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Author Archive for Ron Seybold

Investing to send your books into the world

We need to know if we’d like our books to become a part of a bigger world. Many like to call that publishing, but I consider that a business term. Getting a book into the world is all we can count upon. If you’re honest, you might find you’re not counting on it — and regretting the investment to carry your book into its next phase, so it can have a better shot to get an agent’s offer to represent it.

You’ll be able to make your way into the world without investments you might regret. The question is, can you go as far as you desire? You might have something free going for you: this book won’t leave you alone.

One of my workshop members queried 32 agents to get representation. She got it, and a good agent. Those were hand-tooled queries, too. I’m not one to handicap the future where art is concerned. But that desire to make a book, or a lack of it, has an impact upon the energy needed to make your book grow clearer and stronger.

Together we do make a book better, to give readers as discerning as yourself an easier time of finishing a story. A better book has a better chance of becoming a published book, but there are no formulas. For example, I’ve learned there’s many a memoir hiding inside a novel. Our wish as readers in the 21st century is to demand more realism in our fiction. “Based on a true story” is like catnip. Some novels are better as memoirs. But even memoirs have conventions. I think of these conventions like manners. They make access to your story easier. Even literary fiction has conventions.

I help people with memoirs, too. It’s about creating a story arc, no matter what the form. As humans we’re trained to expect things within story, but nothing is the same for everybody. (Well, being thrown into a lava pit is the same for all of us except the masochists. That’s over quickly, thank goodness.) I believe art doesn’t care about fiction or nonfiction. Art cares about deeper truth, the kind that moves hearts, using stories that linger in our bones. You can get there faster and go deeper with a bigger readership by believing in whatever you aim to build.

Painters can be self-taught, but visual art stands alone as one field where the discipline and training isn’t obvious to many viewers. People do train and study, though, and there’s a great deal of craft in the creation. The self-taught painter might be more common than a self-taught novelist. But there’s learning of the rules to be done everywhere before breaking them, I believe. Not just that rules of prose, but practices that open up what we need to say, so people get to our story’s climax — and carry that joy into the rest of the world.

How Authors Can Win with Critique Groups

It’s hard to know how much help a group can be until you see its authors in action. You’ll get more help from a group with a few authors who have published. If you’re lucky, it’s traditional publishing at any level (small press and un-agented) or even self-published (using editorial rounds from an editor like me.) If nobody in the group has even posted a blog entry, that’s a warning signal.

It’s not easy to find a relevant group of fellow writers, and a good editor can do much of that work. You’ll pay for that analysis, but there’s an upside: you’re not committing to doing a lot of analysis on another debut memoirist’s work.

Everybody needs an outside set of eyes, regardless of skill.

I ran a monthly manuscript group with novelists and another with memoirists. For more than 11 years, I critiqued a lot of manuscript pages. Using Amherst Writers & Artist training, I’d started critiquing with handwriting in the margins, plus a memo. Eventually, my annotations got so explicit that I had to shift to commenting in Word. A good response to a disconnect in writing is delivered right next to the problem.

Helpful critique takes note of three primary things:

• Plausibility, the measure of realism
• Detail, the measure of accuracy that evokes rich experience
• Motivation, the measure of why a character or person in story acts the way they act

Clarity

Then there’s the matter of clarity. You achieve clarity by making your writing compact. Frank Conroy, who ran the Iowa Writer’s Workshop for decades, wrote about clarity in his memoir Dogs Bark, but the Caravan Rolls On. It’s about the only place that Conroy wrote about the Workshop’s practices. About clarity, he says, “The reader expects the writer to have removed all excess language, to have distilled things to their essences — whether the style is simple or complex. If the writer has not done this work [of clarity], the reader is less enthusiastic about putting energy into reading the text, less sure of being on common ground.”

Conroy describes writing as a pyramid of skills. Meaning, Sense, and Clarity are the bedrock of the pyramid. Until a writer achieves these, then things like voice, tone, and mood are likely to fail. Metaphor is three levels higher than the bedrock. (We all love to use metaphor, don’t we? Have a look at this video to see how.)

Nonfiction presses us into fewer places to fail in a narrative, because we’re describing events that happened to people who exist in the known world. However, memoir steps closer to the aims of a novel, needing to evoke more emotion. Memoir is what we nonfiction writers gravitate toward when we find a “story that must be told.” Sometimes it’s called narrative nonfiction — the name is a matter of how much realism resides in the writing. Tone is more important in memoir, for some authors.

If you focus on the tone of the writing, the attitude of it, you’ve got to do that by assuring readers about the bedrock of meaning, sense, and clarity. These three things might be in there, in your estimation. The context is always your head, though. Not theirs, at least not with the kind of reading that’s easy to get from a critique group. Your context may not yet be clear enough for your group.

Liking it isn’t enough

Without their express understanding of how stories succeed, you can just file criticisms from a group’s members the heading of opinions. They may not be connecting, and good writing turns the writer’s intention into the reader’s experience. A critique group member might say, “I’m just not feeling it,” and every author gets less well served. Specifics on what doesn’t work for them really help. It’s always up to you to agree or disagree.

Sometimes we join groups to get our writing into the world in a limited way, so it seems more real and closer to publication. Affirmation is a fine thing, even if it’s just, “Well, I read your chapters.” Learning what to try next requires specifics. Nonfiction skills may not prepare us for memoir as well as we’d believe. We get pretty good at making clarity as a regular result of pages sent to groups, though. Outside readers give us a checkup on that.

Photo by Jonathan Chng on Unsplash

Using scenes to win a NaNoWriMo challenge

This Sunday starts a new challenge for National Novel Writing Month. Every November, untold novelists try to write 50,000 words in just 30 days. I’ve attempted this a dozen times since I started on novels in 2004. I have never written that many words in one month. However, even my failures taught me plenty.

November was always trouble for me in NaNo. For more than 15 years, November was a month we’d publish our 3000 NewsWire newsletter. Journalism on deadline doesn’t give much room for 1,700 words a day of fiction. Then there’s the holiday. Thanksgiving usually meant at least a couple of days off, and that didn’t even consider the years we’d travel to our Turkey Day meal.

NaNo can be won. Here are some things to practice and attempt.

You must consider what “winning” at NaNo means to you. A glut of 50,000 helter-skelter words is a great chunk of your work of making a novel. You can judge for yourself, but a glut of words that are, instead, aimed at an outline, chapter summaries, or even scene goals — that’s really useful during the month of December (more on that in a minute).

Advice: have a rudimentary outline or set of goals at hand. There are 30 shots at getting 50,000 words finished. Knowing where you’re headed really helps get your writing into your head. You’ll find yourself thinking about new writing even before it appears on the page. If you need a way to think about key points in a big book, look at my article Use 10 Key Scenes to Win NaNoWriMo.

Be realistic about how many days you will work, or can make the hour or two it requires on writing days. The closest I came to winning my NaNo month was in 2011. I was revising my novel Viral Times in the wake of the movie Contagion, so I had the fire to finish. I easily wrote that many words, inside of my advanced draft.

Advice: Get your calendar out and make marks for your writing days. Try to be honest about distractions. If Sundays are a wonderful jumble of family and long walks, take them off. Double up on four other days. Time away from the 1,700 words a day is useful. See that “thinking about the book before writing” advice above.

You can do your own countdown of how many words you’ve got to write. Getting support from a group of writers who you don’t know had limited benefits for me. I did better when writers I knew were keeping me accountable. Something as simple as holding myself to a schedule I dreamed up in Excel got me through the Viral Times revision.

You can use the Show Project Targets window in Scrivener to keep track of your daily writing. The window fills up a progress bar and accounts for deletions as well as any new writing. If your net is 1,700 new words a day, success is yours. Think of it as a series of winning innings, or quarters in a game. NaNo is a lot of innings, almost like a World Series’ worth of baseball wins. If you’d like a little help on using Scrivener for this, get in touch and I’ll help out. I also coach authors in making good use of Scrivener, 1:1.

Advice: Count up somewhere outside the NaNo website. Count more than words; count the days you have written. Put up a calendar with a daily update of when you’re written. This follows the Seinfeld method of developing a habit: Lots of x’s in calendar blocks will make you reluctant to break a streak. Seinfeld wrote three jokes every day for a few decades.

When the month of November is done, you’ll have a lot more finished on your book than you did on Oct. 31. What to do with all of that? December is National Novel Editing Month. I have some openings for book editing during that month, so reach out and get something booked with me. You can put down a nominal, fully refundable deposit to hold your space until you submit your pages.

In the meantime, get a special pen if you draft longhand, or use the 30 days to experiment with drafting right off the keyboard. I’m working on the back half of Sins of Liberty, my historical novel about suffrage and progress. Ask me how it’s going.

Where mental health can aim us, or end us

Tomorrow is National Mental Health Day. Unless we can treat mental health with compassion and bravery every week, one commemorative day on the calendar won’t make enough of a difference to save lives that end in suicide. It’s an act that often happens with a gun when men commit it. I recoiled from the pain and fear of my Dad’s suicide when I was 21. While I was rescuing faith in my fatherhood, touring towns in a ballpark trip with my son Nicky, I circled the haunting memory of Dad’s act of departure. His was a fatality caused by the 1970s treatment of what was probably Bipolar 2, on Dad’s worst days. I share some of his struggles with moods. His event with a gun became a moment in my memoir about fatherhood and baseball, Stealing Home.

After leaving our last scheduled game in St. Louis, the next day my son and I plowed through miles of Missouri, our first day without a ballgame to anticipate. We stopped at a monument along the Mississippi devoted to the Trail of Tears march of Native Americans. There was a park attached to an overlook of the river. Our vacation convertible seemed to grow quieter with every exit sign that whipped past. One looked tilted, like the green sign that Dad had once veered toward on a wayward vacation turn. While I was in the Army, he lost his way and slipped into his deepest depression. His slide turned out to be fatal.

He started from a high point. Our voices cut through one Saturday in our home when we announced to Mom he’d built us the Blipper, as Dad named the wooden case he loaded with what we called electronics. Circuits of wires and transistors, capacitors, and resistors all crowded a box the size of a small bread loaf. The Blipper was festooned with knobs and dials to concoct sounds rolling out of a two-inch speaker. The toy added drama to the stories I dreamed up. Later on, Dad gave me a cartooning box and easel for a birthday, a dozen hand-cut pieces he’d screwed and glued together. He invited me to spray-paint it, and like any teenager, I chose jet black. Dad never seemed to feel better than when he was building something, except maybe on nights he’d lay on the couch watching comics like Buddy Hackett and Dean Martin on the variety shows. He barked out his dad laughter like a foghorn of peace. The soft breezes of his guffaws would unfurl across the bow of our family’s life boat.

Dad landed on the disabled list after those years. A pair of heart attacks forced his retirement at only forty-six, an event he called being put out to pasture. Dad wore his work like an ID badge, the habit of men from the Greatest Generation. Once he lost his job, he slid into a ferocious depression, a mood that stalked the rest of his time with us. It pulled him down like the undertow on a beach.

He killed himself inside a room that he’d remodeled from the cinderblock out when I was just a toddler, first adding the yellow paint to keep the stone walls dry. Little basement windows were scattered along the tops of the walls that he and I had paneled together. The windows delivered daylight, but rarely any fresh breeze. They were never opened. By the day Dad died he had also closed his sense of hope. If he felt sick on one day, he was certain that he’d be as bad or worse the next.

At his end, he was too sad to keep living. He must have figured his duty to me and my brother Bob was finished after we left. Bob and I were away in the Army on that day. I cannot be sure of his mind in the weeks that led to his suicide. He dreaded our returns on leave because we were seeing him more diminished than ever. He was a sick man, he’d say to anyone, even if they hadn’t asked.

I don’t know exactly what that basement looked like on that afternoon he died. I know little about the morning he spent by himself, either. I can see him, though, still in his bathrobe by 2, the garment wrapped across the boxers that we knew as Dad’s underwear. Their waistband didn’t strain over his belly anymore. He’d lost weight because he didn’t eat much over his final weeks.

Dad and I gave up trying to bridge our divide. He was compulsive about his judging, though, and he turned that habit onto himself once he had no sons around. Unable to blame his sorrows on his family, he turned his anger onto his own heart.

He might have shuffled across the linoleum floor in the mock-leather slippers Mom gave him the year before for their 25th anniversary. On his final day he’d pull his records out of a cabinet he built himself and had coated with Formica, looking over one album and then another, studying each but unsure what to play. Barry Sadler’s The Ballad of the Green Berets eventually spun on the turntable. “Fighting soldiers from the sky, fearless men, who jump and die.” Maybe Dad thought about sons who were away in service while those lyrics tumbled out of the massive speakers he’d built. Dying that day would not be fearless for him.

The Green Berets might have led to Hank Williams as he dug into his dark mood, and on to other records whose grooves held more woe than hope. The sun crept enough to slant light through those tiny windows along the tops of the walls. He listened for movement upstairs and heard nothing. Mom would be at work until 3. He left that record cabinet door open and pushed through his workshop door, his hand running across the knotty pine that he’d sanded and shellacked.

This is where a gun plays a role in his finale, as it does for many men who commit suicide. After the knotty pine, his hand rested on another piece of wood, the stock of the lightest weapon in the house. His .22 pistol would be no problem for him to train on himself. Compulsive to the last, he took his time oiling and loading it and found that he wanted to pray. Dad’s prayer may have been for something better to be waiting beyond his very hard moment now at hand. Nothing more to do here, so move along, he said to himself. Buck Owens was wailing to cover the shot.

Later, when that white vacation station wagon rolled into the driveway and the storm door creaked at the landing atop the basement stairs, Mom slipped into the kitchen with paper grocery sacks. There was a sound coming from the basement’s stereo, the click of a record needle rubbing against an LP label. Dad wouldn’t put up with that for long. Mom came down the stairs to see if he was standing or fallen with another heart attack. She discovered him and his fatal gunshot wound, his body slumped on our leftover maroon couch in the rec room. The phone in the basement was disconnected, so she had to bolt up the stairs to call Toledo’s Rescue Squad.

They couldn’t rescue Dad from what drove him to his final day: mental illness. The death certificate said that he was gone in an instant once he pulled the trigger. Maybe some peace washed up around him on that March afternoon 42 years ago. His everyday waters of worry, though, sank him into a place where death was a relief to him. They will be better off without me is the lie that every suicide lives upon. His act felt like that to me as well, at first. His suicide was the end of a lifelong struggle against sadness and fear.

Dad wouldn’t say it this way, but his heart circuit was broken without his job. I was as manic and depressive as him on my worst days, but I never lost my work like he did, not for long. There were dark weeks after I was fired from a sports editor job, drifting into cab driving and warehouse labor for a brief time just to pay the bills. I made my way back into the light during the first year of Nicky’s life. I had to rescue myself from Dad’s weaknesses, so I tried to be the father he couldn’t be—whether it was because his generation’s men didn’t lay their hearts open, or because he didn’t see it was his duty to open his soul’s window to love. Being Nicky’s dad, trying to rescue rituals of fatherhood, was my way of shaking free from the past.

How to help your book get distribution agreements

What are distribution and wholesaling anyway? If you believe you only need to write your book to publish it, you’re going to be disappointed at the sales once it’s in the world. D&W are different in a significant way. Distributors do more selling on your behalf. Wholesalers take orders. In the broadest sense, Amazon is a wholesaler, moving one book at at a time.

Librarians rarely order from Amazon. They use wholesalers because the librarians are readers who develop their own tastes and trust their wholesaler to get the books shipped and invoiced.

A great series at Reedsy (where I’ve hired my editing and design pros) is keeping track of what an author and self-publisher needs to get the word out about their book. It’s a short list with a long tail: you’ll be doing these things the rest of your life, once you finish that book.

A lifelong list

Amy Collins of New Shelves Books sums up the list. She’s writing about how to create buzz for your book to impress librarians and library wholesalers. You want to create demand, so your book attracts wholesalers. Libraries buy 90 percent or more of their books through wholesalers.

  • Write articles for news and other print and online outlets.
  • Create fun top 10 lists, listicles, and infographics. Get them published on blogs, other sites, and magazines.
  • Get interviewed — appear in many venues across the internet and print media.
  • Do a radio show tour. Include book giveaways.
  • Develop a large online and social media following

Amy doesn’t say this, but everything above gets you these golden nuggets

  • Endorsements from famous authors or celebrities
  • Reviews by quality, independent, respected media, and industry outlets.

She claims you should never pay for a review from a service like Kirkus or Clarion Foreword. It’s not that cut and dried. Nobody who’s in the industry, like a prospective wholesaler, will think those services are really independent book reviewers. You need to prime the pump, though. A radio tour might factor in some well-written paid reviews. Always excerpt the paid reviews. Never discount the power of any well-written review, either. A new author needs them. Set a budget for that sort of thing.

Librarians are going to need these

Collins has a specialty in getting into libraries. Acquisition librarians do the book buying and need to be sure the new purchases turn into borrows. The librarians’ bottom line is their patrons’ engagement.

Collins adds that “some of these ideas are much easier said than done. All of them can help a retailer or library see that you understand your book has a job to do. And that job is to make them money — or in the case of libraries, increase their total borrows.” If you didn’t know it, library borrows earn money for authors. The borrows also find an audience for a new author.

Photo by Cytonn Photography on Unsplash

Write for the fireplace? How to write to publish

If you like running a publishing business, then being a genre author could make some money. I like to tell authors who self publish it’s probably not going to deliver as much money as you want, for a while. You shorten the time to significant profits if you have money to invest, plus the nerve to wait on sales to arrive. That’s the period where you create art (the books) and then see if you have an audience. In the meantime, the advertising bills for your book must be paid.

Art is subjective, of course. It’s a matter of taste whether somebody unleashes their $6 for your latest ebook in your series. With the right investment in advertising, and no desire to make paper books, you could earn your way to getting paid for writing your books. Here’s a good question to answer for yourself. Would you rather wake up one morning to have a book in the world, and have no memory of creating it? Or would you rather revel in the making of the book, then finish it and throw it in the fire?

Everybody says they want that making of the book experience, plus the waking up bit. You can make your book and revel in it, then do the publishing work. The publishing has little to do with creating stories, with one exception. You need to write about your book, marketing-style, to get a readership.

You summon a savory taste of your book. We’re all in a hurry these days. Maybe less so since the pandemic, but there’s still a lot of noise out there. Be succinct and believe in selling. Master the book summary that some people call blurbs. Then make the first 10 percent of your book so riveting that readers decide to buy it from Amazon — or Kobo or Apple or Barnes and Noble — after your audience has read your teaser of 10 percent. The Making It Riveting part is where you revel in creating the book.

How long should your memoir be?

Authors ask me if their memoir is long enough. Actually, they usually ask if it’s the right length. How long should your memoir be? There’s a wide range of answers, and one of them is the right answer for you. The skill you will need from an editor of your memoir is knowing which length is best.

It’s not enough to say it depends, when I hear the question of how long should your memoir be. I usually ask questions like how much time does your story cover? Years, or months, or weeks? Some memoirs, only a few, can cover a handful of days. The shorter the time span, the more likely it is you have a good sense of how long your memoir should be.

You want to locate the turning point in the story. It might be after your wife died and you found your path onto schooling, leading to an advanced degree. In one book where I’ve helped out, that degree showed the author had healed his pain over the troubled marriage. Memoirs demand focus for writers, to keep readers engaged. That’s one reason they run best at about 65-75,000 words.

Make the story fit

It can be a real challenge to get a story that you’ve lived all your life to fit into a container of that size. Jeanette Walls has a memoir, The Glass Castle, that memoirists everywhere like to reference. Yes, it’s been a movie, it’s that popular. It’s super-long at 100,000 words. And Wild has been an astounding success at 130,000 words. Again, movie-worthy, and it’s important to note that the finished screenplay was about 150 pages. They winnowed on Cheryl Strayed’s winnowing. But Joan Didion wrote The Year of Magical Thinking, about losing her husband and her daughter in the same year, in just 50,000 words.

Glass Castle runs from the author’s little girlhood to her entry into college. Wild covers just the weeks of a long trek across the Pacific Crest Trail, plus many flashbacks into the author’s girlhood and addictions. The Year of Magical Thinking covers a year. Each of these stories has a container in time. Without a container, the meaning of the book drifts. Everything we live through is vital and searing to us. It has less potential for such sharp meaning to our readers, though. We pick our storytelling spots and work on making them sparkle.

A subset or a slice of life

As a development editor, I tell my authors we may look at a manuscript and come to a decision that it’s going to need a refocus, a winnowing of the many stories into a one subset of a life. That’s memoir’s mission: to help both the author and readers see how one chunk of a life changed things for the better.

No matter who you talk with about editing, everyone should be recommending Beth Kephart’s memoir book Handling the Truth and the one by Mary Karr, The Art of Memoir. Refer to them in that order; Karr has a more poetic approach. They both have memoir reading lists for your reference. Since you want to get published, rather than publish yourself, you’ll be in the race with books that follow those books’ guidelines. Knowing what else has been commercially successful is important.

Memoir editing can be a big journey. Sometimes there’s that moment when your editor says, after reading your pages, “How about more on that topic?” Memoir demands emotionally difficult material, usually, when you’re asked to add something. The hardest stories can come out last. My father’s suicide was the portion of my memoir Stealing Home that my editor asked me to write.

You’ve spent many years living and remembering your story. Giving it the best chance it can get will be worthwhile. It will also give your writing a better chance of a publishing contract.

Self-publishing, self book marketing: How to tips

So you’ve finished your book! Good news, if you’ve already invested in editing and purchased a pro cover. Now is the time to shoulder the wheel of marketing and distribution. Self-publishing is not real publishing until it includes self book marketing. My concise list gives you tasks to accomplish.

You need to write sales copy. That’s the brief and enticing copy you will find on every book’s page at Amazon. You will also use this copy in a fact sheet (sometimes called a tip sheet in traditional publishing). It’s not all words in a fact sheet. A photo of yourself is essential in one. You send the fact sheet out to reviewers and bloggers you’d like to cover your book. You send the sales copy to Amazon and any other retail outlet you’re using. For example, IngramSpark needs this copy. So does Bowker, where you registered your ISBN numbers for the book.

Try out promoting at Goodreads. You set up an author account there (mostly by “claiming” your book as your own.) Once you have an author status, Goodreads promo tools like giveaways and book feeds (think Facebook-style) will be in your grasp. In the meantime, tell your tribe to review your book on Goodreads. They can put it on their to-read lists, too. Goodreads is the best place to encourage your fans to post their reviews. Of course, if they’re buying from an outlet with a website, a review is good there, too.

Make your website your hub

Double down on your author website. Bare minimums: a fun About Me page (tell a story or two about how you came to create your book, how you decided to be a writer) and links to the places your book is on sale. A blog is super useful to create writing you will offer for free to interested readers. Have links on your website for the social media accounts you will be feeding with delicious snippets. One big plus is a way to take orders for your book from your website. There’s an easy way to take these kinds of orders using Aerio, a service run by IngramSpark. They print your books on demand and fulfill orders. You can also hand-ship signed copies to your greatest fans if they order through your website.

Not only do you make more money per sale by moving books through your website, you also connect to readers (more on that in a minute). Amazon will never tell you anything about who reads a book you’ve written.

Create Advanced Reader Copy files (called ARCs) to send out to reviewers and allies of the book. Digital files should be in PDF, EPUB, and Kindle (MOBI) formats. Have your cover designer help out. You need these copies to help you land some endorsements of the book. Those are sometimes called blurbs. They give your book some validation, and praise, if you’re lucky. Don’t leave home without a few blurbs and endorsements.

Get those ARC files into the world for automatic download. Bookfunnel is a good and inexpensive service to use for this process. In some cases, places like Bookfunnel can even round up a few reviewers. Bookfunnel is like NetGalley but less costly. They both have promotional offers.

Make your outreach

Create and feed an author newsletter. This can be an email with just three links to interesting webpages where something happened that relates to your book. It’s much better if you write a snippet about your writing life and an aspect of your story. It’s best of all if it links to your blog. You create an emailing list of your own to send this newsletter to. Simple ways to build email lists are to swap with other authors in your field or genre. You will be doing a lot of asking with humility while you market. It’s not so bad once you’re used to it

Your author newsletter connects you to fans and readers of your books. Again, Amazon will never do this so you can see who your fans are.

Build a reader magnet to build your mailing list. You might have had good stuff from your book that just didn’t make it into the final cut. Revive it. Write histories of your characters. Write an author’s guide to the best books from your genre. If you’re unsure what a good reader magnet looks like, seek out authors like you who are creating this bonus content. Look over what they’re doing.

Develop posts for social media. People use various kinds, but you’re never far away from connecting to readers and potential fans when you use Instagram and Facebook. Create a Facebook account for your author life, not just your personal Facebook account. Your book is represented by a Page, which lets you attract Likes. Those Likes are a way of pushing your news into the Facebook Feeds of your readers. Instagram works differently — hashtags and listing the accounts of others gets you into feeds.

There is more, always more

Some of the rest will cost you more. Contest entries are the least expensive. Paid reviews will be more, and some people don’t think they’re that important. There is advertising at Amazon and at Facebook you can purchase. Take great care with that, and measure and test as you go. For more connection, you can use YouTube or Facebook for chats with fans: tell them when you’ll be live by putting the date and time in your newsletter. You can even record a little video for use on Instagram, or post one on your YouTube channel.

What, you don’t have a channel yet? It’s easy to set up. Use it to get the word out. Buy a ring light to illuminate your smile for the camera. Tell the world about your book. Then you can revel in the life of a self-published author who is doing their self book marketing.

Photo by Charisse Kenion on Unsplash

Write well. And remember what to do with commas and conjunctions

I often see manuscripts and drafts that are relentless about using a comma whenever the word “And” or “But” starts a sentence. English teachers must have drilled this into us. Comma use right after but or and start a sentence is simply incorrect.

From The Editor’s Blog, these examples are incorrect usage.

X But, not because of the answers I gave.

X Or, she would have to do it alone.

X For, it was a mistake right from the start.

X And, my brother needed me.

But, and, or — these are among the conjunctions we know as FANBOYS. They include the conjunctions for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so. It’s completely accepted to  use them to begin sentences, but that makes them connectors — and that means the clauses that follow them must refer to the sentence or phrase that precedes them.

You don’t need to make a pit-stop with a comma when you’re using a but or an and to start a sentence. Just get on with the connecting.

Photo by Chris King on Unsplash

Put proofreading into books after copyedits

Ah proofreading, the finish carpentry of editing. Many authors who create their own books think they can skip it, leaving the proofreading work to a copy editor.

Pro publishers do not do it this way.

These are the kinds of things I never thought I’d care about while I was traffic director at Graphics Express in Austin in 1984. Inside that typesetting shop, though, we had a dedicated proofreader who read every bit of type that was set. The mission was, and always is, to find typos.

I have a funny story about proofreading. In a bit of maximum irony, it comes from a writing coach. In a PDF handout, the coach writes this…

“Wikipedia says copy editing is ‘the process of reviewing and correcting written material to improve accuracy, readability, and fitness for its purpose, and to ensure that it is free of error, omission, inconsistency, and repetition.’ ”

Then she adds, “There is a great deal of overlap between this kind editing and proofreading. It would be unusual for a writer to have both a copyedit and a proofread of the same manuscript.”

I’m going to tell you there’s a typo in the coach’s advice, and let you have a little sport in finding it. Hint: it’s only two letters long and is a missing word.

Just to be thorough, that coach’s advice from that PDF uses two different styles of copyedit. The Chicago Manual of Style recognizes only the verb without a space between copy and edit. So copyedit, not copy edit.

And the person doing the work? They can be a copy editor, or a copyeditor, according to the Third Edition of the New Oxford American Dictionary and the British Oxford Dictionary of English. (These are the flesh and bone of Apple’s Dictionary app.)

So clearly, any advice that you don’t need to get an MS both a copyedit and a proofread depends on who’s doing the proofing. It’s safe to assume the coach had her writing copyedited. Not so much for the proofreading.

With all credit to the Chicago Manual of Style, here’s what the CMOS says about proofreading:

“Proofreading here … applies to the review of the manuscript after it has been converted to a format for publication but before it is published. Usually, this format consists of the typeset and paginated pages of a book or journal article (referred to as proofs or proof and read either on paper or as PDF) or the full text of a book or journal article intended for publication in one or more electronic formats other than PDF.”

Go the extra step and get your book looking professional. Even if its only format will be digital. Pro advice: have proofreading follow your copyediting. Try to get two pros here — or if you love your copy editor, give the copy a week or two to rest before that person gives you a proofread.

Image by Lorenzo Cafaro from Pixabay