Thursday, August 27, 2015

"Write Like an Author & Think Like a Reader" originally posted by Mick Rooney on

It happens a lot. Three, maybe four times a week. Mostly I try to ignore it, but it’s not always easy. Most online magazines and blog sites to do with writing or publishing experience it. Some might simply call it spam. I don’t. Most spam comes from people (or robots) who target websites irrespective of content and deliberately deposit comments about how to get hold of cheap Gucci handbags, medicines or aids to address penile dysfunction. Some of this kind of outright spam manage the remarkable feat of saying absolutely nothing in 50 to 100 words while depositing the deadly link at the bottom of the comment. They may all have their merits on the right website and for the right audience (if you just happen to be looking for a Gucci handbag and also have problems in the bedroom department), but this is not quite the spam I’m referring to. I’m talking about so-called ‘book promotion’ perpetrated by inept self-published authors who don’t know the difference between marketing and squatting.
The spam I’m talking about was never intended to be spam, but it is the equivalent of wrapping the content or back cover copy of your book in a garbage bag and (literally, ahem!) dumping it in your neighbour’s front garden in the hope that they will take the time to open the bag, sift through the ruminants of yesterday’s dinner and soiled diapers to discover your magnum opus.
I call this kind of author promotion — the literary heist! It’s like running into your local Laundromat, slapping down your latest novel on the counter, and yelling, ‘read it, I’ll be back to collect in a few days.’ You are pretty unlikely to win any new friends or readers, and you can be certain you will be washing your clothes at home (washing machine or no washing machine) for years to come. The literary heist has no place in any marketing strategy for a book.
I get the fact that it is tough for self-published authors to get the word out about their new books, but just like the Laundromat, directly sending me details about your book or posting the back cover copy into the comments section of TIPM is unlikely to capture potential buyers and readers of your book. The TIPM audience is unlikely to be the audience for your book. Now, if your book is about self-publishing, the publishing industry or some related area, then I may very well be interested in reviewing it or drawing some attention to it. But even if your book is up my street and something I might want to feature on TIPM; pitch me, explain to me why my readers here will want to read your book, offer to write a guest post and share something of why you decided to write the book. Like any kind of query or submission, it might be a good idea to find out my name. It’s not difficult to find here, and emails I receive beginning with ‘Hi’ or ‘Hey’ (and to any editor) are usually followed by circular content sent out to tens, hundreds or even thousands of recipients.
Some subtle and constructive things to do and think about that will help make people aware of your book without spamming:
  • Use an email linked to your author/book website and ensure the signature features a thumbnail of your book cover, a ten word hook line and buy link.
  • Make sure you have a Goodreads account.
  • Use your social media accounts to provide readers with information and value — don’t just use them as ‘buy, buy, buy’ loudspeakers.
  • Free is fine sometimes, not all the time!
  • Your readers are the best promoters of your book — encourage them to discuss your book and post reviews.
  • Build a subscription list of readers instead of cold spamming non-readers — respect that not everybody wants to read your book.
  • Most writers love to read, but not all readers love to write — your audience are readers, not other authors!
  • Write like an author and think like a reader when you market your book.

"Five Common Grammar Mistakes to Avoid in Business Writing" originally posted on

Person working with laptop and coffee cup on a wood floor by Ivan Kruk

Maybe you’re a small business owner or an entrepreneur, or maybe you’re a finance whiz or a tech genius. No matter where you work or what you do, everyone needs to know how to write effectively for business these days. And yes, that includes paying attention to grammar.
“But wait,” you protest. “I’m not a stodgy English professor. Who cares if I mix up ‘their’ and ‘there’?”
You should care, because good grammar is tantamount to credibility. It’s likely that you spend a lot of time communicating with others, especially in writing, at your job. Your written words are an extension of you, and there’s no quicker way to look sloppy and careless than to send professional correspondence riddled with grammatical errors.
We spoke to Mignon Fogarty, creator of Grammar Girl and author ofGrammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing, to get some clarity and insight into why we make certain grammatical mistakes and how we can easily avoid them. Here are five common mistakes to avoid in business writing:
1. “I” vs. “me”
These types of sentences are often seen in business e-mails, but they’re wrong:
  • Thanks for meeting Steven and I for lunch yesterday.
  • Please send the latest files to John and I.
Me is such a tiny word, yet people seem terrified to use it.
“As children, we’re often corrected when we say something like, ‘Christina and me are going the store.’ And mom will remind us for the hundredth time that it should be ‘Christina and I,'” says Fogarty. “Some people think that those corrections cause us to internalize the message that ‘and me’ is always wrong. Remember: there’s nothing wrong with ‘me.’ It’s the pronoun you want in the object position or after a preposition.”
Here’s a fast, simple trick to always get it right: just take out the other person in the sentence and see how it sounds. Would you ever say, “Thanks for meeting I for lunch yesterday”? Nope! You’d say, “Thanks for meeting me for lunch yesterday,” so you should use “me.”
Correct sentences:
  • Thanks for meeting Steven and me for lunch yesterday.
  • Please send the latest files to John and me.
2. i.e. vs. e.g.
i.e. and e.g. are both abbreviations for Latin terms that are confused with each other. Many people think they mean the same thing and are interchangeable, but they’re actually different.
i.e. is Latin for id est, which means “that is.” You can think of it as meaning “in essence,” or “in other words.” It either offers more information or paraphrases the idea in a clearer way.
On the other hand, e.g. stands forexempli gratia, which means “for example” in Latin. Use this when you want to provide a list of examples.
Here are sentences that illustrate the difference:
  • Our bounce rate is pretty high, i.e., visitors are exiting our website quickly and don’t seem interested in our content.
  • We use several important marketing metrics, e.g., bounce rate, time on site, and number of unique visitors.
3. Dangling participles
“You can think of a participle as simply an ‘-ing’ phrase, and they’re usually caught dangling at the beginning of a sentence. They should apply to the word that comes next,” says Fogarty. However, when they modify the wrong noun in the sentence, you can end up with some awkward and confusing sentences.
For example:
  • Bubbling quickly on the countertop, the investors were impressed by the new coffee machine.
This sentence says that the investors were bubbling quickly on the countertop, which makes no sense.
Instead you would want to say:
  • Bubbling quickly on the countertop, the new coffee machine impressed the investors.
4. “Use” vs. “utilize”
Good writing means that you shouldn’t use a long word where a short, simple one will do. Many people write “utilize” in business emails and memos because they think it sounds fancy, impressive, and intelligent. But it’s actually needless, overblown jargon. “Use” is a perfectly good word and works just as well.
According to Fogarty, “‘Utilize’ has some specific, appropriate uses. Biological organisms are properly said to ‘utilize’ nutrients. If you’re a general writer, however, it’s usually best to stick with ‘use.’”
5. Unnecessary apostrophes
Many people often add unnecessary apostrophes to sentences. This sentence, for example, is chock-full of them:
  • That company’s presentation is full of great idea’s, and it get’s right to the point of it’s strategy — you’ll love it.
Apostrophes should be used to show possession (company’s presentation) and contractions (you’ll). But don’t use the apostrophe with an “s” to make regular nouns plural (ideas, not idea’s), and don’t use it with verbs (gets,not get’s).
“I suspect we’re tempted to use apostrophes when we shouldn’t because we’re programmed in elementary school to link apostrophes with possessives. It’s more complicated than that though,” says Fogarty. “You only use apostrophes to make nouns possessive. Pronouns, such as ‘it’ and ‘they,’ don’t take apostrophes to become possessive. Instead, they have different forms: ‘its’ and ‘their.'”
Everything you write, no matter how mundane, creates an impression of you to the reader. Small details do make a difference. Poor writing not only hurts your credibility, but it also signals negative communication abilities to your investors, employees, vendors, and customers.
By avoiding these five common grammatical mistakes in your business writing — whether it’s in emails, letters, presentations, proposals, or memos — you’ll bolster your credibility and become a much more effective communicator.
Photo at the top by Ivan Kruk

Monday, August 24, 2015

Anyone need a cheap agent?!

"The Minimalist’s Guide to Becoming a Better Writer" originally posted by Demian Farnworth on

From my position writing seems simple. You read, you write, you critique. What’s missing from that simple equation is the hard work.
It took me over fifteen years or longer to arrive here. And I’m still learning. Still growing. Portions of writing get easier, but I still have my challenges. Yet, if you love what you do, time will fly. I promise.
Yet, don’t waste time.
So, if you like simple, but want simple explained (I don’t care what we are talking about — there are always nuances to be teased out of “simple”), then here’s a cheat sheet to guide you in your journey to becoming a great writer. Enjoy.


Writers love to read. And there’s two ways to do that.
  • Read deep. Great writers master their craft. They are not satisfied with understanding the fundamentals. They want to master those basics, and they are always looking to upgrade their talent. Sharpen your saw by reading — and re-reading — classics like The Elements of Style,Bird by Bird. Then work through a list of books that focus on the art of writing: How to Write a Sentence or Advertising Secrets of the Written Word.
  • Read wide. A massive store of ideas, metaphors, peculiar words, superb opening lines, sublime closing ones, and stories will satisfy the monster known as creativity. Read biographies, science fiction, commentaries. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Read the old before the new. You will learn from it all. None of it will go to waste. And the only trajectory you should follow is your interest.


The more, the merrier.
  • First drafts. A whole slew of writing fits into here. Your journal, premature ideas, emails never sent, pages of a favorite story you copy by hand. This is the portion of the iceberg under the water. The words that will never see the light of the day. Your spring training. Daily workouts. The stepping stones toward perfection.
  • Revisions. About one tenth of what you write must see the light of day. You must deliver something if you want to be regarded as a professional. And what you deliver must be honed. Trimmed. Rewritten. This is where the men are separated from the boys. The women from the girls.
  • Copy. Take a page from your favorite author and copy it by hand. Copy it by laptop. Germane to this practice, memorize well-written poems and paragraphs. Absorb their style.
  • Everything Else. Obsess about writing. Find opportunities to write when you cannot write. Need to make a call? Create a script. Need to deliver a speech? Write a draft. Email friends and family. Dust off posts on Google+, Twitter, or Facebook. Focus on a planned and purposeful neglect of everything else but writing.


Perhaps the most potent element in becoming a better writer is constructive criticism. It’s the objective measure you need to help correct your mistakes. It’s not easy, so humble yourself. Grin and bear it. In time you will develop your own sense of objective criticism. But never abandon bouncing ideas off others. We can always grow.
  • Friends. Run your copy by an honest friend who shoots straight from the hip. Avoid the perennial cheerleader.
  • Critique Groups. Join a group of writers with a slight mix of talent to avoid constant frustration. Listen to the feedback no matter who is giving it: beginner or pro. Evaluate everything they say. Keep the good, dismiss the bad.
  • Professionals. Mentors guide you with specific, strategic direction.
  • Metrics. Pay attention to how people are reacting to your content. Are people reading it? Commenting on it? Sharing it? Is your content driving traffic? Showing up in search engines? Subscribers joining?
  • Self Examination. In time you will acquire the ability to judge your own work — to distinguish the best, the worst and the mediocre. You will have ample amounts of the latter two. Be ruthless. No free lunch.
  • Publication. Submit to traditional and online journals. Send your work to literary agents. Package a work as an ebook and release it. Measure the response.
By the way, when you feel confident, join a group, committee, or company where you are the dumbest writer in the room. Let the talent and the competition spur you to new heights.