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

Manuscript Formatting Guidelines for Authors


615x200-Word Formatting Windows 2007

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

Grammar & The English Language


grammar-police-imageAs a textual content editing professional we are often, affectionately or otherwise, referred to as the ‘Grammar Police’! Guilty as charged but then again we are hired to make sure each client’s written content is well-conceived and constructed, makes sense and is highly engaging to its targeted audience. I wear the badge proudly!

In this article I will share some of the more glaring grammatical issues frequenting written content whether in book publications of fiction or non-fiction, advertising and marketing copy, technical writing and any other form or source of written content.

Dictionary.com defines ‘grammar‘ as follows:

1.  the study of the way the sentences of a language are constructed; morphology and syntax.

2.  these features or constructions themselves:

English grammar.

3.  an account of these features; a set of rules accounting for these constructions:

a grammar of English.
4.  Generative Grammar. a device, as a body of rules, whose output is all of the sentences that are permissible in a given language, while excluding all those that are not permissible.

6.  knowledge or usage of the preferred or prescribed forms in speaking or writing:

She said his grammar was terrible.
7.  the elements of any science, art, or subject.

Grammar, as applied in its many forms within the English language, is indeed complex and confusing. Established standards of grammatical correctness have been developed and modified over the years to best represent acceptable application of English rules. The standards include proper word usage, punctuation, capitalization, clarification of words and homonyms, numeric vs written form of numbers within the context of textual content and more.
 
Why the big worry about grammar and punctuation when nobody seems to care anymore? In the course of normal conversation it is one thing to hear misused words and still be able to understand what the speaker is referring to. It becomes quite another issue when the printed or digital forms of written content contain typos, spelling and grammatical errors and riddled with wayward or misused punctuation. Consider the negative impression we would leave with a human resources manager reviewing our cover letter and resume; if the content is riddled with mistakes would you want to hire that applicant?
 
For written content that is produced for publication, informational and/or professional purposes, there is every expectation that the content is error-free and grammatically correct. This becomes especially true for any written content that forms part of a purchased product. The consumer has every reasonable right to expect clean, properly constructed and edited content that is clear and concise in its intent and meaning. The same can be said for written compositions developed and submitted for grading in an educational institution.
 
I recall back to my days in journalism school where the college instructor was, as expected, extremely critical of any paper submitted with even a few errors. We would type our papers on a manual typewriter (yes, I am dating myself but there was purpose in the manual typewriter use – we did have electric typewriters by then!). If we submitted our article or story containing even one single mistake of any kind the instructor would share the errors with the entire class and then tear the paper to shreds and angrily toss the destroyed evidence into the trash can and instruct us to start all over again and not waste the scholar’s time with such sloppy work!
 
Using the manual typewriter was slow, tedious and painstaking but that was the whole point of the exercise. With a manual typewriter, the very construction of the machine forced its user to slowly and methodically strike firmly on the desired keys, thereby demanding a more focused attention to chosen keys for optimum accuracy. We were NOT permitted to use whiteout for correction purposes! Had we been working with an electric typewriter the tendency was to type much faster yet there was greater potential for errors because we were less attentive to the keys we were striking.
 
The whole point of this analogy is to illustrate the necessity for a clean, error free paper. In today’s marketplace the onus is much more on the author of the written content to ensure that it is error-free and grammatically correct as in many instances budget allowance is minimal to non-existent for editorial staff to take over content for final copy readiness.

GRAMMAR RULES

Grammatical rules are indeed complex and widely varied. Complexities of the English language have been passed down through the generations in the form of established and accepted standards, most often found in ‘style guides’ which have been developed in specific countries around the world. Editorial and proofreading professionals use such guides as reference materials when reviewing and revising written content for their clients or in-house staff.

The complexities of the English language demand that we study in great detail the definition, applications and intended usage of specific words or word groups such as nouns, verbs, adverbs, subjects and more to ensure that we apply correct wording in our written compositions in the appropriate form such that those words, combined together, are in grammatical ‘agreement’.

Subject-Verb Agreement

  • single subjects require the compliment of a single verb and plural subjects require the compliment of plural verbs i.e. The list of items is/are on the desk. In this example the ‘list’ is the subject (singular), therefore ‘is’ would be the correct verb used.

Who Vs Whom

  • Rule: Use this he/him method to decide whether who or whom is correct:he = who
    him = whom

    Examples:
    Who/Whom wrote the letter?
    He wrote the letter. Therefore, who is correct.

    Who/Whom should I vote for?
    Should I vote for him? Therefore, whom is correct.

Who, That, Which

Rule 1. Who and sometimes that refer to people. That and which refer to groups or things.

Examples:
Anya is the one who rescued the bird.
“The Man That Got Away” is a great song with a grammatical title.

Lokua is on the team that won first place.
She belongs to a great organization, which specializes in saving endangered species.

Rule 2a. That introduces what is called an essential clause (also known as a restrictive or defining clause). Essential clauses add information that is vital to the point of the sentence.

Example: I do not trust products that claim “all natural ingredients” because this phrase can mean almost anything.
We would not know the type of products being discussed without the that clause.

Rule 2b. Which introduces a nonessential clause (also known as a nonrestrictive or nondefining clause), which adds supplementary information.

Example: The product claiming “all natural ingredients,” which appeared in the Sunday newspaper, is on sale.
The product is already identified. Therefore, which appeared in the Sunday newspaper is a nonessential clause containing additional, but not essential, information.

Prepositions

Definition:  A preposition is a word or set of words that indicates location (in, near, beside, on top of) or some other relationship between a noun or pronoun and other parts of the sentence (about, after, besides, instead of, in accordance with). A preposition isn’t a preposition unless it goes with a related noun or pronoun, called the object of the preposition.

Examples:
Let’s meet before noon.
Before is a preposition; noon is its object.

We’ve never met before.
There is no object; before is an adverb modifying met.

Rule 1. A preposition generally, but not always, goes before its noun or pronoun. One of the undying myths of English grammar is that you may not end a sentence with a preposition. But look at the first example that follows. No one should feel compelled to say, or even write, That is something with which I cannot agree. Just do not use extra prepositions when the meaning is clear without them.

Correct: That is something I cannot agree with.

Correct: Where did you get this?

Incorrect: Where did you get this at?

Correct: How many of you can I depend on?

Correct: Where did he go?

Incorrect: Where did he go to?

Rule 2a. The preposition like means “similar to” or “similarly to.” It should be followed by an object of the preposition (noun, pronoun, noun phrase), not by a subject and verb. Rule of thumb: Avoid like when a verb is involved.

Correct:
You look like your mother.
That is, you look similar to her. (Mother is the object of the preposition like.)

Incorrect:
You look like your mother does.
(Avoid like with noun + verb.)

Rule 2b. Instead of like, use as, as if, as though, or the way when following a comparison with a subject and verb.

Correct: You look the way your mother does.

Incorrect: Do like I ask. (No one would say Do similarly to I ask.)

Correct: Do as I ask.

Incorrect: You look like you’re angry.

Correct: You look as if you’re angry. (OR as though)

Some speakers and writers, to avoid embarrassment, use as when they mean like. The following incorrect sentence came from a grammar guide:

Incorrect: They are considered as any other English words.

Correct: They are considered as any other English words would be.

Correct: They are considered to be like any other English words.

Remember: like means “similar to” or “similarly to”; as means “in the same manner that.” Rule of thumb: Do not use as unless there is a verb involved.

Incorrect: I, as most people, try to use good grammar.

Correct: I, like most people, try to use good grammar.

Correct: I, as most people do, try to use good grammar.

NOTE

The rule distinguishing like from as, as if, as though, and the way is increasingly ignored, but English purists still insist upon it.

Rule 3. The preposition of should never be used in place of the helping verb have.

Correct: I should have done it.

Incorrect: I should of done it.

Rule 4. It is a good practice to follow different with the preposition from. Most traditionalists avoid different than. Although it is an overstatement to call different than incorrect, it remains polarizing: A is different than B comes across as sloppy to a lot of literate readers. If you can replace different than with different from without having to rewrite the rest of the sentence, why not do so?

Polarizing: You’re different than I am.

Unchallengeable: You’re different from me.

 

Rule 5. Use into rather than in to express motion toward something. Use in to tell the location.

Correct: I swam in the pool.

Correct: I walked into the house.

Correct: I looked into the matter.

Incorrect: I dived in the water.

Correct: I dived into the water.

Incorrect: Throw it in the trash.

Correct: Throw it into the trash.

The foregoing ‘rules’ have been extracted verbatim from GrammarBook.com and are but a few of the standards of the English language effectively and properly applied. The publication also addresses proper punctuation which is equally as complex.

Punctuation

This list of punctuation used in the English language is extensive and includes (not entirely):

  • spacing with punctuation
  • periods
  • commas
  • semi-colons
  • quotation marks (including single quote)
  • parentheses and brackets
  • apostrophes
  • hyphens
  • dashes
  • ellipses
  • question marks
  • exclamation points
  • slashes

There are a multiple of on and offline resources that address the English language, grammar, punctuation, sentence composition and more such as GrammarBook.com, Grammarly.com, many of which also incorporate punctuation, grammar and spell check and plagiarism detection.

MS Word documents have a spelling and grammar check which also provides a readability scoring analysis; an effective way to determine whether the content will be readily understood by its targeted audience.

The advantages of a full working comprehension of established rules of grammar and punctuation cannot be understated. Studies in the English language with grammatical elements incorporated in the programs are highly recommended for anyone who will be required to perform at a high skill level from post secondary school studies through to their chosen career path. The greater your comprehension and application of the language, the better qualified you will be to advance your career based on that exceptional performance level.

Author Book Publishing Guidelines; Need to Know


As an author, probably one of the last things you want to even think about are publishing guidelines. Am I right? As a published writer and textual content editor I know only too well just how overwhelming the publishing requirements can be, especially when your highest priority is the quality of your book manuscript content.

I have used the Amazon.com logo to accompany this article not out of any bias, rather, to share many of the content and formatting ‘guidelines’ that Amazon stipulates in their overall terms of use which are common to most publishers. Again, remember that publisher guidelines do vary to a degree, thus the critical advance review necessary by all authors. Always keep in mind that even with the same publisher platform used repeatedly, over time the publishers make changes to their guidelines and publishing software so you need to be acutely aware of current guidelines in advance of writing and publishing a new book.

Disregard the foregoing at your own peril, frustration and stressful experience finding out that, after writing your book or novel, you now have to backtrack to make time-consuming and costly changes to modify those issues that arise during the submission process where content formatting conflicts with publisher requirements. Having a clear, advance understanding of all content and formatting guidelines will save you, the author, a lot of time, anxiety and expense to resolve issues that become evident during the submission and online preview stages and thereby also mitigating extra cost to hire someone to fix the problems.

Even if you have a regular proofreader/editor, hand over a manuscript that is as clean and guideline compliant as possible to minimize the cost for that editor to resolve conflicting issues, especially those on the formatting side which can translate into hours of work undoing evident format problems.

Be aware that publishing houses will most often reject your manuscript because of  conflicting content and formatting issues and request that you have all issues resolved and then resubmit your manuscript for their further scrutiny before allowing it to be published live to the retail level. The publisher is indeed a stake holder who wants to ensure that quality products are published under their name and were they to ignore content quality issues, they too would be losing revenue on lost current and future sales potential.

Let’s get down to some basics that every author must consider and make decisions on in advance of manuscript submission. My comments are based on my own knowledge and experience and not those of Amazon or any other publisher/distributor. As Amazon is the largest book publication distributor globally today with a half-dozen publishing platforms and counting, I will base most of my observations on their content and formatting guidelines which really should be the compass for any author planning to publish today. The majority of my client publishing services have involved Amazon and each client’s chosen publishing platform. See Amazon Content Guidelines and Amazon Kindle Publishing Guidelines for more information.

Priority 1; Select Your Publisher

Before you put ‘pen to paper’, even before deciding on a title and mapping out your storyline and key elements of your characters, settings, geographical locations, genre and more, chose your publishing platform first! Why start with the publishing platform decision? Read on. Continue reading “Author Book Publishing Guidelines; Need to Know”