Self editing 4 fiction #4 ~ Point of View

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How to Sell Your Book

In order to identify just what sells a book, it is helpful to focus on the concept of order; by looking at the sequential order of actions that result in a reader purchasing a book we get a feel for the mechanics, and their importance. This brief ‘point of entry’ explanation intends to inform/remind the author of the process.

Book Cover:

This is the first thing that a potential reader will see. This is the first hurdle. Paradigm author, Russell Blake, sums this up perfectly:

“… A cover is a visual identification of your product’s genre, and should be as eye catching as possible, and consistent with other bestsellers in your space. It also needs to be professional. Gone are the days where you could screw around with Photoshop and hope for a win. That’s so 2012. Don’t kid yourself – the market has never been more competitive, and if you hamstring your product with an amateurish or clunky cover, you’re going to suck exhaust.

The cover is also extremely important in your ads, as in Amazon ads it’s basically got to sell the reader sufficiently so they’ll click on the ad to see the product page. The worse the cover, the fewer conversions from impressions to clicks. That simple…

Sales Page Blurb:

Okay, so your cover has led the reader to your sales page. The next thing to do is arouse the reader’s interest and appetite; you will likely still be jetlagged after the whole writing and editing process, only to find that setting up a book sales page is quite involved – but you must dig deeper into your creative skills and give potential buyers something succinct or snappy that arouses further interest, rather than just throw out something scrappy for them to gnaw on.

From Russell Blake:

…Your product description ain’t what you think it is. It’s not a synopsis of the story, or a way to introduce characters or story arcs — So what is it? — It’s ad copy, plain and simple. Words that will convince the reader that they need to buy the book. The fewer words used to achieve that, the better the copy.

An awesome blurb will sell more books, and can be measured in ad effectiveness, specifically in cost per click related to conversion into a sale. The better the blurb, the more clicks will convert into a purchase. The worse the blurb, the less they will convert…

Opening Chapter:

So the readers like the cover, and even if they have not read the blurb, most readers will then go on to peruse at least a few paragraphs of the opening of the book (as they also do in bookshops). The 'Read Sample' feature is very popular, and this gives you the opportunity to grab the reader’s interest and confidence with a well-formatted, immersing opening – if you clear this hurdle you are almost home.

As a retired developmental editor, my experience is that most book openings require at least a small amount of TLC. If I were an author nowadays, I’d certainly enlist a developmental editor to spruce up my opening chapter (even without an entire synopsis) or at the very least get a few writer friends to give me a bit of tough love, and suggest where to tighten it. The good thing is that, nowadays, editors often give a free sample edit on request, so you get their input and the option to employ them further.

As for the formatting, if you are not proficient in this art it can take long hours to learn the foibles and produce an ebook, with no guarantee it will be fully functional or a professional-looking job once uploaded. If you earn more than $5 per hour it makes sense to pay circa $50 for epub and Kindle formatting combined, and around the same for paperback interior design.

But if you are keen to learn the art there is no reason to be put off doing it yourself, providing you expect a few glitches along the way.

The ebook revolution has made it easy to upload a newly formatted book file to replace any existing versions you have up for sale that are not up to scratch or require new edits (I get quite a lot of back-number projects, and so can confirm its popularity).

Getting the ball rolling:

We are not there yet because the ball you are rolling will now roll into an insanely huge ball-pit, chock full of all the other hopeful balls vying for the readers’ attention. And tomorrow, a substantial load of new balls will cascade into this abyss. So sustained visibility is what you need to strive for, armed with your cover, your blurb, and the link to your sales page.

Author platforms can be useful, of course, but even a platform of 50,000 Twitter followers and/or 2,000 other social media friends will not provide that much traction (social media is also a vast ball-pit with millions of competing posts per hour rolling in).

Virtual Book Tours can be good for launches. Twitter Author Promotion services can be effective for introductory and sustained campaigns (but they need to have many hundreds of thousands of followers, and send out many tweets for clients per day to make a dent in the ever-expanding social media ball-pit).

Visibility. Visibility. Visibility. Once you get noticed you are already halfway there – if the other elements are neatly in place.

Thank you for reading this article.

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Self Editing 4 Fiction #1 ~ Intro

A lot has happened in the publishing industry over the last 25 years. The traditional industry has contracted due to competition from independently published authors (and the surreptitious surge into the publishing market by Amazon).

But even 20 years ago, publishers had (mainly) gravitated to being “printers”, in that they no longer provided their authors with editing services – perhaps a proofread, but authors had to edit for themselves and/or hire freelance editors to ensure their novels reached full potential.

And now we have ePub.

We have technology and communications that have reduced the editing fees of freelancers by more than half (think MS word ‘track changes’ tools rather than printed-out manuscripts edited redline style; e-mail rather than snail mail). Nowadays, editors can provide a good (much faster) service for as little as $10-15 per thousand words if the manuscript they deal with is in reasonable shape.

Reasonable shape.

Which is why self editing is important even if you intend to employ an editor to polish your work – the quotation you receive will be in direct proportion to the time the freelancer estimates it will take to complete the work. Also, the end result will sparkle more brightly as a consequence.

And even if you are still at the plotting stage, the tricks and tips you will learn in the series will be well worth reading before you begin to write (prevention is better/easier than cure).

Of course, many writers cannot afford an editor, but that doesn’t mean their end result will suffer unduly – the trick is to learn to think like an editor; learn the artifices and apply them (invisibly) to your work.

Which is the object of this series. I will format the advice in the same style as one of my old favourite books written for authors who intend to self edit: Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. Twenty years on, and the book is still the best all-round guide for new authors, in my opinion.


Firstly, please remember that the guidance given comprises general principles only; there are no rules to writing but it pays to know the general principles before deviating from them as an experienced writer.

Are you ready to edit? This is the most important question.

“Do I feel happy with it?” is the first filter to apply.

In a perfect world one would put the manuscript away for at least a few months and peruse it with fresh eyes. But perhaps that’s not viable, maybe the premise will be out of fashion or whatever – things move so much faster with ePub.

Did you rush the ending? I’m asking this because over the years I have encountered a lot of rushed endings. You know who you are – now go back and fill it out properly…

Have you tied up all loose ends? Look, I invested a lot of time at Uncle Ernie’s bedside after he dived in front of that bus to save the MC – you could at least tell me what happened to him…

Once these questions are addressed, you are ready to move on to the next (more informative) article: the good old “Show not Tell”, although with a more flexible approach than that of the Style Police.

Thank you for reading this article.

Whenever you want to promote your current or new books, why not use the number one affordable, premium Tweeting Service, which reaches a network of over 1 MILLION readers. Visit to find out more and see their latest offers and giveaways.

Other Self Editing articles:

Self editing 4 fiction #7 ~ Interior Monologue
Self editing 4 fiction #8 ~ Master of the Beat
Self editing 4 fiction #9 ~ Sophistication

Top Typo-busting Tips

Using “Find and Replace” in Word is a useful tool for identifying common typos and homophones and formatting nits. All writers have their “pet nits” and it advisable to keep a list of your own so that you can run a check for them before the final edit. It’s much easier to spot a particular typo by searching through the document than reading it as a proofreader (the brain has an auto-correct facility, which is why proofreading is so much more difficult than one imagines.)

To instigate a nit search in Word, press the F5 key on your keyboard to get the Find and Replace window up:

Type in the search word and keep pressing the “Find Next” button until you have searched the whole document. You can also type the correct spelling into the “Replace” field, which is very useful if you decide to change a character’s name, for example.

This may seem rather tedious but it's well worth the couple of hours it takes, particularly if you are unsure of a word spelling. For example, “baited breath” is wrong “bated breath” is right – so look up any spellings you are unsure of in a dictionary, then add them to your search.

Below is a common nit/homophone check list – followed by a couple of tricks for spotting missing periods and uppercase errors in he said/she said dialogue tags (He said is wrong because the sentence has yet to end) and also how to fix “Yes Sir.” etc. to “Yes, sir.” (notice the added address comma as well).

advice advise
affect effect
aid aide
alter altar
an and
ball *bawl (*cry or shout)
bare bear
base bass
bated baited
begun began
birth berth
born borne (usually born)
brake break
breath breathe
breech breach broach
cant can't
chose choose
clamor clamber (ed) (ing)
compliment complement (ary) (ed)
conflicting conflicted
cord chord
council counsel
course coarse
creak creek
currant current
decent descent
de rigor = de rigeur
desert dessert (it's just deserts, not just desserts)
discreet discrete (ly)
disinterested uninterested
dominate dominant
draft draught drought
draw drawer (drawer is furniture-related noun)
dual duel
dye die
each other *one another (*more than two)
elicit illicit
elude allude
exited excited
fair fare fear (ed)
flair flare
forbid forbade
form from
forward *foreword (*introduction in a book)
four for fir fourth forth
hanger hangar
hoard horde
hurtled hurled
if of or
its it's
jam jamb
knight night
know known
lay lie laid
leach leech
led lead
lessen lesson
lets let's
lightning lightening
lose loose
main man mainly manly
meat meet mete
mined mind
miner minor
misled mislead
mother lode (not mother load or motherload)
nit knit
of off
our out
pail pale (it's beyond the pale)
pair pear pare
palate pallet
past passed
peak peek
pedal peddle
pour pore poor
principle principal
profit prophet
queue cue
quit quite quiet
rack wrack (ed-ing) (nearly always rack)
rained reigned
raise raze
ran run rub
retch wretch
rode road rose rise ride
roll role
safe-deposit box - not safety
sang sung
she he
shear sheer
sigh sign
site sight (and cite)
slight sleight
spilt split
stationery stationary
straight *strait (*narrow water channel or difficulty--usu. pl)
Styrofoam (insulation block) polystyrene (cup)
suite suit
team teem
the they
their there they're
then than that
though thought through tough
to too two
vain vein vane
*vise vice (*clamping device - U.S. usage)
wet whet (it's whet your appetite)
where were we're
who whom
who's whose
wrung rung rang
your you're

F5 searches: To find and replace hyphens for en dashes: type into the “Find” field: a space a hyphen and a space and type into the “Replace” field: a space, then select “en dash” from the “Special” menu and then type in another space. It is advisable to click through using the “Find Next” button and replace them as you go through rather than all at once. You can also type in a space then ^= then another space as can be seen in the picture below.

The same can be done to replace double hyphens, usually with an em dash: type in two hyphens in the “Find” field and select em dash in the “Replace” field (or type: ^+).

To find He said She said uppercase errors use the “Match case” checkbox as in the picture below *but remember to uncheck this box for other searches*.

Use “Match case” to find uppercase errors of the term “sir”, which should almost always be in lower case, Type in: Sir – at the same time check for missing address commas, which are common in short dialogue; e.g. “Yes, sir.” is correct, not “Yes sir.”

Missing periods at the end of paragraphs are common and hard to spot; in the "Find" field, select "Any Letter" and "Paragraph Mark" from the "Special" menu, or type in ^$^p and search for them using the "Find Next" button.

Missing periods and commas at the end of dialogue: We have to make two searches ("Find Next") to identify these. To find them in the middle of paragraphs, type:  ^$" and a space character into the "Find" field.

To find them at the end of paragraphs type: ^$"^p 

The former search will also identify quotation-type instances (e.g. John said I was "fussifying" things but I was just being careful) so care should be taken. These two searches will not work if you use single speech marks.

Missing spaces after commas and periods:

To find missing spaces after periods, type into "Find":  ^$.^$ (or Any Letter then a period then Any Letter if using the "Special" menu).

To find missing spaces after commas, type into "Find":  ^$,^$ (or Any Letter then a comma then Any Letter if using the "Special" menu).

Compound number nits are common (e.g. twenty three should read twenty-three) and the way to check for these is to type: twenty and then a space character in the "Find" field; this will make them easy to spot (follow up with thirty thru ninety).

Backwards speech marks after dialogue intervention en or em dashes are common because Word requires that the closing speech mark is added *before* the en/em dash is inserted: e.g.:

“Sorry, James, but–“

“Sorry, James, but

To find these for en dashes, type ^="^p into the "Find" field (or use the "Special" menu to select the en dash and paragraph mark) and for em dashes, type: ^="^p

Once we find and fix the first occurrence in the search (by adding the closing speech mark first, and then backspacing to add the en/em dash) we can copy it (Ctrl and C) and paste it (Ctrl and V) over any following reversed speech marks that occur as we use the "Find Next" button to identify them.

For advanced users of Find/Replace there is a trick to do it globally:

First, check there are no # characters in the document, if not, type into the "Find" field either the en or em dash characters and a speech mark and a paragraph mark: ^="^p or ^+"^p and replace with: #"^p

We then select the "Replace All" option.

The next step is to replace all the # characters we just put in with an en/em dash: put a # character into the "Find" field and an en/em dash into the "Replace" field (^= or ^+)

We then select the "Replace All" option.

I hope this article is of use to you, and if you have any tips of your own please leave them in the Comments box (or any other common typos you are aware of).

To clean up formatting nits, please see our Eradicate Manuscript Nits article first, which will result in a more accurate search of all of the above, and also our Layout Tips article, which has a free Word template download that is Kindle/epub friendly.

Thank you for reading this article.

Whenever you want to promote your current or new books, why not use the number one affordable, premium Tweeting Service, which reaches a network of over 1 MILLION readers. Visit to find out more and see their latest offers and giveaways.