Things that make editors pull their hair out, day 2: Misplaced and dangling modifiers

Again, with thanks to a fellow editor for this great information!

 

 

Avoiding Misplaced and Dangling Modifiers

 

Misplaced Modifiers

A misplaced modifier is a word, phrase, or clause that is improperly separated from the word it modifies / describes. Because of the separation, sentences with this error often sound awkward, ridiculous, or confusing.  Furthermore, they can be downright illogical.

Misplaced Words.

Example 1: On the way home, John saw a gold man’s watch.

The example suggests that a gold man owns a watch.

Misplaced modifiers can usually be corrected by moving the modifier to a more sensible place in the sentence, generally next to the word it modifies.

Corrected Example 1: On the way home, John saw a man’s gold watch.

Now it is the watch that is gold.

   Example 2: The child ate a cold dish of cereal for breakfast this morning.

The example suggests the dish is cold, not the cereal.

Corrected Example 2: The child ate a dish of cold cereal for breakfast this morning.

Misplaced Phrases.

   Example 1: The dealer sold the car to the buyer with leather seats. (a buyer with leather seats?)

Corrected Example 2: The dealer sold the car with leather seats to the buyer.

Example 2: The three bankers talked quietly in the corner smoking pipes. (a corner smoking pipes?)

Corrected Example 2: The three bankers smoking pipes talked quietly in the corner.

Misplaced Clauses.

Example 1: A waiter served a dinner roll to a woman that was well buttered. (well buttered woman?)

Corrected Example 1: A waiter served a dinner roll that was well buttered to a woman.

Example 2:   Ralph piled all the clothes in the hamper that he had worn. (Ralph wore a hamper?)

Corrected Example 2:  Ralph piled all the clothes that he had worn in the hamper.

Be careful!  In correcting a misplaced modifier, don’t create a sentence with two possible meanings.

Example: The teacher said on Monday she would return our essays.

Did the teacher say this on Monday or is she going to return the essays on Monday?

Corrected: The teacher said she would return our essays on Monday. (essays returned on Monday)

Corrected:   On Monday the teacher said she would return our essays. (teacher spoke on Monday)

Dangling Modifiers

dangling modifier is a phrase or clause that is not clearly and logically related to the word or words it modifies  (i.e. is placed next to).

Two notes about dangling modifiers:

  • Unlike a misplaced modifier, a dangling modifier cannot be corrected by simply moving it to a different place in a sentence.
  • In most cases, the dangling modifier appears at the beginning of the sentence, although it can also come at the end.

~Sometimes the dangling modifier error occurs because the sentence fails to specify anything to which the modifier can refer.

Example 1:   Looking toward the west, a funnel shaped cloud stirred up dust.

This sentence does not specify who is looking toward the west.  In fact, there is nothing at all in the sentence to which the modifying phrase looking toward the west can logically refer.  Since the modifier, looking toward the west, is sitting next to the funnel shaped cloud, the sentence suggests that the cloud is doing the looking.

Example 2:   When nine years old, my mother enrolled in medical school.

This sentence suggests that my mother enrolled in medical when she was nine years old!

~ At other times the dangling modifier is placed next to the wrong noun or noun substitute.

Example 1: Walking to the movies, a cloudburst drenched Jim.

Because of the placement of walking to the movies, this sentence suggests that he cloudburst is walking to the movies even though a possible walker – Jim – is mentioned later.

Example 2: Having been fixed the night before, Priscilla could use the car.

Since having been fixed the night before is placed next to Priscilla, the sentence means that Priscilla was fixed the night before.

As the above examples show, dangling modifiers result in inaccurate and sometimes funny images.

How to correct dangling modifiers

Dangling modifiers may be corrected in two general ways.

~First method:

  1. Leave the modifier as it is.
  2. Change the main part of the sentence so that it begins with the term actually modified.
  3. This change will put the modifier next to the term it modifies.

Thus the incorrect sentence

Looking toward the west, a funnel shaped cloud stirred up dust.

Becomes

Looking toward the west, I saw a funnel shaped cloud stir up dust.

 

The second incorrect sentence

Walking to the movies, a cloudburst drenched Jim.

Becomes

Walking to the movies, Jim was drenched by a cloudburst.

 

~Second method:

  1. Change the dangling modifier phrase to a subordinate clause, creating a subject and verb.
  2. Leave the rest of the sentence as it is.

Thus the incorrect sentence

When nine years old, my mother enrolled in medical school.

Becomes

When I was nine years old, my mother enrolled in medical school..

 

The second incorrect sentence

Having been fixed the night before, Priscilla could use the car.

Becomes

Since the car had been fixed the night before, Priscilla could use it.

 

Practicing with Misplaced or Dangling Modifiers.

Part I – Misplaced Modifiers – Directions: The sentences below contain misplaced modifiers.  Circle the misplaced modifier and draw an arrow to where it belongs in the sentence to convey the intended meaning.

  1. A wind blew across the field that was cold and blustery.
  2. Joan had made up her mind to be an architect before she was thirteen years old.
  3. Fortunately, Mark almost sold all his bronze sculptures.
  4. He struck the fish bowl with his forehead, which fortunately was empty.
  5. I told Mick when my new computer arrived I would let him surf the internet.
  6. We only have three more miles to go before reaching the hotel.
  7. Elvis saw a bird sitting on the telephone wire that he could not identify.
  8. Throw that spoiled package of meat into the trash can.
  9. She found a woolen child’s scarf in the yard.

10 Hung across two poles, I saw a clothesline.

 

 Part II – Dangling Modifiers – Directions:  Using either of the two methods explained, rewrite each of the following sentences to correct the dangling modifiers.

  1. At the age of ten, my parents took me to Disney World.
  2. After finishing the ice arena, it will be opened to the public.
  3. While talking, the fire alarm sounded.
  4. Getting up early, the house seemed unusually quiet to me.
  5. Not being aware of what had happened, the confusion puzzled Jill.
  6. Glancing to my left, a fast-flowing stream wound its way through the meadow.
  7. Not knowing his way around the campus, it was hard for Jones to find his classrooms.
  8. As a budding high school athlete, one of my goals was to be a football hero.
  9. My dog slept at my feet while grading papers last night.
  10. By writing a letter to the editor, the public will know your views.

 

Do you recognize this common error? I hope this helps make you more aware of an issue that plagues all of us.  Feel free to share some of the humorous examples you have encountered.

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Things that make editors pull out their hair, day 1: Fragments, Run-ons, and Comma Splices

A fellow editor shared three essential handouts that are perfect for explaining some of the most common issues seen in writing, particularly with newbie authors. I will post them on separate days so they can be properly absorbed.

 

Fragments, Comma Splices, and Run-ons

This group of errors is one of the most widespread among writers, and it’s a problem not only because it’s incorrect but also because it muddies meaning. If a manuscript doesn’t have coherent ideas in coherent sentences, the flow of thought breaks down.

  • Fragments: lack subjects (main nouns) or predicates (main verbs), or may be a dependent clause which has not been joined to an independent clause.
  • Comma splices: independent clauses joined with a comma
  • Run-on sentences: independent clauses joined with no punctuation

FRAGMENTS
When checking for fragments, apply these three tests:

  1. Look for a verb. Every sentence must have a main verb.
  2. Look for a subject. Every sentence must have a main subject.
  3. Look for subordinating conjunctions (when, while, because, etc.) or relative pronouns (who, which, that). Subordinating conjunctions are used to construct dependentadverbial clauses; relative pronouns are used to construct dependent adjectival clauses. If you suspect a passage is a fragment, the presence of these words will likely prove it is.

How to fix fragments:

If the fragment is a dependent clause:

  • Convert the dependent clause to an independent clause by eliminating subordinating conjunctions or by substituting the antecedent or personal pronoun for the relative pronoun.

Examples:

  1. Even though the president attended the meeting.

RevisedEven though The president attended the meeting.

  1. While Americans keep recycling the same old cliches.

RevisedWhile Americans keep recycling the same old cliches.

  1. Many students, who might read more often.

Revised: Many students who might read more often.
RevisedMany students They who might read more often.

 

If the fragment is a noun phrase (has no main verb) or a verbal phrase (verbs and associated words not functioning as a main verb):

Revising verbal phrases

Restore the subject, or join the phrase to a complete independent clause.
Example:

  • Crossing out the word very.

Revised: Bob Smith crossing crossed out the word very.
Revised: Crossing out the word very, Bob Smith edited the magazine article rigorously.

 

Revising Infinitive phrases functioning as nouns

Rewrite as an independent clause by linking it to a subject and predicate
Example:

  • To delete the word very.

Revised: Johnson prefers to delete the word very when copyediting.

 

Revising prepositional phrases functioning as modifiers

Join the prepositional phrase to an independent clause, usually the sentence before or after.
Example:

  • With its emphasis on informal communication.

Revised: With its emphasis on informal communication, email is today’s communication media of choice.

 

Revising separated compound predicates.

Compound predicates are two main verbs (with connected words) linked with a coordinating conjunction like and or but. When one half of this construction is separated with a period, it becomes a fragment. To correct it, either give the fragment its own subject, or rejoin the two halves.
Example:

  • The process of maturation is lifelong. But is most critical during adolescence.

Revised: The process of maturation is lifelong. But this process is most critical during adolescence.
Revised: The process of maturation is lifelong but is most critical during adolescence.

 

COMMA SPLICES & RUN-ON SENTENCES

Comma splices are simply joining two independent clauses with commas; run-on sentences do the same thing without punctuation.

How to identify comma splices and run-on sentences:

  1. Look for sentences which explain, expand an idea, or link an example to an idea. Often these are run-ons.
  2. Using pronouns like he, she, they, it, this, or that in the same sentence as the antecedent usually signals a run-on sentence or comma splice.
  3. Look for conjunctive adverbs (however, furthermore, thus, therefore, etc.) and transitional expressions (for example, on the other hand) often signal run-on sentences or comma splices
  4. Example: Comma splice: I’ve said it before, I love you.

Run-on: I’ve said it before I love you.
Strategies for fixing comma splices and run-on sentences:

  1. Link by making two separate sentences.

Example: I’ve said it before, I love you.
Revised:  I’ve said it before. I love you.

 

 

  1. Link by adding a conjunction.

Example: She wanted cookies, he baked a cake.
Revised:  She wanted cookies, but he baked a cake.

  1. Link by using a semicolon.

Example: I’ve said it before, I love you.

 

Revised:  I’ve said it before; I love you.

 

  1. Link by using a subordinating conjunction (where, while, when, because)

Example: She wanted cookies, he baked a cake.
Revised:  While she wanted cookies, he baked a cake.

 

So…recognize any of these bad habits? What techniques do you use to make sure your writing is flowing smoothly?

 

 

So…s

A visual guide to using apostrophes

A friend shared this from her perambulations around Facebook. I’m sorry, I don’t know whether I need to provide more attribution than what is at the bottom…if so, please feel free to leave me a comment.

 

 

Image may contain: text

Deepening POV

I was originally going to present this at a writing tips chat but time ran out for the scheduled hour, so it didn’t quite work out. I’ll share the info here, if you have any questions, please post them in the comments.

*********************

I’m going to talk about some ways to deepen the point of view in your stories.

Think about your favorite stories and why you like them. You care about the characters, you feel like you are living the adventures with them, you share their emotions, right? In other words, you are living in the characters’ heads.

Some authors use first person point of view (POV) in order to allow the reader to experience the emotions right along with the character. While some writers use that for one or two main characters, it isn’t comfortable for everyone, and some readers dislike stories written in this style. Sometimes the action alternates between 1st person and 3rd person, and other times, a 3rd person omniscient voice is used…so there’s a narrator who can see inside everyone’s head. That can be a little clunky and difficult to achieve.

Then there’s the issue of head-hopping, where the action constantly shifts between different characters’ POVs. Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb uses this technique in her stories, and although some readers object to it, I think she does it wonderfully and I am only rarely thrown out of the story by a shift. Not everyone can achieve this seamlessly and it’s even more awkward if the POV is not deep enough.

There are multiple techniques for deepening point of view. One way is to remove dialogue tags and use action tags instead. Some folks postulate that the eye skips over “said” (and alternate words meaning the same) and “asked” but I think it slows down the action. I’d rather use that opportunity to give an idea of the emotion or action and bring the reader into the scene.

Instead of: “How are we going to get away?” she asked nervously.

Use: “How are we going to get away?” She shredded the napkin, crumpled the fragments, and jumped up as if she couldn’t still. (if not in this character’s POV)

or

“How are we going to get away?” What did he think they could do with no money and a broken-down bicycle? They were going to get caught, and she was never going to get out of this hick town. (if in this character’s POV)

 

You can play with the action tags to give insight into the character’s personality (whiny, snarky, courageous, fed-up, etc.)

 

Another way to deepen POV is part of the “show vs. tell” technique. Don’t tell us he’s angry, SHOW it.

Instead of: He was so mad. He couldn’t believe his buddy would betray him like that.

Use: Slamming his fist into the door, he growled. Joe wouldn’t do that…would he?

 

And finally, remove the distancing words. Get rid of: he knew, she felt, he thought, she believed. Allow the reader to experience it along with the reader.

Instead of: He knew the table was too flimsy for the crock pot.

Use: That was an accident waiting to happen. They were going to put that heavy crock pot on the table and it was going to collapse. Then he wouldn’t have to hurt her feelings by refusing to eat that weird concoction.

The following are a few sites you can consult for more detailed descriptions. There are fantastic sites all over the web that can be used to help enhance your writing, just Google some of the key terms and then wander around the different help topics.

http://romanceuniversity.org/2015/10/28/let-your-readers-think-for-themselves-by-ryan-lanz/

http://emmadarwin.typepad.com/thisitchofwriting/showing-and-telling-the-basics.html

http://melaniecard.com/for-writers/dialogue-tags-vs-descriptive-beats/

 

I hope this helps you deepen your points of view, or at least makes you stop and think before you write that redundant “he asked” after a sentence that ends with a question mark! Thank you for your attention.

Resources for authors

I’m always on the lookout for reference sites to help those who are aspiring to become published as well as those who have books and need to market them. One of my favorite sites is on author Stanalei Fletcher’s blog. Her Friday Favorites feature provides links to informative resources.

I have the pleasure of hosting author p.m. terrell on my other blog in a few days, and discovered that she has a site, The Novel Business, that has both a paid and a free section, both of which provide tips for helping authors’ success. I have signed up for the newsletter and the blog and look forward to learning new techniques.

 

 

 

So you think it’s easy to edit?

One thing that tends to confound writers is homonyms (e.g. mantle and mantel; pique, peak, and peek; you’re and your; they’re, their, and there) but it gets even more complicated, as the following poem demonstrates.

Gerard Nolst Trenité – The Chaos (1922)

Dearest creature in creation
Studying English pronunciation,
   I will teach you in my verse
   Sounds like corpse, corps, horse and worse.

I will keep you, Susy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy;
   Tear in eye, your dress you’ll tear;
   Queer, fair seer, hear my prayer.

Pray, console your loving poet,
Make my coat look new, dear, sew it!
   Just compare heart, hear and heard,
   Dies and diet, lord and word.

Sword and sward, retain and Britain
(Mind the latter how it’s written).
   Made has not the sound of bade,
   Saysaid, paypaid, laid but plaid.

Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as vague and ague,
   But be careful how you speak,
   Say: gush, bush, steak, streak, break, bleak ,

Previous, precious, fuchsia, via
Recipe, pipe, studding-sail, choir;
   Woven, oven, how and low,
   Script, receipt, shoe, poem, toe.

Say, expecting fraud and trickery:
Daughter, laughter and Terpsichore,
   Branch, ranch, measles, topsails, aisles,
   Missiles, similes, reviles.

Wholly, holly, signal, signing,
Same, examining, but mining,
   Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
   Solar, mica, war and far.

From “desire”: desirableadmirable from “admire”,
Lumber, plumber, bier, but brier,
   Topsham, brougham, renown, but known,
   Knowledge, done, lone, gone, none, tone,

One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel.
   Gertrude, German, wind and wind,
   Beau, kind, kindred, queue, mankind,

Tortoise, turquoise, chamois-leather,
Reading, Reading, heathen, heather.
   This phonetic labyrinth
   Gives moss, gross, brook, brooch, ninth, plinth.

Have you ever yet endeavoured
To pronounce revered and severed,
   Demon, lemon, ghoul, foul, soul,
   Peter, petrol and patrol?

Billet does not end like ballet;
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
   Blood and flood are not like food,
   Nor is mould like should and would.

Banquet is not nearly parquet,
Which exactly rhymes with khaki.
   Discount, viscount, load and broad,
   Toward, to forward, to reward,

Ricocheted and crocheting, croquet?
Right! Your pronunciation’s OK.
   Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
   Friend and fiend, alive and live.

Is your r correct in higher?
Keats asserts it rhymes Thalia.
   Hugh, but hug, and hood, but hoot,
   Buoyant, minute, but minute.

Say abscission with precision,
Now: position and transition;
   Would it tally with my rhyme
   If I mentioned paradigm?

Twopence, threepence, tease are easy,
But cease, crease, grease and greasy?
   Cornice, nice, valise, revise,
   Rabies, but lullabies.

Of such puzzling words as nauseous,
Rhyming well with cautious, tortious,
   You’ll envelop lists, I hope,
   In a linen envelope.

Would you like some more? You’ll have it!
Affidavit, David, davit.
   To abjure, to perjure. Sheik
   Does not sound like Czech but ache.

Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, loch, moustache, eleven.
   We say hallowed, but allowed,
   People, leopard, towed but vowed.

Mark the difference, moreover,
Between mover, plover, Dover.
   Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
   Chalice, but police and lice,

Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label.
   Petal, penal, and canal,
   Wait, surmise, plait, promise, pal,

Suit, suite, ruin. Circuit, conduit
Rhyme with “shirk it” and “beyond it”,
   But it is not hard to tell
   Why it’s pall, mall, but Pall Mall.

Muscle, muscular, gaol, iron,
Timber, climber, bullion, lion,
   Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
   Senator, spectator, mayor,

Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
Has the a of drachm and hammer.
   Pussy, hussy and possess,
   Desert, but desert, address.

Golf, wolf, countenance, lieutenants
Hoist in lieu of flags left pennants.
   Courier, courtier, tomb, bomb, comb,
   Cow, but Cowper, some and home.

Solder, soldier! Blood is thicker“,
Quoth he, “than liqueur or liquor“,
   Making, it is sad but true,
   In bravado, much ado.

Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
   Pilot, pivot, gaunt, but aunt,
   Font, front, wont, want, grand and grant.

Arsenic, specific, scenic,
Relic, rhetoric, hygienic.
   Gooseberry, goose, and close, but close,
   Paradise, rise, rose, and dose.

Say inveigh, neigh, but inveigle,
Make the latter rhyme with eagle.
   Mind! Meandering but mean,
   Valentine and magazine.

And I bet you, dear, a penny,
You say mani-(fold) like many,
   Which is wrong. Say rapier, pier,
   Tier (one who ties), but tier.

Arch, archangel; pray, does erring
Rhyme with herring or with stirring?
   Prison, bison, treasure trove,
   Treason, hover, cover, cove,

Perseverance, severance. Ribald
Rhymes (but piebald doesn’t) with nibbled.
   Phaeton, paean, gnat, ghat, gnaw,
   Lien, psychic, shone, bone, pshaw.

Don’t be down, my own, but rough it,
And distinguish buffet, buffet;
   Brood, stood, roof, rook, school, wool, boon,
   Worcester, Boleyn, to impugn.

Say in sounds correct and sterling
Hearse, hear, hearken, year and yearling.
   Evil, devil, mezzotint,
   Mind the z! (A gentle hint.)

Now you need not pay attention
To such sounds as I don’t mention,
   Sounds like pores, pause, pours and paws,
   Rhyming with the pronoun yours;

Nor are proper names included,
Though I often heard, as you did,
   Funny rhymes to unicorn,
   Yes, you know them, Vaughan and Strachan.

No, my maiden, coy and comely,
I don’t want to speak of Cholmondeley.
   No. Yet Froude compared with proud
   Is no better than McLeod.

But mind trivial and vial,
Tripod, menial, denial,
   Troll and trolley, realm and ream,
   Schedule, mischief, schism, and scheme.

Argil, gill, Argyll, gill. Surely
May be made to rhyme with Raleigh,
   But you’re not supposed to say
   Piquet rhymes with sobriquet.

Had this invalid invalid
Worthless documents? How pallid,
   How uncouth he, couchant, looked,
   When for Portsmouth I had booked!

Zeus, Thebes, Thales, Aphrodite,
Paramour, enamoured, flighty,
   Episodes, antipodes,
   Acquiesce, and obsequies.

Please don’t monkey with the geyser,
Don’t peel ‘taters with my razor,
   Rather say in accents pure:
   Nature, stature and mature.

Pious, impious, limb, climb, glumly,
Worsted, worsted, crumbly, dumbly,
   Conquer, conquest, vase, phase, fan,
   Wan, sedan and artisan.

The th will surely trouble you
More than r, ch or w.
   Say then these phonetic gems:
   Thomas, thyme, Theresa, Thames.

Thompson, Chatham, Waltham, Streatham,
There are more but I forget ’em
   Wait! I’ve got it: Anthony,
   Lighten your anxiety.

The archaic word albeit
Does not rhyme with eight-you see it;
   With and forthwith, one has voice,
   One has not, you make your choice.

Shoes, goes, does *. Now first say: finger;
Then say: singer, ginger, linger.
   Real, zeal, mauve, gauze and gauge,
   Marriage, foliage, mirage, age,

Hero, heron, query, very,
Parry, tarry fury, bury,
   Dost, lost, post, and doth, cloth, loth,
   Job, Job, blossom, bosom, oath.

Faugh, oppugnant, keen oppugners,
Bowing, bowing, banjo-tuners
   Holm you know, but noes, canoes,
   Puisne, truism, use, to use?

Though the difference seems little,
We say actual, but victual,
   Seat, sweat, chaste, caste, Leigh, eight, height,
   Put, nut, granite, and unite.

Reefer does not rhyme with deafer,
Feoffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
   Dull, bull, Geoffrey, George, ate, late,
   Hint, pint, senate, but sedate.

Gaelic, Arabic, pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific;
   Tour, but our, dour, succour, four,
   Gas, alas, and Arkansas.

Say manoeuvre, yacht and vomit,
Next omit, which differs from it
   Bona fide, alibi
   Gyrate, dowry and awry.

Sea, idea, guinea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
   Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean,
   Doctrine, turpentine, marine.

Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion with battalion,
   Rally with ally; yea, ye,
   Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, key, quay!

Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, receiver.
   Never guess-it is not safe,
   We say calves, valves, half, but Ralf.

Starry, granary, canary,
Crevice, but device, and eyrie,
   Face, but preface, then grimace,
   Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.

Bass, large, target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, oust, joust, and scour, but scourging;
   Ear, but earn; and ere and tear
   Do not rhyme with here but heir.

Mind the o of off and often
Which may be pronounced as orphan,
   With the sound of saw and sauce;
   Also soft, lost, cloth and cross.

Pudding, puddle, putting. Putting?
Yes: at golf it rhymes with shutting.
   Respite, spite, consent, resent.
   Liable, but Parliament.

Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew, Stephen,
   Monkey, donkey, clerk and jerk,
   Asp, grasp, wasp, demesne, cork, work.

A of valour, vapid vapour,
S of news (compare newspaper),
   G of gibbet, gibbon, gist,
   I of antichrist and grist,

Differ like diverse and divers,
Rivers, strivers, shivers, fivers.
   Once, but nonce, toll, doll, but roll,
   Polish, Polish, poll and poll.

Pronunciation-think of Psyche!-
Is a paling, stout and spiky.
   Won’t it make you lose your wits
   Writing groats and saying “grits”?

It’s a dark abyss or tunnel
Strewn with stones like rowlock, gunwale,
   Islington, and Isle of Wight,
   Housewife, verdict and indict.

Don’t you think so, reader, rather,
Saying lather, bather, father?
   Finally, which rhymes with enough,
   Though, through, bough, cough, hough, sough, tough??

Hiccough has the sound of sup
My advice is: GIVE IT UP!

Updated post on blog tours

First, thank you for trying to get the word out about your books. There are so many avenues to try that it seems impossible to figure out what the ‘magic bullet’ is. I have heard so many authors bemoan the time commitment required to do publicity when all they want to do is write the next story. That is understandable (and I sympathize because I can’t seem to find enough hours in the day to do everything I want to) BUT those authors who are most successful are ones that have the greatest reach. Many authors have figured out that having street teams to help publicize their work (by writing reviews, telling their friends or strangers about their favorite new story, sharing new releases, requesting books at their local bookstore or library, etc.) gets the word out to the maximum number of people in the shortest amount of time. Others have a newsletter that actually gets opened (often because it has a cute headline or a yummy picture or a giveaway). Some interact regularly on Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest. There are those who have great blogs that talk about topics of interest or have pictures of interest or recipes.

When trying to publicize your work, one avenue to try is a blog tour. You may take the extremely frugal route and try to do it yourself (make sure you have a LOT of time and patience) or you may wish to use an established company and avoid reinventing the wheel. Make sure that you look around the blogosphere and check out different companies, talk to your colleagues and find out what they have been most happy and most disappointed with, and find out whether they believe it has been a good return on investment. If you follow a particular blog or you notice an interesting post, visit the tour company or companies being hosted and take a look at the blogs participating in the tour.

Consider a tour not only a method of getting the word out about your book, but an avenue to earn new readers and maybe a reviewer or a street team member. If you notice a commenter who is particularly enthusiastic in the comments and is following the tour…consider whether to reach out and invite more interaction. I’d use caution about offering a review copy to those who are commenting until I researched them a little more, but this would be an opportunity to get to know people and get feedback about your excerpts or posts. If the blogger/reviewer (if you’re doing a review tour) is really complimentary, keep that name as a person to contact about a sequel—as long as you ASK before you send it or read the requirements that blogger has for submission. Don’t forget to thank the reviewer both by leaving comments and by ‘liking’ or giving positive votes on Goodreads or Amazon or wherever the review is posted. It gives positive synergy if you and your friends go by and support the review, and it can generate activity for the review.

Personally, I have hosted for about fifteen different companies but I work with Goddess Fish tours most often because I think they provide a polished product and they are great about follow-up. My perspective is as a host, and authors may have an entirely different opinion, so make sure you contact authors who have had tours there and ask them how they felt about it. If you have a blog yourself, you might consider hosting tours and increasing traffic to your blog that way in advance of using a tour.

Ideally, a group of colleagues will host each other and help cross-promote, but if you go that route, make sure that you can depend on those you choose to work with and that you provide reciprocity. You also may want to keep in mind that if you are only working with those you have in your own clique, you may be limiting your audience. You also want to check out some of the blogs who are willing to host you. Do they seem to have a lot of traffic? Do they feature more than one title a day? Sometimes posts get lost in the massive number of titles a host is showcasing each day. What kind of giveaways seem to attract the most attention? Make sure you review your budget and decide what you can afford, and if you are offering a cute tie-in to your title, how much is it going to cost to ship, will it arrive intact, and are you willing to offer an alternative if the prizewinner is not in your country?

Having made that decision…how you’re participating in a blog tour and what, if any, kind of giveaway you are offering, make sure you are prepared well in advance. Will you do interviews or guest posts? Make sure you have several so it’s not boring and repetitive if someone does follow the entire tour. Do you have several excerpts you can use? Do you have all of the information you need to disseminate? Even though I am a procrastinator, it’s really important to me to have the information well in advance, and, if a review is needed, most of us need at LEAST 4 weeks, if not more, to have time to work the story into our piles and get it read and written up. So, if you are always frantically juggling, make sure you get everything together well in advance of the time you are going to need to provide it. (Maybe work on it while you are waiting for your editor to do the next edit!) It is REALLY frustrating to me as a blogger to be given information only a day or two before I am supposed to host, especially if there are a ton of links or titles being featured.

Make sure that you drum up an audience. Promote in the forums you belong to (on the appropriate days, if there are rules for that sort of thing), post on your social media, participate in chats and mention it, get your friends and family to go by, etc. Please do the hosts the courtesy of going by and at least saying hello or thanking them. Leaving a comment or responding to the visitors is always appreciated (although you may have to figure out how many ways you can respond to… “I liked the excerpt/cover/blurb” because that is often the default comment folks use to cover the requirements for entering the giveaway.) Yes, you are busy…but guess what? So are the folks who are hosting you, and you can stand out by taking the time to interact and thanking your hosts or reviewers and their visitors. Anecdotes that tie in to the comments or the blog’s theme are always great and will make you stand out.

Blog tour elements

Blurb: Please remember that the idea is NOT to tell the entire story, but to pique a reader’s interest. Include key words…lost love, lovers to friends, wounded hero/heroine, etc. that you think will attract a reader’s notice. Please, please, please review your blurb for typos…this is the first impression readers will have of your book, and if it sounds poorly written because the blurb is full of errors, folks are not likely to want to read it!

Buy links (written out or live link). I am only SEMI-computer-literate. For some reason, links don’t always transfer live for me when I copy and paste, so it really helps to have the web address written out in the info I am given. I like my blog neat, so I like to just have the link itself, but I often have to manually put it in, so it is essential to have the entire address. Please remember that it is not only time-consuming but it looks messy when there are umpteen links for your book OR you are trying to promote every book in the series. If you have a website or blog set up, just include a link to the page that lists all of the sites that sell your book.

Banner? If you are using a banner, make sure that it isn’t too large or too busy. If you are using a fancy one that cycles around between different titles, make sure it works!

Author picture or picture related to book. I am camera-shy, so I don’t want my picture out in the ether. If that is you, make sure you have a nice substitute graphic that can either represent your brand or a link to the book or something that represents a key element in the book.

Social media links. I am one of those folks who barely keeps up with the mailbox and, hopefully, my blog. I don’t use the rest of the rapidly exploding social media, and, I find it frustrating when the author I am hosting has more than three or four links for me to make sure are live. I understand that you want your readers to be able to find you, but perhaps you can include one or two AND a link to your social media page that has the rest of the listings. When you have a laundry list of links, that takes away from the focus on the book you are promoting.

Other titles? Some of you are really prolific (congrats), but again, I don’t want to make live links to a myriad of titles. Part of that is my own pickiness. I am an Amazon affiliate, therefore I MIGHT get a small stipend (one of these years) if someone clicks through and buys anything, so I try to make the book titles link to Amazon BUT the other issue is that I highlight and italicize titles so they will stand out, and it is time-consuming. If the title being promoted is part of a series, by all means, mention one or two titles…but please don’t list all 200 of the books you have written!

Excerpts? Various tour companies have different techniques. One of the companies I have worked with assigns a particular excerpt to a group of hosts, thereby making sure that there are a variety of excerpts. I think it is great when at least 3 different excerpts are provided, and make sure you mention if they are PG or R or X-rated, so the blogger can put appropriate warnings up. Some authors do a kind of scavenger hunt and list a different portion of an excerpt for each host, which also encourages readers to go to other blogs.

Guest posts. I usually request guest posts. I am always crunched for time and have tendonitis issues, so having to deal with an interview and highlighting and boldfacing the questions and answers is just too cumbersome for me. Other people prefer interviews. Usually those are pre-written and you can include a link or two in them. One of my favorite types of interviews to read is between the characters and the author or the blog host. If you are comfortable with it, you can give a great introduction to your characters by having them interviewed.

Some folks love recipes. You can tie them into your story, provide pictures, give anecdotes on how you stumbled upon this particular recipe or give hints on how to serve it.

Playlists seem to be popular also. Lists of the music that either connects to the characters or that you listened to while writing the story.

Anecdotes about the story. Readers are always curious how you came up with the story/characters/setting. You can include a picture or two that you used (if you own the picture), talk about where you did research, places you visited.

Some of you are great with YouTube or Pinterest pages, so you can include links to that as well.

Decide how much personal info you are willing to share and how. Euphemisms for family members? Broad statements about where you live? Unfortunately, there are fairly odd people in the world, so make sure you protect your privacy as much as you can.

Giveaway. Some authors are talented and offer something handmade, or something that reminds them of something in the book, a copy of the book (decide whether you want to offer an e-copy or a print copy and don’t forget about price and postage when you budget that in), or a gift certificate to different places.

When figuring out what you want to use in the Rafflecopter or whatever method you use, please remember that not everyone uses all of the social media. It annoys me to no end to be unable to enter a giveaway because I can’t unlock the entries due to my lack of social media presence on Facebook or Twitter. Increase traffic to your website (but make sure your site is current and error-free), get subscribers to your newsletter, blog or Facebook/Pinterest or other social media.

You may have an entry in your giveaway mechanism (Rafflecopter is the one I see used frequently) that asks a question about the excerpt. Just don’t make it TOO complicated, since most people are in a hurry. You can also give an entry for a visit to your website, have the reader answer a simple question (What is the next book in this series? What is my favorite color?) just to make sure they made it to the page you are trying to direct them to.

Complaints:

Timeliness is important (especially if trying to get reviews)—life gets in the way for ALL of us, if you aren’t going to be able to meet your deadlines, have the courtesy to inform the blog hosts (or tour company) so that bloggers are not scrambling at the last minute to either post your material or fill the day with something else. I like my review copies at LEAST 1 month in advance, my blog materials at least a week or two early, because I tend to procrastinate and end up posting a week’s worth of blog posts at a time.

Use relatively clean copy (it’s irksome if there are formatting issues/typos, etc.). Sometimes the formatting doesn’t translate, so the apostrophes, dashes, and quotation marks don’t come through, so make sure you check to see what format you should save your copy in. Personally, I tend to ignore posts that have a lot of machine code in them (especially in the forums) so you may be turning off potential readers.

Again, don’t have too many links, and make sure links work! (I like clean pages, want live links but they don’t always translate live, so should have it both as a live link and written out (with a note to delete one form or the other) but don’t overwhelm the poor anal retentive person such as myself who goes through trying to tidy things up and ends up having to work through 15 different links! If all else fails, use a single link to your social media page that has your Twitter, FB, Goodreads, Tsu, Pinterest, website, etc. links)

Long excerpts…if you really can’t find a short eye-catching excerpt, post a link to a space on your own site that has a longer excerpt.

Authors’ experiences with tour hosts (don’t name names) can be good or bad, and that works in both directions. Talk privately with your colleagues, ask how the experience went.

I tend not to sign up for tours with companies that have not been timely. If I have to poke the hosts in order to get my material, I don’t have time to do that, and I tend not to host for them any longer.

Don’t criticize the blog tour or host in public. I had an author go into some rant about how useless blog tours are and how irresponsible the hosts are…and cite my blog. When I pointed out that he was being really insulting and that he wasn’t scheduled to be on my blog until a future date, he had to retract some of his statements, but he left me with a REALLY bad taste in my mouth, especially since he fails to realize that I do this in my (snort) spare time and I DON’T OWE ANYTHING to the author. If you have an issue, try to contact the person directly, don’t get into a flaming war, and remember that you have no idea how folks can be interconnected, so things can get really sticky sometimes.

Which brings me back to reviews. You and/or your tour company should make sure that the host is reminded that the story given for review is for the use of that reviewer ONLY. It is not to be shared, posted or otherwise used for anything other than the review. Also, diplomatic language should be used to remind the reviewer that you have no problem if they did not like the story, but if they have a negative review, you politely request that they not post it as part of the tour, but to feel free to post it after the tour is over. There is no point in your paying for a tour to bad-mouth your hard work!

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I received these comments most recently:

Lately we’ve seen a HUGE difference when authors significantly interact with their commenters and promote the stops in unique ways.  I know those should both be a given, but they aren’t.  Authors with personality, who are interesting and do things outside the norm really impact readers and increase sales.  And, for heavens sake, don’t be rude. We recently had an author who chewed out the people commenting on the tour who this author perceived as ‘contesters’.  It was awful, nasty, and uncalled for, and I actually got emails from people complaining (and I can’t blame them).  Look — we know who the contesters are.  We try not to feed them.  Just say thank you and move on. A great number of the people this person yelled at were actually tour hosts who were following the tour (and hosting the book).

Also, be interesting when you answer interview questions. Never answer with just “yes” or “no”.  If they ask your favorite sandwich, don’t say “mayo and tomato”. Say instead, “Growing up, we had this amazing garden.  I remember my mom picking fresh, sun-ripened, warm tomatoes from the vine at lunchtime, slicing the juicy fruit and serving us this incredibly mouth-watering tomato sandwiches with a bit of mayo.  Even now, when I eat them, I think of mom.”

Or something.

Basically, the best thing on tours is to be interesting and engaging. Cultivate “friendships” of a sort, because loyal friends are more likely to support you consistently. We try to impress upon our authors that a tour is about more than one book … it’s about building a fan base and creating relationships.

 

I had asked for comments from the two companies I had been hosting for most often when I gave this talk last year and received this information, so please forgive me if some of this is repeated.

The author should take the initiative in opening dialogues on the tour posts … ask the commenters a question to get the ball rolling. The author should be the one that drives the interaction.

Read ALL the instructions the tour company sends you BEFORE you ask a question… there’s a good chance you’ve already been given the answer. (Made with the assumption that other companies send comprehensive instructions like we do — if they don’t they should, and maybe an author should keep that in mind when booking a tour).

Conversely, if you can’t find the answer to your question in the instructions, never be afraid to email with questions and make sure what’s expected of you is clear.

Things that make us a little crazy is getting completed posts a day or two prior to the stop.  Not stopping by the tour stops to say thank you.  They should always be polite, even when something makes them unhappy — I’m assuming that all tour companies want their authors to be satisfied, so we’ll do everything we can to make it so, but being yelled at for things just makes everyone cranky.

OH … and do everything with the tour company (at least when it comes to us — other companies may be different). I hate when authors contact a host directly for something. First of all, that’s what they’re paying us for and secondly, it’s hard for us to make sure everything is coordinated properly when that’s going on.  Ditto hosts contacting the author directly.  The tour company is the intermediary for a reason.

and…

Major Pet Peeve, response time to emails! When authors contact you for a tour and you set dates, etc, then never hear back, not good!  Be on top of things, if I email for info needed, etc, work to make sure I have the info and the correct info at that.

I have had numerous indie authors who don’t even send the buy links on release day (say if we are waiting to get out to hosts for a blast, etc), I have had to chase down the links myself to get out to the hosts.  Which I don’t mind, but you would think the author would want the links to purchase to be a top priority.

Definitely time is an issue always.  I prefer to book two months out and sometimes you will get a request from an author for a tour and her book is releasing next week.  That is just unfair to the coordinator and hosts.  I can work magic when needed but with a full schedule, I usually have to turn a lot of people away or recommend another company that might have an earlier opening.

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I thought those were great points, and I admit that I salute the tour companies for their patience as they deal with computer-challenged procrastinators such as myself and interact with authors and try to keep everyone happy.

 

My review and tour blog is http://thereadingaddict-elf.blogspot.com/ and you are welcome to come by and see what you think. Lately, I work primarily with a single company but I have been a host for about 15 of them over the years, so I have seen a lot of variation.

 

 

 

 

ARe site closing…another cautionary tale

Sadly, with VERY short notice, an announcement came out that All Romance eBooks is closing its doors. For me, the impact was that, being a terrible procrastinator about downloading many of my e-books, I had to make sure I had gotten all of the books in my library (especially since some of them were undoubtedly in the computer that crashed a couple of years ago). I also had e-books bucks left to spend, and at first I thought I was out of luck (which wouldn’t be new…I have had multiple balances that were lost as different publishers went belly up–you would think I would learn, wouldn’t you?) but I was able to spend them! Of course, I was frustrated about the short notice because I had been visiting the site over the past few days to pick up the freebies that were offered and could have spread out the chore over the multiple days while the site was working quickly.

Now, I find out that the authors are being VERY POORLY treated! For more information, please check this link. I have no personal knowledge of the facts being shared in that post, but I HAVE seen posts from multiple authors’ feeds that lead me to believe there is at least some truth to the claims. Even worse, books were still up for sale when I last looked, and it doesn’t seem that the authors will receive their just payment…and personally, I’d rather send the author their share directly so that they will reap the fruits of their hard work!

Advice on social media marketing

I was intrigued by the opportunity to read and review a book called “Sell More Books With Less Social Media: Spend less time marketing and more time writing” by Chris Syme. I am very aware of the onus on authors to distinguish themselves in a morass of material that is getting more and more crowded every day, and, as a very busy editor and reviewer, I see the issue from both sides. Personally, I have steadfastly refused to join Facebook, both because I am a very private person AND because I love to enter contests and read blurbs and reviews (and jokes and recipes and…) and I suspect I would never get anything else done.

One of the multiple things on my to-do list is to write a review for this title, but I give it high marks for practical and straightforward advice, and with its fantastic pre-order price of $.99, I think that it would be a mistake not to add it to one’s library. Unfortunately, time is running out quickly, so take advantage of the great price!

 

 

Advice on covers

Congratulations on your contract! Now what? Besides the editing process, there are tons of other things that need to be taken care of. One of those is helping your cover artist bring your story to life. In order to do that…you have to be VERY clear. Unfortunately, there are all kinds of rules and regulations about what images can be used, so check with your publisher about the stock images they work with.

 

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Grand Canyon

If your characters have a particular hair color, hair length, eye color…it’s fine to list it, but try to find pictures to show the artist what you are thinking of. Don’t forget to mention facial hair or lack thereof. IF you are lucky enough to work with models specifically for your cover, you can ask for a particular pose, but otherwise you are going to have to work with what is available in the stock photos. You may be able to look through your publisher’s catalog and choose some of the covers that have the style you are looking for.

 

Background. The same applies—if you can find images that evoke the atmosphere you are looking for, that will help the cover artist narrow things down. What is the weather like? Colors that should be prevalent? Urban setting? Day or night? Don’t just say you want a house…is it a small house? Single story? Open door? Open windows? Good condition? In a neighborhood? What color is it? Again, find some examples.  All three of the pictures included in this post were taken at the Grand Canyon…but I am sure that you agree that they convey different aspects of this fascinating place!

Key items. There is usually a limit to the number of things that can be added to the cover without overcrowding or making everything look awkward. If you are trying to have a particular item present, e.g. a weapon/item of clothing/icon of some sort, be specific. Supply pictures of what you are thinking of, make sure you specify color and size.

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Remember, if you have a series, you need to help figure out what you want to tie the covers together. Is there a symbol, a color, a style that would epitomize the series?

 

If you are working with an experienced cover artist, he or she will have definite ideas of what tends to appeal to readers. A picture that looks perfectly fine in a larger format may be indistinguishable in a thumbnail portrait, so make sure you pay attention to any suggestions or caveats.

 

Remember that the models in stock photos can NOT be moved around, i.e. the positions are not changeable, you have to work with what is present.

If there is a particular font that you like, you can submit a sample, but be advised that simple is better, because it needs to be legible even if it is in a thumbnail image.

Ok, now that you have submitted all of those details…don’t be surprised if the cover looks nothing like any of them! Please remember to be diplomatic in your requests for corrections or revisions and, if all else fails, learn from this one and know what to be more specific about requesting for the next one!

 

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