I’ve been struggling with my words over the past few months. More specifically, the spelling of my words. As my manuscript approaches that scary, ever-looming publication date, I’ve had to take a long, hard look at the “brand” of English I use.
I’m a native Australian, and use language based on British (UK) spelling; however, as a peer pointed out to me, my book is being marketed on an American ebook site, and made the argument that American readers would jar a little with reading UK spellings and slang. Admittedly, some of the slang, which was mostly Australian-based, was probably a little vague for most, so I changed some of those terms. How many of you know what a demountable is? Or perhaps the definition of skerrick?
So, for the crunch-time decisions: Do I take out my precious u’s? Cut out my double-l’s? Drop the ‘a’ from anaesthetic? Do I add punctuation to my Mr, Mrs and Dr? Shall I have my character say Woah or Whoa? And really, how can the word pants have so many different meanings across so many English-speaking countries? The mind boggles and I have listed but a fraction of things I had to consider.
My fellow writer had a great argument: the majority of her sales have been in the US, thus if I change to US spelling, I’m catering to the larger market. It’s a fair and valid point. My argument back was that my characters are from the UK and that the story was based for the majority of time in Cambodia (of course). I haven’t yet decided if my retort was lame or not. I think the reaction was the equivalent of a raised eyebrow.
In the end, I went with US spelling. It was a heart-wrenching experience. So ingrained is my love for British-influenced English usage, that I felt physical pain (I kid you not). It was much like taking off an entire unshaven leg encased in sports tape. You know, the kind of strapping tape that sticks to every single hair and rips off the first layer of skin regardless of how slowly you go?
I’m thinking my geek-rating skyrocketed as I struggled to transfer from UK to US. The deed is done now (but I’m open to change it back).
My next story is based in Canada, which is largely UK-influenced, but also has strong US ties in the way English is written. Thus, my dilemma continues into my next novel. Something to look forward to, no doubt. Might need to buy more strapping tape to re-live the analogy.
One day, I’m going to write an Australian-based romantic saga and go as true blue as I can! Bring on the fair dinkum, the crikey and the g’day! Of course, this may also be to my detriment. Perhaps I should survey my readers first and make sure they at least know what thongs means when said by an Australian (and no, it’s not underwear).
Last, but not least, I need to thank Pam Peters, the writer of The Cambridge Guide to English Usage. What an outstanding reference! It has a significant amount of detail on English usage around the globe and all the alternate spellings you’ll ever need.
Here’s a sample of a few things I looked at (aka went through in a traumatic fashion)
Writing a book? Awesome! Plan to sell the book? Even better!
Becoming an author sounds straight forward in my head: write, sell, get rich and famous, sell your book to a major movie producer and roll around in the royalties as big-name stars turn your story into art. Easy, right? Hmm … perhaps not.
As it happens, I don’t want to be famous or rich, but I’d like to make some hobby money, or even a living, out of writing novels. I’m setting my sights low enough to avoid disappointment, but high enough to motivate myself. My first book is nearly finished and ready to let loose on the world, but before it goes online, I need to wrap it in something pretty … a book cover.
Which leads me to my rough guide on how to get poor(er) before you even start selling your book.
- Open your wallet and watch the moths fly out.
- Find your over-used credit card.
- Buy a cover design / stock photography (alternatively, skip this and do it yourself or find a willing friend to do it for you)
Because I’m a poor writer and have an over-inflated sense of talent in graphic design, I went with the do-it-yourself plan, and it was only through luck that I found the cover images I wanted free of charge. (I suspect this may be a one-off anomaly.) This was all thanks to a generous and talented photography friend and an equally kind Romanian photographer named Catalin.
Had they not been so forthcoming with their talent, I was prepared to buy the rights to whatever images I needed. After that, I planned to cross my fingers that ‘d sell enough books to cover the expense and then have enough money left over to buy a block of chocolate. (Yes, I’m chocolate-obsessed and am considering therapy to address it … maybe.)
Before getting the images I’m using, I discovered there’s plenty of free-to-use stock images out there, but was limited by choice and was unable to get that exact image I had in my head onto my cover.
Because we all need professional-looking covers to help sell our ebook product, self-publishers can often decide to hire someone to do it for them. I recommend doing so if graphic design isn’t your forte. If you’re talented enough, you can avoid the cost of hiring someone to design a cover, but you still may have to buy stock photography. It’s a cruel, cruel, expensive world.
Which brings me to my next point: typography. You need one to match in with your cover images and story and general all-round image. I like the aesthetic-factor too. If it looks good, I’m happy.
So what happens if you find the perfect font? Well, you need to make sure you can use it commercially. Some font authors require some sort of payment or acknowledgement or a mixture of the two. There’s a whole world of free to use fonts out there, but not all can be freely used commercially. I sourced my fonts from www.fontsquirrel.com and while one had an open license to use it on my cover, another was an uncertainty so I sought permission and got it with surprising speed. My advice, if in doubt, contact the designer and make sure you’re allowed to use the font to embed on ebook covers.
I’ve been mucking about with my cover design for a few months now, and I think I finally hit on a winner. Here’s a sneak peak at the draft cover of my upcoming book. What do you think?
I welcomed myself to the world of twittering…tweeting…twitter, today! I’ve had very little to do with the world of hashtags and word-limited micro-blogging before now, so I’m hoping my little blue tweets will slowly evolve from clueless-twit to tweeting-expert … eventually. I’ve added a little blue “t” link in the top left of my new-look blog. (I had to change my blog theme to accommodate the twitter button, which was fine by me, the other wasn’t proving to be my friend!)
I have a website and facebook page planned to go live in the next month, so watch this blog!
I’m closing in on completing the editing process of my first story. Which is seriously freaking exciting! Unfortunately, it comes with bouts of Is this going to be good enough? Will anyone want to buy it? Will anyone read it after they buy it? Will people like it or send me hate mail? The saga continues…
Doubts are soon swayed by shoulder shrugs intrinsically meaning that whatever happens happens. Besides, if I sell one book, I’ll be thrilled. Everything after that is a bonus.
I’m positive my dream of a beach side mansion complete with a suitably fancy car will never be a reality, but I’m hoping I make enough royalties to at least shout myself a much-needed massage. Sitting in a chair all day really does a number on your back.
As my mood is happy and carefree today thanks to a generous intake of chocolate, I’ve decided to share a snippet (slightly edited for this post) from my current story. I hope you enjoy it enough to crave more when the book goes live on Amazon in a month or so.
It was as I bit into my first spoonful of my once-a-year slice of Café Roberto’s specialty cheesecake that Lola came out with, “So, have you shagged any sexy, drop-dead gorgeous women lately?”
I choked on the sweet treat in my mouth. In fact, I choked so much, Lola felt obliged to give me a firm whack on the back; a back that was bare considering my weather-inappropriate choice of stylish halter-neck top. I squealed in pain.
“Oh, oops, I think that might welt,” Lola said as she inspected my back and my face went from blue to pink again. “Yes. It will. I can see my finger marks.” She touched my skin tentatively. “Will you look at that, it’s all bumpy.”
Shrugging off her hand, I scowled at her.
“What?” she asked, acting innocent.
“You just made me choke on cake. Roberto’s cheesecake to be exact. And in the process, you slapped me on the back. What the hell, Lola?”
“Well, next time, don’t choke. I mean, seriously, I ask a perfectly innocent question, and you go all stupid on me.”
“Innocent? How is asking after my sex life innocent? It’s none of your damn business anyway.”
“Oh,” she drawled. “You didn’t get any, did you?”
“What happened to what’s-her-name? Lily? Jasmine? Frangipani?”
She snapped her fingers. “That’s it! Holly. What happened to her?”
“She moved to America … two years ago.” I rolled my eyes.
“Has it really been that long?”
Yes, it had, and Lola knew it. Since Holly, my one and only secret girlfriend in all my twenty-six years, I hadn’t dated anyone.
“Oh, crap!” I said.
“What? Have you suddenly realized that you’re on the path to becoming a dried up old prune?” Lola asked unable to hide a smirk.
“No … Roger. I forgot to tell my sitter that his stylist is coming over this week to give him a trim.”
Lola rolled her eyes in a very dramatic fashion. “Honestly, Katie, you’re becoming one of those cat-lady people.”
“What cat-lady people?” I asked, slightly distracted as I fished out my phone from my handbag.
“You know, cat ladies.”
Dialing my sitter’s number, I looked back to Lola and said, “What are you on about?”
She sighed with flair. “Never mind.”
We finished up our lunch and I bent down to retrieve my wallet from my handbag when I heard Lola suck in air.
“What?” I asked looking around in a panic.
“Umm … I do hope you’re not wearing a backless dress later.”
I looked over my shoulder. “Why? How bad is it?”
“Erm … do you have a shawl or something in your bag?”
“Because I’m not sure it would do to be seen with someone with a great big red hand print on their back.”
“What about the poor bloody person that has to wear the said hand print? You hit me remember?”
Lola narrowed her eyes all defiantly at me. “I saved your life! And besides, it’s freezing out there, why are you in a sodding halter-neck?”
Shaking my head at her, I fished a scarf out of my bag and tied it around my neck so it draped down my back.
“Well, that just looks ridiculous,” Lola offered in comment.
“You’re welcome,” she said before laughing in a tinkle at me.
Sometimes I really wonder why Lola is my best friend.
Well holy gee and what an eye-opening experience.
I decided to make myself feel authorial the other day and opened up an Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) account and had a lovely time of it until I came across the payment section. Thinking that electronic transfer (EFT) for any payments I may or may not receive as I try to sell my book would be the automatic choice. Turns out, because I’m Australian (surprise!), and am ineligible to hold an American bank account, this choice is not available, and it means there are many loops I need to acrobatically dive through to make the most of my royalties (if I ever make any … but that’s something to worry about another day).
First obstacle…taxes. Unless you’re willing to lose 30% of your earnings straight up to taxes, then my advice is to apply immediately for an EIN (Employee Identification Number) from the US tax office. Once done, find form W-8BEN, fill it out and send it to Amazon. This will drop the 30% tax rate down to 5%. This is the best rate you can get from Australia.
Second obstacle. Payment by cheque. While not really an obstacle, because hey, you’re getting paid and that in itself is a bonus, getting paid by cheque has its own little quirks. After reading experiences from other Australian authors, I’ve discovered the following: first off, it takes a LONG time. Second, it costs you money each time you bank a cheque at your local bank branch. Next, that cheque takes another month to process, and then finally, you get paid. Hopefully you’re not relying on this particular income, because I suspect you may have starved to death by this point.
On a brighter note, I’m done with my rewrites for my first novel and am finalising the editing, front pages and front cover. Exciting stuff!
Today’s little rave, in my opinion, is about critique partners. These are people, or a person, that reads your work and provides feedback. These people can be dangerous to your ego. I have a wonderful group of people that read my work and go WOW! They’re nice to have as part of my team as they make me smile and feel like I’m achieving something. Several of them have an excellent grasp of the way story-telling works within the rules of grammar, and they are irreplaceable! Among my critique helpers, is a woman that provides bare and critical truths in a thinly disguised attempt at diplomacy. At this woman, I usually swear under my breath…a lot.
Like I said, I have a few people that read my work and the one I get the most out of professionally, is the one that tells me I can do better. I don’t think there’s been a piece of work I’ve sent her that hasn’t come back as “It’s not complete crap…but…” (see…thinly disguised!)
I have to admit, it’s NOT a nice feeling. Nope. Horrible. Yuck. But it gets me thinking. And reviewing. And soon, I make what I initially thought was Hemingway, into something passable by today’s literary standards.
So which is the better critique partner? The type that deflates your balloon, or the type that inflates it? I like the mix, and I have the mix, but if given a choice, go for the deflating one, but only if by working off their feedback that they begin to appreciate your work and thereby, you inflate the balloon together. No point having someone that constantly thinks your work should adorn the toilet roll.
If you’re going to be a serious author, then you’re going to have to learn how to deal with criticism. Not everyone is going to like your writing, and because one of my greatest critics is a friend, I’ve learned to cope with hearing what I don’t want to hear…and learned from it.
My point? Write for those that love your work. Listen to those that criticise it. Improve because of it.
If you Google critiquing, you’ll find a wealth of information, protocols, lists and how-to’s. What works for me is something very casual; a pact between friends almost. Find what suits you, find someone that gets what you’re trying to write, and find someone that’s going to help you think and thus, learn.
One final thought…if you can find someone to review your work who lives in the country you’re setting your story in, then grab them with two hands and hold on tight! I can’t stress how important one of my critique partners has been because she lives where my characters do. Local knowledge is like gold. If you can’t get a person like that, research, research, research, research…you get my point.
So, are critique partners essential? Probably not, but I wouldn’t trade mine in for anything. In my humble opinion, they’re the icing on the top of the cake. Edible without it, but far better with it.
I’m Claire Evans and I’m a writer. You’ll know me from…well…nowhere. For now. This year has been my year to take myself seriously and see what I can do about getting published. I write a variety of genres with romance and my new love, fantasy, as the forerunners.
My fantasy novels are based for a Young Adult age group, but are pretty ‘audience general’ and can be enjoyed by all. That’s the theory, anyway. But that’s for another time, another pseudonym.
As for romance, well, they’re quirky. I like to write satirical, first-person romances; however, this isn’t a golden rule…just one I enjoy. And to mix things up in this genre – because really, who doesn’t like mixing things up? – I write both mainstream (hetero) and lesbian romance. Claire Evans is my lesbian romance hat, and is currently my preferred genre to write (and read…and edit). I mean, really, who doesn’t love reading a beautiful romance tale between two women? For those who don’t, well, I feel quite saddened for them as they’re missing out on a whole realm of wonderful stories and story tellers.
So, the story so far: I’m unpublished, I want to be published, so what happens next? First things first, finish and polish a manuscript. I’ve been writing seriously for several years now, though the love of it has been with me since I can remember. I spent a lot of time writing fan fiction in the past two years, which proved to be an excellent learning tool for the craft! My current manuscript is my 2013 brainchild and (hopefully) the beginning of a career.
Last year I completed an editing degree, so technically, I’m an editor and I co-edit for a good friend of mine, Lyn Gardner. She’s currently published two ebooks that are doing very well, and another in the works. She’s a self-publisher and she’s my hero! I hope to follow in her success. Or at least tag along in the wake. Here’s a link to her most successful lesbian romance novel so far ->
All in all, 2013 is VERY busy on the writing scene and I hope I can keep up! This blog will no doubt alternate between me ranting about having so much to do, or me raving about mini successes I’ve had along the way. Hopefully, the journey is enjoyable to read. If not…well…oops.
Let’s start the blog off with a rave:
My first manuscript is complete and has been edited!
Okay…time for a rant.
I’m now rewriting a sizable amount of the plot as it all got a little too melodramatic. What was intended to be lighthearted and face-paced got a little deep and dark. This delays my publishing date goal a touch, but the end product will be all the better for it. I promise you’ll thank me for it!