Category Archives: Miscellaneous services

Disappearing reviews

A fellow reviewer reached out to me because her reviews had disappeared from Amazon. She was understandably upset and I referred her to another reviewer whose fight to restore her reviews was thankfully successful. Ironically, I had just skimmed a different post from Amy Vasant about the subject (link below).

 

I have (slowly) begun “unfriending” authors on Goodreads since Amazon owns it and will evidently draw its own conclusion about whether I actually have ties to these folks other than liking their stories. I don’t use Facebook but evidently that is a significant factor in identifying links between folks.

 

I find it frustrating that trolls can go through and give one star to a myriad of authors and not trigger censorship, yet Amazon seems to forget that most authors are avid readers and definitely have an opinion about what they’ve perused.

Anyway, I hope this helps folks…

 

This is the opening paragraph of the Author Marketing Experts article on “Amazon’s Disappearing Reviews”

Please click on the title to be taken to the complete article.

 

Amazon’s Disappearing Reviews: The Surprising Reason Why Book Reviews are Getting Pulled (and how to fix it)

I write a lot about Amazon, some stuff is great – like the cool tools they secretly launch to help authors, while other stuff is more geek-related – like the Amazon Ads dashboard! I’ve spent a lot of time writing and talking about Amazon reviews, and also, Amazon pulling reviews. Sadly, this problem of disappearing reviews isn’t going away, in fact it only seems to be getting worse. What I hope to uncover in this piece, is not a big scope solution, because there isn’t one (and I’ll explain why) but rather add some additional check marks to your already long list of do’s and don’ts, when it comes to Amazon reviews, and keeping the book reviews you’ve got!

(click on title to continue reading)

 

 

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Author Amy Vasant discusses (and promotes her author promotion site and giveaways)…

 

How to keep your Amazon Reviews from disappearing

 

 

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Street Team chat for The Wild Rose Press authors

 

 

 

Street Teams:

Ok, what is a street team? Literally, it is a team that takes word to the streets…a publicity technique that has been used very effectively in other venues such as the music industry.

Authors are learning how to utilize this tool but should be aware that, just like any other of those dreaded publicity techniques, it takes time, but the investment may be well worth your efforts!

Typing ‘street team’ into a search engine will cause many different links to appear, such as:

https://www.iuniverse.com/Resources/Book-Marketing-Self-Promotion/6StepstoBuildaStreetTeam.aspx

http://wegrowmedia.com/the-power-of-enthusiasm-should-you-create-a-street-team/

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17563100-street-team-smarts

 

and I invite you to peruse some of these. I have been a participant on probably 10 or more street teams myself and offer observations from my own experiences.

What does a street team do?

All kinds of things, whether putting your book on their ‘shelves’ at Goodreads or starting a discussion thread there or on Amazon, wishlisting on various venues (AMZ, BookBub,iBooks, etc.)writing a review, “liking” or voting “yes” on positive reviews, having a Facebook or Twitter conversation about your book(s), passing out trading cards or bookmarks or other swag to their local libraries, booksellers or other gatherings, requesting that libraries order your books, posting comments on your blog tours, asking Amazon to price-match (especially useful when they are being stubborn about offering titles for lower prices), hosting ‘book parties’, the list can be long and creative.

I ask that you be careful about what you ask your team to do as I am not a fan of blitzing (and thankfully am not subjected to a lot of it since I don’t use FB or Twitter or most of the other social media) but that technique can become quite irritating although some authors are quite successful at utilizing it.

Please use caution when asking your team members to vote down low reviews because you do NOT want them to get into flame wars on your behalf and sometimes team members get a little too enthusiastic in their quest to support/protect you.

Please also realize that your requests reflect on you as a person, so asking people to join a particular forum JUST to garner votes for your title is not only frowned upon but actually forbidden in some venues and may reflect badly upon your integrity.

How do you find a street team?

First decide how large a team you can handle. Are you a hands-on person or not? Will it drive you nuts to have e-mails flooding your box asking you how you want to handle things? Do you want to set up an e-mail account just for the street team members?

You may wish to choose one of your team members to be your liaison to everyone else. Decide how you want to handle communication to everyone. Some teams have private Facebook sites, some use yahoo loops, some use a password-protected area on their website or blog, some communicate just through e-mails.

Just remember that if you only use one venue, you may be excluding some of your most ardent fans. Most of you who are just beginning would probably be advised to have 10 members or fewer to work out the kinks. You can post a message on your blog, newsletter, or Facebook page and ask for members, if you are in a chat you can mention it or if you do signings or go to some of the conferences where you interact with readers, you can pass out a little card with your website or contact e-mail, you can issue an invitation if you are doing a blog tour or writing guest posts.

Please use caution because there may be some who join only for the ‘freebies’ so ou have to decide what is the most comfortable way for you to decide who is appropriate for you.

What’s in it for the street team members?

First, you should decide what you can afford in terms of time and expense. It does you no good to plow all of your hard-earned profit back into a street team and have nothing to show for it. Be creative, often the most thrilling reward for these fans of yours is having access to you…to hear what you are writing about or other aspects of your life, to be involved in naming a character in your book (including their having their own name featured) or helping with a title or choosing a path for your hero or heroine to follow.

Some authors send out autographed or handmade items, or ARCs, or sneak peeks that are only given to a chosen few, others pass out T-shirts that loudly promote their most recent title (and offer prizes for pictures that show the shirt is being worn in public).

Naturally, you have to use care, because unfortunately, there are unscrupulous folks everywhere, but it has been my experience that some long-lasting friendships and mutually beneficial relationships can arise and the synergy is uplifting.

Some authors find beta-readers who are willing to help catch errors and critique or folks who will write reviews just for the privilege of receiving an early copy. Other authors offer prizes…e.g. all those who send a link to a review or a blogpost/Tweet/FB posting about your title get an entry into a contest for some particular prize.

The possibilities are endless…and those readers who are your fans and join your street team can offer wonderful inspiration and enthusiasm when they are able to share in your life. You may need to consider an extra special gift or some kind of reward to those who go above and beyond for you, especially if they become a virtual assistant for you. Just remember, the goal is to get your title out there in front of people and encourage them to become life-long fans so make sure you present yourself in the best possible light by always being respectful of others, having a nicely edited product (ha, my bias is showing) and displaying honesty and integrity.

I asked for tips from a fellow blogger who was an integral part of and very active participant on a street team we were both on until the author failed to follow through or appreciate this person’s efforts. I was disappointed at the way this author treated my fellow blogger and thus the author lost two members of her team in one fell swoop, compounded by the loss of the folks we would ask to help spread the word about new titles. Among the suggestions my fellow blogger shared with me were:

Limit the free stuff you give out. But give out free stuff to the teams. Cross-promote. e.g. if there are recipes in the book, consider guest posting on a recipe blog or invite them to guest on your social media. That way you may bring someone in who might not have looked at the book. Reach out to street team members that have connections elsewhere or have special talents. Don’t forget that not everyone has access to all of the social media platforms, so don’t exclude a segment of your fanbase.

Above all, interact with the team. Remember that it’s the connection to your fans that is important. And remember that we ALL have busy lives, so try to be mindful of that when requesting that your street team do something for you.

And finally, the delightful Sabrina York graciously shared her post on street teams with me, and she does an excellent job of listing the pros and cons. She’s done presentations at conferences about this subject (and yes, I am one of the more flaky members of her street team but she always graciously thanks me for whatever I remember to do, lol). I put the entire text on my blog at this link (https://musingsbyelf.wordpress.com/2018/05/05/street-team-gems-from-sabrina-york/) and I invite you to read it at your leisure.

Thank you for your attention.

Street Team gems from Sabrina York

 

 

The Most Powerful Weapon in Your Book Marketing Arsenal

By Sabrina York

 

Nothing is more powerful.

 

Nothing has greater potential to launch your platform into the stratosphere.

 

Nothing can get you where you want to go faster than this one tool.

 

What is it?

 

Relationships.

 

No matter who you are, or what you write, or where you sell, relationships are the secret to success in this business…and every other. In a world where millions of books are fighting for reader dollars and thousands of authors are shouting to be heard over the fray, often the strongest voice is the whisper of a friend.

 

In a recent poll I took on Facebook, readers overwhelmingly reported that they rely on book referrals from friends, favorite blogs or reader networks (such as book clubs) when they choose their next read.

There are many ways an author can leverage this trend, but they all boil down to cultivating, fostering and maintaining quality relationships.

 

One tool—and a very powerful one, if used right—is having a street team.

 

What is a Street Team?

Simply put, your biggest fans. Readers, friends, bloggers, reviewers, fellow authors and others who love your books so much, they want to share them with their corner of the universe.

 

I started my street team about a year ago (note from ELF…this is probably a little dated, as Sabrina graciously shared this article with me, so I suspect it’s more like three years by now!) and it was one of the smartest moves I’ve ever made—simply because of the amazing connections that have come from it. I decided to keep it small at first, while I figured it all out, sending out a call to my newsletter subscribers only. I did not do a social media blast. I was shocked at the response I received.

 

Many of the charter members of the Royal Street Team (RST) were readers who had found me on Facebook, whom I considered friends because of our interaction there. But what surprised me was the response from bloggers and reviewers and other authors. I had assumed they were far too busy to promote my books. On the contrary, they are delighted to do so. In fact, they have become some of my most influential supporters.

 

While street teams do not come without cost or perils, the benefits can be gold. Author Cassandra Carr agrees. “I have a dedicated group of fans who are out there talking up my books. That’s invaluable in today’s world of a million books. There is a cost involved, but I like to think it pays off in the form of increased awareness and sales.” Author Cerise Deland loves that she gets to talk about her books in an intimate fashion to an engaged audience. As a bonus, many will write reviews for the books they’ve read because of this relationship with her.

 

And as we all know, reviews sell books.

 

How Does it Work?

 

Ask a hundred authors and you will get a hundred answers. But in short, I recommend following these steps:

 

FIRST: Develop a set of guidelines for your street team, including what you will be expecting them to do and how you plan to thank them. My street team guidelines include a section on the difference between erotic romance and porn (because I write erotic romance, I want my street team members to understand the difference). I also have a section on Push vs Pull Promotion—the difference between a hard and a soft sell. Because I want a relationship with my reader, I do not want them alienated by a hard sell.

 

Beyond that, know what kinds of things you will require of your team, and what the terms of your agreement will be. For example, some authors will eject members for not being active enough or not making benchmarks. If you plan to do that, ask yourself if you are okay with the damage that might cause to your relationship with that reader.

 

Tip: You should have your expectations firmly in mind—and in writing—before you put out a call.

 

SECOND: Decide how large a team you want. Some authors have hundreds of members. But if your goal is to create relationships and manage the team well, you may want to keep it small. I decided to start with a dozen or so members and let my team grow organically. I have discovered some members are much more active than others—which is fine with me, as it is the relationship that’s important to me.

 

Some of my team members have quit other teams that became too large—and unruly. And when the author didn’t step in to put the kibosh on bullying or unhealthy competition, the relationship with that reader was irreparably damaged—along with the author’s reputation.

 

THIRD: Once you know what you want your team to look like, craft your call. Anything from private emails to a full-fledged blitz on social media. When Cassandra Carr first started up her team, she posted about it on Facebook and Twitter and included it in her newsletters. She also has a sign-up tool on her website. Following a similar method, Cerise DeLand put out a call on Facebook. She immediately had 15 people join, and within days had over 40. This is an excellent example of how building relationships with readers via social media can pay off when you need it to.

 

FOURTH: Manage your team. I keep a data base with email addresses, home addresses, preferences for prizes should they win (with t-shirt sizes, ebook formats, favorite color, etc.). I also track what, if anything, I have sent them as well as any review they write for me so I can thank them.

 

When a new member joins, it helps to have a boiler plate welcome with your guidelines and expectations ready to go. In her book, Street Team Smarts, Sara Humphreys recommends sending a welcome package to new members, including promo materials for them to share, instructions and a thank you gift with the street team logo. Sara’s book has more ideas on networking with booksellers through your street team.

 

Once your members are active, remember to stay engaged. I like to send regular updates about my books, or things I need to have shared. I never require any member do anything. But I ask that they share when they can. See—my preference for a soft sell at work. You may get a better response by barking demands and issuing commands, but only for a while. These are volunteers you are dealing with, after all. And THEY CAN QUIT!

 

How Can You Use A Street Team?

 

Many print authors use street teams to reach out to brick and mortar bookstores or take promo materials to libraries. In a digital world, such sharing is still useful, but our focus turns more to social networking. Regardless, your team can reach outlets you may not have access to like book clubs, blogs, and an audience of their own on Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest and other popular sites.

 

Beyond this power of promo and reach, I have street team members who are excellent editors and are willing to beta read chapters or excerpts. This also gets them excited about the book’s release. As an example of this, Cassandra Carr told me: “I just started a new book, and as soon as I wrote the prologue, I posted it for my team. Right now they’re helping me name characters. They like to feel involved—invested—in their favorite authors’ careers.”

 

What do you think? Are those readers going to rush out and buy that book when it comes out? Are they going to share the news with their friends and contacts? Are they going to blog about a book for which they feel ownership?

 

Sample Assignments

 

Well, first of all, I dislike the term ‘assignments’ and so do some of my RST members. As busy people with their own responsibilities, I ask them only do to what they are comfortable with and have the capacity for. And thank them regardless of the amount of work they do. Very active members, however, do receive “Princess Points” which are entries into special street team only drawings.

 

But here are some examples of tasks you could offer your team:

  • Deliver promo material to booksellers
  • Ask local librarians to order books
  • Post a blog for a new release, author interview or contest
  • Share information/ links for a new release or promo opportunity
  • Give honest reviews
  • Follow on Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest, Google+, Goodreads, Shelfari etc.
  • Refer a friend
  • Review sharing—One of the most powerful sales tools nowadays is a good (and sometimes a poor) review. Vanessa Romano, the Jeep Diva, a blogger, reviewer and street team member reflects, “I’m more prone to buy a book based on a review vs. seeing 50 buy links to it on my Facebook feed. On one of the street teams I put together, we’ve been sharing reviews from blogs, retailers, Goodreads, Shelfari, Library Thing and more.” Asking street team members to share links from various places helps avoid the dreaded Spamalot.

Be conscious of how much you are asking of your team, and how easy you are making it for them to share your work. I recommend producing a media kit for a new release with a blurb, excerpt, sample tweets and sample facebook post with links and covers.

 

Consider providing a list of tasks and asking your team to pick one or two—or more if they have time. Remember, they have a life of their own, and they may be on many other teams!

 

Benefits You May Offer Your Team

 

  • Exclusive access to information about coming books
  • First looks at covers, ARC’s or excerpts
  • Gift certificates
  • Swag, including autographed items, mugs, t-shirts, pens
  • Use their names in books—I do this occasionally, but try to limit myself to last names, on account of my subject matter.
  • Bestselling author and Golden Heart and Daphne du Maurier winner, Ann Charles has a “street team only” page on Facebook. It’s a place for her die hard fans to hang out and chat amongst themselves. I have one as well, which I keep “Secret,” so members feel safe talking about whatever they like.
  • Drawings for exclusive prizes— Cassandra Carr has a point system for monthly drawings. She also holds special contests just for street team members.
  • Free books— Cerise DeLand gives away occasional copies of certain books, requesting a review in return. “Not everyone who asks for a free book follows through,” she warns. “It pays to keep lists and reiterate the agreement.” She also has contests for reviewers only.

 

But there is a benefit to a street team member beyond all this. Something far more powerful than a peek at what your favorite author is working on or a t-shirt no one else has… A sense of belonging, of being part of something exciting, something they love.

 

One of my loyal street team members is on 4 teams. Why? Because she loves the “relationships you can develop with the authors and other readers. You have an inside track to information on what’s coming, which is very fun.”

 

One of my star RST members, Gaele, a reviewer and blogger with I am Indeed, is on six street teams. “I enjoy interacting with the authors but I’m not there for the swag or the giveaways,” she says. “Those are nice bonuses, but if it’s an author I enjoy I like being able to help promote and support.  It’s really about the interaction for me.” She only stays in the teams that amuse her. “Make me smile – let me help you promote when I can. That’s good for me.”

 

Danger Zones?

 

With all the benefits, there can be pitfalls as well. Here are some danger zones to watch out for.

 

Attention Fatigue. If you have 200 members on your street team and the assignment is “share the buy link to this book from this retailer on Facebook,” the result can be a flood of something that looks an awful lot like spam. Nothing can make a reader shake her head and murmur, “Oh, her again?” like spam.

 

A Heavy Load. Gaele cringes at incessant requests for promotion. “I’m busy,” she says. “If others on the team have more time to share and promote, that’s great. But for me, a laundry list of mandatory shares /posts is not feasible.” After all, she has her own business to promote. And be careful of mandatory anything. As I think I mentioned, these are volunteers.

 

Negative Attention. Encourage positive, professional behavior from your team. Remind your members this is your business. There have been examples of street team members flaming a bad review of their author’s book. Not only does this create bad press for the author, many people in the business will assume the author encouraged it. If the review is from a professional review site, this kind of negative karma could really backfire.

 

Inappropriate or Offensive Requests. Be careful what you ask of your team. One of my RST members, who is a professional reviewer, objects to assignments to vote down bad reviews. The problem here is, what constitutes a bad review is subjective. Professional reviewers will tell you a 3-star review is not a bad review. But even if it is a 1-star review, asking members to vote it down can have unintended impacts.

 

Professional reviewers are ranked on Amazon. Being voted down because they gave an honest review is not fair to them and will annoy them. Consider this: If you are sending out a blanket assignment to your team (some of whom may be reviewers), are you asking them to shoot themselves in the foot? What’s that going to do to your relationship with them? And do you really want to annoy a reviewer? On purpose?

 

Beyond that, Gaele tells me, “voting down a review on Amazon does little but give it more weight and play—and sticks it to the front page.”  Her team has tested this hypothesis–repeatedly. She also declines requests to add a street team button or badge to her blog because, while she only writes honest reviews, a badge or button could give the impression she has been influenced by the author.

 

And another thought on requesting 5-star reviews (rather than an honest review), one of my RST members who is a blogger reports, “I hear readers say they disregard all 5 star reviews because they are certain they are coming from the street teams.” Aside from that, word that an author is asking for 5-star reviews will get around. Either way, the practice is counterproductive.

 

Ask yourself, if you were relying on a review to make a purchase decision, would you want the review padded if the book was not a satisfying read? And if you were a reviewer, would you be willing to put your sterling reputation on the line for an author? Or anyone?

 

Poor Management. When asked why they’ve quit teams in the past, nearly all my survey respondents said the same thing: poor management by the author. And even when the problem was caused by other team members, the general consensus is that poor author management lies at the root. Here are some examples from my RST members about other teams that turned sour:

 

When asked why she quit one team, one of my loyal street team members said she didn’t like “being called out by other team members when she gave an honest review.”

 

Other members I polled reported leaving teams because some of the members criticized others for not doing enough. “I don’t believe any fan should feel that they aren’t ‘enough’ because they don’t hand-sell as much as others,” one told me.

 

Yet another comment: “I would like to see fans spread the word that their favorite author has something out, but not turn into a lynch mob. In my opinion, this tone is set by the author.”

 

And: “Ultimately, the author needs to be involved 100% in her street team for it to be well run and effective. Sadly, I find some authors aren’t willing to risk the wrath of one ‘super fan’ by keeping them in line.”

 

I believe effective management of a street team—including “problem children”—lies in the first step of this process. Formulating a thoughtful and thorough set of guidelines and expectations for your team members to follow.

 

When to Just Say No to Street Teams

 

When should you avoid street teams like the plague?

 

When you don’t have time or the interest to foster these valuable connections. Cassandra Carr sums it up nicely when she says, “If you’re going to do it, do it right.” And that means giving them your time and attention. If you don’t think you can spare that…don’t. Just don’t.

 

Because that’s what a street team is all about. The precious, potent bond between an author and her readers.

 

The Bottom Line

 

Be careful and present when you request things of your street team. Treat them with the respect they deserve. Protect their gentle hearts. And treasure that relationship. Honor an honest review. Be appreciative for whatever they can do.

 

And thank them for it.

 

They are volunteers after all.

 

They can always quit.

 

 

About Sabrina York

Her Royal Hotness, Sabrina York, is the New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author of hot, humorous stories for smart and sexy readers. Her titles range from sweet & sexy to scorching romance. Connect with her on twitter @sabrina_york, on Facebook or on Pintrest. Visit her webpage to check out her books, excerpts and contests. Free Teaser Book. And don’t forget to enter to win the royal tiara!


Follow Sabrina

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Revision is a process: How to take the frustration out of self-editing by Catherine E. McLean (review)

I had the pleasure of hosting Catherine E. McLean today on my review blog and as a wonderful bonus, I was able to read and review this very informative book. I think it is a fantastic resource and I hope that those who are searching for a way to polish their manuscript keep it in mind when looking for tips.

 

 

My review:

4.75 out of 5 stars

Revision is a Process: How to take the frustration out of self-editing by Catherine E. McLean is a nicely detailed guideline of the steps that need to be taken to polish a manuscript. The author gives specifics and emphasizes that it takes time, hard work, and a consistent plan to produce a polished product. She recommends that one should broaden one’s knowledge base by studying books, particularly craft books written by teachers who are also authors, which underscores the fact that this book is an overview of steps to focus on.

I like that she acknowledges the overwhelming nature of revision then breaks it into manageable components. Of course my thrifty nature cringes at the idea of printing out the story (twice!) but the recommendations are practical and a great way to prevent the eye from skipping over errors because of familiarity with the story. It is great that both the mechanics and the story itself are addressed, with explanations for why it is so important to address both and keep the reader invested in the story. As the author states, “Your work needs to stand out from the rest, and that means quality storytelling that’s been ruthlessly self-edited and then edited professionally before publication.”

I would love to make this book a required text for all novice authors I interact with and I daresay it would be helpful to even seasoned writers by reminding them of common errors that are overlooked, such as providing sensory details other than those from sight or using the outline generated to assist in writing a synopsis and/or blurb. This is a great reference work and I highly recommend it.

A copy of this title was provided to me for review

 

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.

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!