by John F. Harnish
Nothing is more frustrating when you’re reading along and you have an imposed Say What??? moment. You pause to ponder what the author is trying to say. Sometimes this can be attributed to following the twists of a turning plot, or understanding the explanation of complex instructions; but at times it reads as if the author doesn’t know the correct usage of the words.
When I was writing The Nose Saga: Cancer Stinks!!! my overwhelming concern was to be as correct as possible describing medical terms and procedures. I translated doctor-talk into hopefully more understandable laymen’s terms as seen from the patient’s viewpoint – at least while I was awake. I dare say the saga reflects on one of the times when I used a common medical nomenclature and the briefly befuddled nurse heard the word in a shockingly different way.
Incorrectly used words chip away at the author’s credibility, causing readers to wonder if the author knows what they are writing about. There ain’t no way that common usage makes it right – that just ain’t so!!! Ain’t is an exception that continues to cause English teachers to cringe.
I also wince when I hear authors say, “My book is entitled…” UGH!!! The author writes the title of the book, and once graced with a title the book is titled with the title bestowed by the author, and that’s what the title is – at least until an agent or mainstream house changes the title supposedly to earn more sales appeal. Entitled is a legal term that’s become a bastardized publishing term. A court ruling might determine the plaintiff is entitled to damages, but the only legal entitlements your book is entitled to are the royalties established in the publishing agreement.
Sure, authors hooked on using entitled – perhaps because entitled has an air of royalty – are quick to point out that the talking heads on TV always say their guest is the author of the bestselling book entitled… UGH!!! The more knowledgeable heads get the use of titled uncommonly right.
Unknowingly wrong are those authors who want you to know they’ve written a fictional novel. A make-believe UGH!!! The definition of a novel is that it is a work of fiction – of course there are various genres of novels, but it’s all fiction. The author is the novelist telling the story, the better the storytelling the better the novel reflecting the tale – some tales are taller than others. Size matters not, what matters are the creative wordsmithing skills of the writer.
Then there’s the writer who has written an original book. Good Grief!!! I’m glad it’s not one of those original duplicated books like the monk-scribes did many, many centuries ago. Hello, in the here and now, ‘tis the creative writing of the authoring mind that flows into creating the book. Any way you slice it, creative brain play funneled into a book damn well better be conjured from your original thoughts – otherwise, ‘tis true, they do walk among us!!!
Perhaps the term stems from US Copyright protection for original work – setting original work apart from illegal plagiarized work!!! Publisher and the Public have an expectation that the author’s work is indeed original. Authors file for copyright protection through the Library of Congress; the LOC does not engage in copywriting. The copywriting of advertising pitches and crass commercial messages is very different than protecting the rights of your content by filing for Copyright protection. Copyediting enhances your content – Copyright protects your content.
Your creativity, your content, your book are all rightful applications of your denoting ownership, but what boils my blood is the use of self – most specifically when authors are misled into believing their book has been self-published when truth in fact the book has NOT been self-published. The only way the book was self-published is if the author owns the publishing company and the ISBN identifies the author-owned publisher as the publisher of record for the author’s book. Self-published authors don’t earn royalties, they pay themselves from the eventual profit of the proceeds from books sold.
Authors who enter into a publishing agreement with a publisher or publishing service are authorizing said publisher to publish and distribute their books in exchange for royalties paid on books sold. There is an author in authorizing, but there is not a self. The only self that is essential in publishing is self-promoting your book – getting exposure for your book is an absolute must, regardless of how it came to be published, because the how matters not a bit to the public.
Photo courtesy of Zsuzsanna Kilian.