Chris Gardner

The joys of self-publishing.


1 Comment

More on Self-Editing: Text to Speech

I’ve just discovered a new tool for self-editing which you may already know about; I tend to not go looking for any secrets my computer may have unless it’s not doing what I want it to. I’d heard of software that could turn text to speech but had never looked into it and assumed it would be something I’d have to buy and install and all that stuff that I just don’t want to bother with. I often read some of my book aloud, particularly dialogue, and I have suggested to others it’s even better if you can persuade someone else to read it to you, or record it and play it back. Probably not practical for an entire novel though and my latest novel has grown to over 80,000 words, quite a bit longer than my previous ones.

Someone mentioned on facebook that there was a Word option for Text to Speech and I still assumed it was an extra that I’d have to buy, install, etc., but it’s not! It’s just there and is super easy to use. It’s probably best that I don’t try to tell you how to use it because explaining technology is not in my list of talents, but if you have Word just ask the help button and they’ll walk you through it. Take my word for it, if I can follow it, you can.

Tex (I decided to call him Tex, because, why not?) and I spent the weekend editing my book. He’s American, but not hard to understand, and has quite a pleasant voice for a computer, even if he does have trouble pronouncing the occasional word. He doesn’t understand Mmm, or Hmm, or Mr and doesn’t understand I want a pause when I use an ellipsis or a long dash, nor will he point out any errors to you. BUT he also won’t skip over the typos we all make, like you and your friends will (maybe even your editor). It’s just the way our brains work; when we see the word ‘out’, in a sentence where it should have been ‘our’, we just know it’s meant to be ‘our’ and may not even notice the mistake. Tex doesn’t notice it either but when he says it out loud, you will notice it.

Tex is certainly not the only self-editing tool you need–he won’t tell you if you’ve written the wrong version of too, or to, or the wrong version of your, or their, but just because reading aloud is so much slower than reading silently I did pick up several things myself that I decided needed improving and he’s my new best friend. I don’t usually have a problem with spelling or grammar but typos? Absolutely!

For some of the things Tex can’t help you with I have a free ebook, ‘What Did You Say?’ on Smashwords. It’s just a little one but there’s some things that will help if you’re unsure about punctuation or grammar. Especially the correct use of apostrophes–do you know what they’re actually for? A lot of people don’t! For all my other books please visit my author pages on Amazon.com or Amazon.UK

 


10 Comments

Amazon-Friend or Foe?

A lot of writers hate Amazon–they’re big, corporate, money hungry and not at all like those small independent publishers who actually care about what they’re publishing, right? I can’t say I’ve loved every minute or that I’m thrilled with every aspect of the business but for a self-published author who doesn’t have money to burn Amazon is a godsend.

new the inheritance coverIt’s true they’ll sell anything–well, almost, and some of the self-published stuff is rubbish, I agree, but the same applies to small publishers who require hundreds of dollars from authors to produce their book. There are publishers who care about their books, of course; if they’re the ones paying the upfront costs it’s essential they publish only what they believe they can sell.

I’ve written about vanity publishers before and I won’t go into it again here; I sometimes feel as if I’m selling Amazon to writers out there and I have no intention of doing that. I promise I don’t have shares. I just want to let you know that it’s not so bad being a self-published writer on Amazon!

There’s also their Createspace department, where you can publish your book in POD form and they’ll distribute it to several other shopfronts for you. Then there’s Kindle Unlimited, which is a lending library. The customer pays a monthly amount and has to return the ebook, just like any other library, and the author is paid per page read. The amount, as far as I can ascertain, is not always the same, but at the moment my KU amount is about half as much per book as a sale would be, which is not bad.

Another thing I like is that it’s easy to make changes–for example I have a list in the back of each book, of all my other books, and when I publish a new one I add that to the list. I can also change covers if something better comes along, and fix typos if I discover them after my book’s published.(!) All in all, for me Amazon is invaluable and I’d be lost without it. Come and check out my Author Page or here if you’re in the UK.


Leave a comment

He said, she said.

what didWhen we’re writing, especially a novel, we seem to use ‘said’ an awful lot and, if we don’t, we try very hard to come up with alternatives, such as argued, yelled, whispered, spoke, declared and so on. The problem then is that using those kind of words can draw attention away from the dialogue they relate to. I completed a 2 year Diploma in Writing and Editing and we were taught that it’s better to use ‘said’ most of the time because it’s actually very unobtrusive. It becomes almost invisible to the reader, even though it seems overused to the writer, while substitutes can be used, of course, but too many actually detract from the story by being too ‘showy’.

A dialogue between two people doesn’t require ‘he said, she said’, every time each one speaks. We know if Joe said something the reply will come from Fred, because they’re the only two there. If the dialogue becomes too long it might become confusing but you can always include some action, such as Fred glared at Joe.”What the hell are you talking about?” Too much dialogue without action is usually a mistake in any case, as is too much action without dialogue. The same technique can also be used for larger groups of course, for example, Diane entered the room, “What are you two up to now?”

I’m not saying you should never use words like ‘whispered’ and so on, and you can easily overdo the action technique. Just don’t neglect that useful little word, ‘said’.

My ebook, ‘What Did You Say?’ on grammar, punctuation, etc. is free permanently on Smashwords and will help anyone who’s not sure about the correct use of apostrophes and a few peculiarities in the English language. There are other books as well as websites with similar information; mine is easy to follow and attempts to explain things in a way that’s easy to remember as well. My other books are available on Amazon.com and Amazon.UK

Stony Creek book2 karinya ebook

 


5 Comments

Vanity Publishing

I’m constantly surprised at how many writers don’t seem to understand the difference between traditional publishers and vanity publishers. I often read writers proudly announcing they’ve been accepted by a publisher and they’re thrilled at how easy it was and pumped by how enthusiastic the publisher is to publish their very first novel.

Most self-published writers, I presume, get unsolicited offers from publishers these days; we’re always accessible on Facebook or LinkedIn or whatever. We all want to have the next ’50 Shades of Grey’, or at least that kind of success and it’s nice to hear any kind of praise for anything we do, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised at how many writers respond to these kind of publishers.

BookCoverImageher fleshandbloodLet me make it clear–traditional publishers don’t ask writers for money! They actually pay an advance to the writer which immediately puts them in a position where it’s to their advantage to distribute the book and sell as many copies as possible. The writer is still expected to make use of social media and other publicity but the publisher doesn’t make any money unless the book sells.

A vanity press is a publisher who asks the writer to pay for everything, from editing right through to distribution, while a traditional publisher pays for all of this. The vanity publisher in fact makes his money directly from the writer, whether their book is a success or not. The traditional publisher makes money only if the book is successful enough to cover the writer’s advance, the costs of editing, printing and so on with some net profit at the end of it. It’s not hard to understand why it’s so difficult for new writers to find a place in the world of traditional publishing.

I’m not necessarily saying all vanity publishers are scammers, just that writers should understand the difference. It may be that you think it’s worth paying someone to do all that’s required to produce your book for you, but if you do choose that road at least make sure you do lots of research and try to find someone with genuine recommendations from other writers. This is why I self-publish–all things considered it seems the best option for me. I can do what I like when I like, and if I do choose to pay someone for a book cover design or any of the many things a self-published writer has to do, it will still be my decision.

If you have any experience, good or bad, with vanity publishers, I’d love to hear about it.

‘Her Flesh and Blood’, a fictionalised version of my true story ‘Not Guilty’, is FREE from the 14th to the 18th of October. For more details about this and my other books please see my ‘Fiction and Non-fiction’ page or visit my author pages at Amazon.com or Amazon.UK

Excerpt from ‘Her Flesh and Blood’: We had a blazing row when George finally got home. He was drunk and he called me names that I would never say, let alone write down, even here in the privacy of my journal. I slapped him and he hit me hard across the face. I fell over and hit my head on the table. The children were asleep but we were arguing so loudly that Dolly woke up and came out crying. She cried out to George to stop hurting her mumma and he came to his senses then. He picked her up and then helped me to my feet and we both said we were sorry and put her back to bed. He refused to discuss what happened at the factory, except to tell me never to go there again. I know he was humiliated. I’m sure Mr Leggo gave him a good talking to and the workers were no doubt amused by the whole event. I don’t care. Now those women are gone and we can get on with our lives. My children will have a father.

 


2 Comments

What a Wonderful Wacky World of Words

It may be just me–I am a reader, a writer and an editor after all, but do you ever just sit and think about words? I’m not talking about their meaning, at least not right now, but about how we use letters in different ways to make different sounds. I don’t claim to have any knowledge of languages other than English, apart from the residue of high school French lessons. And I can count to ten in Japanese. Also you can’t help but pick up the odd Italian expression such as ‘ciao’, but I digress. What I want to talk about is the letter ‘w’.

This feels a lot like Sesame Street and I promise I’m not going to discuss a different letter every day, but it seems to me that ‘w’ is a particularly interesting one. It seems to affect the way we pronounce the letters after it. Take ‘water’ for example. Later and cater sound as you would expect, with a long ‘a’ sound, while water sounds more like ‘wor’, as in war. When we use ‘wor’ as in word, it sounds more like ‘er’. Why is it so? Why is it car, bar, tar, but war? Why cot, lot, pot, but what? I understand our language evolved and is still evolving but I’m curious as to how this particular peculiarity began. I get it that we have another word ‘waiter’, so we can’t pronounce water as waiter, but then why is it not spelt ‘worter’?

As I said, perhaps it’s only me who sits in front of the TV sometimes and just thinks about words, but it is weird, don’t you think?

For info on all my books please visit my author pages at Amazon.com and Amazon.UK


3 Comments

In the Top 100

All three books in my Red Dust Series are in Amazon’s Top 100! For their category, that is, but I’m pretty happy with that. The category is ‘Historical Australian & Oceanian Fiction’ and I’m in good company there. Stephanie Laurens has several on the same page as my ‘Road to Karinya‘, while ‘Stony Creek‘ and ‘Red Wine and Summer Storms‘ share a page with Peter Carey and Catherine Gaskin, among others. Red Wine is the last book in the series and it’s been selling well from the start but it was good to see the first review on Amazon last week:

      By Amazon Customer on February 16, 2016

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase

THIS IS A MUST READ STORY. IT HAS SUSPENSE, DRAMA, ROMANCE AND SOME SERIOUS MOMENTS AND LOTS OF CARING FOR OTHERS FEELINGS. I THOROUGHLY ENJOYED EVERY PAGE

 

Amazon reviews are much appreciated by writers, at least good ones are! We take particular risks when we put books up free for promotions. The first time I did that was years ago; 6000 people grabbed a copy of ‘Inheritance’, and around 20 or 30 reviewed it.
Most were positive but not all–not everyone likes an unexpected ending! It was interesting that negative reviews often came from readers whose grasp of spelling and punctuation were sadly lacking and I tend not to take them too seriously.
        I went to a play last week, an independent production in Melbourne, in a small venue. The actors were fantastic and the play was hilarious and I was surprised to read a review online criticising the director. Even had I read it before I went I’d have taken no notice though because the spelling and punctuation were absolutely awful! When I see that I disregard the source as being some loner who thinks he knows something about theatre but actually doesn’t.
       Am I what didwrong to assume anyone who actually reads ought to be able to spell? And there’s Spellcheck. Typos I understand; we all do that, but if you’re not a good speller, do use your computer’s help. I have a small ebook, ‘What Did You Say?’, permanently free at Smashwords,which might be of use as well, especially for grammar and punctuation.
      Summer’s nearly over here and autumn will be very welcome. We have a very hot day forecast for tomorrow but it’s quite cool today and I’m hoping they’re wrong. Anyway one stinking hot day isn’t so bad. It’s when it goes on several days in a row and stays hot throughout the night it’s hard to take. Bring on winter!

 


2 Comments

You say ‘morl’, I say ‘mal’!

I had an interesting discussion with my grandson recently; I don’t recall how it started but I said something about the mall and he said, “It’s not mal, it’s morl.” I disagreed and he asked if someone offered me $700,000,000 to say it right what would I say and of course I said ‘mal’.

Now my grandson, who I’ll call RK because I’m totally paranoid about using children’s names or photos on the internet, is seven years old and I’ve been an editor and writer many more years than he’s been born. Also I’m his nanna so of course I’m always right!  Right? Mall is one of the words I’m in disagreement with lots of people about though so just to make sure, and so I could show RK the evidence of my superior knowledge, I looked it up in the dictionary.

Turns out we’re both right! Either pronunciation is acceptable, which was a little disappointing for me, but there was a brief explanation of the origins of the word–it started with a game played in an alley and using a mallet. The game was named after the mallet and I believe the alley was then named after the game, so clearly it would have been pronounced ‘mal’, not ‘morl’.

RK then asked if I’d pronounce it ‘morl’ if someone gave me $700,000,000 and I said ‘Absolutely!’

I think ‘morl’ is the usual pronunciation in the US, isn’t it? What about the UK, anyone?

Another mispronunciation I find annoying is ‘Antartica’ rather than ‘Antarctica’; for some reason some people leave out the middle c. I try not to be too bothered by these things though–as I said to RK, people around the world and even around the country have different accents and different pronunciations and even different words for the same thing. For some reason what we in Victoria call potato cakes people in New South Wales call potato scollops. I was born in NSW and grew up mostly in Victoria, with a couple of years as an adult in both Queensland and South Australia.

When I went to school in NSW in year 9 I was somewhat shocked that the acceptable school bag was actually a case, something no-one would be seen dead with in Victoria, or at least my home town. Very nerdy. Not only that but they called it a port, not a case. I refused to use such a thing and had to have the other acceptable substitute, a leather briefcase. Back home we all used what were then airline bags, a zip up bag with a long strap.

Spring has sprung here at last and we’ve had a few lovely days of sunshine–back to dreary again today but I’m well aware it’ll be too sunny and too dry and way too hot soon enough. I don’t look forward to summer but I do love spring.

Happy reading.

Stony_Creek_Cover_for_Kindle   karinya cover   BookCoverImageher fleshandblood

I admit I can be a teeny bit pedantic at times and am easily annoyed by misused apostrophes and so on, but where do these words come from? Did someone just wake up one day and decided the word ‘regardless’ just doesn’t work anymore, so let’s call it ‘irregardless’ instead? Sometimes what seems just plain wrong to my ears can be American English, while in Australia we speak UK English. Well, we did, but we’re becoming more and more Americanised, which doesn’t bother me too much; it’s inevitable so there’s no point losing sleep over it. When I started hearing people say they were ‘in agreeance’ my first thought was that it was plain wrong, then maybe that it was American. It’s not in any of my dictionaries and certainly doesn’t pass my computer spellcheck, but when I Googled it I found it may have actually been used once upon a time and has been replaced with ‘agreement’.

That opens up another argument about the evolution of language; we know English has changed and is continuing to change, whether we like it or not. I’ve heard the word ‘literally’ has been misused so much that it’s now accepted to mean–well, not literally at all, so nothing really. Nope–I’m not accepting that one.

If you want to say we’re in agreeance, please say we’re in agreement, or better still, simply say we agree! I suspect many people make mistakes with their language because they’re trying to sound better educated than they are; they use phrases like ‘at this point in time’ rather than ‘now’ and ‘back to back’, which always reminds me of a silly poem my father used to amuse us kids with:what did

One fine day in the middle of the night 
Two dead boys got up to fight 
Back to back they faced each other 
Drew their swords and shot each other 

It goes on for several verses, but anyway, I digress, as usual. While I’m griping about the misuse of words, my all time favourite is ‘myself’, which so many public speakers use when the correct word would be ‘I’ or ‘me’. For more on this and other easily fixed language problems, check out ‘What Did You Say?’ FREE all the time at Smashwords.  See my Amazon page for all my other books.

 

this one book2 karinya ebook  new the inheritance cover darkamazon not guilty 2014 coverblog BookCoverImageher fleshandblood

 


Leave a comment

Breaking in a new computer

Our old computer is, at best, comatose. Hopefully number 1 son, who works in IT, will be able to resurrect it at least sufficiently to get all my email contacts and photos, etc., but we were probably due for a new one anyway. So now I have a shiny new one on my desk and no excuses for not getting on with it. But . . . it’s not that I don’t like new things but I’m not one of those women who adores buying new shoes–I like my comfy old ones. And it took me weeks to break in my new recliner when the old one collapsed. My computer chair is at least ten years old and I bought a new one last year that seemed comfy in the store but when I got it home I only sat on it for half an hour and my back was killing me. So I took it back and had the old one repaired. I decided I’ll just keep getting new bits for it and eventually it’ll all be new bits anyway, but comfortable.

So the new computer is fine but I hated the keyboard. And the mouse, so I’m using my old ones. We installed my old version of Office, having been assured it would be compatible with Windows 8.1 or whatever number we’re on now. Everything seemed fine until I tried to write dialogue. Even then it was fine–a little odd that the quotation marks didn’t come up straight away, but they appeared miraculously when I typed in the next letter. But then I attempted to start dialogue with ‘I’ and things got really weird. After a few experiments I found that while all consonants allowed the quotation mark, whenever I wanted to start dialogue with a vowel, instead of the quotation mark, the letter appeared with two dots above it! I don’t know what these are called or what use they have but I’m pretty sure I don’t need them!sanctuary cover 2014

No-one I asked had any idea what was going on and I thought perhaps my old version of Office wasn’t compatible with the new Windows after all. I had searched online forums with no result and then one last google gave me an immediate solution–apparently my new computer was tuned in to the USA version for keyboards and when I changed it to UK, there being no AUS version, it was fine. I’m still perplexed though–can any US citizens out there tell me why you would want a vowel with two dots above it?

My Sci-fi book, Sanctuary, is free 8th and 9th of May.

Sanctuary is a sci-fi novel for young adults, telling the story of two very different civilizations in the year 2493 AD. The Thrallians are descended from mainstream society; they have blended all racial differences and are bred in laboratories in order to guarantee all citizens will uphold peace and harmony in Thrallia.

The Centrals are descended from the street kids of the 20th century, who lived in the underground subways. They live on whatever they can forage and their society is primitive in comparison with that of Thrallia.

Patric lives in Thrallia, a modern city protected from the scorching sun and unbearable conditions of the outside world. An historian, he has heard of a people called the Moles, who once lived in an underground city nearby, but doesn’t believe they actually existed. Then his friend Derek discovers a strange girl imprisoned in the quarter where the Supers, rulers of Thrallia, live.

Happy Reading and please leave a review on Amazon if you enjoy Sanctuary.


10 Comments

Self-editing for self publishers

Okay–first of all, if there’s any way you can afford an editor, hire one! Secondly, if you do, make sure you do some research first. I’ve seen self-published books where the writer has acknowledged the help of an editor and the first page is riddled with errors. I spent a couple of years editing free-lance and I belonged to an organization called The Victorian Society of Editors, which may or may not still be around. There’s bound to be some kind of association, preferably in your own country, that can help you find a professional editor. However you find someone it’s a good idea to ask them for a sample edit of a few pages, and make sure you communicate exactly what you require. Don’t just rely on terms like ‘substantive edit’ or ‘copy edit’; make sure you tell them exactly what you are hoping for.

Let’s assume you are not going to hire anyone. You’re quite sure you can do it yourself. You probably can’t, so at least get as many people as possible to read your book. You might be surprised at how something that makes perfect sense to you makes little or no sense to a reader who doesn’t know what you’re thinking. Sometimes things are so obvious and we don’t want to treat our readers as dummies but we have to realize they can’t read our minds, only what makes it to the page!

If you can find a writer’s group in your local area, or online, who will read your work and give you an honest opinion, that’s a step up from your best friend who doesn’t want to hurt your feelings. Always remember opinions are subjective and not everyone will love your story–take criticisms with a grain of salt, but if several people are dubious about the same thing maybe you can rethink it.

All right, you have no friends, no writers’ groups, no family members whose opinions you value, or you just don’t want anyone to read your story (other than the whole world, after it’s published), at least read it aloud to yourself. If you can, record it and listen to it. You know how your voice sounds like someone else’s when it’s recorded? If you can distance yourself enough to hear what you’ve actually written, rather than what you thought you’d written, that’s a good start. Update on this–if you have Word, use Text to Speech to have a somewhat robotic voice read your book aloud to you. I found a couple of errors in my own book after many self-edits. One I recall was ‘whole’ instead of ‘while’. Very different when spoken but so similar in writing, especially when the i and the o are next to each other on the keyboard!

Now your story’s perfect and you’re up to the nitty gritty. So many self-published novels are riddled with errors. Please don’t think I consider myself perfect–I was reading through an old blog the other day and realized I’d written ‘dairy’ instead of ‘diary’! We all make mistakes and every book I take off the shelf at the library has at least one; we can only try to do the best we can. At least, as self-published writers, we can always go back and correct our mistakes; it’s never too late.what did

Obviously use your computer spell-check but don’t rely on it–if in doubt use a dictionary. The spell-check won’t pick up ‘dairy’ instead of ‘diary’. Again, reading aloud helps but we tend to see what we think we wrote, not necessarily what’s there. We also get caught up in the story and miss errors of spelling or grammar. If you print it out–yes the whole thing!–you may be able to spot errors better. Sit at the table with your manuscript and a dictionary in front of you and use a ruler to read one line at a time and prevent you from reading ahead. Then start again, this time from the back of the book, again one line at a time–this helps to get away from the story line and concentrate on each sentence. Another update! I’m now editing again, for Australian writers only. More details on my Editing page.

My ebook ‘What Did You Say?’ on grammar and punctuation, is available at Smashwords and may be of some use–it’s free anyway, so why not?

My books are now available on most digital shopfronts, including Apple, Barnes and Noble and Kobo via Draft2Digital.

Paperbacks and ebooks are also available on Amazon.