Anyone for Pie?

turtlepie

The pie that is chocolate is missing a piece.
The pie, which is chocolate, is missing a piece.

Besides making you hungry, the two sentences have a lot in common; however, they also have some important but subtle differences. It’s learning the subtle differences that can help you use the words that and which correctly. For example, the first sentence about the chocolate pie implies there is more than one flavor of pie, but only the chocolate pie is missing a piece. The second sentence states that there is only one pie and it has a piece missing. It also offers a side note to let you know that the pie is chocolate, but that fact is not considered as important as the fact that a piece is missing. (Obviously the second sentence wasn’t written by a chocoholic.)

The word that introduces restrictive clauses, or clauses that supply essential information to the intended meaning of the sentence. This is information that the reader needs to know to understand all that the sentence states and implies. However, the word which introduces non-restrictive clauses, or clauses that supply non-essential, supplemental information to the sentence, and if left out won’t change the sentence’s meaning (stated or implied). When trying to decide whether to use that or which, ask yourself these questions:

If I take out the clause, does my sentence’s meaning remain the same? If it does, you should use which; if it doesn’t, then use the word that.

Does the sentence feel as if it needs a comma? If so, this might indicate that you need to use the word which, because the clause it introduces is preceded by a comma. (The pie, which is chocolate, is missing a piece.)

So, when you’re putting together your sentence and wondering if you need to put in a that or a which, you need to think about what the point of the sentence is. What is it that you want the readers to know—do they need to know that a piece of pie is missing, or that a piece of chocolate pie is missing. Now, before you run out and get yourself a piece of chocolate pie, try the short quiz I’ve included below.

Quiz
The four sentences below need either the word that or which. Determine the word needed based on whether the adjoining information is necessary for the reader to understand the message or whether the information is just nice to know.
Note: Remember to place a comma before any clause introduced by which.

  • The user guide should only contain instructions [that/which] were verified.
  • The application requires a logon and password [that/which] prevents unauthorized access.
  • The report shows every account [that/which] has been closed in the past 30 days.
  • They canceled yesterday’s ABC project meeting [that/which] was already rescheduled twice.

The answers and explanations are below:

Answers:

  • The user guide should only contain instructions [that/which] were verified. The information “…that were verified” tells us exactly what type of instructions. You need the additional information to clarify the sentence; therefore, you need to use that.
  • The application requires a logon and password, [that/which] prevents unauthorized access. The information that the logon and password prevent unauthorized access is interesting, but it isn’t essential; therefore, you need to use a comma and the word which.
  • The report shows every account [that/which] has been closed in the past 30 days. Because the report is only showing accounts that were closed in the past 30 days, you need to use that; otherwise it would read as if the report were showing every account.
  • They canceled yesterday’s ABC project meeting, [that/which] was already rescheduled twice. The information about the meeting being rescheduled twice is not essential to understanding that the ABC project meeting was canceled; therefore, you need to put in a comma and use which.

So, now go ahead and get that piece of pie.

4 Free Marketing Tools for Authors

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Most authors are not sales people. We tend to be loners and introverts, rather than extroverts and life-of-the-party types. Because of this temperament, many of us find that selling our books doesn’t come easily. Yet, without a bit of marketing, our books and other writings are unnoticed and often overlooked.

For each reader out there, there are at least a 1000 books that “hit the shelves” every day. Yet, without something to entice readers to find them, most of these books may never find a single reader, and many may only be found by the author’s friends and family. Yet, every book has 4 free, built-in sales and marketing points that many of us authors overlook.

Every time you, as the author, publish one of your works, you need to provide:

  1. A book cover

Think about it. What makes potential readers select a book written by an unknown author from an overwhelming list of unknown authors? The cover. Whether at a brick and mortar book store or online, a winning cover can make potential readers stop and check out your book. You need to create a cover that is unique and eye-catching, but the design also has to visually convey what your book is about. If your story is about space exploration, don’t show an image of a haunted house. And if it’s about vampires, don’t use space ships (well…unless it’s a book about space vampires). Worst of all, though, don’t give potential readers a blank cover with just the title and your name on it. That says you don’t care enough about the readers to even try to entice them.

  1. A book synopsis

I remember at a book conference, one of the guest author panelists said, if you can’t summarize your story, then you don’t understand your own plotline. What is the main arc of your story? What is it your characters are trying to do, solve, resolve, or accomplish? But don’t get side-tracked by subplots, just summarize the main idea of your story.

Every distribution site I’ve seen asks authors to provide a summary of the book (some even ask for two summaries—a long summary consisting of 1000 words, and a short summary containing only 200 words). That’s where you can really shine; after all, writing is what you do, right? So, give the reader something great.

If a potential reader has stopped to consider your cover, the next thing that reader will want is an overview of what the book is about. Give your potential readers the high-points of the story; give them a reason to want your book over someone else’s. There are millions of science fiction, romance, and murder mystery stories out there, why should they read yours?

  1. An author write up

Many readers also want to know something about you, the author. They want to know who you are and what makes you tick. They need to know what makes you worthy of their time, or what qualifies you to be an author on a specific topic? However, when you answer these questions, don’t go overboard, yet don’t be too skimpy, either.

Some authors feel that they need to include their whole resume in their author bio; while others feel they don’t need to include any information at all. The truth of it is, many readers of fiction and non-fiction want a way to relate to you as a person; it helps them decide whether they want to give your work a chance. For instance, if you put in your author bio that you love chocolate, potential readers can go, “Ooooh, so do I.” Or perhaps you are a volunteer, a mother, or a person who rescues animals, if it relates to your book topic, tell the reader. It helps them relate to you, and it helps them accept that you just might know something about your book topic.

You especially need to include some biographical information if the book is non-fiction. That’s because potential readers are even more insistent on knowing that the author is someone they can trust to give them information on this particular topic. Potential readers want to know that if the book is about art history that you have the knowledge, background, or credentials to write knowledgably about that topic.

  1. A book sample

Some authors shy away from including book samples. Perhaps they feel they don’t need to give away their hard work. Yet, how else can potential readers gauge whether your writing style and their reading styles will mesh? How do they know they want to travel the story world with you as their guide if they can’t see your writing style? In a brick and mortar store, a reader can always pull the book off the shelf and read a sentence, a paragraph, or even several chapters. If you don’t give them the same chance when shopping online, then you’re tossing away possible sales.

As an author, you need to give the reader every possible chance to find you, find out about you, and to find out about your characters and your story. Personally, as a reader, the above-mentioned 4 items are key to whether I’ll buy your book. So, make sure you include them; because, when you use them, and use them well, you make your book shine.

A review of “How to Self-Promote…”

BK_bookcover“How to Self-Promote Without Being a Jerk” by Bruce Kasanoff

Summary: This book purports to help you promote yourself and your service or product by showing you how to be the best you you can be.

Recommended: Yes

Review: the book is primarily a collection of insights based on common sense. Yet, even common sense isn’t always common or easily recognized when it pushes you to step outside your comfort zone.

This book holds your hand as you step beyond your self-doubts and venture into that world of “I am worth it.”

Unlike most similar books, Mr. Kasanoff actually explains how to take these baby steps. He doesn’t just tell you that you need to be generous, he explains some of the ways you can be generous and still end up promoting yourself. For instance, his first chapter (which is entitled, “Help This Person”) explains how you can help yourself by helping others (really helping others, not just going through the motions). He makes it seem so easy that you wonder why you hadn’t thought of it yourself. In fact, I found myself nodding along as I read, while thinking, “I can do that.” One of the examples he gives of helping others to help yourself is this: when the phone rings on a busy day, don’t get frustrated by the interruption. Instead, think about how you can help the person who is calling…really help them. When you help them, they remember you (in a positive way). Then when you need help, they want to return the favor.

All his chapters are like this. Each one helps you determine how to be the kind of person other people want to help, want to promote, and want to remember.

It’s a fast read, but one read-through isn’t enough. This is the type of book you will find yourself referring to over and over again.

 

 

Coming Soon…The Globe of Souls

The plotting, drafting, writing, rewriting, and editing are all done for book 2 of my Darkwind of Danaria series – “The Globe of Souls.” Now, I’m waiting for the final design of the book cover from my designers.

I’ve seen several concept covers (which I’ve shared here in this post), and am waiting on pins and needles for their final design.

I can’t wait to see what they have for me…and, of course, once it’s ready, the book will hit the shelves (so to speak).

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Editing: it’s not just proofing

There are a multitude of articles bemoaning the lack of editing that goes into independently published books. (In fact, I wrote one myself.) However, I think the point that is missed in these articles is to identify the types of editing that are needed.

Book editing requires more than just having someone go through and check for spelling, grammar, and punctuation. To ensure that your book is truly the best it can be, you should also have structural, developmental, and content edits done. These types of edits ensure that your book and your story have a smooth flow, good pacing, no plot breaks or inconsistencies, consistent POV (point of view) or recognizable POV breaks, clarity, believability, and above all, readability.

That’s a lot to ask of one person, which is why you usually need several editors to go through your manuscript. Structural editing for fiction and non-fiction is a talent and a skill, honed by years of practice and a lot of knowledge about what makes a good story and a great book. These types of editors can identify where the plot drags or goes off course, explain why, and then give you suggestions as to how to fix it. It might be that you introduced a character that is flat or you took your story on a side-trip that was completely unnecessary. But unless someone points this out to you, you may never see it; because this is your ‘baby.’

Most authors fail to see the need for trimming storylines, eliminating characters, or swapping out chapters, and that’s why structural editors are so necessary and so helpful. Authors, like most artists, tend to be very protective of their creations, and the last thing we want to hear is that we need to “fix” it or change it. To us, our creations are perfect, and having someone point out the flaws in our creations hurts.

As an author of both fiction and non-fiction, I have to admit that I’ve seen my share of red and blue pencil marks on my manuscripts, and while it hurts, it hurts a lot less than having a reader tell me that they didn’t like my book, or that they liked it until page 110, where it rambled and the story got lost. I would definitely rather have an editor help me fix my manuscript than lose a reader because I didn’t want to change my perfect creation.

Once you have the structure and content set, then you need to bring someone in to check the spelling, grammar, and punctuation. And don’t think that running your system spell- and grammar-checker are enough to get you through. I can’t tell you how many times the spell- and grammar-checker has told me my manuscript was perfect, when, in fact, it had numerous egregious errors (such as homonyms or homophones that would, and should, be caught via context and content). Spell- and grammar-checkers are notoriously unreliable. While they might catch the double “the” that you accidently typed, they rarely seem to be able to use the content to determine correct word or punctuation choices.

So, if you want to ensure that your readers have an enjoyable time, you need to give them the best product you can. For most of us, that includes trading or paying for the services of a book editor who can help us perfect our creations.

Every Author Needs an Editor…not just independents

Starstone_Front_Cover_Only - 1I see so many posts admonishing independent authors to make sure they get their manuscripts edited. And while, I agree that editing is very important (probably as important as the story writing itself), I take offense at the implication that it is only independent authors who are lax about this step.

I just read the first two books in a 22-book series by a well-known author who is published by a well-known house (Harper Collins), and I have encountered approximately one misspelling or misused word per every ten to twelve pages. Now, I didn’t go into these books expecting errors, nor did I start reading them with the intention of keeping track of every little mistake I came across. But, I have to admit that after the first mistake interrupted the story rhythm, it sort of primed my instincts to be wary of others. (For instance, the character was fighting the urge to vomit, which was described as “…keeping her gore from rising…” when the term is gorge.)

As I continued with the story (which is really quite excellent and I do thank my friend for recommending the series), I found myself stumbling over other such instances of misplaced, misused, or misspelled words. With every stumble, I couldn’t help but wonder what the editors at this publishing house were thinking. These errors were obvious and easy to spot, so why didn’t they? While I can’t answer the question as to why the professionals didn’t catch the errors in this particular series , I can commiserate with them.

My bread-and-butter job is as a technical writer/editor and, trust me, when deadlines loom, and you’re working 50 or 60 hours, dead tired, and going at top speed, things can get overlooked…even obvious things (like gore for gorge). Is it right? No. Is it easy to fix…sometimes. Is it inevitable? Maybe…unless you’re Super Editor:  Able to scan 1000 pages a minute, edit 20,000 pages with a single blue pencil, and juggle ten manuscripts in a single night. However, since I don’t know any super heroes called Super Editor, I’m going with the assumption that most authors, writers, and editors are human beings, and human beings (unfortunately) make mistakes.

So, while I have no intention of publishing any of my books with mistakes, and I (and my editors) go over them several times for spelling, grammar, context, and content, I would still be surprised if someone reading through them didn’t find some flaw; some misspelled, misused, or just plain missing word. I’m human. My editors are human. And my readers are human (or at least most of them are).

Therefore, whether you’re an independent author or an author from a well-known publishing house, you need to understand that flaws happen. The key to getting and keeping readers despite the flaws is to ensure that 1) flaws don’t happen very often, and 2) the story is so good that your readers are willing to forgive the rare flaw.

(Coming soon:  “The Globe of Souls”  Book 2 of the Darkwind of Danaria series.)GOS Front Cover - 6x9 - 150 PPI