John F. Harnish, Vice President Author Services
Some folks might think this is a trick question, sort of like which came first: the chicken or the egg. No writer wants to publish a book that goes splat like a broken egg as it hits the floor-never going anywhere except into the trash. Indeed there are a few writers who have invested many long months and even years in toiling to complete their manuscripts, only to chicken out and never submit their first effort at writing a book for publication. Such a waste it is to have invested so much time and effort in creating a relatively polished draft of a book that lingers incomplete in an endless state of unpublished limbo.
Dan Poynter, author of more than 125 books, is quick to explain to aspiring authors that all published books are always only 95% complete-there's always an elusive 5% of undoneness that haunts all authors. Even established authors with a long list of publishing credits have that nagging feeling to do a wee bit more tweaking of their written words or perhaps do yet another rewrite of the opening of chapter three. However, keep in mind the chaos factor: your changes to chapter three will flutter throughout the rest of the book and the ensuing storm is likely to plunge you into another complete rewrite of the entire manuscript. Yes, it's another dratful delay that will keep your book from being published and release for public consumption.
Late in the 1960s, I discovered freelancing magazine articles and stringing for newspaper wire-services could produce a rather lucrative revenue flow. For sure checks would be forthcoming when the assignment was completed prior to the deadline, within the required word count, and right on target with the assigned topic. Of course my always hungry agent would call to see how I was progressing. I didn't need her gentle nudging me along because I knew a check would soon be on the way because most of the terms of payment were upon acceptance of the piece and not the delaying terms of upon publication. I dare say there was only one time when my agent called to inform me that I had to do a rewrite. Ugh, I was less than thrilled being told I had to do a rewrite, but I was totally elated learning the rewrite was because the editor liked my article so much that they wanted me to expand the assigned piece to become a lead feature. Naturally for more money!!!
Now that's a rewrite with a purpose and a cash reward waiting at the completion of my efforts is an excellent incentive. My agent referred to me as her perfect word-smith because if the price was right I'd write on almost any topic. Indeed I shamelessly confess I wrote for the folding green, thusly, my agent would pass on assignments offering only a publishing credit-bylines don't put immediate cash in the bank account. However, with time permitting I'd write freely for the American Cancer Society, the Heart Association, Planned Parenthood, and various community betterment groups as my way of creating good karma by providing purposeful help from the donation of my talents.
Too many writers embark on doing a rewrite without a defined purpose in mind-except with the intent to polish their manuscript one more time, or maybe a friend read it and made the suggestion that you need to include more of this or perhaps less of that. Opinions are so subjective-another friend might remark you need less of this and more of that. Stop trying to write for the masses and focus on first reaching one reader with your wordsmithing skills. When your words resonate well with one unknown person, you're on your way to reaching a whole lot more folks with your creative efforts.
It would be easy for writers to avoid falling into the bottomless pit of overwriting and rewriting if manuscripts were like a Butterball turkey with one of those little thingies that pops out when the turkey is cooked just right. Sadly that's not the case. Thusly the writer needs to make the fateful determination that their book is as done as it can be and submit the book for publication. Serve up that turkey and feast on the juicy joys of your completed efforts as you banish once and for all any thoughts of doing another delaying rewrite.
After submitting your book for publication, I would strongly recommend paying a mere .019 cents per word for Infinity's copyediting service to provide the peace of mind that typos and grammar goofs have been professionally purged from your book. If you want more individualized help creating or completing your book, you might consider getting feedback from an experienced developmental editor offered in one of our advanced Book Genesis programs.
The proof books are specifically for you to read over to make certain the book is essentially just how you submitted it to Infinity Publishing a few weeks ago for publication. This is not the time to go changing this and that all around, such undertakings will only delay the publication and distribution of your book and you could incur additional expenses to facilitate making more needless changes. The odds are those changes aren't going to make a bit of a difference in the quality of the overall good read you are providing for your readers.
Give yourself the gift of closure with your book, pronounce it finished, you're at the end of the writing process, now get it published and out there so folks can buy your book and read your telling words.
When did you first start writing?
“I have owned my own business since I was 21 years old and worked in the financial services business for over 30 years. 10 years ago, I was speaking publicly and discovered I could make people laugh and cry, while introducing concepts and ideas in an entertaining fashion. I founded the Wealth and Wisdom Institute for professionals from across the country who are dedicated to informing and educating the public regarding the follies of traditional financial thinking. I first started writing because I continued to grow increasingly frustrated with the financial services business where it was all about profit.”
What are your books about?
“My first book, Learning to Avoid Unintended Consequences, published in 2003, tells of the myths and realities of traditional financial thinking as well as the ten major transfers of wealth. Sudden Impact, 2006, includes the changing demographics and unsustainable government plans that are creating an impending crisis that will touch everyone. The Defining Moment, 2009, is the thought process needed to survive in today’s financial jungle. The Family Legacy, 2006, is about creating family wealth, security, and family fulfillment.”
What advice do you have for other writers and authors in terms of publishing and marketing their books?
“Marketing and promotion is a daily event. Getting in front of people is the key – also getting endorsements. We’ve sold about 40,000 books with no marketing, only word of mouth.”
Why did you choose Infinity publishing?
“Infinity Publishing opened a new door for my career. I now have several books published by Infinity.”
Copyeditors are, as a group, very patient and forgiving readers. We love noticing nitpicky details and fixing subtle errors to help you present your audience the most polished and professional version of your book possible. We could spend all day moving commas and repossessing possessives, and many days we do. Editors aren’t impervious to frustration, however, especially when we come across the same small exasperating errors over and over again . . . in the course of one manuscript.
What errors make us reach for our red pens every time? We asked the Infinity copyediting staff, “What is your biggest pet peeve?”
*One of the most common mistakes an author can make is punctuating dialog incorrectly — and if it happens once, it’ll probably happen many times. Here are a few simple things to check for when punctuating dialog:
1. Quotation marks should surround only the text spoken by a character — not the attribution (he/she said), and not reported speech (I told him yes).
incorrect: “The apple tree is too tall to climb, he said.”
correct: “The apple tree is too tall to climb,” he said.
2. When a character ends a statement, use a comma instead of a period if the sentence continues after the dialog. Similarly, if any text introduces the dialog, a comma precedes the quotation.
incorrect: “That is a tall order.” She said. He turned to me and said. “I don’t want to go home.”
correct: “That is a tall order,” she said. He turned to me and said, “I don’t want to go home.”
If a complete sentence follows the dialog, it is safe to use a period.
incorrect: “I’m a private eye,” my cigarette glowed in the dark room.
correct: “I’m a private eye.” My cigarette glowed in the dark room.
3. Punctuation (including question marks and exclamation points) lives inside the quotation marks.
incorrect: “Is there really a rainbow over there” she asked? “That’s amazing”, she yelled!
correct: “Is there really a rainbow over there?” she asked. “That’s amazing!” she yelled.
Another editorial pet peeve is:
*Dangling and misplaced modifiers are hateful things. Although the name might sound intimidating, they are simply descriptors that have lost their way in a sentence, so that they no longer explain what the writer intended. A dangling modifier seems to have no subject at all, whereas a misplaced modifier wants to be adopted by a new one. The easiest way to avoid this trap is to keep related words close to each other within a sentence.
incorrect: Being Saturday night, the student decided to procrastinate.
Being Saturday night is a dangling modifier — it has no subject, and so it seems that the student = Saturday night.
correct: Since it was Saturday night, the student decided to procrastinate.
incorrect: My phone has a specific ringtone for my girlfriend that sounded chipper.
That sounded chipper is a misplaced modifier — it’s been separated from its subject, a specific ringtone, and instead, seems to imply that the speaker has a harem of girlfriends, but only one who sounded chipper.
correct: My phone has a specific, chipper-sounding ringtone for my girlfriend.
And last but not least in editorial pet peeves:
*Homophone (or homonym) confusion is so rudimentary that it almost shouldn’t be considered a pet peeve, but it’s everywhere! Of course, many people have difficulty remembering the differences between words that sound alike, such as to/too/two, farther/further, and your/you’re; it’s harder to be patient with mistakes involving less common words that sound similar, but mean very different things, such as so/sew, cereal/serial, idle/idol, and except/accept. Many of these errors are made when an author is writing quickly and relies on a spelling checker alone to catch his or her mistakes; others stem from a lack of understanding of the words’ meanings. There are two techniques to help reduce homophone confusion:
1.) Read your manuscript multiple times, and have as many people as possible read and critique it.
2.) If you have any doubt about the spelling or use of any word, look it up in a dictionary.
incorrect: For a different prospective, I asked my dad, formally a minor, if a mining cart would need duel break peddles to keep access wait stationery. I listed to what I herd with wrapped attention.
correct: For a different perspective, I asked my dad, formerly a miner, if a mining cart would need dual brake pedals to keep excess weight stationary. I listened to what I heard with rapt attention.
V.P. Spoken Books Publishing, Dave Giorgio, January 21, 2011:
We spend a lot of time talking and writing about making a book great. Personally, I believe heavily in the concept of writing, rewriting, rewriting, and rewriting, until the author feels the book is as good as anything that has been published, or at least truly as good as the book can be.
I will be honest in that I have spoken to thousands of authors, and many of them are in such a rush to publish, that they go about doing so without a single look back with a self-critical eye.
I believe it's important to have a really good idea of where your book stands in the big picture, and to be able to publish the book knowing that the book has really been given the scrutiny it deserves, and then perhaps even a little more.
The answer is: HARRY POTTER.
Yes, that is my answer to this question and I'll tell you why. I've read and reread those Potter books numerous times. They are just so engaging and beautifully written. Part 1 of the 7th movie came out recently and I saw it. I decided to reread book 7 in anticipation of part 2 of the 7th movie coming out in July. And as I near the end of the book, I realize just how excellent the book is, as well as the fact that I don't want it to end.
Have you ever enjoyed a book so thoroughly that you reread it? It stands to reason that only a really well-done book is going to be experienced this way, multiple times.
Now, think about the intense scrutiny that this author must have put into the writing of those books. The process of the editor reading, marking, noting, highlighting, requesting changes, making suggestions, etc. Picture in your mind the labor that went into the creation of such a book.
If you really give it strong consideration, I think you'll have to conclude that such a book was not written and then published without such scrutiny and attention. In fact, it was that scrutiny and critical attention that created what the book is today: a book so excellent that it can be read over and over again. Timeless.
And so, if you think about your book this way, as a book that will be adored in such a manner, my sense is that you'll have even more of what you need to make your book the best it can be. Perhaps, even timeless.
Vice President Author Services, John F. Harnish, January 12, 2011
There were lines and longer lines of descriptive words, wonderful words, going on and on describing and diligently depicting in seemingly endless details each and every detailed word, explained nuances portraying the sensation stage where the lead characters in the novel are exchanging dialogue. Now those few essential words of dynamic dialogue are necessary to carrying the plot onward, but the eyewash of words overwhelm the mind with lingering images that usurp who is saying what about whom to who. The above is an example of an author grossly overwriting. The artistic passion for setting the scene messes with the spoken words at a critical part in the chapter.
It’s like watching a movie and the loud volume of the background music drowns out what’s being said by the leading stars—or the sound effects creating realism blasted out in surround-sound for the Hollywood magic on the screen is pumped up to such a high volume that causes the carefully scripted voices to be unheard by the audience. What did she say to him???
With a movie or a TV series the poorly done audio mixing could be blamed for the vast imbalance of the sound track, with many viewers left wondering what had been said that couldn’t be clearly heard. In the plot of the novel the artistic overwriting provides a clear and present risk of mangling the message of what’s being said.
Indeed it’s vital to keep a balance whenever you’re painting a word picture of the surroundings—but actually the creative challenge is to make a masterful frame that’s supportive of dialogue driving the plotline. You know the expression, the devil is in the details—too much detail devils the reader’s mind by providing the electrons of the brain with an overload. Fuses are blown, causing the twists and turns of the plot to be blown away. However, there’s a need for details to establish the creditability of surroundings and character development while massaging the plot along the way.
One way details are overdone is when the writer states the obvious, The murder happened on a dark stormy wet night that left the deceased victim dead. Most nights are dark, and stormy wet is an either or—both are a bit much, likewise the gloom of night. The murdered character is the victim, is deceased, and thusly is dead—using all three is overkill. With regards to, The murder happened, get real, parties happen, parades happen, weddings happen, bar fights happen, but murders are committed—in cold blood and in the heat of passion. Wordsmithing skills bang out the words to best fit the writing, and storytelling talents curtails the bedeviled details.
Once upon a time, Marshall McLuhan, a famous media guru of sorts, popularized the expression decades ago in the ‘60s, "the medium is the message"; and now, the media massaged message is medium-rare—done in by the ways of art, ah, artistic expression, the message is getting messed with and manipulated away. Sliced and diced into message cubes of political correction, wrapped in social awareness, and spoken in the silent language of the global village sameness—giving passing lip service to thinking outside the box. But the boxy device held in hand has become the focus point of a string of starkly abbreviated alphanumeric communications fleetingly exchanged in passing—r u cing it 2???
Text becomes symbolic words, the messengers are the medium, and messages have become the media—blogs are the quagmire of lost details, out of balance in favor of a quick and easy read. It’s only a matter of time before a complete novel is written in the cryptic alphanumeric code of word-speak that’s devoid of details. Balance is omnipotent!!!
Author Advocate, Brittany Lavin, January 7, 2011:
As I said in my very first blog, I grew up with dreams of becoming a published author. This wasn’t something I took lightly. I knew the odds were against me- but I didn’t want to give up. I’ve done my fair share of research of what it takes to get published. During my quest, I would see ads for author-originated publishing but I would only glance at them. At the time, they were just an after-thought. I suppose it was my own naiveté- my dream of getting picked up by a big publisher and being a huge success. I didn’t think of how limited I was being, or of the limitations I would come across.
Now that I work in the publishing industry I have a better understanding of the differences. So here is my understanding:
1. Rejection. I’ve said this before, but it’s one of the biggest differences out there. When you send your manuscript into a publishers or literary agent, they can reject you in an instant without any reason or feedback. This can be discouraging for many aspiring authors. In the self-publishing industry, however, aspiring authors can finally get their voice heard and their work is accepted.
2. In traditional publishing, you usually have to send your work to a literary agent before even getting to the publishing houses. You need the agent to talk your book up to the “big boys” and convince them to buy it. When self-publishing, there’s no politics or convincing needed.
3. Rights. This country is all about the rights of the people. In the publishing industry, they buy the rights to your book whereas in self-publishing, you keep the rights.
4. Content is King. When you give your life’s work over to a publisher, they can edit it how they see fit. They can take out that one part you love and worked so hard on. In self-publishing, you have final say over the content.
5. The main difference here is control. I’m not saying that traditional publishing takes away all of the author’s rights. I’m just saying that by publishing your work independently, you have more say in the overall process and more freedom to express your vision the way you want it.
In the end, what really matters is what you want and how you want your work to be presented to the public. The publishing industry is always changing and I know my understanding will change with it.
It’s a new year! Why not start it off right in terms of your manuscript? If you’re like me, your resolution was to complete your manuscript and finally turn it in to a publisher or agent.
This is no easy task, as writers tend to be perfectionists. It can take years for a manuscript to be complete and even then, we never think it’s perfect.
Why not make another resolution in regards to your manuscript? Keep it simple! Don’t over-think.
Writer’s Digest has 9 must-follow manuscript rules. Some of these rules include revision, avoiding explanations, and making sure your details matter.
These are small, simple things you can do to enhance your manuscript.
Click here for more of Writer’s Digest manuscript rules!
by LinDee Rochelle
Ah, it’s a glorious feeling to hold your first proof book in hand. You did it! You actually completed a whole writing project, called a “book,” and your feeling of personal accomplishment is indescribable. (Cue tears of joy in this scene.)
However, this first-phase publication is more than an instrument for catching final typos and grammar errors. It is also “proof” that you are an author! For at least several minutes, allow yourself to be proud.
OK. Time’s up. Now let’s get back to work. By now you have rested for several weeks and should be able to turn a fresh eye to reviewing and correcting your proof book in preparation for final publication. Caution: Review and correct does not mean revise.
This is not the time to move paragraphs, modify chapter two, or add a new character. Those things should have been completed prior to submission. If you have not yet submitted your book for publication and have any qualms about possible significant changes, do not submit thinking you can make changes in the proof phase. Regardless of your publisher, you will likely incur additional costs and delay the publication process.
So assuming your book is finished to the point of no return, what should you hunt down with a powerful magnifying glass on receipt of your magnificent proof book?
There are many tricks and tips for proofing text – reading it backwards (that would take forever in a book!), reading it upside down (seriously?!), and reading it very slowly (yawn). Below are a few solid tips and reminders of what is important.
L’s Seven Suggestions for … proofing your proof book to polish your prose:
- Reading aloud is one of the most effective ways to proof; of course, if you’re caught, you might have to explain why you’re acting like a third grader.
- Proof for one aspect at a time; i.e., first the body/text, then the formatting/spacing, etc; break it down so you’re concentrating on just one review area.
- Keep a list of every error and clearly mark it in the proof book; this provides a checks and balance for both you and your publisher.
- If you or your editor created a Style Sheet for your book, keep it handy while you proof.
- Of course, you’re looking for pure and simple typos – misspellings, capitalizations, punctuation goofs; but don’t forget to look for little-word-syndrome: inadvertent substitutions of “is” for “in” or vice versa, et al.
- Did you make global name changes while writing, or other revisions that affected the whole work? Did you get them all? (Even the find/replace function is not infallible.)
- Review formatting for anomalies and inconsistencies, as well as widows and orphans, which may require very light editing to resolve the issue – but first, discuss with your publisher, as often the problem can be corrected with format spacing:
- widow: a paragraph line that lands in another column or on another page, separated from the rest of its text
- orphan: paragraph ending with a word or few words appearing on a line by itself/themselves
While this is obviously not a comprehensive list, hopefully it will prime your thinking pump. Most of these items should have been caught prior to submission; but it’s nearly impossible to catch them all, no matter how many times you review, or how wonderful your editor is.
You may as well know this now – rare is the book that is 100% error-free. You perfectionists out there … get over it! (And yes, I’m talking to myself, as well.)
Inspiration can be hard to come by. More often than not, it is what writers strive to find. Gain inspiration from these words of wisdom. Let them inspire and inform you. And most of all, let them motivate you to write and keep writing!
- "One writes out of one thing only--one's own experience. Everything depends on how relentlessly one forces from the experience the last drop, sweet or bitter, it can possibly give." – James Baldwin
- “The good writer seems to be writing about himself, but has his eye always on that thread of the Universe which runs through himself and all things." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
- "We don't write what we know. We write what we wonder about." - Richard Peck
- “Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement; then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, and then a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster, and fling him out to the public.” - Winston Churchill
- "You see things as they are and ask 'Why?' I dream of things as they never were and ask, 'Why not?'" - George Bernard Shaw
- "You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club." - Jack London
- “Read, read, read. Read everything- trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You'll absorb it. Then write." - William Faulkner
- "To produce a mighty work, you must choose a mighty theme." - Herman Melville
- No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader." - Robert Frost
- “And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it." - Roald Dahl
Photo by: this lyre lark
by John F. Harnish
Many writers have a special personal file tucked away in a little used directory or saved to a disk that holds an assortment of short stories and other things they’ve written over the years. Well, as they say, there’s gold in them there files! More than likely you have enough of a collection of short stories, some essays, perhaps a few essays, a rambling perchance, maybe a couple of odes, and of course a sprinkling of poems that you could publish a collection of your work.
My first published book, Enjoy Often! is a collection of my work. The collection is a real mix of this and that so there’s something there to delight everyone.
Enjoying being involved in the whole creative process is another beautiful part of doing a collection of your work. In addition to writing, you also get to figure out the selection of the work you’ll be including and the order they’ll appear in your book. You also need to think about your cover design. Some authors like to pick one piece and feature it in the title and on the cover art.
Now the odds are, you have a few pieces of work that you’ve finished or maybe a couple of works-in-progress that could be finalized when you yield to the pull to work on something you love working on. That’s part of the beauty of this new kind of publishing—you get to enjoy doing the creative work you enjoy doing. Oh sure, we know it’s hard work and at times it stretches your gray matter most nicely—but you also have the reward of feeling that what you’re doing is feeling so very right with you because you love what you’re doing. It’s a win, win!
So dust off those files holding your work, and clean away the cobwebs of your mind so your creativity can come out and play with your new project. This isn’t like writing a whole new book because you’re having fun writing all the various individual pieces that will make up the whole of your new book.
Yield to your creative urging and visit with some of your writings that you’ve been saving.
Photo by: koalazymonkey