Mistaken identity and negative reviews

I recently discovered that a previous client, who published his first novel with an independent publishing company, had received a 1-star review on Amazon. As this was inconsistent with his other reviews, which were all 5-star, I had to investigate.

It became clear that the reviewer had mistaken my client with another author of the same name. He had written that, whilst the author’s first book was excellent, this one was disappointing. He then went on to post a sarcastic and unconstructive comment.

My client was understandably upset. Even though he realised that the reviewer had confused him with another author, it made him doubt his ability to complete his second novel, a sequel to the first. This got me thinking…

It seems obvious now, but one thing a new writer needs to think about is their nom de plume, especially if they plan to publish independently, and they happen to have a common name; although, not all may want to give themselves a fancy pseudonym. Most independent authors I have worked with use their actual name, so what can be done to differentiate them from another author whose name is the same?

Firstly, I suggest using their middle initial. That’s simple enough. Although, if this creates a negative acronym, I suggest choosing a random consonant instead. Just one initial following the first name is adequate. In my opinion, initialising both the first and middle name looks pretentious (sorry JK!), as does having more than one middle initial (sorry JRR!). If the pen name is decided upon at the outset, it will avoid the costly and time-consuming process of making alterations later on.

Secondly, on any website where the author’s book is marketed, I suggest they set up an author page. This should help the customer to find books written by the relevant author, as well as provide some publicity. Amazon use Author Central; Goodreads uses the Author Program…Other author pages are available.

The good news is that my client has now completed his sequel and has passed it to me for a beta-read, but I can tell that the negative review has shaken his confidence. Given the success of his first book, I am sure it will be fine. My advice to independent writers is to try and develop a thick skin; to focus on the doughnut, not the hole. If seven out of his eight reviews are all 5-star, then there can’t be much wrong with the story. Another positive is that, even though the reviewer mistook one author for another, he still paid to buy the book, providing my client with some royalties. Perhaps that’s what he was really sore about! 🙂

How to…Display dates (and a macro to transpose them)

My latest project is a 20,000-word diary about a cat and his cat friends. From what I’ve seen of it so far, it is an amusing and adventurous tale, with some lovely illustrations, but it is not a story aimed at children. It has strictly adult content!

Being a diary, it has daily dates. The British-English standard style convention is to display dates in the order day, month, and year; using cardinal numbers (1, 2, 3, 4…), not ordinal numbers (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th…), with no punctuation. Today’s date would be written as 29 June 2018. (In the US style, the order is month, day, year, with a comma after the day.)

A given day preceding the date is separated by a comma: Friday, 29 June 2018.
If being used in a sentence then a second comma is required:
On Friday, 29 June 2018, the sun rose at 4.53 a.m.

A writer would not necessarily be expected to know this, and so dates are presented to me in a variety of ways: with or without ordinal numbers, with or without commas, and in the wrong order.

Before I print a client’s typescript for editing, I always reformat the original version, using my own style, and save it as a new document. I carry out some basic formatting on headings and body text. This is usually a straightforward process, but numerous dates as headings can become somewhat tedious to correct. ‘There must be an easier way!’ I muttered, after spending many minutes cutting and pasting dates from the style Saturday November 3rd to Saturday 3 November.

Now, I’m not a whizz at programming, so creating macros (Word, or otherwise) is not something I actively engage in. I tend to google them, copy and paste them into my document, hope they work, and get frustrated if they don’t. Yesterday, I came across a macro that transposes two words. You simply place the cursor between the two words to be transposed and run the macro. Just what I wanted.

If anyone is interested in the macro, you can find it here, thanks to Allen Wyatt: https://word.tips.net/T000002_Transposing_Two_Words.html

If anyone wants to know how to add a macro to a Word document, you can find it here: https://support.office.com/en-us/article/create-or-run-a-macro-c6b99036-905c-49a6-818a-dfb98b7c3c9c

Now all I need to do now is find a way to get Word to transpose all of the date headings in one fell swoop! Any suggestions will be gratefully received.

🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Good news from me!

I am pleased to announce that I am once again offering editorial and self-publishing services.

I have updated my original website, which is not mobile-friendly (as Google keeps telling me!), but it works well enough for desktop users: www.sueshade.co.uk

Alternatively, you can now visit www.shadenetpublishing.co.uk for a mobile-friendly experience!

I shall soon start to transfer my blog to the new site, which is 99% ready.

I have made changes to the services I offer, and these are explained on both sites.

On a more exciting note: in 2019 I hope to be able to offer a one-to-one editorial service or full self-publishing service at a reduced cost (or free of charge if I can get funding) to a local writer. Watch this space for details. 😀

…Or maybe not such good news

In my last post, I propose that it might be beneficial for independent UK authors to self-publish paperback titles with Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), as member copies of books can be bought from the UK.

I transferred the anthology that I had originally published on CreateSpace – with the UK ISBN – to KDP (subsequently removed from CreateSpace), and then set about buying a copy. On the Order author copies page, I had to specify an order quantity, and then select the Marketplace of my order. I selected one copy, and Amazon.co.uk as my marketplace.

The price of one book (excluding shipping and taxes) is £1.90. This is the printing cost of the book as determined by trim size, interior type, and page count. I submit my order and the book is added to my Amazon cart, where I can then complete the purchase. (Note: the first time I did this, I had to wait for a ‘set-up’ email from Amazon.)

I find the book has been added to my Amazon Shopping Basket. I went straight to Checkout, and was disappointed to find that postage and packing would cost £2.73! The order total came to £4.63. Estimated delivery would be between 24-27 February (I ordered it on 19th).

To compare costs, I logged on to my CreateSpace account. My anthology with the CreateSpace ISBN still exists there. With the cheapest shipping option (April delivery), the total price for one member copy, converted to GBP, was £5.04.

One bit of good news then: UK ordering with KDP is cheaper and quicker, but is this method beneficial to authors who supply books to UK distributors? Let’s do the maths in the following scenario, whilst bearing in mind that distributors ask for at least 40% discount off the retail price of a book:

A book distributor wants five copies of my anthology to fulfil bookshop orders. The retail price of the book is £3.99. Five copies would fetch £19.95, but the distributor takes a 40% discount, meaning they will buy the books from me for £11.97. I order five member copies @ £1.90. This comes to £9.50. Postage and packing is calculated at £6.83, bringing the total order to £16.33. For me, this means an overall loss of £4.36, or £0.872 per book.

The discount required by the distributor, and the cost of shipping to the author is always going to cause a problem. To make a profit in the above scenario, I would have to set the retail price of my anthology at £5.99. This would give me a profit of £1.64 across the five books – that’s only £0.328 per book, and less than KDP’s royalty of £0.49! And I risk not selling it to customers who visit Amazon because it’s too expensive.

In conclusion, ordering member copies of books from KDP for UK distributors is not necessarily a viable option. It makes more sense to, tell the distributor to tell the bookshop to tell the customer to simply buy the book online. However, to end on a positive note: shipping to the UK is cheaper and quicker, and if I were to sell the five books privately, I would make £0.724 per book, which is more than KDP’s royalty!

🙂

Good news for UK self-publishers…?

It’s been a while since my last post, due to a series of unfortunate life events that have also led me to change the way I offer my editing services. Currently, I am only working with existing clients and new clients whose manuscripts do not exceed 50,000 words; however, this is not the good news I wanted to mention…

Something called KDP Jumpstart came to my attention recently. It’s been a few years since I have self-published on Amazon and as I’ve not been keeping up to date I thought I should investigate.

It used to be that if you wanted to self-publish through Amazon you used their CreateSpace platform for paperback books and their Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform for e-books.

KDP now offer the means to publish paperback books. You can even transfer previously published books from the CreateSpace platform to KDP, quoting the original ISBN used. This will disable it on CreateSpace, and they say this is not reversible. KDP do not support CreateSpace’s Expanded Distribution, so if this is important to you, they suggest keeping the book on CreateSpace. As far as I recall, there is no Expanded Distribution available in the UK with CreateSpace; it’s only available in the US, but I could be wrong.

Some years ago, I self-published a book of short stories on CreateSpace, using their free ISBN number. I won’t digress into the ISBN conundrum here, but I had been thinking about republishing using a UK ISBN. I shall do so, using this new KDP platform.

Although I have not completed the process yet, I believe that once you have set up a new paperback with KDP – or transferred a previous one from CreateSpace – you can then choose your nearest distribution centre from within the UK when ordering member copies of the book.

I can see advantages for UK authors when using this new platform. It provides an opportunity to set up a replacement publication using an UK ISBN, rather than a CreateSpace one, and if potential customers order your book directly from a UK bookshop, the retailer should not refuse to order copies that are sourced from the UK. (They have refused to order books that have to be shipped from the US, as costs do not make it financially viable.) Whether this will be worthwhile for the author will still depend on the costs for printing and shipping, but presumably this will be cheaper and more economical than having books supplied from the US.

Once I have explored further, I will either update this post or create a new one, but if anyone has any useful comments about this new service, please let me know and I can include them.

🙂

An editor looks for… Timing problems

Here’s a tip for writers who wish to publish: KEEP TRACK OF YOUR TIMELINE!

Each novel I have edited has had some kind of problem associated with the order of events. It’s one of the most common mistakes that writers make.  Seasons, months of the year, days of the week, times of the day are either out of sequence or missing altogether; characters who seemingly travel from one place to another in record time; daffodils in the autumn, fallen leaves in the spring… these are a few of my favourite things!

Whether you are writing a complex time-hopping tome or a straightforward linear narrative, keep a note of the sequence of events, when they occur, and to whom.

Sorting out timelines are a headache for the editor; that’s not to say that I don’t enjoy it, but it don’t half take a long time! By far the best person to keep track of a novel’s timeline is the author.

Why is the timeline so problematic? Well, many writers prefer to create events as they go along rather than plan out the whole story. Planning can take the fun out of the writing process; the writer wants to be as surprised as the reader as the plot unfolds. Unfortunately, this doesn’t necessarily make for commercial success. It can cause a good idea to present itself as a rambling mess.

Apart from keeping tabs on the basic sequence of events, below are some examples of timeline inconsistencies that you may wish to bear in mind for general fiction:

  • The order in which the seasons, months, days of the week, and times of the day follow each other. Pay particular attention to sunrise and sunset times, and whether its BST or GMT; which plant life appears at which time of year; and the differences between the southern and northern hemisphere.
  • The feasibility of the time it takes to travel long distances. This applies equally to riding by horseback in historic times as to driving a car in the current day (Google Maps ‘Directions’ is useful for checking the latter).
  • The mention of a song, film, or TV programme that hasn’t been released at the time of your story; technological advances which have yet to happen; language usage relevant for its time…and other anachronisms.
  • Physical characteristics that change over time: if your male character is being held prisoner for six months, and has no access to shaving equipment, ensure that he has grown a beard.  If your female character becomes pregnant, ensure her term is no greater than nine months…

There are several commercial software applications that help to keep track of a novel’s timeline and even calculate the age of characters. For example: Timeline Maker, Storybook , and StoryMill. For fantasy and sci-fi authors, Aeon Timeline is popular as it has a ‘fantasy calendar’ for the creation of ‘off-world’ timescales. Some writers simply create their own timeline check using an Excel spreadsheet.

It is part of an editor’s job to determine the timeline, but the job would be much simpler, and quicker, if an author could include a sequence of events with their manuscript.

Happy planning! 🙂

Professional editing as a transferable skill… interested?

A few years ago, I had a great idea…well, I thought it was.  Why not set up a local group to help writers become self-published; offering advice on the creative writing process, the editing process, and the publishing process?  I went through the motions of advertising, finding a venue, and paying for it. I had received enough enquiries from interested parties to make it worth my while, and so I prepared everything for the first session.

The day arrived.  I took myself off to the venue (an upstairs room in a community hall), set myself up, and waited in anticipation for my ten students to present themselves… Only two people turned up. To say that I was disappointed was an understatement. Also, adjoining the room was the main hall, in which a rumba class took place.  Distracting, to say the least! All that the three of us could hear was loud distorted music and the yells from the tutor; not to mention the boom-boom that vibrated through us.  It was not ideal, and given that the two people who kindly turned up were not even on my original list, I decided not to continue with the group at the time.

I still believe that there is a demand for this service, because many writers who wish to self-publish do not understand what editing for publication is all about, although many are coming to realise what it means and how much work is involved. It doesn’t matter what anyone says; a writer cannot truly edit their own work. Having made the transition from writer to editor and having undergone the necessary training to carry out that task, the reasons why are obvious, but these are not always apparent to the independent writer.

It is a universal truth that nobody has to read a novel.  Just because a writer spends four years, or four weeks, writing a story, it doesn’t mean that a prospective customer is going to like it enough to spend money on it, especially if it hasn’t been edited or typeset professionally. But, in order to be able to use that service, the independent writer has to invest hundreds of pounds in preparing their work for publication, with no guarantee that they will recoup the outlay from sales of their books. It’s a risk; a gamble; but has far better odds than simply publishing their raw text – which without professional editing, their hard work will always be…

Hence the reason for my desire to set up a local group.  I would still like to be able to share what I have learned about the editing process with independent writers, face-to-face, so they can enter into self-publishing with a complete understanding of what editing for publication is all about. If nothing else, passing on some of the transferable skills to the writer will certainly make my job easier (maybe even cheaper!). However, as I have mentioned previously, an ongoing family illness prevents me from having much time to pursue this, unless I change the way I carry out my day-to-day editing, which is also on the cards at the moment.

Watch this space. 🙂