to Tetbury, I discovered that I’d met Alison a few years before, when I was working at Westonbirt School and she was guest speaker at Speech Day. I’d taken her photo to include in the school’s newsletter.
I hope that knowing its local origins and inspiration, authors living in and around Tetbury will take a special interest in my book. I’d love to hear any feedback or input from them, which I might also be able to share, with their permission, on my blog of book promotion tips for authors at Off The Shelf Book Promotions.
Finally, a big thank you to the wonderful Barry Gibbs, editor of the marvellous multi-faceted Tetbury Advertiser for commissioning my Young By Name column in the first place. Without you, none of this might have happened!
This post was originally written for the Tetbury Advertiser and appeared in its February 2013 edition.
Sell Your Books!, a book promotion handbook for authors, is now available to order from good bookshops and online. (RRP £8.99, ISBN 978-1-906236-34-2, Publisher SilverWood Books) It is also available as an e-book.
SilverWood Books provides helpful, expert and services to authors seeking to self-publish their books. For an initial chat, free of charge and with no obligation, please call Helen, Sarah or Joanna on 0117 910 5829 or visit their website: http://www.silverwoodbooks.co.uk
For more information about Paul Newnton and his books, visit his website or pop into the Yellow-Lighted Bookshop which stocks some copies and will always be happy to order more.
This isa blog hop in which one blogger answers a series of questions about their work in progress before nominating other bloggers to whom they’d like to pass the baton. It’s a bit like a chain letter, only very much nicer!
I’ve been tagged by historical novelist Helen Hollick, whose books take pride of place on my mum’s bookshelf. Helen was a special guest at the recent launch party for my first book,Sell Your Books!, kindly hosted by my publisher SilverWood Books – the company that also publishes Helen’s many novels. Sell Your Books! – my Previous Big Thing, so to speak – is a book promotion handbook to help self-published and indie authors to (yes, you’ve guessed it) sell their books. Published less than a month ago, my book has already received some terrific reviews on Amazon.
“Every indie author should have one!” says Helen Hollick.
But now I need to tell you about my NEXT big thing by answering the ten set questions…
1) What is the working title of your next book?
Until this morning, it was going to be called Forever Young, but then I discovered there are already at least five books on the market with the same title, so it’s time to think again. (Book promotion tip: it’s always worth doing a search on Amazon before deciding on your final title.) So now I’m thinking it will be called Young By Name, for obvious reasons.
2) Where did the idea come from for your book?
As well as writing a book promotion blog for Off The Shelf Book Promotions to supplement the advice in Sell Your Books!, I’ve been penning this personal blog, YoungByName, for nearly three years. I’ve put my heart and soul into over 200 blog posts and received some lovely feedback from readers. But blog posts are a bit like newspapers: today’s news is tomorrow’s fish and chip wrapper. Old blog posts slip away into the sunset as new posts are added. When one of my regular readers Laura Zera told me recently that I ought to preserve them in a book, not least so that my daughter can read them when she grows up, I decided that she was right. So I’m going for it!
3) What genre does your book fall under?
To be honest, I’m not entirely sure. Some posts are sheer humour, recounting funny things that have happened to me. Others are travelogues. Many are nostalgic bits of family history and memories from my childhood. So that I can get my marketing right, I’m going to have to invest some time in trawling through publishing websites till I hit upon a category that really fits. This will dictate the cover design, blurb, and so on.
4) Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
My late English teacher, friend and mentor Joe Campbell, who was a New Yorker, said that the actress Juliet Stevenson always reminded him of me but I think she’d need to put on a couple of stone, like Renee Zellweger in Bridget Jones, to play the part convincingly. A cross between the national treasures Tamsin Greig and Miranda Hart would be good: intelligence and ready wit under an outer wrapper of social awkwardness. Miranda in glasses and flat shoes but with her hair curled would be about right. For my daughter, Ramona Marquez, the little girl in the BBC TV series Outnumbered, with her hair straightened, would be fine. For my husband, it could be whoever who played the hero in Dr Finlay’s Casebook or Robert Carlyle in Hamish Macbeth to get the accent right. (“Och, no!” I hear him cry. He’d probably nominate a heart-throb such as Johnny Depp. Well, I could live with that!)
5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
“These whimsical, witty, moving and memorable observations of family life, written by a Londoner transplanted into the English countryside, are presented in bite-size chunks for perfect bedtime reading.” (With apologies for the excess of adjectives.)
6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
If I had the time and energy to master the technical processes and to organise the necessary professional services such as jacket design and proofreading, I’d do it all myself to save money. But to preserve my time for writing and book promotion, I’m planning to use the services of assisted publishing company SilverWood Books to self-publish. That way, I’ll be confident of a slickly produced, beautiful book that will look at home in any high street bookshop. Yes, it will cost me more, but I think the results will boost sales and so justify the investment.
7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I’m aiming at doing a book for each calendar year of blog posts, so the answer to that is a year to write the original blog posts. I’ll now need to spend a few days organising and subediting the posts before I send the manuscript to SilverWood.
8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Any collections of essays or articles by bloggers or newspaper columnists that people are happy to buy to re-read at their leisure in paperback. The best of these are by masters of the art such as Clive James, Alan Coren or dare I suggest Jeremy Clarkson for those who find his views palatable? Among the younger generation, the actor Michael Simkins, junior doctor Max Pemberton and the wonderful Caitlin Moran are good examples. All completely different personalities, obviously, but each is entertaining and engaging in his or her own way.
9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I’ve always written and always liked to make quips about things going on around me, and the invention of the blog provided the right format for me to set all these thoughts down easily in one place. In my hectic daily schedule, in which I juggle different jobs, family life and volunteering, there is no shortage of ideas for new blog posts!
10) What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
There is a serious thread that runs through it about living with Type 1 diabetes – a serious condition that affects both my husband and my daughter. As with my first book, I’ll be donating a percentage of my royalties to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (www.jdrf.org.uk) to help fund research into a cure. Behind my flippancy lies this serious, purposeful undertone.
And now it’s time for me to pass on the baton to these writers whose Next Thing is definitely going to be BIG!
Laura Zera – a wonderful Canadian writer living in Seattle, who I first discovered via her compelling blog, before reading her terrific travelogue about Africa. Like mine, Laura’s next big thing is going to be in a completely different genre to her previous book. Over to you, Laura!
Lucienne Boyce – like Helen Hollick, she’s a historical novelist published by SilverWood Books. She was invited to read her debut novel, To The Fair Land, at the prestigious Cheltenham Festival of Literature this year, and she’s now working on her second novel – but I’ll leave it to Lucienne to tell you all about it!
Sophie E Tallis – a local teacher who has just published her first book, White Mountain, but I have a feeling she has many more Big Things ahead of her!
Thanks again to the lovely Helen Hollick for tagging me – it’s been a pleasure and a privilege, Helen!