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Writing in English – but what kind of English?

I’ve a personal preference for reading USA English, but grew up in New Zealand, and learned English based on the good old British based Oxford Dictionary.    Some of the forums I am actively visiting online have some interesting perspective going on around this issue as it relates to authors and what we write, and how we publish our work.   Primarily the issue of which version of English to publish in seems to be all around which country you most intend to market your work in.

If the bulk of your readers are USA based, then definitely write using USA English.  This means change most of your S’s to Z’s, lose most of your U’s, and some of your T’s.   For example:  Favourite, Omelette, and Antagonise become Favorite, Omelet, and Antagonize.   The reason for our language being so different is considered to be based on one Noah Webster’s decision once upon a time to ensure ourdifferences should be political as well as Lexically.   He went on to create the Websters Dictionary, and forced an ongoing divide in how we read and appreciate our language differently.

This means that when it comes to editing, our work as authors is a little less straightforward than we might want it to be.   This is because readers in each country have been known to be quite critical of errors in spelling when faced with too much of it.  A book that is not edited properly will be commented on, and often quite scathingly by readers.   Some will refuse to finish reading something that is too filled with errors – I have personally been known to discard a book half read due to frustration of grammar or spelling.

I believe a bigger issue comes about when one comes from places like Australasia or even other countries where English has been adapted further by locals over a number of decades and some rules apply to one style and some to another.   That’s when you get a complete mishmash of English and for many readers the inconsistency is the real problem.

What can we do about it?

Well for a start, use an editor who understands the rules, and appreciates the differences between each version of written English.  Decide which version you wish to use, and stick to that.

The value of a really good editor can not be underestimated.   While it’s more than ok for a blog to have a few errors of the grammatical variety, a book has to be better than that.   Why?  Simply because it’s going to be read by readers which nuch higher expectations of quality.  A blog is a quick item of information sharing, a book is a ‘book’ for goodness sake!   It has a longer life expectancy, and further reach than a blog.

Take the time to consider where your book is mostly going to be promoted, and decide on which version of English you will publish in based on that.   And then ensure your editor knows your intentions around this and has the skills to deliver on your expectations.

 

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Book Stores and Online Stores – The Difference Down Under

If I had a dollar for every time I was asked one question back in 2010, I’d have retired already. That question was, ‘how do I get my books on Amazon?’

Back then I’d usually answer with, ‘Why Bother?’

The bricks and mortar stores in Australasia were still selling books, albeit, not terribly well. However, many were closing, and most had diversified beyond selling books, and had ‘warehouse sales people’ behind their counters, many of whom were far from passionate about books, and were unable to be of much help if the requested book by a customer ‘wasn’t in stock or on the computer yet’. Add to that, due to the sheer volume of books available, book store owners and managers were simply challenged beyond believe to know what might be worth stocking and what might gather dust and end up heavily discounted a few months later. It was hit and miss to stock shelves, and Indie Authors missed out most of the time, as much due to the quality of their books, but also due to the lack of sales channels that led them easily to get their books noticed by buyers.

Amazon was equally challenging back then, because due to their own internal rules about needing to have enough stock on hand to supply orders quickly, the warehousing of books and distribution channels meant that if you didn’t have some kind of managed warehousing of your books based in the northern hemisphere, you would likely be rejected by Amazon anyway.
Forward to 2017 and all the rules have changed. Now, it’s easier than ever to upload your books to Create Space, Ingram Sparks, Barnes and Noble, Nook, Kobo, Kindle. E-books can be sold via Kindle within minutes of being uploaded, and Create Space can fill orders within days of your setting up an account.

The quality of print on demand is outstanding, and the need for warehousing hundreds or thousands of copies of your books has gone. No more expensive outlays for authors to stock printed copies, fulfil their own orders by lining up at the post office. The royalties are paid when and as expected, with full reporting functions built into all of the platforms available to sell on.

So, what’s the problem with all that?

Ignorance mostly.

Authors are still struggling to know what to do, how to do it, and the learning curves around uploading can be fraught with deep time-wasting pits of despair. It takes time, and a lot of reading the fine print and understanding the process to do your first upload onto either Create Space or Kindle. Working out how to price your book, determine the best categories and why this is important, and even understanding the special ways that Keywords work for or against your book’s success takes time and knowledge.
Unfortunately, the average newbie author often does not see the value in paying for expert help, despite the fact that they are now saving significant amounts on the production and printing of books. And this is the one thing that needs to change for authors, especially in Non-Fiction genres. Getting armed with the knowledge needed to do this well, is as critical an investment in publishing a book as editing and cover design is.

Being an author is time consuming, often for low returns, and yet is one of the most creatively rewarding things a writer can do. Seeing others benefit from your shared stories, wisdom, experiences is priceless and getting those reviews that mean you know you’ve contributed valuable knowledge to someone anywhere in the world is heart-warming to say the least. Getting those checks from Amazon is also pretty exciting. But if we’re all going to do it well, and ‘ace it on Amazon’ we have to start approaching the technical ends of publishing. That means paying for expertise sometimes, just as you would for social media specialist work, and design skills.

In 2018, I challenge all authors to up-skill – not by diversifying their studies across too many publishing topics, but mastering one or two necessary areas, and sharing that knowledge with others. That will still keep the overall cost of successfully publishing down to an acceptable level for most indie authors – and make it even more viable to pay for the specialist areas you need to dive into occasionally.

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Author Resources You Will Love

One thing that I’ve learned through nearly a decade of working in the book business, is that you can never have too much help to market your work.   So I’m going to share with you some of my favorite author tools – and some of these are recently discovered.

Scrivener:  I can not rave on enough about this program.  I have introduced it to a number of people and they all say the same thing… it makes the planning and writing so easy!  If you do not yet have Scrivener, or are curious about it because you have heard about it being one of the very best tools ‘on the planet’ for authors, then check this out.   You can also enjoy 30 days (not just consecutive calendar days either) for FREE, then it’s only the cost of coffee and cake with a couple of friends to get it after that.  (Use this link to get the free 30 days option… )

And best of all, you can pay just a couple of hundred dollars for one of THE VERY BEST training programs I’ve ever come across to Learn Scrivener FastClick here for details.

First: Booklaunch.io is far and away the VERY best landing page platform imaginable for authors. These make launching a new book so easy, and they look great too.

Second: if you are into technology, or not even hugely so but know it’s a necessary way to bring customers to your door, then you have to spend some time on these platforms:

  • Amazon – create an Amazon Author page – it’s easy, powerful, and you’ll love what you can do with it to help drive book sales and awareness campaigns.
  • Twitter – yes it does work, yes it is worth working hard to get followers, and yes you do need to post regular updates on it.  This is not a passive platform, but when you work it well, it starts to really create buzz around your books.  My Twitter feed is here for my author page.
  • Mobile Apps – I’ve had one of these for my business alter-ego Maria Carlton Marketing Coach for years, and it’s been a great way to ensure I could share information with clients and promote my brand to prospects, but since that was created the technology available to create these apps has become outstanding.  I’ve just discovered COMO and within hours have created an app that features my books, my services, and my links to all other platforms I use for marketing.
  • Amazon Marketing Services:  If you want to really ramp up your Amazon sales and promote free books or special offers, you can’t go past AMS.  It’s easier to use than Facebook Marketing options, and dedicated to book sales.  It’s still relatively new, so lots of beta testing still going on as they refine and improve, but well worth being an early adopter for this.  Here’s the link.

One thing to remember when it comes to marketing tools for authors is that people want to engage with you, and you want to reach out and engage with them.   These tools help you do this easily.   But you have to work on these constantly – just like that great novel you’re working on marketing is a constant work in progress.

And like my old mate Winston Marsh always says – you have to be a better marketer of what you do than a doer of what you do! When it comes to effectively marketing your books – both non-fiction and fiction – you have to build a following.  Branding is critically important and so is having a great marketing strategy that keeps you focused on the best results oriented social media options to suit your product.

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