In Your Corner: Common Spelling Mistakes & How To Avoid Them

typo errors spelling mistakes

Have you ever made a spelling mistake?

Well, you’re human (probably), so I’m going to guess that you have. I definitely have. Just the other day, a friend went through a chapter of my latest manuscript and pointed out at least five typos and other errors which had slipped entirely by me.

So, how do we avoid these pesky little guys, spelling mistakes?

The first step is to recognize them for what they are: your brain being highly efficient, not deficient. Research indicates that typos and other errors rarely come from a lack of knowledge or training, but rather from the brain being focused on something else, like narrative, plot, characters, time management, and so on and so forth. These are higher order processes, really quite sophisticated, and as such they take a lot of brain power which otherwise might be spent looking for other things, like typos. Your brain is a beautiful and efficient thing, with certain priorities it doesn’t always share with you, but that’s okay. Just … don’t kick yourself too hard for each typo your friends catch when they read your manuscript. (Yes, I tell myself this, too. Every day.)

The second step is to know which mistakes are the most common. That way, you’ll be–yes–more efficient at catching them. There are struggles that come from words being similar in shape and sound but having different meanings, like foreword and forward. This is called a homophone error. One implies direction (forward) and one is a structural component of a book which serves as a preface or introductory note, usually including the “whys” and “wherefores” of the thing. Complimentary and complementary are also homophones. One means to deliver praise (complimentary) and one means to accessorize well or that one thing works well with another, as in complementary colors. These kinds of errors are what Google was invented for; never be ashamed to look up a word if you’re afraid you might not be catching all of its nuances!

Other common errors include trouble with suffixes and morphemes (substituting “-able” and “-ible” or “-ance” and “-ence”), defying the so-called ‘laws’ of spelling (i before e except after c, u always follows q, et cetera), mixing up how to pluralize tricky words ending in f or y, and composing adverbs. These are common struggles, particularly for people who did not learn English as their first language, and the only way to improve on these is to keep writing. A lot. And to keep a reference guide on hand, like this Business Insider article on these language acquisition-related errors. And again, don’t feel shame about hopping on Google for these.

The third step is to fix the errors yourself, if you can. Don’t rely on spell check for this, since Microsoft Word and other word processors rarely understand nuance, or know how a whole sentence fits together and which words do not fit. (Sometimes it will highlight perfectly acceptable sentences as grammatically broken, and not highlight sentences which need some work.) You should always proofread your work, but you want to make sure you do this after you finish getting all of the ideas out of your head. Some people prefer to set aside five or ten minutes after each daily writing session for this process, but the ideal time is after the whole manuscript is done and you can sit down and do it all at once. That way, you won’t struggle with continuity issues. Also, it’s just … more efficient! Keep a reliable resource to hand–something more comprehensive than that BI article, like the Chicago Manual of Style (there are pocket editions) or the Associated Press Style Book. I really like the MLA Pocket Style Manual, which is what I used in college. They’re updated every couple of years, these resources, so update your collection appropriately.

The fourth and final step is knowing when to let go. As in, when it will be more useful and efficient to place your manuscript into the hands of a professional editor. Trust me, this is no easy decision! The tendency is to feel resentment, or fear that the editor will change the material substance of your work in a way that will make it … less yours. But that’s not what editors are for, much less copyeditors, the professionals who dedicate their lives to examining other peoples’ writing on the sentence level. Know the difference before you go in–we’ve written about editors vs. copyeditors here on SPA before–and choose accordingly. But do choose! Friends and family make for excellent first readers, but you really do need that trained eye on your work if you want to catch the peskiest of all errors, because your readers will find (and mind) them even if your friends and family don’t.

Writing is hard. Finding errors is harder still. But …

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

Marketing Missteps Episode 2: Confusing the Sales Message with the Marketing Campaign

Those of you who have been following my Wednesday posts here on Self Publishing Advisor for a while will probably have picked up on a couple of my habits by now, and one of them is diving into series that examine the many facets of an issue under a microscope.  I like to see every angle, follow every lead, and to be thorough.  Which is why, in continuing this new series that began with last week’s post on the subject of “Marketing Missteps” I want to do full justice to the heart of the matter.

What, then, is the heart of marketing?

This is the question that has rightfully dominated boardroom discussions at the top traditional publishing houses as well as the living rooms and kitchens and offices of thousands of entrepreneurial independent authors’ homes. Marketing, when push comes to shove, is about raising both awareness about and motivated interest in your product.  And by “motivated interest,” I mean the kind of interest that leads to product sales.  But note one thing: the sales come after the awareness.  To push for sales with a mercenary if understandable motive is, as an author, to do both your book and your readers a disservice.

To prioritize sales above the human being on the other end of the Facebook group, the email listserv, the Twitter feed, the phone line, the book signing table, and the Goodreads book page is to declare your financial gain to be more important than quality human communication, and art.  Readers, like everyone else in the market for new acquisitions, have a sixth sense about pushy and over-eager sellers.  And here’s a fact:

Your readers want you to be a storyteller, not the stereotype of a used-car salesman.

sales

So, what does “pushy” look like and how can you avoid it?

Many first-time self-publishing authors release a book accompanied by persistent announcements across all social media platforms––and not just cute little notices, but noisy and self-interested announcements.  (And if you’ll remember, we talked about the self-centered marketing campaign last week in detail.)  Marketing is a more subtle endeavor than a Sears Factory Clearance ad, however.  You are entering a crowded market––with around five hundred thousand new books released each year––with every other entry clamoring for readers to spend money.  When you as an indie author begin shouting into the void, cramming shotgun marketing messages into every available Tweet and post and picture and conversation––well, you do nothing but damage.  You have become part of the background noise readers must filter through every day, in search of a story they actually connect with.

And how not to become yet another unheard voice?  Lead with your wit and your humanity.  Look to the authors you admire on social media and their blogs and elsewhere––how much space do they dedicate to explicitly sales-related messaging?  I guarantee you it’s not much.  Instead of constantly pushing links to sales pages, the successful self-publishing author and marketer is increasing the value proposition of both their own personal brand––as an author and person––as well as the value proposition of the their work (published and ongoing).

We’ve mentioned it many times before and elsewhere that the best marketing strategy is to write another book and to talk about that process instead of constantly pushing sales for an already published book––readers will have their interest piqued by a work still in progress in a way they won’t be by something they can simply hop on to Amazon or Goodreads to read detailed reviews about.  The mystery of an unfinished novel is an incredible asset!  Whatever else you do, don’t stop writing––offline.

Don’t confuse sales messaging with a healthy and engaged marketing campaign.  Do remember how you first fell in love with a book, an author, and filling your bookshelves.  That is the kind of positive impulse that you want to tap into.

sales


Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com. 10:00 AM

Marketing Missteps Episode 1: The Self-Centered Campaign

You’re a self-publishing author, recently come out with a new book, and you’ve already decided to throw yourself into marketing in a serious capacity.  So what next?  Finding that starting point is a tough first act, but it’s always helpful to know a couple of false starts that others have made before you, isn’t it?  That way, at least you know a couple of places not to start, and you can find a path to success that fits your own indie experience, bolstering your skills and steering clear of your weaknesses.

Today, I’m going to begin a new series that will take a close look at several of the most important marketing missteps to avoid; the story doesn’t end here, of course, but hopefully this series will prompt you away from the edge of a few abysses.  One or two of the mistakes I’ll point out may strike you as “common sense” points, but as my dad once whispered to ten-year-old me on a sidewalk corner facing a four-way stop in heavy traffic where nobody could quite figure out the correct right-of-way: “Common sense ain’t so common now, is it?”  Even if a mistake strikes you as obvious, every reminder is a good one!

This week’s post is going to examine one of the most pernicious of all marketing missteps: that of the self-centered campaign.  At its simplest distillation, the self-centered campaign will alienate you from your readers quicker than a ten-year-old at a traffic stop.  Why?  Because readers are smart.  (I find it’s a wise policy to always assume my readers are smarter than I am, and they always seem to notice even the tiniest of continuity errors in my work before I do!)  They will pick up on the arrogance–intentional or unconscious–of an author who makes their marketing campaign all about his or her excellence instead of shining the spotlight on the real stars of the show: the book itself, and the readers who have so cleverly fallen in love with it.

arrogance in marketing

Here’s a hard fact to swallow: Your readers won’t always care about you, the author.  You might be able to persuade them to, a little, over time, simply by virtue of writing excellent social media posts or demonstrating sensitivity to others.  One crucial misunderstanding that self-publishing authors make is believing that they and their readers value the same things.  Hopefully, your readers will care about your humanity and the work you produce, but beyond that is murky waters.  How do we un-murkify them?  By doing the work.  By doing the research.  By figuring out what you do for your readers that no one else can.

To successfully market your indie book, don’t sell the customer your product (or book) … sell them your solution to their needs.  What issues interest your readers?  What subjects compel them?  These are the basic components with which you can build a successful marketing campaign.

Market research, even basic, is more than just helpful.  It’s necessary.  It is the one magical ingredient that will move your strategy away from something self-centered and toward something that is product- and consumer-centered.

But how to get there?  What are the best strategies for research?  One consideration might be to craft a simple survey with SurveyMonkey, or to poll a small focus group.  I recommend steering clear of using friends or family as focus group members, since their personal connections to you will skew how they answer.  And besides, online crowd-sourcing platforms like the aforementioned SurveyMonkey (as well as Facebook Groups and Google Forms) make for an inexpensive replacement for focus groups.  What you ask depends on what you find useful, but it might be worth crafting a few questions that speak to your readers’ genres of interest, the amount of time they spend reading or on social media, and how they like best to engage with fellow fans and their favorite authors.

Whichever avenue you pursue, these basic data-gathering methods should give you new insight into your readers, and help you shape your marketing message to focus less on you and more on the them.


Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com. 10:00 AM

6 Self-Publishing Don’ts

Unfortunately, some people have a negative perception of self publishing. This is because some self-publishing authors make detrimental mistakes that prevent their books from being taken seriously. If you want to be seen as a professional author with a successful book, be sure to avoid these six self-publishing don’ts:

1. Don’t attempt to create print-ready files if you don’t already possess that particular skill set.

You’re a writer; not a book designer.  Leave this task to the professionals and focus your time on writing and promoting your book.

2. Don’t skip the professional copyediting.

No matter how great of a writer you are, you cannot edit your own work! It is too easy to miss mistakes because you are too familiar with your work. This task requires a professional.  It is worth paying for professional editing services .

3. Don’t skip the custom cover design.

Most readers judge a book by its cover, so having an eye-catching, quality cover that professionally represents your book is essential. Most template covers will look and feel like a cookie cutter design, even if you make small changes to it.  Invest in a professionally designed, dynamic custom cover unique to your book.

4. Don’t forget the back cover text.

Once you are ready to self-publish your book,  one of the first things you’ll be asked for is your back cover synopsis and author biography. Don’t just throw something together without much thought!  Readers will look at this and determine whether or not they should buy your book.

5. Don’t rush.

Sure, you are excited to self-publish your book, but don’t rush. Producing a quality book  takes time. Be patient now, and you will be glad you did once you have a book to be proud of.

6. Don’t give up.

Some authors get so overwhelmed by all the options available to them when choosing a self-publishing company that they just give up. That doesn’t have to be you. Do your research, spend some time thinking about the decision, and then trust your gut. Don’t let fear stop you.

There are many great self publishing success stories! You can be one of them by avoiding these mistakes.

ABOUT JODEE THAYER: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Jodee Thayer works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable customer service reps and publishing consultants; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process in order to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Jodee Thayer can put you on the right path.

Self-Publishing, A Trick or Treat

I’ll end the month this week with the pros and cons of self-publishing, so you can decide if self-publishing is a trick or a treat. Be sure to check out the previous posts about spooky self-publishing statistics, why authors are scared to self-publish, and how to scare away readers.

Pros

  • Freedom of expression — You have complete control over the content of your book. You don’t have to edit your manuscript to meet the opinions of a traditional publisher.
  • You control how your book looks – Everything from the cover to the interior formatting is in your hands. With traditional publishers, authors usually have no say in these decisions.
  • You set your own price — It can be as low or high as you would like, depending on your target audience and goals. Again, this decision is usually not given to the author when working with traditional publishers.
  • You receive 100% of your royalties — There’s no middleman stealing your profits.

Cons

  • No one critiques your manuscript — How can you be sure your story is “worth reading”? You can hire professional editors to review your book, test your manuscript on a group of readers, or ask trusted friends, family, and colleagues for feedback.
  • You don’t have to edit your manuscript — A messy manuscript turns into a poorly-written book that very few people (if any) will want to read. You can choose to hire an editor to prevent this from happening.
  • You control your book’s design — This is great if you’re a designer but not so great if you have limited graphic skills. Again, you may want to hire a professional to help you.

While self-publishing isn’t for everyone, it is a great option for many writers. Only you can decide what is best for you. Talk to other writers. Learn about the industry. Research publishers. Educate yourself, and then trust your decision.

ABOUT JODEE THAYER: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Jodee Thayer works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable customer service reps and publishing consultants; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process in order to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Jodee Thayer can put you on the right path.

How to Scare Away Readers

Happy October, everyone! In honor of this month, I’ll be sharing Halloween-themed posts each week. Be sure to check out the previous posts about spooky self-publishing statistics and why authors are scared to self-publish. This week, I’ll talk about things that will scare away readers and how to avoid these mistakes.

1) Typos and poor grammar

While even books published by big name traditional publishers occasionally have mistakes, readers expect books to be near flawless. If your manuscript is full of typos and grammar mistakes, readers will not take you or your book seriously, no matter how great your story. It is difficult to review your own manuscript, so I always recommend hiring a professional copyeditor.

2) A poorly developed story

Sometimes authors get rushed to meet a deadline or lose track of the direction of their book. If elements such as plot, characters, setting, organization, and voice aren’t properly developed, your book will leave readers disappointed. Since you are attached to your story and know in your mind how it is supposed to read, it is always best to have someone else review your story. Consider hiring a developmental editor or ask trustworthy friends, family, and colleagues to provide feedback.

3) A generic cover

Despite the cliché “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover,” readers decide whether or not to purchase a book based on the cover. Rather than using stock photos or artwork, I highly recommend spending extra for a personalized book cover that is professional and that captures the essence of your book.

I’d love to know, what scared you away from a book?

ABOUT JODEE THAYER: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Jodee Thayer works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable customer service reps and publishing consultants; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process in order to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Jodee Thayer can put you on the right path.

What Not to Do When Self-Publishing

There are a few things that separate successful self-publishing authors and could-have-been-successful self-published authors. If you want your book to succeed, avoid these common mistakes.

1. Formatting

There are specific requirements for properly formatting your book. Authors who try to do the formatting themselves may be disappointed with how their book turns out. To ensure your book is formatted properly, enlist the help of your self-publishing company. They will tell you exactly what to do and provide assistance to make sure the formatting is done right.

2. Front Cover

You may be tempted to save money by using a template cover. This can be very costly to your success. Despite the cliché “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover,” most readers do! You want a unique, professionally designed cover that captures the essence of your book and encourages readers to buy it.

3. Editing

Another area authors often try to save money is editing. They think that self-editing is the best option, but even the best writers can’t rely on self-editing. It’s just not possible to catch all of the mistakes and issues when you are so attached to the project. Always have a professional editor review your manuscript before publishing to ensure your book is the best it can be. Too many mistakes can be costly to your reputation as a professional author.

4. Back Cover

The back cover is just as important as the front cover! Do not rush through this step. The back cover helps hook the reader and plays a role in online search results. A professional copywriter and editor can help make your back cover copy great.

5. Time

Do not rush! I know self-publishing is exciting and I know it’s important to many authors to have their books published by a certain date, but successful authors know the importance of taking their time to do it right. Spend time revising your manuscript. Put a lot of thought into the title and cover art. Be patient enough to allow an editor to review your book. Spend time planning your marketing strategy. While I don’t want you to get so caught up in making everything perfect that you never finish your project, I don’t want you to rush the process and regret the quality of the book you produced.

ABOUT JODEE THAYER: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Jodee Thayer works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable customer service reps and publishing consultants; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process in order to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Jodee Thayer can put you on the right path.