How to Decide Between Self-Editing and Hiring a Professional Editor


Pen on white backgroundShould You Self-Edit or Hire a Professional?

As an author or writer, a business professional, marketing or advertising expert, you have created a book manuscript, document or promotional copy that will soon be published or otherwise distributed to its targeted audience. You have a daunting task: Do you perform the proofreading and/or editing exercise independently and release your content for public consumption/purchase or do you hire a professional textual editor/proofreader to execute this phase that will bring your content to its critical and polished best presentation?

Decision Factors

That is a loaded question and not one that you should take lightly. Consider these factors very carefully when making that decision:

  • Are you publishing your content for retail purposes?
  • Who is your targeted audience and does that audience include the potential for business revenue development?
  • Is this your first of such published/distributed materials or one of many and what has your audience response been so far? Has your content been response-driven? What is the metrics of reader response indicating to date? Have your documents or published materials performed as anticipated? Did your results meet or exceed your objectives?
  • Has your audience response in terms of actions taken been measurable and as intended? If not, what will you have to do to change your audience response?

When you are creating content for a company and/or client project or for direct revenue purposes, there is a considerable amount of pressure (internal/external) for optimum results in terms of the foregoing questions, how effective your content was in stimulating audience response and to what degree that response met or exceeded expectations.

Consider what is at stake if your content is not the best it can and needs to be. What efforts in terms of time, resources and investment have gone into the project? Has your return on investment (ROI) met and exceeded your expectations?

Objectivity

First, make sure that in making a decision your perspective is an objective one. Take an honest look at your content and be completely honest about self-assessing your capabilities with respect to your writing skills and equally as important, your level of knowledge and skills to effectively analyze and revise your work as necessary to bring it to a professional polish.

Seek an Outside Opinion

Have a colleague, family member, friend or other parties take your content for a test drive. Ask for their unbiased impressions of your work without any sugar coating thrown in…a straight up assessment or review, thumbs up or thumbs down! Avoid negative results by thoroughly examining your content before taking it to the next level. Beyond the surface level of the content and its delivery, are your reviewers finding a significant number of issues that require rewriting or correction?

Editing Decision Touch Points

The following is a series of keywords or phrases which need to be considered when deciding whether to engage a textual proofreader/editor for your content. These are the skills and expertise level indicators to consider as an expandable list (not all-inclusive) of the many elements of content development and revision that I do as a professional proofreader/editor:

authors               bibliography           book manuscript editing

bookmarks             border design          caption

change                markup charts          citations

clear formatting      cohesion               column orientation

columns insertion     content development    content layout

content sequence      copyediting            copywriting

cross-reference       developmental          document comparison

drop cap              editorial role         endnote

English editing       Flesch-Kincaid Standards

fluid progression     font face              font size

footnote              formatting             grammar

gridlines             headlines              hyperlinks

hyphenation           image alt text         image insertion

indentation           insert footer          insert header

line spacing          lower case             macro

margins               mark entry             mobile content

multiple page viewing outline level          page break

page breaks           page orientation       pagination

paragraph structure   postscript             problems

proofreading          publishing             punctuation

quick parts           readability           reader engagement      

reference navigation  references            review                 

reviewing pane        revision balloons     ruler                  

section breaks        sentence structure    signature line         

solutions             source management     special indents        

spelling              split window          storyline consistency

strikethrough         style guides          styles

subheads              subscript             substantive

symbols               table of authorities  tables

tables                text align            text box insertion

text wrap             thesaurus             track change review

trim size             typos                 upper case

watermark             web layout            word count

Common Misconceptions

A writer/author/creator’s greatest fear is that their content will be changed by the editor to the extent that their storyline, intent, meaning, and objectives could be seriously altered or compromised. Avoid such issues with a proofreader or editor before any editorial project gets under way.

The editor’s contract should clearly reflect that the integrity of their client’s work will be maintained during the process without clear and advance discussion and authorization from the client otherwise. The primary objective of the editor is to clarify any evident ambiguities or inconsistencies to content copy to enhance its delivery to the reader and to effect revisions that will correct typos, spelling errors, discrepancies in grammatical correctness, punctuation and sentence composition.

The ‘polish’ that an editor puts on a document, known as ‘proofreading‘ is meant to incorporate the correction of errors in spelling, grammatical and punctuation issues. More extensive ‘editing’ of a developmental or substantive nature is an analysis of the content through which to consult with the client to alert them that there are inconsistencies in the message delivery or storyline. The editor role does not incorporate re-writing of such content elements unless there has been an advance extension to the services agreement for the editor to do so. That kind of change, which involves greater involvement by the editor, will naturally add cost to the services agreement.

Good Story or Message Composition vs. Bad

As the writer, you need to be aware that if your storyline or copy content is mediocre in its development and does not pack the punch that it must have to achieve the desired results, resolving such issues is the responsibility of the author/writer/copywriter. I am writing this article for the various types of client projects I specialize in but the premise in this regard is the same. The writer of the content must develop their own individual skills in content development and delivery in order to realize the maximum possible success that they might achieve.

You may not possess the ultimate writing skills and technique to deliver that stellar content the first time around but if you are doing due diligence to do extensive research, studies and content refinement, your content quality and how it is received by your audience should improve as you gain experience. An editor or proofreader is NOT a ghostwriter. He or she will provide content analysis and revision. Writing better, more exciting or convincing/engaging content remains the job of the author/writer/copywriter.

Do Not Take Critique Personally

Repeatedly I have heard stories or, at times, experienced first-hand, that a client has taken an editorial comment as a personal affront. As the originator of that written content, own your responsibility as the content creator. Accept their role as editor for the objective analysis that they provide for the writer during the editing process. Do not allow that assessment to become personal or confrontational. The editor/proofreader is on your side! This seems a little off track for this article but the point is that you do not want to lose perspective to the extent that it dissuades you from engaging an editor for future projects. They are indeed there for a purpose.

Self-Editing Is Important

The first step to take once your content is completed, in a draft, is to set it aside for a few days, refresh and come back to your project to undertake a self-editing process. Take your time with this process. If you tear through the proofread at a break-neck pace only for the sake of meeting your publishing submission target date, the result is missed issues that require correction. Be very cautious about establishing hard deadlines for submission. Make sure that you have adequate time for the entire proofreading and editing process to be completed. That process is as important as the writing of the content itself.

Anticipate problems with the editing and polishing phases of your project. Base that anticipation of adequate time on the length and complexity of the project itself. Refer back to previous projects as a reference point and judge accordingly. If you do engage a professional editor to undertake the final analysis and revision process, establish a timeline that they anticipate they will require to do their part and wherever possible, keep your submission date a soft deadline.

I have seen clients get terribly anxious and stressed because they did not meet their original submission date. Maintain perspective on what is more important: a deadline for submission or the best possible quality content possible. In the case of a hard and fast deadline for submission in conjunction with a collaborative project involving a multiple of contributors, make sure that your advance lead time is more than sufficient for all of these processes to be performed thoroughly.

If issues of a more extensive nature arise such as storyline inconsistency, structural or copywriting revision is required, the time to do so is often greater than the original composition. Again, the priority has to be on the content quality first.

Multiple Round Editing Process

Be aware that the professional proofreading and editing processes involve several rounds of focus on specific elements of content analysis. Typically, that process, especially where the client elects both editing and proofreading services, are three or four separate rounds for complete, front to back content analysis and revision. The process is separated out into a multiple of rounds so that numerous elements of the analysis can be more effectively and efficiently addressed rather than an exhaustive all-in-one round which could result in issues being missed.

Type of Editing Services Needed

Editing can be considerably more extensive in the process that proofreading. They are two clearly defined and separate processes. Proofreading includes checking for typos, spelling errors, grammar, punctuation and sentence composition analysis. The author/writer needs to decide their writing strengths vs. what services they engage through an editor. If the author/writer were unsure of the extent of services required, the editor would most often seek a representative sample of the content to review in advance of starting a project. This advance review will give the editor some assurance that the content before him/her is consistent with the quality of content throughout the manuscript or document. Where the editor sees more than average issues in the sample they may ask for a larger sample or assess a greater fee structure that will reasonably meet the additional work that will ensue with the project.

If the author/writer were unsure of the extent of services required, the editor would most often seek a representative sample of the content to review in advance of starting a project. This advance review will give the editor some assurance that the content before him/her is consistent with the quality of content throughout the manuscript or document. Where the editor sees more than average issues in the sample they may ask for a larger sample or assess a greater fee structure that will reasonably meet the additional work that will ensue with the project.

Selection of an editor should be one of the first things the client determines so that they are comfortable with cost and can plan accordingly. There will still be a review of that representative sample to help alleviate any concerns on the part of the editor. It is not unheard of that extraordinary issues crop up well into a manuscript or document that was not evident in the initial review. In that case, there is usually a provision in the editor’s contract for a fee adjustment if deemed necessary.

Proofreaders and editors should always address any extraordinary issues as soon as they become evident by discussing those concerns with their client. The editor should never undertake to do extra work without first having obtained advance permission from their client to proceed. In doing so, the relationship between the editor and client does not become strained or compromised.

An author or writer can always obtain more than one content sample review before deciding on whom to engage if they feel the need to do so. Obtaining a referral from a fellow author or writer can also go a long way to minimizing any issues that might arise during the course of the editing process.

Research to Find Experienced and Highly Regarded Editing Professionals

Taking the time to locate successful and highly regarded proofreading and editorial professionals will pay huge dividends in the long run. Most often people conducting a search for products or services will seek to find local professionals, failing which they will expand their search. Remember that editing professionals provide their services for clients around the globe.

Essentially all services for document proofing and editing/publishing are currently completed electronically on a laptop or desktop computer, often including client communications by email or online video calls through Skype, Google Hangouts or Facebook Video Calling. When long distance separates the editor and their client, communication by telephone is much less frequent for obvious cost control.

Take advantage of resources that are typically found featured on editorial professionals sites. Familiarize yourself with these resources as a means to enjoy direct benefit when it comes to your content development, editing, marketing and where applicable optimizing for search visibility. There are many free and paid tools for writers and editors that greatly enhance organization, accuracy, innovation, presentation, formatting and much more.

Great examples of highly informative and resourceful editing professionals include An American Editor and Louise Harnby whose sites are richly enhanced through resource and industry links. Both of these seasoned editorial experts are outstanding writers whose on-site blogs are highly informative. They are well worth a visit to advance your practical knowledge base and writing/publishing objectives. Both editors have published as have I.

Self-Editing is an Important Phase of the Project

It is a highly recommended part of the writing and publishing process that the author becomes involved in the editing phase with every publication project. Developing improvement in your proofing and editing skills is important. It will actually help your writing process as you become more aware of your content quality as you write. To a degree, it will help reduce the extent of proofing and editing required by a professional. It will not necessarily result in dramatic savings though, especially if it is your first time working together.

Even when self-editing your work, it is highly recommended that you plan to engage a proofreader/editor for the final analysis. An external, professional analysis of your work helps to alleviate the possibility of issues occurring. Your objectivity can affect how well you proof and edit because the writer tends to be over-confident about their editing capability and thoroughness when self-editing. Your process can become a glaze over because of over-confidence and close familiarity with your work. At the end of a long writing project, the writer’s eyes will be fatigued and that ‘lazy eye syndrome’ results in skipping over content and missing important issues that require correction.

There is also the level of editorial knowledge and skill to consider. In addition, focus on what your overall objective is for your project. Keep in mind, too, that the publisher will also anticipate a quality content submission, as they will not publish inferior products to the buying public. Doing so affects their revenue stream as well as your own. If you begin to receive negative reviews about content quality, consider the valuable lost time to pull the project out of retail, go through another editing process, resubmission and further publisher review before the project goes is finally approved and goes live again for public purchase.

Effective self-editing and proofreading demand that you develop advanced knowledge and skills. The English language is complex and typical elementary and secondary school studies of the English language and grammar are not at the level that is required for content development. Take the time necessary well in advance of any content distribution at a professional or publishing level, especially when self-editing is the sole or only level of editing planned for your project.

My recommendation here insofar as hiring a professional editor reflects what this industry supports wholeheartedly and not in a self-serving way. Whether you are a publishing author, content writer or marketing, and advertising copywriter, if you do not have the in-house expertise, you will have to outsource your proofreading and editing needs. You have enormous competition out there vying for the same market share and anything short of the highest possible quality will fall well short in terms of your bottom line.

Testimonials and Reviews Speak Volumes

Seek out solid testimonials from any editing professional you are considering. Nothing is more powerful than the direct word of previous or ongoing clients of the professional editor under review. You can see examples of my own client testimonials which are featured on not only the Testimonials page but also the Home page. Be aware that even testimonials published online or in print may not be the real deal so be prudent in following up directly with the writer of such testimonials if at all in doubt. Editing professionals will usually be more than happy to seek the permission of their raving clients for prospective client contact provided their client’s wishes as to the means of contact is satisfied.

Not every editorial professional has a university degree in support of and relevant to his or her services. Through years of experience in various vocations, where they possess an exceptional command of the English language, they are solid candidates in their own right. To avoid frustration and disappointment, opt for personal and professional editing for optimum results. Editing takes tremendous commitment to ensure a consistent, painstaking focus and effective process. There is no room to leave your desired results open to chance.

My sincere best wishes go out to everyone in the pursuit of excellence; getting it right the first and every time will help make a significant difference in your bottom line.

Tips for Building Strong Client Relationships


michael-dam-258165Your clients are your business so it stands to reason that part of being a successful business person is building a healthy relationship.

Our associations are a two-way street where building, maintaining and strengthening our relationship is important. Frustration leads to disconnect. Preservation of relationships is good business sense and helps foster respect and the provision of referrals and even future business potential with the same client(s).

A solid relationship means a much more enjoyable process and is an essential component to success whether from a personal or professional perspective. The Golden Rule: Treat others as you would have them treat you. Maintain perspective by placing yourself in your client’s shoes.

The Foundation for Client Relationship Building

  • Contract: Establish a clear and concise contract with your client. It is essential to any service provider/client relationship that a clear and concise awareness with each client is established to ensure that they understand what your role is and is not. Setting out a clear set of key service touch points is essential – define agreed upon services in advance and pinpoint any relevant limitations as to the extent of the services provided. A contract protects the interests of both parties and should automatically improve your relationship.
  • Get to know each other: Discover each other’s interests.
  • Ask Questions: Asking questions develops greater understanding and avoids problems later on; do not make assumptions. Ensure that clients are part of the process through their own observations.
  • Be Decisive: As the service provider, carefully and objectively weigh the various elements and scope of the work being considered; decide what is within your level of expertise and which areas extend beyond what you are comfortable with. Be honest about not having the qualification for a requested service…willing to say no when it is prudent to do so. Saying yes to those elements of the project that are comfortable will ensure that your client’s overall challenges are made easier, less complicated. The more services you can package the greater your overall value to the client will be.
  • Problem Solving: Invariably, challenges arise over the course of a contract; the unexpected occurs or becomes evident. We are hired to solve problems and the more issues we can resolve the better the experience will be for you and your client. As concerns arise, alert your client to those issues to seek their input. Offer to help resolve those issues. By virtue of the terms of the contractual agreement in place, you may already have a degree of flexibility to resolve such issues automatically, being careful, of course, where any additional cost factor is imminent.
  • Clearly Defined Role: Our value to our clients is enhanced the more we are able to help them solve problems but our role in the relationship must be clearly defined. Maintain professional boundaries that we are careful not to overstep so that the ongoing business relationship is not compromised.
  • Stay On Point: Maintain focus on the contract and all relevant deliverables and timelines. Doing so helps to solidify the relationship. Deliver what has been promised and then some. When the client has a sense of getting even more than was expected your relationship is all the stronger. That extra attention has to be tangible.
  • Initiative & Flexibility: There is often more than one way to approach services and related problems. Position yourself as a learner, open to new ways of addressing challenges. Each different project may have similarities in the process yet also present a number of variables that dynamics of the new client relationship will necessitate a different approach to resolving. Be mindful of such variances, explore them and be prepared to review them with your client in order that mutual agreement to solutions is obtained.
  • Work on Your Relationship: As with personal relationships, the business relationship with a client requires an ongoing process of development and enhancement. Avoidance of issues and enhancement of your relationship can be costly not only in terms of each other’s perspective but also whether you have a future business relationship.
  • Honesty & Integrity: Refrain from overstating the truth about your product or services. Be completely honest about those services that your business cannot provide for your client and they will appreciate that honesty; a strong foundation for a lasting relationship is developed as a result.
  • Remember That Clients are People: Be sure to focus on early conversations with your clients; their name, likes and dislikes, interests, things that your client has shared that are distinctive to them as a person. Be conscious of indicators through conversation that will help you serve the client’s needs.
  • Be Courteous, Professional, Friendly: How many times have you felt frustrated when you asked a clerk or manager about a product or service and their response was rude, assuming and standoffish. Do not allow a background negative issue to cloud your potential to help a potential new client. They had nothing to do with your past or present issues.
  • Negative Body Language: People will sense or outright recognize how you feel being around them. Maintain a professional and open posture when conversing; avoid crossing legs and arms, slouching, yawning, rolling of eyes, muttering as though irritated. Smile and maintain eye contact to assure your client that you are fully interested and engaged in their needs and that you want to help them resolve their need or problem. Because every person’s situation is in some way different or unique, treat them as such. Be yourself, be attentive and ask questions relevant to what the new client is saying. Don’t try to fast-track your conversation. Make a genuine connection and the rest will fall into place as it should.

Recognizing the Value of Each Client 

Developing solid footing with new clients and maintaining that relationship is critical to sustaining a healthy and growing business. We want to ensure the successful completion of every single client project and, where applicable, pave the wave for a healthy and ongoing relationship into subsequent projects or ongoing services.

Keeping Your Client Informed: Clients expect that they are kept well-informed throughout the process of their project services. They don’t want to be left in the dark, receive ambiguous reports that leave them unclear as to the project status or any issues that arise. Effective communications are essential to a strong working relationship. This has to be your top priority in serving your clients well. Provide regular updates and advise them regarding issues that arise.

Be Resourceful: Share information with your client that they will deem useful. Always seek ways to add value to the client services specific to each client’s own needs. On the other hand, avoid superfluous detail, irrelevant issues, gossip and stay clear of providing offers that you know will be of no interest to them. If you come across as opportunistic your clients will resist and develop a negative perspective of your motivations.

Anticipate Problems: Promptly advise your client when problematic issues arise that could compromise or otherwise negatively affect the project you have been hired to do on their behalf. Never attempt to sweep such problems under the rug and hope they will somehow quietly disappear. Being evasive with a client can be seen as defensive or unaccountable and may seriously compromise your relationship.

Recognize Client Loyalty: When fortunate to have established a long-term relationship with a client, recognize that ongoing business association as truly valued and exceptional. Never take such a valued relationship for granted and assume that will always be the case. Honor that exceptional relationship through client rewards; special attention and client benefits such as discounts or other benefits not extended to other clients. Develop new ways to extend your appreciation and thanks for their continued and valued association.

Realize that as your client relationship continues to nurture and grow, mutual respect and appreciation becomes the trusting binder that solidifies a relationship. You will become, in essence, a partner to their enterprise, an ambassador to their cause. Your relationship will continue to grow and their level of comfort recommending you to associates and business or industry partners will be more and more forthcoming.

Address Client Concerns Objectively: Be sure that you are aware of client concerns raised either about project process or direct concerns they have regarding your approach to a project issue. Don’t skate around the issue, don’t become defensive and don’t pass off your client’s concern(s) as irrelevant or insignificant to the success of their project. Examine client issues from their perspective as well as your own.

As an industry professional you have been approached by your client, or they have been referred to you, for the expert services you have to offer. You are indeed an industry professional and as such have a responsibility to your clients and to yourself to not only fulfill all aspects of your contract with them but to maintain your own professional integrity in the process.

Decision to Continue vs. Discontinue a Client Relationship

Decision Whether to Sever a Client Relationship: This is one area of being a business owner that can be especially difficult to deal with; on one hand, you may have an issue with your client’s perspective on a given concern with your services to them, while on the other hand, you may be putting off the inevitable solution. If you feel strongly that your client’s concern about any issue is not justified and more a matter of a perceptional issue, how long do you continue to fend off a major confrontation?

There are two sides to every issue of course; your client’s primary concern is to please absolutely everyone on this earth who may be a potential customer of their own. On the other hand, you, as the servicing business professional, approach client issues on the basis of which solution is best for your client. There are times when a client issue just will not go away for whatever reason. You have done your utmost to meet and exceed their expectations yet there is a perceived lingering issue that your client just cannot get past.

At some point as a business professional, you have to either come to a clear resolution to the problem at hand, failing which, after all reasonable attempts to find resolve are exhausted, you have to make a decision; to continue or discontinue your relationship with that client. The client needs to understand the extent of the impact their issue would have in terms of their overall project objectives and if their concern would appear ill-conceived in any way, perhaps closing off the relationship would better serve each party to the contract.

Such is the day no business professional wants to experience and it means the loss of business of a valued client yet to belabor an issue unnecessarily by either party is disruptive to the forward progress or continuity of the project. The consistent flow of the project is altered and the service provider/client relationship is perhaps irreparably compromised. At what point does one or the other party (or both mutually) decide that you are deadlocked over an unfortunate issue that defies reasonable solution to each party’s satisfaction? At some point, sooner than later, a decision has to be made.

When a Client Relationship Ends, Let it Go: Above all else, as a business professional, establish good business practices and principals, make carefully considered business decisions and stand by those decisions. Don’t waffle back and forth in attempts to regain a wayward client relationship. If either party to the contract steps away, then accept that decision and respectfully let it go.

As a business professional, you cannot become defensive or aggressive at a point of difference of opinion or perspective. Be flexible, be reasonable and accountable, but when the relationship is failing and would appear unsolvable, respect the other party and sever the relationship. Be courteous and appreciative even in this event because you never know when a former client will approach you again after a passage of time to reflect and reassess. “Don’t burn your bridges” by shooting arrows of frustration and anger. 

“We build too many walls

and not enough bridges.”

Isaac Newton

~

Photo c/o Michael Dam, Unsplash.com

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© Don MacIver 2017; All Rights Reserved

 

Authors; How to Handle Negative Book Reviews


frustrated_writerAll authors publish their written works with every anticipation that many will see their work and that every single review of their book or novel will do nothing but lavish praise on the author and profess the reader’s unwavering devotion to the author as the reader’s first choice in personal reading. The reality is that authors need to anticipate negative reviews and keep things in perspective.

As an author, you check your book sales pages on Amazon, Barnes & Noble or your other various publishing platforms, eagerly anticipating increased number of sales and solid, supportive reviews that will further help to establish a positive credibility and reputation as an accomplished author.

The fear of receiving a negative review for your publication is on the mind of most authors and in most instances, publishers are not inclined to remove those negative reviews because they want to maintain a realistic balance when it comes to the potentially broad range of consumer response to your fictional or non-fiction masterpiece. If all reviews were strictly positive, would that not give the perception of unfair bias and potential manipulation or control of your market?

As an author, you want to reach out to your readers and encourage that they share their impressions of your latest publication. Reviews are a powerful means to building confidence in the browsing consumers who have landed on your sales page. Just seeing a multiple of four or five-star review ratings can stimulate consumer curiosity and draw them to the book description to find out more.

The frustration of seeing negative reviews and the fear of the ‘negative’ impression that those less than raving reviews will have on your sales activity is probably keeping you awake at night trying to rationalize the painful process of objective criticism. You are not alone!

As an author, it is essential that you maintain perspective when it comes to a negative review. Read those critical reviews carefully as in many cases the customer will have realistic issues whether it be typical editorial issues such as spelling, punctuation or grammatical issues or more in-depth structural issues such as confusing or conflicting storylines from one chapter to the next, character or location inconsistencies, story progression that lacks a fluid transition, lack of substance or anticipated excitement. The entire editing process that you exercise before the submission of your manuscript to the publisher should painstakingly weigh all of those issues to be sure that your story is sound and fulfilling in every possible way.

 Ways to Deal with Criticism

  • Consumer Exposure: On the plus side, when readers take the time to write a review they are providing you with public exposure. The mere fact that they are expressing an opinion about your book demonstrates sales activity on your publication. People possess their own individual perspective on what they read. How others will perceive their comments will be in direct contrast to what other consumers want to read. Consumers will develop their own opinions.
  • Establish Your Own List of Fears: It can be a most unnerving experience to publish a book, especially your first release. All kinds of questions and critique may come from readers that perhaps you did not anticipate. Did you put forward the best possible reading experience through your story? Your book goes live and all of a sudden your exhaustive writing process is out there for the world to see. Keep a list of potential (or actual) negative comments that might arise. Take criticism as valuable critique, address those issues in your manuscript that require revision or correction, republish the manuscript and get over the critiques…move on. 
  • Importance to You and Your Readers: Keep things in perspective. Do you have an ever-increasing readership tribe who thinks the world of your books? Are the vast majority of book reviews you receive highly positive in nature? What do you want to achieve with every manuscript you develop? Keep your own writing objectives in mind. If you allow insignificant or even blatantly incorrect criticism to overtake your focus on your writing you will not be able to produce an outstanding product through your subsequent publications. NEVER become obsessed or distressed by periodic negative reviews.
  • Focus on Positive Reviews: It is list time again! Make a list of all the positive comments you receive about your books from mere satisfaction for having read your story or more specific details about what the reader loved the most…and wants to see again! Are their positive perceptions as you had intended? Did you deliver best reader experience? Take the critical time to receive a good pat on the back for a job well done through those positive reviews; they are your core audience who will return for more repeatedly! Affirm in your own mind that you are indeed a gifted writer and have a solid grasp of how to engage your audience.
  • Every Author Gets Bad Reviews: What? Really? Even the most well-read authors, including bestseller authors, get negative reviews. When you get an ungracious response to your book through the issues the reader had are they relevant? Do they have merit? Decide how you can avoid that type of reaction in future books. Use those negative reviews to plan and structure your next novel in a way that would avoid such perspective. You should also keep in mind who the individual is and what bearing that has on their comments. There have been instances where a publisher has discovered that an author, even a very well-read author, had written bad reviews or hired someone else to do the same in an effort to discredit a competitor in their genre market. Legal action ensued and the publisher will no longer accept the offending author as their client.
  • Website & Social Media Commenting: Today’s publishing world quite naturally leaves an author vulnerable to public expression of their works. This can be a scary experience for some writers. In most online places like websites, blogs, and social media the public has the opportunity to post comments on virtually any subject including their impressions of your publication. Authors cannot cower, terrified about the potential for negative reviews. Most of your public audience will take negative reviews at face value and given the many more positive reviews, will want to experience a great read for them.

Perspective is Everything

Are Negative Book Reviews Constructive or Flaming?

When I received my first negative review it was on social media. At first, I felt sick that I should fall victim to a negative trashing of my written works. As an author, you really have to look at where that negativity is coming from.

First, is there any substance to the negative review that backs up what the person has stated? In that particular instance, the reviewer’s comments were generalized in nature and really made no reference to a specific issue with my content. I was confused and increasingly angered. How can anyone publicly put down an author’s content and neglect to substantiate what they were saying without backup through specific instances or points of reference in the book? Have they, in fact, read my book?

Do Not Respond in Anger!

Keep in mind that negative reviews are a matter of public visibility. In publishing/distributing sites such as Amazon.com, there is no option for deleting a negative review. There is merit to the question of whether an author should have that discretion but that issue is for another time and place.

It is critically important that you, the author, should never be angered by throwing down a harsh or angered response in return. By responding with anger, doing so will only serve to give readers the impression that you are acknowledging the harsh criticism by becoming defensive. We cannot expect every single review to be a raving two thumbs up nor should we ever suggest it publicly. Constructive criticism is a healthy aspect of learning, being more attentive and growing as a publishing author. The best response from an author is to produce an even better publication in future, the perfect opportunity to minimize readers’ opportunity to become critical.

Survey Bestseller Sales Pages

A great exercise to alleviate fears about negative reviews is to face those fears right up front even before you publish your first book. Do the following exercise with me:

At the very moment of this writing, I went directly to the homepage of Amazon.com whereupon I entered the search term ‘bestseller books 2017’ into the Amazon site search bar. At random, I clicked on bestseller author Sue Fortin’s ‘Sister, Sister’ publication. It is noteworthy that Fortin is a USA Today bestselling author. On the title and tagline at the very top of Ms. Fortin’s sales page for ‘Sister, Sister’ is an overall four-star customer rating. Right next to the star rating is a current count of 334 customer reviews.

Now, scroll down the sales page until you arrive at the section titled ‘Customer Reviews’. Here you will find a graphic illustration of the rating percentages as cast by reviewing readers ranging from one Star rating as (2%) of all ratings cast to four and five Star ratings by the vast majority of reviewing readers at between 29% – 53%.

If you then click on “See All Reviews” you will see a breakdown of ‘Top Positive Reviews (275) and to the right, you will see “Top Critical Reviews”. As a percentage of total reviews to date, that equates to 83% Positive Reviews over 17.66% Critical Reviews. Those are significant percentages and most importantly the percentages of positive customer reviews far outnumber the critical reviews. I have not referred to the one to three Star ratings here because they are substantially fewer in numbers and therefore of least impact to this comparison.

Start Reading A Sampling of Critical Reviews for ‘Sister, Sister’.

It really is interesting to engage in ‘Critical Reviews’. With all due respect to the individual reviewers (because their opinions about the publication certainly do count) read their comments carefully and consider the substance and specifics as they are articulated or the absence of it. Are the comments highly generalized or substantive in support of their rating chosen? Even in the case of a reviewer’s sole comment being “Spellbinding” their rating was only three Stars.

In another instance, a reviewer states “I haven’t read a book this bad in about 5 years.” This comment shared a one Star rating. Again, these review comments have significance and relevance from the reviewer’s perspective.

Now Engage in The Positive Reviews for ‘Sister, Sister’.

I will make no further direct reference to individual ratings and reviews as I believe it is important that you, the reader here, draw your own informed conclusions based on what you see throughout the body of the Reviews section of this author’s sales page.

I would encourage you to go back to the Reviews section of numerous authors, including ‘bestseller’ authors, through their respective sales pages and look very closely at what is said in the reviews and how their statements relate to their overall rating. It really is interesting to see the broad range of reviews and star ratings, whether for a newly published author or a seasoned pro that has made their way into the lofty ‘bestseller’ ranks.

Many authors share their perspective on negative reviews that they receive and how they handle them personally. A good many have stated that they ignore negative reviews completely and avoid destructive distress or distraction that would interfere with their writing process…period. They would also urge that in the end after all is said and done you will continue to write and publish. Reviews can be used in a positive way where an author feels that a critical look is constructively pointing out areas of writing which indeed do need the author’s attention.

Most importantly, re-read your positive reviews frequently and especially those that provide you with a detailed perspective that clearly illustrates the powerfully impactful ways your book has influenced their review comments and why they will continue to seek out your future publications. Use those positive reviews as an affirmation that you are a wonderfully capable author and keep writing. You obviously have something exceptional to share and have discovered the critical formulas for reader engagement!

© Don MacIver 2017; All Rights Reserved

The Art of Successful Writing


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It’s All About the Reader Experience

From as far back as my childhood days in elementary school, I clearly recall my fascination with words. Our teachers would speak with determined reference to the ways in which we needed to express on any number of levels through the many complexities of the English language.

Of course, in our very early elementary school teachings, those lessons were fairly simple in terms of what children that age could reasonably understand, absorb and apply both orally and in writing. Our preliminary task was to learn to speak the language and learn how to print, neatly and with deliberate and neat penmanship. Those words that we related to the most and were most often used in our day to day conversation were an early focus in class.

With each passing year, the importance of learning how to speak, read and write the English language became of greater importance, more and more complex. Grasping the spelling and meaning of each word was increasingly important, as was an understanding of just how complex the language really was. And then came the revelations of thesaurus content wherein lay a whole other dimension of the language through synonyms.

Well into the mid-secondary school period, we became more and more deeply engaged with the language through our studies. Written assignments became a routine part of our daily learning experience. Our teachers used the assignment process as a means to gauge our individual knowledge, understanding, and application of the language. I remember very early on feeling a sense of wonderment for the language, our language that was used in every conceivable aspect of people’s lives whether for personal reading, eventual writing as a profession, vocational requirement or creative endeavor.

Once into my secondary school years, I became increasingly aware of just how complex the English language was. We began to study not only advanced spelling of much more complex words and sentence structures but also a more in-depth study of the grammatical aspects of the language. This was pretty heavy stuff and for many, English Literature was tedious, boring, confusing and confounding. Many of my friends would question why we needed to know all that stuff, to begin with.

Well, when we eventually delved into the study of historical masters of the language, both structurally and creatively speaking, even more of the class began to wander their attentions to idle scribbling in their notebooks and banal daydreaming to while away the hours. Many would frequently check the big clock on the classroom wall, counting the minutes down to recess, a break from all of the mundane study sessions.

I look back on those days with a clear recollection of my own curiosity, no, fascination, with learning the English language, reading assignments and writing book reviews. The first time I held a novel in my hands was a milestone I will never forget. It was like diving into deep, darkened waters to unchartered depths of exploration and discovery for me. I kept those thoughts to myself because, quite frankly, kids in the day thought that anyone who was engrossed in reading studies was a ‘geek’, unusual to say the least.

Early into my high school days I began to have a sense that, even though I did not have a clear idea of what career direction I wanted to take, somehow I envisioned it having a lot to do with writing, communications, anything along those lines that would be an essential part of how I would make a living.

The study of poetry was for many an abstract, a nonsensical journey into waters that most students felt that they would never ply. What application could there possibly be through the use of poetic verse in our daily lives, right? Yet soon, I would develop an inspired thirst for the study of poetry. It led me to an appreciation for uniquely creative word, phrase and sentence composition that took a tremendous amount of focus to write effectively. Years later I would develop a lifelong passion for writing poetry.

I soon developed an even greater appreciation of how content development, in general, would form the basis, the foundation for more comprehensive writing applications that I would use throughout my entire career. My parents recognized my innate sense of excitement reading, especially fictional novels that I brought home from the library. One day mom brought home a box set of Hardy Boys mystery novels, hardbound and engagingly illustrated on the front cover.

I quickly became hooked on those Hardy Boy classics and read them repeatedly. My home library collection grew with each new publication and soon I would be into Nancy Drew mysteries and more. I would be fixated hour after hour, consumed by the gripping storylines, the suspense and wondering at the final outcome of each story, not wanting to put the books down when called for dinner. I would often read late into the night on weekends.

I loved the way the author developed his or her characters; their unique appearance and personalities, their voice, beliefs, interests, likes and dislikes, and their role in the story. And then there were the physical settings that surrounded individual scenes which rounded out the story. It all played out in my mind as a cinematic scene in a motion picture at the town theatre.

I recall punctuation being one of the more challenging elements of writing that I found difficult to grasp. I had an uncle who was a well-known journalist in both the newsprint and radio media. He was an artist and created the most incredible sketches with a graphite pencil that I have seen to this day. I began to read his newspaper articles, primarily editorial and sports columns but he later ventured in the most impassioned way into the political commentary and critique arena. He had a tremendous thirst for stirring things up and politics was just the thing. He struck out with a more unconventional and often controversial voice that had many readers incensed but truly got their attention and response. Those were my early lessons in reader engagement.

The more I read Uncle Gord’s columns, the keener my interest for writing became. I was fascinated about how he developed his storylines, how he captured interest and attention through the words he fashioned, how he painted a picture through every story told. The tremendous power and effectiveness of his word and phrase use and his very sentence composition was a marvel. I even fascinated at how each and every paragraph transitioned so fluidly to the next.

As a teenager, I was beginning to have a strong sense of where my career direction was meant to be. I decided to go on to college and study journalism. My interest and apparent strength lay in the printed media. I would work for newspapers, reporting stories from out in the field about any number of interesting subjects. I would interview important and learned people in order to establish and support my storylines.

While my passion for writing continued to grow during my college studies, the romance with journalistic reporting lost its shine, its polish for me and I did not pursue completion of those studies nor that vocation in life. Still, I would eventually forge on to management roles with a Crown Corporation that would be the beginnings of a life-long career in property and facility management. It was during those thirty years as a professional in the real estate management industry that I would apply extensive written communications on a daily basis.

Once I experienced the managerial roles in the real property industry, it was then that I quickly became aware of just how important effective written, and oral, communications would be in the course of my daily management and reporting of property operations to our clients. I was required to communicate in a clear, concise, informative and persuasive way, with clients from all walks of life. I would address property issues through all matter of supportive external service providers of daily or periodic services to our clients from trades-related contractors to architects, engineers, lawyers and industry professionals.

The strict rule of thumb within that Crown Corporation and all of the subsequent private sector firms that I was engaged by was to provide factually sound, informative and engaging communications and written reports to all clients and stakeholders. My accuracy and effective ‘voice’ through my written communications had to be delivered with the utmost clarity, consultative expertise and meticulous in its execution every single time documents were distributed from my desk. Critical decision processes were imminent from my communications.

Anticipating the extent of my focus on the written word moving forward after secondary school, I undertook to study intense, in-depth elective and college courses in English, grammar, and business management and communications as a precursor to my successive management years in a career that truly demanded exceptional oral and written communications skills. There would be absolutely no room for contextual error when it came to professional communications whether oral or written.

I learned the fundamentals of a storyline and communications development right from the opening sentence to set the voice and tone of the piece and what the reader could expect throughout its message, to the main body of the content delivery and final paragraphs that drew informative recommendations and conclusions. The content that I wrote was very often extensive in nature and complexity and was ultimately eight to ten or more pages in length. Even at that length, I was to cover a high volume of information and client recommendations in a clear and concise manner. Brevity to the point of confusion was never an option on the table. A lot was at stake if my message was somehow misconstrued.

The Art of Reader Engagement

The strength in communicating in an ‘engaging’ way goes far beyond mere logistics and factually informative report writing. In addition to writing highly informative content, the reader’s attention easily becomes distracted, especially the longer the overall length and depth of a piece is. Writing in a conversational voice becomes an essential element of reader engagement more now than ever before.

People’s time is harried; condensed into split seconds of engagement or distraction. Get to the point and give the reader what they are looking for and the sooner the better. Cut out superfluous content that would otherwise be characterized as ‘fluff’. Cut to the chase and make your point, especially from a content marketing perspective! What people will engage in is informative content that identifies the very problem they are experiencing and how best to go about fixing that problem, making their lives better, easier, more efficient, more cost-effective and enjoyable.

We often view ‘art’ as an ‘expression’, a unique and creative oral, written or painted/sculpted delivery of one’s thoughts or ideas whether spoken, on paper or online, even physically formed in an artful way that brings a pleasurable, inspired audio or visual experience to its audience. The beauty of any art form is strictly in the eye of the beholder…or is it? Is the perception of art by design for the divine graces of the beholder or is it mere aggrandization of its creator?

The art of reader engagement is all about the reader experience.

Today, when appealing to the emotions of your intended reading audience in writing, the critical element that delivers ties that bind is forming a connection with our readers through their emotional response to our content. Speak to your audience in a conversational tone…share with your readers through your own voice rather than second or third person.

When you relay a story as part of your message delivery, infuse the human touches that your audience can directly relate to. Consider a love story unfolding in your novel. What is the lighting like? Is it overpowering, glaring, unromantic or gently subdued? Are your characters yelling out to each other from separate rooms or are they close, but a movement’s touching away? How are they breathing? What are they gazing at? Are they resisting or embracing the imminent connection? What is the tone of their voice in conversation? Is it a matter of fact, suggestive, evocative?

How do we know we are making that important connection?

As writers, much of what we write is intuitive, off the cuff, instinctive progressions of ideas and circumstance which tend to lead the story where it is willed to go. It may follow our intended path of logical direction and flow but it also may weave its own directions between points A to B as would feel most natural under the circumstances.

We are a curious lot as creatives. We write as it feels good to ourselves. We develop a smug reliance on our instincts for brilliant situational development and resolution. Nancy is falling in love with Tom and that is how the story will end…right? Well, not necessarily. Writing as creatives, we hunger for what lies outside the box, the surprise element, a long way from what may seem logical.

In the literal sense, an artist will begin their project with very little or no sense of what they are about to create and allow the construction to go where it will. Here is what I, as a creative, experience when writing poetry or prose:

  • I first develop a conceptual idea for each piece.
  • As with a storyline, I envision a beginning, middle and an end.
  • I begin to write my piece from that concept.
  • I always have that ending in mind yet most often new ideas form in my mind and the piece takes on an entirely different direction and meaning.
  • I structure or shape my ending, my close, based on a new and fluid conclusion to the piece as it has progressed.

During its writing, I read back every word, every line, and every stanza repeatedly. Is its progression fluid, is it clear and engaging? With each new line, I read back again, always repeating that analytical process. I am incessantly reading back through the eyes of my readers, always. It is the reader experience that is paramount. Am I evoking an emotional response? Is it appealing and compelling for its intended audience or would it better be expressed another way?

I obsess on whether the reader is tearing up or grinning from ear to ear. Am I just being a coy and manipulative ass or am I producing something truly meaningful and never self-serving? Now, self-serving is a whole other matter to address and even though one’s content should never be overtly that, there is a quiet sense, as a writer, of the desired self-fulfillment, always. Still, my content always aims to resonate with its intended reader…without exception.

Content Revisions

Regardless of the genre or intended audience, whether a fictional novel, a university dissertation, business communication, content marketing or advertising copy, the primary objective is to write content that fully resonates with the reader. It has to echo, in other words, the reader should be able to relate personally to the content. It should invoke an emotional response. Editing or revision of content brings that content to its most clear and concise delivery while still delivering an enriching experience for the reader. The ambiguous becomes more clear, more appealing and a more natural progression toward the conclusion of the chapter or piece overall.

Revision fine-tunes, makes greater sense, hones in on specifics, filtering out redundancy, superfluous wording, laying bare a truer and more assuming path for the reader to walk along. When describing an action or reaction, use specific description to clearly explain a character’s train of thought to substantiate their response.

As you write, place yourself squarely in the shoes of the character in the moment. Each of their actions or reactions must emulate their personality under a particular circumstance and how that might change during other extenuating circumstances. It has to fit. If your reader does a quick about face there is an immediate and confusing disconnect. As the architect of the story, we need to always be acutely aware of the logical action and reaction that fits each situation and its participants.

In the writing process, if I have done my job you should be sensing the emotions of the characters and in response, you may well feel emotions of your own whether empathy or sadness, supportive or standoffish. In the course of reading, we experience our own sense of emotional responses, some that are powerful enough that our general response to similar circumstances in real life may change in kind. If we are going to interject an out-of-character response in the story we better resolve that displaced response with reasoning accordingly.

What does a creative writer do?

When I say ‘creative writer’ I am doing so from a fictional perspective as well as in the sense of written communications business to business or other specific targeted audience. We are ‘creatives’ in the sense of how we develop our content or copy. We develop the words and message for our intended audience and purpose, right?

We create or write and then were reread over and over again. Then we revise our content or copy through a series of tweaks as we examine our words, under the microscope, from every angle. Does it suit? Does it appeal? Does it invoke the intended response? Does it compel the reader’s own response and/or desired action? We must always read through the eyes of our audience.

We must always be mindful that each and every reader has their own personality, their own belief structure, their own likes, dislikes and reactions to what they see, what they hear and feel when they are reading. Our content should always compliment the reader’s intelligence and innate sensibilities, their potential personality, sense of humor and logic, wit and fancy.

Revisions are for the benefit of the reader and rightly so. Anticipate the changes being made during the editing process and how that might alter the reactions and responses of your readers in kind. Anticipate your readers’ perspective from various angles. As a writer, gauge your own responses as you read back your content and ask yourself how your varied and diverse readership would react in kind.

Build on your story through anticipation

Whether writing your first novel, business communication or advertising copy, it is essential that you write and revise through the anticipation of what it is your readers will be anticipating as they read progressively through your content and how they will react or respond. From a content marketing and advertising copy perspective, register a problem that you know your targeted audience is experiencing, build on the emotions being felt about that problem and show your audience how you can help them overcome that problem.

The approach to writing your novel is not dissimilar. Build a problem into a situation or scene, carefully anticipate your readers’ potential reactions or emotional responses and move the story or message forward with a most logical conclusion or solution to that particular problem.

Write with purpose and direction but the flexibility to allow for change

As writers, we fashion ourselves as conductors of an orchestra; flapping our arms and hands as directional overtures that guide our individual and collective musicians to act and react in response to the intended course of the composition score. As the music plays out in response to our direction, sometimes a wayward yet keenly enthusiastic and artistic soul among the collective throws in their own sense of musical prowess. As a conductor with an acute sense of hearing, you sense an errant series of notes, subtly off course yet curiously intriguing to be sure.

So you strike out for the cessation of sound as you awkwardly collect your thoughts. Then and without undue fuss request that the wayward musician replay that series of notes, audacity aside! Much to your astonishment, you, the masterful conductor, suddenly experience the unexpected; an alternate yet surprisingly pleasing and well-suited interjection of background accompaniment that works even better than the original score. What follows would be a rather furious recording of the new and preferred enhancement of the musical score, with a discreet nod to your ‘co-writer’ as subtle approval and signal to the collective to repeat the overture accordingly.

We must read back our work with an open and receptive mind to change.

Regardless of the source, our intuition becomes imperative in the moment. Trust your instincts, gauge your reader response and go with the subtle nuances of revision as the story or message progresses and as we read back repeatedly during the editing process.

It is the allowance for unexpected change that will shape and reshape our story or message in the most meaningful ways. As in life, we experience many twists and turns in the journey and must adapt to those changes which, for the most part, are positive. We can always alter our course when anticipated changes are not the most suitable to the storyline, message and solution conveyed.

Have you ever sat bolt upright in bed, shocked out of a dead sleep only to groggily awake to brilliant notions for a piece you are writing? Has it caused you to laugh out loud in the triumphant glory that such a critical idea would somehow startle you out of dream state, about your writing project no less, and render your storyline or copy superbly better conveyed? Well, I certainly have experienced that flash of unexpected light and regardless its origin it had me scrambling for the light switch and my pen and writing pad to get it down before the thought drifted in tatters out the open window!

Never take for granted the subtleties of revision on the winds of change. Some things were just meant to be!

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© Don MacIver 2017; All Rights Reserved

Essential Elements of Effective Writing; Plan, Draft, Revise, Proofread and Edit


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Avoiding Problems

Editing and proofreading are critical elements of the writing process but make sure that you give equal and unwavering priority to the writing process itself. Read on…

When writers make haste with any of the essential steps of content development the end result can be a document that lacks clarity, confuses the reader, will appear poorly conceived and lacking authority. At the proofreading stage, the task of going back after your content is completed to resolve such issues will add a substantial amount of work and frustration to the proofreading and editing stages.

Proofreading and editing must be an exacting exercise that examines your content right from the title or heading through to the closing sentence of your content. That goes for any content that is to be distributed in professional circles throughout your place of business, published to a website or other online location or a book manuscript published in print or electronic formats. It is a painstaking and absolutely necessary final step of ensuring your content is error-free, grammatically sound, structurally, substantively and stylistically consistent, fluid and solid in presentation and message delivery.

Unless you take the time and exacting effort to follow through on each and every one of the critical steps to the writing process you are running the risk of your readers questioning your professional standards, your expertise or authority level and the critical risk that your readers or targeted audience will not read through the content and never return to engage in your future publications.

Effective Writing and Editing Strategies

Sufficient Time Allocation

Be sure to allocate sufficient time for articulate, clear and concise content development, proofreading and editing. Create an advanced timeline on a calendar or content management system software that will ensure that you stay on track and on topic. Leave room for unanticipated delays.

Keep in mind that there is nothing worse than scheduling your work so tightly that if any unforeseen distractions or delays occur you are cornered into a stressful and frustrating situation, especially if hard deadlines for submission are on the table. Also, anticipate sufficient time at the conclusion of the project to fully execute the proofreading and editing stages AND time to go back for further revisions and an additional round(s) of proofreading if necessary. So much can be sacrificed by rushing content development only to submit your work before it is at its absolutely best form, presentation, and message delivery.

Brainstorming Your Content in Advance

Set down an advance chronological sequence of content layout, format and subject matter. If you don’t have a plan in place to achieve specific objectives with your content according to its intended audience, your distributed or published material will lack the relevant focus it needs to have the optimum impact on your reading audience. You will also find inconsistencies in your content flow or progression.

From a marketing standpoint, clearly envision ahead of time what problem you are addressing that your readers will typically be faced with and what the best solutions are for your readers or customers to implement to avoid problems and make their life better, smoother, more enjoyable and prosperous.

Research and Knowledge about Your Resources

You should have a solid grasp of essential grammatical and citation rules that apply to the type of content you are producing. If you are getting into unfamiliar territory with the proofreading and editing disciplines you should consider bringing someone into the process that is proficient with resolving spelling, grammar, punctuation and all that is entailed with proofreading and editing textual content.

Keep essential tools such as on or offline dictionaries, thesauruses, style guides, research documents and relevant articles, handbooks and more. Having a skilled and competent mentor available when you need clarification is also a valued asset to the process. At every step of the way, if in doubt refer to those resources rather than leaving the task for the proofing and editing phases which can become monumental works of their own.

Identify Your Vulnerabilities  

Set down on paper a list of those issues which you tend to make errors on; in doing so you will minimize the editing process later on. By following a list of your common challenges you become much more mindful of avoiding those various errors line by line through your content development stages.

The Proofreading and Editing Processes

Many writers elect to print out a hard copy of their content on paper as a preferred method of reading back their content for proofreading and editing purposes. Professional editors and proofreaders will often elect to print for their purposes as well. Errors are often harder to detect on a computer screen. A related practice is to use a straight edge i.e. a book, blank page or ruler to control the eye’s focus strictly on each line being examined to ensure that you are fully focused word by word on each line.

When reading large volumes of written content it is common for the reader to experience a ‘lazy eye’ or scanning/glazing over of textual content. As the author of such content it is easy to become over-confident in your own writing accuracy and the habit of quick scanning of content rather than deliberate, focused attention to every detail becomes a risk. As such, even with repeated rounds of proofreading, you can quite easily fall into this glazing over habit with repeated missed errors as a result.

After your written work has been completed plan some time to sit back and relax away from the project before sitting down for the proofreading and editing processes. Rest your eyes and your mind for a few days before returning to your content. Review with fresh eyes and clarity of mind! You will be much sharper in readiness for this critical phase of your writing.

As an early detection and issue identification process during the writing stages of your content, you may wish to implement software such as Grammarly.com’s online extension for grammar checks. Do not rely solely on any such software to fully identify and resolve the many English language issues that can arise during the writing process.

Read Content Back Aloud

A great way to help you maintain focus is to read back your content out loud. By doing so, you will audibly hear and detect obvious inconsistencies in content delivery, confusing wording or phrasing or material generally out of context with the subject matter. Reading aloud forces you to focus on the text itself rather than the theme or specific ideas being presented. Sentence fragments are a very common issue with many writers. They tend to write as they would speak however incomplete or fragmented sentences are not grammatically correct, read poorly and are often confusing for the reader.

Reading Content Backwards

You may be scratching your head right now at this suggestion but it is also a highly effective method of tighter focus on individual letters and words during the proofreading process. It forces the eyes to have an even narrower focus on individual words, their spelling, sentence completion and comprehension and overall cohesive flow of content from one paragraph to the next.

Have you ever found that in second or third rounds of proofreading you are still missing errors? The problem is very common and goes back to my reference earlier here of the author becoming over-confident in their own writing accuracy. With that over-confidence brings the bad habit of scanning or glazing over content rather than a strict focus on every single letter, word, phrase, and sentence throughout your content.

Think of editing this way: Clean, clear and concise content that informs, inspires, educates and/or entertains is critical. Just as critical is presenting error-free, grammatically correct content and that your ideas flow consistently. When readers and especially potential clients, business associates and influencers read your material, it is critical that they have an extremely positive, impressed and enthusiastic response to your content.

That being said, why would you risk losing that critical new audience, collectively or individually, through sloppy textual content that is riddled with the type of errors already raised here previously? The same goes for purchasing customers of your novels. Make your body of work the best it can possibly be.

thClosely Check Your Punctuation

Punctuation is one area of textual writing that is often overlooked. It is an area that demands advanced study and understanding and should never be second-guessed during the writing process. For anyone well-versed in proper punctuation, nothing looks worse than sloppy, haphazard or misplaced and incorrect use of punctuation.

The English language is highly complex. Unfortunately, the educational system typically glazes over proper grammatical practices. For anyone who aspires to become a published writer or in any way must produce accurate, informative and highly polished and professional content through their place of employment, their business or otherwise, taking appropriate courses in advance to gain that essential knowledge is a must.

Where you do not possess such knowledge you will need to hire a professional proofreader and/or editor to undertake the proofing and editing phases of your content development prior to its distribution or publication. You can utilize MS Word’s built-in spelling and grammar check software as a starting point to the process once your content is ready for proofing but we aware that such software, free or purchased, is not infallible. The software is not human and as such, even through extensive programming the software cannot and does not fully detect spelling and grammatical errors.

Because programming cannot fully address the detection of any and all types of textual content errors for issues such as correct proper name spelling, sentence fragmentation, every instance of proper punctuation and grammar applications, the final examination authority rests with human eyes. The technology just isn’t that far advanced that it is even close to being perfect at this point in time.

Run-on Sentences

Like many of us, it is very easy to find yourself writing elongated or “run-on” sentences. The Flesch-Kincaid Readability Standard was established by scholars years ago which address this issue in the overall presentation of textual content writing. I have focused on these various elements addressed by the standard in a previous article and will not cover that range in this article again today.

The Flesch-Kincaid Readability principles have become ever more critical in today’s world of huge demands on people’s time and focus. This has become statistically evident even more so online where effective content presentation is essential to content marketing and retaining our readers’ short attention span. In a time when online searches produce relevant content in a matter of seconds and the reader expects to determine in only seconds whether or not they are at the right location for the information, they are seeking, highly engaging content is all the more critical.

Once you have engaged readers in your content, on or offline, you must be constantly mindful that all content is well spaced, with easy to read and understand wording. Sentences need to be kept short and to the point and you should refrain from developing paragraphs that exceed three or four sentences maximum, on average, throughout your content body.

As such, well-spaced content that includes space between relatively short paragraphs gives the reader’s eyes a brief pause or rest before reading on and can actually provide critically brief moments to absorb what they have just read. In turn, this overall formula helps to maintain focus, interest, and perspective during that reading experience.

If that focus or interest begins to wander the reader is more inclined to click out or close the book without finishing the read to refer elsewhere for their reading purposes. In terms of published content like novels that translates to lost revenue and repeat customers for the writer.

Ensuring Proper Citation Presentation

Where you have content which requires reference to its original source for proper authority reference, you will need to ensure that you apply the appropriate format of citation and location (in-text). Also, ensure that the references are properly displayed and located i.e. either ‘footnotes’ for references located at the bottom of the same page where the citation is found or ‘endnotes’ which are located at the end or conclusion of a particular chapter or body of text that the citation is found in.

Proper Quotation Form

When you are providing a quotation of the written or verbalized statement of another, you must be sure to include the word for word content in its entirety. Make sure all quoted content is spelled and worded exactly as it was presented by the originator. The quotation should therefore not be altered in any way from its original content and form.

Obtain Content Feedback

Before going forward with your content distribution or publication, take the time to seek feedback from friends, acquaintances, work associates, industry professionals. As writers, we tend to be so closely attached to our written work that we lose a level of objectivity when it comes to the perceived quality of what we write. We are often less critical and effective when it comes to proofreading and editing our own content objectively.

By getting the opinions and early responses from those objective individuals you can get a better sense of how recipients of your content, whether through business or publication, will receive your work. Will they perceive you as an expert source of information or entertainment and want to obtain more of your future works or look to others for that desire or need?

That outside objectivity will help to identify weak spots in your content that contain an error in fact or are less engaging. Feedback will help identify areas of your content that is unclear or confusing, perhaps not fully consistent with the storyline or forward movement of idea flow.

Taking these steps will help you to ensure that your writing improves and is the best it can possibly be in advance of it going out to its intended audience.

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© Don MacIver 2017; All Rights Reserved

8 Copywriting Essentials to Master in 2017


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1st Rule of Engagement; Stop Selling Yourself & Focus on Customer Benefits!

What essential copywriting elements drive response?  Copywriting has been around for a long, long time and although the focus and perspective evolves to an extent over time as marketing and advertising professionals rethink and reshape, the core principle of copywriting today centers on how your prospective customer or client will benefit; what’s in it for them? Read on to find ways to zero in on best copy strategies for your market.

Lose sight of that focus on how you can help your customer acquire a less complicated, more enjoyable and problem-free life experience and conveying that very story at all times is key to capturing your targeted market’s attention and desire to keep reading what you have to say…and clicking through as directed to find out more and make that critical buy decision.

For as long as memory serves, the sole focus in marketing and advertising copy was centric to ‘Buy me, buy me, and yes, buy me.” Not anymore!

Regardless of ongoing innovations in digital marketing and PPC (pay per click) advertising, writing effective ad copy continues to be the essential factor in driving audience engagement and compelling them to want to find out more and ultimately may offer a prospective purchaser whether what you offer is a product line, services or causes and more.

Be aware that the platforms that we are using as marketing vehicles are in a constant state of flux. We must always stay current on the many changes those vehicles are undergoing. As equally important, the reasons for those changes and how we as marketers and business proponents need to adjust and take advantage of the new and improved version of those vehicles drives new potential in a fiercely competitive marketing arena.

Industry Tools

As demanding as research is in terms of our dedication of time and energy, we need to always be aware and intimately understanding of the many relevant tools and technologies that are developed to enhance our targeted audience reach and engagement. You cannot afford to allow your own strategy and techniques to fall short in terms of ad copy that is not on-point or all of your efforts will lose ground rapidly in terms of relevance and effect.

Master the Craft of Skilled Copywriting 

Take your craft of copywriting skills to the next level through ongoing research and development or your return on your efforts will fall well short of expectations. Be sure that you implement current standards as time passes to that end.

Keywords remain an important part of your copy strategy. Use your core keywords in your ads in accordance with current Google policy guidelines at all times. Never underestimate the critical importance of algorithmic and content ranking that comes with Google updates as they occur, at times twice or more within the same twelve-month period.

Lag behind in your awareness of what the major search engines expect to see in your content at any given time, especially Google, will prove harmful to your website and can result in critical loss of visibility to the extent that all your hard work to develop your hub presence online becomes virtually ineffective and your site ‘invisible’ to those searching for what you have to offer.

8 Copywriting Essentials

1) Write Your Copy to Meet User Needs & Objectives

›  Make sure that you anticipate what your targeted market/audience needs and/or wants to make their lives or businesses better. That takes research so take full advantage of all relevant articles and innovative new data analytics tools which help define who your audience reach includes (demographics) in terms of relevance, interests, geographical location, age, gender, education, vocation and more.

›  Phrase your ad copy very carefully to make sure you are capturing their attention and appealing directly to what those needs and desires are.

2) Use of Numbers or Statistics in Headlines

› Market prospects will often share what their purchase budget is in advance. By including pricing in your ad copy you will help with the consumer’s decision process when they are considering your ad vs the ads of your competitors and what they have to offer.

3) Appeal to Your Market’s Sense of Entitlement

› This area of marketing may be less familiar to you. People today have an acute sense of entitlement. They have strong and deeply personal perspective on what they should be able and are entitled to have in their life not only in terms of lifestyle but also personal belongings/possessions and more. Appeal to that sense of entitlement in terms of emotional response to your ads by your prospective customers.

4) Emotional Triggers

› When writing your brand story and ad copy draw on responsive emotions that will drive reaction and potential decision making motivation i.e. excitement, anger, disgust, fear, urgency. Statements of affirmation and humor also invoke response. Use careful and respectful wording when drawing on these type of emotions so as never to come across in an offensive way.

5) Write Unique, Keyword Rich Display URL’s

› Be aware that diplay URL’s are often of greater interest and relevance for ad copy. Design your ad copy to contain your top or core keywords. Remember that search engines pick up on keyword elements which help to identify what a particular article, blog or website is all about. That is essential to your placement and positioning in search results!

› Remember to always incorporate your core keywords into your website and blog/article headings and body text in addition to the ad copy you write. There should be a direct correlation between your various online presences accordingly.

6) Use of Punctuation to End the First Description Line

› End your first description line after your headline with a punctuation mark i.e. an exclamation mark (!). By doing so your ad may receive an ‘elongated headline‘ if that ad places in the top three search results. An ‘elongated’ or ‘extended’ headline means that the text from your first description line is moved up to the headline. The extended ad headline has the effect of increasing the CTR (click-through rate) of ads. 

7) Anticipate Common Objections with Well-Crafted Copy

› Read back your headline and ad copy repeatedly to make sure that it will have the desired affect on its intended audience. Before even writing that copy, make sure you have fully considered who your intended/targeted audience is and how they will react to your copy wording. Always remember that by staying focused on your ad copy wording you are creating a positive influence when it comes to the reader’s decision process between you and your competitors. When it comes to ad copy, first impressions are critical. There are rarely second chances in the marketing and advertising copy realm of thinking.

8) Focus Your Ad Copy on Benefits

› Last but certainly by no means least is this ad copy essential; regardless of past convention, do not sell yourself or your company by telling people how great you are! This is critical. Understand that they only care about how you can make their life easier or better for them. The consumer today is sick and tired of the age-old marketing and sales approach that is “Buy me, buy me.” They just don’t want to see, hear or otherwise embrace that tactic anymore. They know what advertising is purposed for. Still, their focus is strictly on how they alone will benefit from what you have to offer…so maintain the ad copy focus strictly on them!

Make absolutely sure that your ad copy is clear on what the reading consumer will gain for themselves by purchasing your product, service or cause. Lose sight of this critical convention and you have just wasted a lot of time, effort and advertising dollars (for yourself or your client) only to see your ad campaign fall flat on its face with lackluster results. After all, the ad IS all about the consumer!

For more information on copywriting take a look at this HubSpot.com list of Fantastic Copywriting.

Manuscript Formatting Guidelines for Authors


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Mastering eBook Manuscript Formatting

Today, I want to reach out to publishing authors, especially those who may be closing in on their publisher submission date with their manuscript nearing its powerful conclusion! I want to share some essentials for producing a clean manuscript file with advance knowledge of the critical publishing element of manuscript formatting.

As a manuscript editor, proofreader and formatting specialist, one of the very first questions I ask my author clients is: “Have you set up your manuscript formatting in advance of getting down to the writing part of the business?” The answer is most often a curious (or nervous) “no”.

When you publish your book in electronic or ‘eBook’ format you must adjust your MS Word manuscript file document to comply with your chosen publisher’s ‘Content & Formatting Guidelines’. This must be done in advance of the writing process in your Word document file to ensure that your interior content for the book has a clean, quality presentation with a high level of comfortable ‘readability’.

First and Best Advice to Authors:  Before you begin to type your story content into your Word file, always preset your document formatting to comply with your chosen publisher’s Formatting Guidelines. I will explain this requirement in more detail below.


Manuscript Formatting Guidelines for Authors

Lasting Impressions Editing; Newsletter No. 3, March 29, 2017

Formatting for eBooks in MS Word

The following book manuscript formatting guide is offered strictly as an overview. Authors or their assigned/engaged editor/formatting specialist should always refer directly to the chosen publisher’s ‘Formatting Guidelines’ as published in the ‘Content and Formatting Guidelines’ section of the publisher website to verify all formatting requirements. Such formatting guidelines can vary between publishers.

Building your manuscript in an MS Word document file goes a long way to simplifying the formatting process. Numerous of the ‘default’ Word document settings will comply with publisher formatting requirements however always refer to the chosen publisher’s guidelines provided to be certain you do not have subsequent submissions issues.

As an editor/proofreader and formatting services professional I have periodically discovered immediate formatting issues where a client has completed their manuscript development in advance of turning the file over to me for my proofing processes. At times the client had not reviewed the formatting guidelines of their chosen publisher with resultant conflict and textual and/or image distortion. If such conflicts in formatting are typical throughout a large manuscript file it can become quite costly for the author to have their editor correct the formatting issues front to back.

It is critical that publisher content and formatting guidelines are adhered to carefully to avoid the possibility of manuscript rejection by the publisher upon submission. The publisher requires quality content submission free of formatting issues which would otherwise compromise the reading experience for purchasing customers.

To alleviate this potential problematic and time-consuming/costly situation for my author clients I have prepared a pre-formatted Word document template, in full compliance with publisher guidelines, such that my client can commence writing their story manuscript directly into a Word file saved from the template that I have furnished them; a clean start right out of the gate!

For an author, these technical issues can be extremely time-consuming and stressful when all they want to do is maintain focus on their manuscript content development without distraction. It is also essential that whoever prepares the pre-formatted template undertakes a full review of the publisher content and formatting guidelines to ensure that they fully understand what is required so that there are no disruptive interruptions experienced during writing process. Also remember that publications periodically update/modify their formatting and content guidelines. It is critical that the chosen publisher guidelines be carefully reviewed before each new publication.

Formatting Tools in MS Word Documents 

For anyone who sets up the required formatting in the Word document ahead of the manuscript writing process, whether the author or their hired representative, it is essential that you familiarize yourself, well in advance of the writing stages, with the numerous functional formatting elements of MS Word documents. You will find the formatting tools across the top portion of your Word document (as illustrated through the visual above). The physical appearance and content layout may appear somewhat different depending on your particular version of Windows/MS Word.

Although numerous of the Windows Word default settings can be applied to your manuscript document, it remains essential that some of additional formatting settings be preset in accordance with the chosen publisher’s formatting specifications found in the formatting guidelines on the publisher’s website. Doing so will help avoid/minimize formatting issues that can delay the publisher’s acceptance of your manuscript submission and costly corrections if you have engaged someone else to address such issues. I am repetitive on this point and for very good reason.

Following are a series of general formatting guidelines to help you get started on the right track:

Home Navigation:

The formatting elements in Word range from the font face, size and color to text alignment, line spacing, textual content ‘styles’ for headings/title and subheads, body text format and more, each typically located under the ‘Home’ navigation key at the top of the Word window.

Insert Navigation:

Formatting elements found in this section include the insertion of page breaks, picture/images, creating a hyperlink, creating a header and/or footer and page numbering or ‘pagination’.

Page Layout:

Under this formatting category you will find page margin settings, page orientation (portrait/landscape), page size (select the page size that correlates with your chosen book ‘trim size’, number of columns if applicable; various types of page, column and text wrapping settings and section breaks. Be very careful to only use those settings permitted by the publisher guidelines.

A number of Word ‘default’ settings (as you find them preset when you open your new Word document) can be used but always refer to the publisher formatting guidelines first. There are absolute restrictions or reference to ‘minimal use’ of ‘forced formats ‘ stipulated by most publisher guidelines i.e. bold, italics etc. because the publisher wants your readers/consumers to be able to set their own reading preferences for their best reading experience. Overuse of certain ‘forced text’ formats can result in poor content appearance and readability.

Indentation:

Click open the ‘Paragraph’ drop down menu to preset ‘Indents’ and ‘Spacing’ defaults, again with reference to the publisher guidelines.

Tables:

If you need to use tables in your book manuscript, select ‘Insert Table’ in your Word formatting panel and choose the appropriate settings.

Font Face:

Most publishers only allow the use of three or four font face types i.e. Times New Roman, Calibri, Arial or Cambria because they are the most simplistic visually and convert best when the manuscript is submitted to the publisher through their conversion software. The noted fonts are considered by the publishers as best suited for optimum readability. Always check the publisher’s formatting guidelines to be sure which fonts are acceptable before you begin the writing process.

Page Breaks:

This is critical!  At the end of each chapter of your book, ONLY USE ‘INSERT PAGE BREAK’ to advance your cursor to the first line of the next (new) chapter page. NEVER ADVANCE THE CURSOR USING THE SPACE BAR OR TAB KEYS! If you do use the space bar or TAB key to advance the cursor either down the page or to the next page/chapter you will actually create serious formatting issues (not visible in Word) that will have to be corrected later on before submission).

Chapter Name or Number:

Always consistently use the first line of a new chapter for your Chapter Name or Number (as preferred).

Margins:

Always set your top, left, bottom and right margins in accordance with the publisher’s formatting guidelines. The interior or ‘gutter’ margins setting will vary depending on your book’s page count and details regarding the determination of this setting are found in the publisher’s guidelines.

First Line Indent:

Be sure to preset your desired ‘First Line Indent’ via the ‘Paragraph’ indentation settings provided through the ‘Paragraph’ drop down menu.

First Line Text:

Always be consistent with spacing between your Chapter Name or Number and the opening line of body text for each new chapter i.e. 4 or 5 spaces maximum using the ‘Shift + Enter’ keys only.

Line Breaks:

Do NOT hit the ‘Enter’ key at the end of each line. Word automatically wraps text to the next line while you are typing. To insert a line break part way through a paragraph or sentence press ‘Shift + Enter’ together to ensure that spacing between sentences is not altered.

Image Placement:

Be very careful with image use in the body of the manuscript and only as directed by the publisher guidelines. Pay particular attention to all specifications in the publisher’s guidelines in this regard.

Insert a photo image using JPEG formatted images with center alignment. Do not copy and paste images into your manuscript. Disregard the guidelines here and you will have a horrible time with altered, misaligned, blurred, missing or otherwise distorted images.

In Word, go to ‘Insert’ > Picture and then select an image file that is saved to your Pictures folder on your PC’s hard drive to upload into your manuscript file. Be careful to be aware of color restriction in eBook formats. Images are generally displayed in multiple shades of gray only for optimal contrast and clarity.

Cover Image:

Do not include your cover image(s) in your manuscript file. They are to be uploaded separately at the time of submission to the publisher. The cover image file is only submitted once (unless a subsequent cover design/change is made). At the time of publishing submission and republishing of your book, the publisher will automatically add the cover image again.

Spelling & Grammar Check:

Publishing authors are encouraged to use Word’s built-in spelling and grammar check utility but publishers strongly recommend that manual proofreading and desired textual editing be exercised as well because current content scanning software does not necessarily capture/detect all errors in English spelling and grammatical content for correctness.

Active Table of Contents:

An active Table of Contents (TOC) in your book is typically located immediately following the ‘front matter’ of the book. The TOC provides for ease of navigation throughout the book for your readers.

Note: Page numbering is not used in eBook formats because content (like Kindle) is re-sizable and displays differently during the conversion process. Page numbering can be adversely affected by the use of page numbering or ‘pagination’ in electronic publishing.

Chapter Name/Number Formatting: By highlighting each chapter name (or number) and setting each individual chapter name or number to the Heading 1 (H1) format, the Table of Contents will detect and display sequential chapters in order once activated.

Time is of the essence and critical to all authors, most understandably. Still, take the time right up front before you begin the writing process to understand the importance of formatting for electronic book publishing today and going into the future. If this is not within your wheelhouse as an author, engage a formatting professional to do it for you.

Regardless, make sure that your Word document is pre-formatted so that you start out on a clean slate and be fully conversant with formatting guidelines so that you do not inadvertently introduce formatting issues/errors to your manuscript file.

© Don MacIver, Editor, Writer, Lasting Impressions Editing 2017; All Rights Reserved

What Constitutes a Great Sales Pitch Blurb for Author Publications?


ebook-e-book-ipad-tabletSo you’re an author with a newly written book manuscript, ready for submission to the publisher for release and public retail distribution and you’re asking yourself what’s next? Well first of all, congratulations on achieving what so many only dream of doing!

Now that you’ve created the product to be the best that it can possibly be, proofread and edited to bring on the polish, painstakingly poured over every word and every line to ensure that your content is structurally and substantively sound and error free, the next step is submission of the cover design and manuscript to your chosen publisher/distributor for their final run through their conversion software in readiness for releasing the book for retail marketing and distribution.

Full stop! Once ready for submission, the author still has another essential element of the publication process yet to complete; the ‘Book Description’ or in industry terms the ‘Sales Pitch Blurb’ which are most often one and the same. If you take a look on the author retail pages of new publications on the publisher’s website you will see a cover design image of each title illustrating the front cover of each book being sold.

Right next to those cover images you will typically see the ‘Book Description’, often known from a marketing perspective as the ‘Sales Pitch Blurb’. For many of you who purchase or publish books on Amazon.com you will be quite familiar with the general format of ‘The Blurb’. The blurb is also frequently found on the back cover of print format publications and this variation will depend on publisher platform and in some instances author preference where afforded.

Purpose of the Blurb

Next to the cover design visual itself, the book description or sales pitch blurb is the most critical marketing element of your book presentation on the publishing platform. The browsing consumer has read promotional copy that you have posted to social media or a paid advertisement which links back to the author publishing page. They land on the new publication retail page and hopefully, after a number of passing seconds of close scrutiny of your book cover design, they are most suitably impressed and wanting to find out more.

The next step for the browsing consumer is to check out your book description whether on the back cover of the book they hold in their hand within the book store itself or as an accompaniment to the cover image on your online publisher retail page. After having engaged enthusiastically in the cover image let’s assume that the consumer is anxious to see more. They begin to read the book description which for all intent and purpose is the sales pitch blurb that will compel the consumer to buy your book!

The blurb is the quintessential tool for capturing the potential buyer’s attention and interest. This is the critical marketing copy that will either make or break the sale assuming that the consumer has not received a very strong recommendation about the book by someone with whom they implicitly trust.

What You Should Include in Your Blurb

You want to make sure that your book description or sales pitch blurb, whether associated directly with your author retail page as described above or incorporated into sales copy for a paid advertisement, is a carefully and skillfully executed enticement that provides an overview/glimpse of the storyline in a well-crafted blend of the primary characters to snippets of intriguing glimpses of geographical locations, powerful scenes and internal/external situational influences, tantalizing measures of fragrance, feel and anticipation without giving too much of the story away. Remember, you want to develop a sense of great anticipation and the desire to purchase the book to get the whole story! Give away too much and what is the sense of the consumer buying the book?

If you have not yet written a sales pitch blurb or book description nor engaged in any formalized copywriting, my strongest suggest to you is to either hire a copywriter to prepare the blurb for you or at the very least do extensive research in advance of essentially copywriting the blurb. This is not something you can sail through on a wing and a prayer. There is a skill level to copywriting that is essential to understanding the development of this critical piece and you cannot afford to leave this to chance.

Unless you quickly capture and retain the consumer’s attention, at least sufficiently to want to read the sample content preview that comes with the cover design or immediately add your book to their purchase cart, you will lose them fast. There is no room for mundane, generic content in the blurb’s development.

Copywriting is defined as written content which is intended to increase brand awareness and to persuade the consumer to decide to act i.e. to hire, to read, to purchase. This specialized form of content writing is the strategic delivery of words that will get people to take action and is one of the most essential components of online marketing. Effective copywritng takes time to research, study and analyse its essential cause and effect; to understand which approach to writing copy will have the greatest effect on the consumer/reader.

Need to Know:  The copywriter must understand what their targeted audience’ perspective on things is; your message must align with how your prospective customer sees things. Consider carefully what readers love most of all about your genre. What motivates them to keep coming back for more and for the first time buyer who does not know your work, what is this particular author all about and why are people reading his or her publications?

Know and understand what the reader’s motivations and desires are and ultimately, the copywriter must meet the basic expectations and go beyond to exceed their expectations! The author’s story must also meet and exceed the consumer’s expectations but that is a subject for later discussion outside of this topic.

Power Points for Emotional Triggers

Now that you have the basis of an understanding of the psychology behind the words that go into your sales pitch blurb, now let’s take a look at the essential elements of the blurb that you need to adhere to that will help to ensure that your book description/blurb do as intended effectively from a marketing perspective.

Develop Immediate Curiosity

  • Throughout the blurb, give the browsing consumer a hint of the plot. Use short, descriptive sentences that give away a little of the storyline, just enough to stimulate or entice curiosity and the desire to purchase.

Paint a Vivid Picture

  • This visual in the reader’s mind is so critical. They must easily relate to what they are reading. Use touch points that highlight locations, landscape and building structures central to the story. Liken elements of the book to the styling of similar popular publications/authors of the same genre and draw on the reader’s growing sense of anticipation with references to essential situational plot.

Effective Character Identification & Development

  • Identify your primary characters , their occupations or notoriety and the essence of their purpose or role in the story.

Set The Scene

  •  Identify the primary geographic location(s) featured in the book. Use engaging, descriptive wording to enhance the reader’s sense of fascination and excitement and its potential significance to the story.

Pose a Relevant and Stimulating Question

  • Draw the reader into the story with reference to a question that must be answered. Compel the browsing consumer to read on, to buy the book with this technique!

Use of Exaggerated or Sensational, Overstated Language

  • Use ‘Hyperbole’ in your descriptive language by using expressions which excite the imagination characterized by obvious and intentional exaggeration when describing critical situations that present themselves. Avoid bland descriptions that do not stimulate interest, curiosity or excitement and the desire to find out what happens in the story!

Book Reviews, Quotes, Reference to Your Previous Books

  • Use references where your book has been compared to that of another notable/popular author’s style.
  • When you have sought out advance book reviews for your new publication, highlight particularly vivid and expressive quotes by readers who have raved about your new release.

Length of the Blurb

  • Authors vary the length of their sales pitch blurb/book descriptions to a degree, at times designed to accommodate space allocation and location of the blurb whether as the book description on the author retail page of the publisher, front matter of the book or back cover copy. The blurb length, again depending on space allocation and placement of the copy, will range from approximately 150 words to 325 words. Usually the book description field will identify the maximum word count permitted. Take advantage of the specified allowable word count to effectively market your publication. Wherever possible my copy tends to be just over the 300 word mark. 150 words does not give you much space to cover the essentials to best advantage.
  • Keep clearly in mind the significant importance of the ‘sales pitch blurb’; it is the most essential and immediate marketing tool associated with the book publication and typically what browsing consumers review right after they initially scan and engage in the front cover design and its textual elements. Make every word palpable and compelling to motive the sale!

Sample Sales Pitch Blurb for a Published Book

Following is an example of a sales pitch blurb/book description that I wrote for my own most recent publication, a collection of my fifth volume of original works of poetry and prose titled ‘HEARTLANDS’, an Amazon.com publication. The actual copy and its tone selected for your particular publication and its genre will predicate how your blurb reads out but the principles of its composition, as relayed here previously, are incorporated in the piece and will give you a sense the framework needed to build an effective sales pitch blurb.

HEARTLANDS; TAKE THE JOURNEY

Sample ‘Sales Pitch Blurb’

Poet, writer Don MacIver has once again drawn upon his innermost emotional connection to contemporary prose and poetic verse, greatly influenced by all things that continuously inspire and foster visual perceptions through his written word and the desire to follow our own dreams.

Heartlands, a diverse range of highly responsive poetic works, takes the reader through a deeply personal engagement of life experiences and our natural surroundings that impact our living experience in a profound and enriching way that makes Heartlands a personal library favorite. Finding the ultimate connection whether through inspiration, romance and relationships, the powerful and deeply personal impact of our homeland, loss of a loved one, the tragedy of global military conflicts or just plain whimsical fancy; it’s all here on the pages of this exceptional fourth volume of this writer’s original works of poetry.

Imagine your own connection to candlelit dreams, our richly inspiring history of human hardship and accomplishment, a meeting of minds, finding your way in life, deeply emotional moments charmed by a romance, the heartache of misunderstandings and estrangement. Walk a pathway into the depths of an enchanting forest filled with the fragrant essence of wilderness, its solitude and restorative energy. Embrace your homeland, your ‘Heartland’, the very place of your upbringing, explore and discover the many possibilities that life affords our decision as they would shape our present and future.

Forever inspired and indebted to the brilliance of master poets through the ages, this poet writes in a contemporary style through a fusion of traditional composition elements that stimulate the reader’s sensory perceptions while affording each reader the luxury of their own interpretation and responses.

This writer’s deeply heartfelt and emotional connection to highly relatable poetic verse continues to engage him as a lifelong passion. ‘Heartlands’ is a nurturing, healing and uplifting reader experience.

You are cordially invited to dim the lights, cozy up in your favorite place of refuge and solitary, sip on something soothing and just let the words take you away. Feel the light and its earthly origins through ‘Heartlands’.

© Don MacIver, Lasting Impressions Editing 2016; Heartlands, sales pitch blurb

~

© Don MacIver, Lasting Impressions Editing 2017

Copywriting for Strategic Delivery


copywritingOne of the most critical aspects about advertising and marketing in its various forms is where the focus lies. In this article I will share critical perspective in the sales and marketing process through effective copywriting. 

For three years now I have incorporated copywriting in my core group of services as an essential part of helping my clients capture an ever-increasing audience. Whether you are an author, writer, poet, business professional, advertising specialist or indeed a copywriter you need to understand and embrace the core principles of copywriting and how this critical discipline is ever more important today and moving forward.

What Is Copywriting?

Let’s start with the basics. Copywriting is the writing of textual content for advertisingcopywritingdefinition and various other forms of marketing. ‘Copy’ is defined as ‘written content which is intended to increase brand awareness and to persuade readers to decide to act; to read, to hire, to purchase.

Copywriting is the strategic delivery of words that will get people to take a desired action and is one of the most essential components of online marketing. Effective copywriting skills takes time to develop through research, study and analysis of its essential cause and effect; what approach to writing copy will have the greatest effect on the targeted reader or audience?

Need To Know

The copywriter must understand their targeted audience’ perspective on things; your message must align with how your prospective customer sees things. Know and understand what their motivations and desires are. Ultimately, the copywriter must meet their basic expectations and go beyond to exceed their expectations!

SEO Copywriting

SEO Copywriting is a specialized form of writing that:

  • contains ‘keyphrases’, word phrases which your targeted audience/reader uses in their search terms to find what you have to offer.
  • helps to increase web content ranking in search results through Google, Bing, Ask and other search engines.
  • drives qualified traffic to online content i.e. websites, blogs, published articles etc.

Online Content Must Fulfill Two Essential Purposes

»  Content must appeal and/or be relevant to your audience/readers.

»  Google, Bing, Ask and other search engines must perceive your content as actionable/valuable/usable immediately by your readers. Your content must be quality and reflect you as a knowledgeable/authoritative resource. 


While my initial clients were primarily authors I soon became increasingly aware of the need for advanced writing skills and related services that would help each client not only bring a clarity and correctness to their work but also capture the attention of an ever-widening audience for them through copy centric business practices.

Business clients needed to engage in meaningful content analysis and discussion to establish a new way of highlighting the product or service that they offered. Most critical of all was how they said what they did through their website and communications; how they appealed to the prospective audience’ emotional responses based on their needs and desires.

One of the most critical aspects of content marketing, whether through book publishing or professional business or marketing and communications endeavors, individuals with important document submissions or business websites and beyond…is the essential need to connect with the right people, using the right words in the right place and time. As stated earlier, we need to connect with our targeted audience or readers in a way that embraces the perspective of those individuals, what they need and expect from us.

My author clients pour their heart and soul into their storylines. Many of them are employed and have a host of responsibilities and hours of work which pose limitations on the time they have to dedicate to not only writing but marketing their publications. Marketing of any product takes ongoing research and applied methods that are current; search algorithms, like Google, change frequently and must be part of the process of marketing as critical best practices change.

Business professionals, already bogged down in daily regimens of fulfilling their own respective responsibilities have little to no time for extensive research, effective writing that engages and sells nor the resources to invest extensively in paid advertising; that’s where experienced marketing and copywriting professionals come into play with a company whether an internal hire or a contracted service.

I have begun to work with advertising professionals to bring essential copywriting skills to the table in tandem with their superlative illustrative and graphic design elements for a superior, well-rounded advertising presentation that fully engages people in a powerful way and compels them to response, to immediate action, to hire or purchase.

Transitional Approach from Selling to Copy-Centric Engagement

Marketing takes a finely developed strategy. Our content must be quality-driven and provide the consumer with highly informative, interesting, entertaining and/or usable content that the consumer can use NOW, that they can take away meaningful and practical information that they can apply to make their lives better or resolve a problem TODAY!

Critical Rule of Selling

Always remember to write from the perspective of your targeted audience

  • Have absolute and focused empathy for the customer
  • Write to serve that customer (not to serve yourself)
  • Write to recognize and solve their problem or in some other way make their life better

Appeal to Emotions

Aspirations ~ Shame ~ Fear ~ Suspicion ~ Belonging

Always appeal to your reader/audience’ sense of motivational triggers with care and respect:

  • Their desire to dream or succeed
  • Their need to justify their failures; write to expose a failure and release it by wiping the slate clean. They should take the positive from the experience, to learn from it and move on.
  • People are naturally drawn to those who make them feel safe/secure.
  • People want to have a sense of belonging and have a sense of loyalty to a ‘tribe’

Historically, marketers have focused on selling their product to serve themselves, to meet their targeted sales objectives. Today, the marketing pendulum has swung away from the ‘Buy Me’ approach because people are quite simply sick and tired of being sold to.

People now want a sense of engagement, trust and the ability to make quick purchase or hire decisions based on reliable, quality and informative, customer-centric appeal.


Any author, writer, business professional or individual can increase their website traffic, reader engagement, communications audience reach and sales levels by using my editing, copywriting and publishing services to help compel their audience to  respond and take action for a more enjoyable, meaningful and gainful experience today!


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