Helpful Tips

Tip of the Day: Don’t be cheap with your book cover.

It may sound like obvious advice, but you will be surprised at how many choose not to listen to it. If you are self-publishing, you need to be prepared to put money into your book cover. The cover will be the first thing that people see. Hence, it needs to be eye-catching, but in a good way. If your book cover looks cheap, people will instantly assume that you didn’t take the time to edit your writing before publishing. However, if you have a professional looking cover, then they might actually stop long enough to look at the blurb. There are many graphic designers out there who produce beautiful covers for a reasonable price. Ask other writers as to who they recommend.
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Helpful Tips

Tip of the Day: Writing is like art — filled with subjective opinions.

It’s often difficult to remember that writing is actually just another form of art. There is a reason it’s called creative writing. What one person loves, another will hate.  The writers that try to please everyone will drive themselves crazy in the attempt. But this subjectivity goes for the professionals in the industry too. Just because an agent/publisher has turned down your beloved manuscript doesn’t necessarily mean that there is anything wrong with your manuscript. It just means that they weren’t as passionate about it as you are and hence didn’t feel that they could best represent that story. One should always remember this in any dealings about your manuscript. At the end of the day, there is only one person that you need to make 100% happy with what you have written: yourself. Your name is attached to that story. Make it a story that you’re proud of.
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Helpful Tips

Tip of the Day: Have a marketing strategy for your book.

Whether you are self-publishing or traditionally publishing, you need a marketing strategy for your book. It’s not good enough to just post your book on Amazon and expect people to buy it. The “build it and they will come” philosophy only works for Kevin Costner. The exact strategy that you use will depend on your personality and goals. There is only one wrong answer: doing nothing.

By the way, marketing begins before your book is published and continues long afterward.
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Hidden Traps by Judy L Mohr (Coming Soon)

Working with Graphic Designers

My readers will know that I’m working toward the publication of Hidden Traps: A Writer’s Guide to Protecting Your Online Platform, due to be released August 2017. It’s been an interesting journey: revisiting my nonfiction writing roots; learning about ISBNs and publishing options; and devising marketing strategies. It has definitely been a steep learning curve. I have learnt many things along this journey, topics of which will become future blog posts, but there is one aspect that I thought was perfect to reveal now.

Graphic designers think in images.

Looking back at it now, it seems so logical, but at the time that I commissioned the cover for Hidden Traps, it was a concept that completely eluded me. I’m a writer and editor. I spend so much of my time looking at how to craft that perfect sentence to convey the right picture. I’ve commissioned artwork before, providing only a line from my stories and getting the perfect image in return. Surely, I can do the same for a cover.

I’ll hang my head in shame now, because clearly my words weren’t enough.

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Be a Good Reader of the Unpublished

There is a mantra among many writers: to be a good writer, you need to be a good reader. Many have taken this to mean that you need to read widely, reading every published book you can get your hands on. Some insist that you need to read at least a book a week while others spout that it’s one a month. However, is all that reading of the published works really doing your writing any good? Let me explain.

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We can tell you haven’t edited your book.

There are many out there now self-publishing. They’re decisions to head down this path have come about for a variety of reasons and there is nothing wrong with it. There have been many successful writers who have self-published, just as there has been many writers who have been traditionally published that bombed.

In some cases, writers elect to push for self-publishing because it’s the fastest way to get your book out there. For time-sensitive, non-fiction books, this is likely the path you’ll take. However, there is a HUGE difference between (1) producing a quality product that was self-published and (2) self-publishing because you want it out there.

In a previous post, I spoke about rushing the process. One flavor of the rush-the-process beast is the publish-without-editing variant.  Read More

To Oxford Comma or Not?

Before one can make the decision about whether they should use an Oxford comma or not, one must first understand what the Oxford comma is.

Consider a list with at least three different items: apples, oranges and bananas. If one was to use an Oxford comma, then the list would look like apples, oranges, and bananas. Notice the use of the comma before the and. However, you won’t always find a comma before the and. If the list has only two items, that list of apples and oranges wouldn’t use a comma.

Confusing, right?

Arguments about whether one should use an Oxford comma have been around for years. So many industry professionals have differing views. Even university academics in English literature can’t agree. So what is the writer who just wants to write their stories supposed to do?

The answer is easy: pick an option and stick to it.

Here’s the deal. If you are heading down the traditional publication road, whether or not you use an Oxford comma won’t be grounds for rejection. An agent might have their view, but the publishing house that buys your book will have their own guidelines regarding the matter. They’re the publisher and they make the final decision. The copy-editor on the project will make all the changes required based on the publisher’s chosen style guide.

If you are self-publishing, then the decision falls to you as the writer. You will need to discuss with your copy-editor what you would like to happen. It doesn’t matter whether the copy-editor likes them or not; if you don’t want them used, then don’t use them. If you leave the decision to your copy-editor, which many writers publishing their first books might do, then you still need to have this discussion with your editor. You need to know what style guide they used and what decisions were made regarding punctuation, like the Oxford comma.

Now, I can hear a few of you saying that you don’t really care. Well, you should. It’s your name on those books and those books form part of your brand. Consistency is the key, starting with your narrative voice and through to your covers. Even the simple, insignificant punctuation is part of that brand. What you do in one book, you need to do in all your books.

You may start your publication career using one copy-editor, but for a variety of reason, later books might employ a different copy-editor. For the sake of consistency, you need to know what your first editor did to your book so you can provide proper instructions to the new editor.

And for those writers who are working on collaborative projects, you need to talk to your co-writers. It needs to be a joint decision, whatever that decision might be.

It’s so complicated, I know, but it all adds to the end reader experience.

So should a writer use the Oxford comma? In the end, it really doesn’t matter. Just be consistent.

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© Copyright, Judy L Mohr 2016