Authors Finding Readers – Part 4/4

How does an author build an Internet platform to attract readers to his or her work?

Here’s how I did it and it seems to have worked for my first three novels:

I launched iLookChina.net (my first proper Blog after taking three workshops on the subject), the platform for my first-three historical-fiction novels set in 19th century China. Instead of writing about the writing process and my angst as a writer, as I have discovered many authors do with his or her Blog/s, I focused on topics about China and the Chinese.

Does that make sense?

Here are the results:

I launched iLook China.net near the end of January 2010. Since launching the Blog, I have posted more than 1,500 articles about China and the Chinese.

However, my first novel, My Splendid Concubine was released December 2007.

Sales in 2008 = 221 copies.

Sales in 2009 = 341 copies.

After I launched a Blog to support the novels, sales for 2010 = 2,375 copies (a 696% increase in sales over 2009 when I did not have a proper platform Blog).

Sales in 2011 = 4,641 copies.

So far, sales in 2012 have reached more than 2,700.

As of 6:10 PST on August 19, 2012, iLookChina.net had 285,272 all-time views that I’m sure have contributed to almost 10,000 book sales.

What do these numbers say? Answer: It is crucial for an author to identify the interests of his or her potential readers before building and branding a proper Internet platform.

For example, if an author publishes a cookbook, he or she should consider a Blog about food.

There is more to building an author Internet Platform than just launching a Blog. For example, in 2008, I was a guest on 31 radio talk shows (only one was a Blog radio station) and I have linked from my Website to a few of the reviews that were converted to podcasts.

Recently, actually this morning (as I worked on this series of posts), I read a piece by David Vinjamuri for Forbes.com called Publishing Is Broken, We’re Drowning in Indie Books – And That’s a Good Thing.  It’s a long piece but worth reading for anyone that wants to learn about the current state of publishing. Near the end of Vinjamuri’s six-page on-line article, he says that Indie books must get reviewed, and from the start back in 2008, getting reviews was one of my goals.

I do not pay for reviews, but I have been on three Internet book tours of my work and I paid publicists to organize these Blog tours, which generated maybe 50 – 60 reviews. Most were positive. A few were not. I also submitted my work to literary contests and lost more than I earned some recognition in.

The most valuable reviews came from Writer’s Digest judges (my work has had two); The Midwest Book Review (three); City Weekend Magazine in China; and Historical Novels Review Online—all reputable, established media sources linked to traditional publishing, and this is the quality of reviews/recognition for Indie work that Vinjamuri says Indie authors need to prove credibility equal to that of traditionally published authors.

In addition, I belong to Authors Den, write reviews for Amazon Vine, LL Book Review, leave comments on other Blogs for posts that interest me (the posts I leave comments on have to really interest me—if they do not, I don’t leave a comment).

I belong to other on-line social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Historical Fiction eBooks, and the Independent Authors Guild to name a few where I spend time commenting in chats, etc.

One fact for sure: there is NO guarantee that anything an author does will attract a sizable reading audience.  In fact, there is no guarantee that the Blog/Internet platform I’m building for my next novel, Running with the Enemy, will succeed in finding readers interested in that story.

Unless an author belongs to the rarified A-list of the most successful authors that have sold hundreds of thousands or millions of books, each book an author publishes is another venture into the unknown. For example, one of the most successful Indie authors is Amanda Hocking, and it took her about nine years of hard work building her platform before she graduated to the A-list that most authors will never join.

In conclusion, I want to share a few more depressing thoughts—According to Mental Floss, Where Knowledge Junkies Get Their Fix, in the United States:

1. One-third of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives.

2. Forty-Two percent of college graduates never read another book after college.

3. Eighty percent of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year.

4. Seventy percent of U.S., adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.

5. Fifty-seven percent of new books are not read to completion.

Then, according to a 98-page, 2007-study by the National Endowment for the Arts, reading is declining as an activity among teenagers.

1. Less than one-third of 13-year-olds are daily readers.

2. The percentage of 17-year-olds who read nothing at all for pleasure has doubled over a 20-year period.

3. For age 9, fifty-four percent read for fun almost every day; for age 13, thirty percent read for fun almost every day but by age 17, only 22% do.

4. The percentage of college graduate that read literature was 82% in 1982 down to 67% by 2002, and 65% of college freshman read for pleasure for less than an hour per week or not at all.

5. Literary readers are more than twice (43%) as likely as non-readers (16%) to do volunteer or do charity work.

6. Deficient readers are far more likely than skilled readers to be high school dropouts. Half of American’s Below-Basic readers failed to complete high school—a percentage gain of 5 points since 1992.

Now, do you understand why writers and authors have to promote to find his or her readers?

Return to Authors Finding Readers – Part 3 or start with Part 1

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_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves

lloydlofthouse_crazyisnormal_web2_5

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

Authors Finding Readers – Part 3/4

Something else that effects books sales is political beliefs? There are many nonfiction books written for both conservatives and liberals. Every week when I shop at Costco, I see them on the book table and ignore them.

But what about Fiction?

Archive.Newsmax.com says, “The average self-identified conservative book reader consumes about the same number of books per year (eight) as the self-identified liberal (nine).”

However, in another survey, the results show only 12% of readers were far-right conservative Republicans while 19% were far-left liberal Democrats. Source: Surveys.ap.org

In fact, About.com posted a list of novels conservative should read and listed Animal Farm by George Orwell; Brave New World by Aldous Huxley; The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand; The Red Badge of Courage by Steven Crane; Go Tell It On the Mountain by James Baldwin; To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee; The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald; On the Road by Jack Kerouac; The Scarlet Letter by Nathanial Hawthorne, and Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe.

Another site, Why Pop Culture Matters, says Science Fiction is Inherently Conservative: “One place where conservatives–and particularly libertarians–do pop culture well is in the science fiction field. Authors like Sarah Hoyt, John Ringo, David Drake, and even Harry Turtledove produce excellent writing in the Robert Heinlein vein, which leans libertarian-right. And John Barnes is very capably reprising the brilliant Heinlein juvenile novels of the 1950s in a twenty-first century style.”

I went in search of a list of fiction  for liberals and ran into a conservative firewall of hits attacking liberals as evil and the force that will destroy America.

I did see something about a liberal bias in zombie fiction. I also saw hits criticizing Hollywood for churning out too many movies with liberal themes/topics. After looking at the first hundred hits, I started to try other Google search terms until I found this at the Democratic Underground listing a few authors recommended for liberals: John Steinbeck, Sinclair Lewis, John Dos Passos, Norman Mailer, Gore Vidal, and Phillip K. Dick for Science Fiction, etc.

What I did learn was that Conservatives are obsessive about the dangers liberals pose to America, but in the US, according to Gallup.com, twenty-one percent of Republicans are hard-right (17.2 million) while only 9% of Democrats are hard-left or very liberal (3.78 million), which may explain why liberals appear to be outnumbered by conservatives on the Internet.

However, normal conservatives (not the hard-right kind) make up 32.4% (64.8 million) of the adult population, Moderates 36% (72 million) and Liberals 21% (42 million). If we subtract the 3.78 million hard-left liberals, that leaves 38.2 million normal liberals.

Now that we have a better idea about the size of the reading public and its reading habits, how does an author go about attracting the right sort of reader to his or her work?

Answer: Building an Internet platform that attracts readers interested in a specific topic, genre and theme.

But, how does an author do that properly?

Continued on September 1, 2012 in Authors Finding Readers – Part 4 or return to Part 2

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_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves

lloydlofthouse_crazyisnormal_web2_5

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

Authors Finding Readers – Part 2/4

In 2010, the ABA’s Bookselling this Week reported, “Based on the two Verso surveys, which were statistically weighted to mirror the U.S. population age 18 or older, avid readers (those who spend five or more hours a week reading) comprise 28 percent of the population. These readers skew older into the Boomer cohort, and 63 percent – or approximately 39 million – are female. Importantly, actual book purchase behavior showed a similar pattern in the Verso survey, with avid readers buying 10 or more books a year. … Older Americans represent two-thirds of avid readers …”

If those numbers hold true today, that means there are about 63 million avid readers in the US age 18 or older reading an average of 10 books a year and there are about 3.3 million new titles to choose from if we do not count books published in previous years.

Stephen’s Lighthouse.com reported, “Bowker released its much-anticipated 2009 U.S. Book Consumer Demographics and Buying Behaviors Annual Report today, providing the U.S. book industry with the most complete consumer-based research on who buys books and why. … Women lead men in overall purchases, contributing 64% of sales. Even among detective and thriller genres, women top 60% of the sales. Where do men catch up? Fantasy titles are purchased evenly by men and women. … Americans like people. The biggest selling non-fiction genre is biography – auto and otherwise.”

Then German Book Office New York, Inc. says, “According to the 2011 United States Census Bureau, in 2010, 37.9% (75.8 million adults) of Americans read a book within the last 12 months, with 20.8% (41.6 million adults) reading two or more times a week; 3.6% (7.2 million adults) reading once a week; 3.8% (7.6 million adults) reading two or three times a month; 2.8% (5.6 million adults) reading once a month, and 2.5% (5 million adults) of American participated in a book club in the past 12 months.

“The Harris Poll surveyed over 2,000 adults online between July 11 and 18 … With questions focusing on reading habit, the survey revealed insights into the changes that e-Reading has had over the past year as well.

“Overall 16% (32 million adults) of Americans read between 11 and 20 books a year with 20% reading 21 books or more in a year. These numbers are very different for Americans who read electronically: 32% of Americans read 11-20 books and 27% read 21 books in an average year with e-Reader devices.

“The Harris Poll has also revealed that e-Reader users are also much more likely to purchase books. Thirty-two percent of Americans say they have not purchased any books in the past year, while only 6% of e-Reader users could say the same.

“Among those who say they read at least one book in an average year, 76% read both fiction and non-fiction. However in both these categories, certain types of books are on the rise. Among fiction categories, 47% of respondents read mystery, thriller and crime books; 25% read science fiction; and 23% read literature and romance. The remaining readers chose between graphic novels (10%), “chick-lit” (8%) and Westerns (5%).

“Within the non-fiction categories 29% of readers pick up biographies; 27% read history; and 24% read religious and spirituality books. 18% of non-fiction readers pick up self-help books, while 13% read true crime, 12% read current affairs, 11% read political books and 10% read business books. …

“According to consumers, free chapters or sample giveaways had the largest impact on buying e-books.”

As you can see, tastes vary as do the number of books read annually from person to person. If an avid reader reads ten books a year and there are several million titles to choose from, what do you consider the odds are that your work will be one of those books?

Continued on August 31, 2012 in Authors Finding Readers – Part 3  or return to Part 1

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_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves

lloydlofthouse_crazyisnormal_web2_5

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

Authors Finding Readers – Part 1/4

Over the decades, I’ve met many writers that planned to write a book, publish it and reap fame and fortune. At least that appears to be what most believe.

In reality, this belief is the same as tying fifty-pounds of iron to an infant then throwing the three-month-old child in the ocean expecting him to swim ten-miles to shore.

Back in 1968, when I wrote my first book-length manuscript and found an agent to represent it, who found an interested publisher, that’s probably what I thought too—at first.

The wake-up call to reality was traumatic because that deal ended in rejection. The publisher had a budget to publish one new author and someone else earned that slot. If it was any consolation, I was one of the finalists and reached second place, but only first place signed the publishing contract, which explains why this series of post is specifically written for writers (want-to-be authors) and authors (already published—it doesn’t matter how: traditional, indie/self-published, or vanity), who may be wondering where all the readers are hiding after the bubble that held the dream of fame and fortune popped.

First, it helps to know how many books are competing for the attention of people that read.

In August 2010, Google reported there were 129.8 million unique books in the entire world. I’m not talking about the total number of books printed. I’m talking about unique titles. The number printed is in the billions.

For example, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien has sold more than 250 million copies and that’s for a few titles.

How about a few more examples?

Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles have sold about 80 million; J. K. Rowling has sold more than 400 million, and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, one title, has sold 30 million in fifty-two years.

Such success is a great motivator sort of like hearing that someone won a few hundred million in a lottery. However,  if you read the small print on the back of a lottery ticket, the odds are usually 20 million to one or worse.

How about books and publishing? What are the odds? The answers to these questions are more complicated.

According to Nielsen Bookscan, the average U.S. book is now selling less than 250 copies per year and less than 3,000 copies over its lifetime, and it doesn’t help that the competition is getting more crowded annualy.

In April 2010, Smashwords reported, “A staggering 764,448 titles were produced in 2009 by self-publishers and micro-niche publishers …”

By the end of 2011, R.R. Bowker reported 2,776,260 self-published books were printed in the US alone. In the UK, there was an additional 151,969 new titles. Source: News & Press: Publishing.

With all of those new titles coming out annually, who reads them and what do they read?

Continued on August 30, 2012 in Authors Finding Readers – Part 2

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_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves

lloydlofthouse_crazyisnormal_web2_5

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

The NEED to Edit – Part 6/6

Even though I taught seventh to tenth grade English in the public schools (1978 – 2005) and was the advisor/teacher of an internationally recognized, award-winning, high-school journalism program, I am not a perfectionist (an ARG) when it comes to editing. I do my best as an imperfect mortal with dyslexia.

My students did well (above average) on standardized tests. I taught the basic rules of punctuation, the differences between a simple, compound and complex sentence, and how to write a basic essay in addition to an introduction to the parts of speech. The textbook I used was Warriner’s English Grammar and Composition (I have two editions on my resource shelf) with almost 600 pages filled with the complexity of the English language.

The literacy level of my high school students—in the same class—ranged from second grade and up.

However, most of my time as a public school teacher was spent working out of the literature textbook focusing on theme, characterization, plot, conflict, etc. We also read and studied novels such as Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men or Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.

Shakespeare was also part of the curriculum, so there wasn’t a lot of time to focus on grammar and there was little time to correct thousands of student papers riddled with mistakes. As it was, my average work week as a teacher was 60 to 100 hours—twenty-five hours in class with students and the remaining hours planning lessons and correcting the deluge of student work. The focus of the public schools is reading literacy—not editing literacy and reaching grade-level reading literacy for more than half of the students is a challenge.

In addition, how many people have photographic memoires with instant recall as an ARG probably does? I don’t. Most of my students didn’t either. I do not expect that many of my students remember much of the grammar that I struggled to teach them. There is a lot of truth in “use it or lose it,” which I have never heard from politicians and critics where public education is often attacked for its alleged failings.

English is a complex language with many rules of grammar, mechanics and spelling with endless exceptions to those rules. In fact, in the back of Warriner’s, there is an eight-page section on words often confused such as principal and principle followed by 350 spelling demons such as hour which sounds the same as our and then there is teaching the difference between to, too and two; blew and blue, etc. (Note: I bought my copies of Warriner’s used through Amazon.)

I have no idea why so many people expect children and teenagers to remember everything they are taught—memory is complex and it is not perfect. In fact, what happens to most people during waking ours is stored in short-term memory and while one sleeps the brain sorts through the short-term memory and transfers memories that are considered important to long-term memory, and no one decides what is important.  That is an automatic function of the brain while one sleeps. What isn’t saved to long-term memory is deleted. Scientific studies have also demonstrated that consuming too much sugar (think Coke) in the diet causes havoc to mood and short term memory. See: Foods that Cause Memory Loss

You may be interested in what the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington D.C. says about sugary soda consumption. “Americans consume gargantuan quantities of carbonated soft drinks and suffer untoward health consequences. Companies annually produce enough soda pop to provide 557 12-ounce cans—52.4 gallons—to every man, woman, and child.” … “The amounts of caffeine in one or two cans of caffeinated soft drink can affect performance and mood, increase anxiety in children, and behavioral effects in children remains unclear.”

Anyway, back on topic (sorry about that), in late 2007, when an iUniverse editor said the manuscript of my first novel My Splendid Concubine had too many mistakes to qualify for an Editor’s Choice and Publisher’s Choice Award, I was shocked.

What shocked me was the price to pay an iUniverse editor to edit the manuscript—three thousand dollars was too rich for my budget, so I developed the editing process that I have already described.

In conclusion, I feel that some advice for ARGs (anal-retentive grammarians) may be in order.

Instead of brutally criticizing indie/self-published authors for having mistakes in his or her published novel/book, take a page from a man considered the greatest editor in publishing history, Max Perkins, and offer constructive criticism and point out the number of mistakes with a few examples and where they appear.

Saying a manuscript is riddled with mistakes is not constructive, because one ARG’s definition of riddled with mistakes might mean a dozen in an entire book while to another ARG, riddled with mistakes means the despised bumps appear on every page.

Moreover, in English, there are mistakes most recognize and then there are mistakes only ARGs notice leaving almost 60 million avid readers scratching their heads thinking, “Big deal!”

In fact, the way the brain works while reading, when a word appears such as English and it should have been England, on the way from the eye to the brain, the word converts to what it was intended to be due to contextual clues and pattern recognition. When that happens, most readers are unaware of the mistake, which explains why five pairs of eyes missed a dozen mistakes in The Concubine Saga that the sixth pair of eyes caught, and she kindly made a list with page numbers—an example of constructive criticism. She was also the artist—Denise Killingsworth—that created the cover for that novel.

Return to The NEED to Edit – Part 5  or start with Part 1

View this Six-Part Series as a Single Page

Note: My Blog posts do not go through the exhaustive editing process my novels do.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

The NEED to Edit – Part 5/6

Even though my editing process did not discover every mistake, my manuscripts were clean enough to be awarded the Editor’s Choice Award (4% of books published by iUniverse earned this award); the Publisher’s Choice Award (1%), and the highest score for grammar from two Writer’s Digest judges.

In addition, both of my first novels were reviewed by the Midwest Book Review that has a policy to reject books that do not measure up to industry standards.

Although my novels will not earn praise from most ARGs, editing the work myself, I saved thousands of dollars because I did not hire a freelance editor. In fact, if you read The Business of Editing: Killing Me Softly by Rich Adin, you would have discovered that hiring a freelance editor is not a guarantee that your work will be edited to the level of perfection demanded by most ARGs.

Instead, my first two novels were edited by me first, then by two English teachers followed by two authors that I worked with in a writing critique group (a total of five sets of eyes). Each of these individuals and the two editing programs I used found errors I missed with my flawed mortal eyes.

Remember, humans are not perfect, but most ARGs ignore this fact.

In addition, after all of that editing my novels went through, the work was still not ARG perfect because in 2011, a neighbor, who is not an ARG, read a copy of The Concubine Saga and found twelve mistakes in the 250,000 word manuscript. A few of those mistakes were an “I” that should have been a “me”; an “or” that should have been an “of”, and an “English” that should have said “England”.

However, to most devoted ARGs, errors of that sort are unacceptable and will claim the work is riddled with mistakes.

After final revisions to the plot, I edit the manuscript three times using only my eyes and brain, which are subject to imperfection since I have dyslexia. During this step in the editing process, I use Google as a fact and spell checker (for words I suspected might be spelled wrong). Google is the best spell checker I have used. To use Google, copy and paste the word from your manuscript into Google search. If wrong, Google will call up the correct spelling of the word almost every time. I also use Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips, on-line dictionaries, and an on-line Thesaurus.

You may also want to check out Dr. Grammar at the University of Northern Iowa.

My next step in the editing process uses Serenity Software’s Editing program (highly recommended but it will force you to work) that discovers many mistakes I missed with my eyes. Last, I edit with Microsoft Word’s spelling-grammar editor that may find something at this stage of the editing process but usually doesn’t. Only then do I enlist help from others to edit the manuscript. Even after all that, there will still be a few mistakes, which is why I’m planning to hire a freelance editor for a final edit of my next novel after I finish editing using the process I have described.

I also have a shelf full of resource books (I just counted fourteen) such as The Writer’s Digest Grammar Desk Reference, and I use them all—some more than others.

As Amanda Hocking said in Part 3, editing is “exhausting”. The reason is because most authors do not work exclusively out of the left side of the brain.

Indeed, most authors do not have the editing skills of the legendary editor Maxwell Perkins, who was the editor of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Thomas Wolfe.

Instead, most authors may have editing skills closer to that of Thomas Wolfe who wrote longhand without the use of punctuation in addition to other mistakes that his editor, Perkins, fixed as he edited Wolfe’s work.

If you are interested in Perkins’ life, I recommend Max Perkins Editor of Genius by A. Scott Berg, who won the National Book Award for this work in 1978. I highly recommend the book and found it to be a fascinating biography of an amazing editor. I read it in the early 80s while working toward an MFA.

Today, without Max Perkins to edit his work, Thomas Wolfe (1900 – 1938), the first American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature and the author of Look Homeward, Angel, may have become an indie, self-published author bashed and criticized by that elite one percent that makes up the ARGs.

Continued August 11, 2012 in The NEED to Edit – Part 6 or return to Part 4

View this Six-Part Series as a Single Page

Note: My Blog posts do not go through the exhaustive editing process my novels do.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

The NEED to Edit – Part 3/6

There are different levels of copyediting. Some work may need only a light touch while other manuscripts require heavy editing and the price is flexible. To learn more, I suggest you visit Editors Forum.org.

The Editors Forum says, “A freelance copyeditor corrects errors, queries the author about conflicting statements, requests advice when the means of resolving a problem is unclear, and prepares a style sheet.”

Writer’s Digest, a magazine established in 1920, says, “Smart full-time freelance writers and editors annually gross $35,000 and up—sometimes into the $150,000-200,000 range.”

For trade copy editing of books, Writer’s Digest says that the high hourly rate is $100 and the low is $16 with the average $46. If charging a page rate, the high is $20 a page and the low is $3.75 with $8 the average.

Remember—the editing rate is flexible but the final cost may be determined by the complexity of the editing.

However, if the author is a starving artist and cannot afford to pay a freelance editor, he may want to follow in Amanda Hocking’s footsteps but hear what she has to say first.

“Just the editing process alone has been a source of deep frustration, because although she has employed freelance editors and invited her readers to alert her to spelling and grammatical errors, she thinks her e-books are riddled with mistakes. ‘It drove me (Amanda Hocking) nuts, because I tried really hard to get things right and I just couldn’t. It’s exhausting, and hard to do. And it starts to wear on you emotionally. I know that sounds weird and whiny, but it’s true.'” Source: Ed Pilkington writing for The Guardian

If you are not a starving artist and have the money to pay for a freelance editor, you may want to contact Rich Adin, or check Writer’s Digest Magazine’s classified section under Editorial Services, or visit Proof Reading Pal.com.

Since I have not used a freelance editor yet, I cannot recommend one—caveat emptor, let the buyer beware.

The other choice is to edit your own work with some help from friends as I did. Although there are mistakes in my work, the novels are not riddled with them and the mistakes that remain do not drive me nuts as they did to Amanda Hocking.

However, I did not edit my work alone. I had some friends and tools to help.

All authors/writers come to the table with different editing skills and that includes me. There are two literacy levels: The first is comprehension to understand what one reads. The other literacy is grammar, mechanics and spelling—the editing literacy. You will understand why this makes a difference to authors later in this series of posts.

For example, although I read and comprehend at a college graduate level, my editing literacy is not as high.

Continued August 9, 2012 in The NEED to Edit – Part 4 or return to Part 2

View this Six-Part Series as a Single Page

Note: My Blog posts do not go through the exhaustive editing process my novels do.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

The NEED to Edit – Part 2/6

Forget about the anal-retentive grammarian (ARG) with a photographic memory and instant recall that has memorized all 532 pages in the fourth course of Warriner’s English Grammar and Composition textbook.

This ARG perfectionist may write a cryptic, critical one-star review on Amazon blasting an author for having only a few mistakes in his novel, but that is not important as you will discover.

Instead, as independent, self published authors we must ignore the ARGs and focus on the avid reader who is often forgiving of the occasional bump/mistake. For these readers, the story—plot, characterization, theme, conflicts and power of writing—is more important.

However, if the avid reader is distracted by too many mistakes, do not expect this audience to be forgiving. In fact, do not expect an avid reader to finish the novel or recommend it to friends.

I’m a gambler and at this point I am betting that someone reading this post is thinking, “I don’t care. I’m an author. I don’t need to know those stupid things grammar books teach.”

However, if you want to be an author and write a book that the avid reader may buy, read and recommend, and you don’t know how to edit, you better be willing to pay someone that does.

What germinated the idea for this series of posts was a piece I read on a Blog called An American Editor.

Rich Adin, the editor, wrote The Business of Editing: Killing Me Softly, and he said, “I recently reviewed the various groups I am a member of on LinkedIn and was astounded to find a U.S.-based editor soliciting editing work and offering to do that work for $1 per page in all genres. Some further searching led me to discover that this person was not alone in her/his pricing.”

If you seriously want to be an author, you may want to read what Rich has to say and all the comments to his post, because a cheap/low price for editing labor does not mean a quality job. There is truth to the old saying that you get what you pay for. In addition, you should not have to pay thousands of dollars to have your work edited but that also depends on the level of editing needed.

Continued August 8, 2012 in The NEED to Edit – Part 3 or return to Part 1

View this Six-Part Series as a Single Page

Note: My Blog posts do not go through the exhaustive editing process my novels do.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

The NEED to Edit – Part 1/6

Authors have one challenge most artists outside of writing do not have.

Most artists, such as painters, do not need to worry about developing skills in the logical, analytical, fact-based side of the brain. Instead these artists work almost exclusively out of the holistic, feelings based, emotional side of the brain where the imagination and creativity blossom.

Unfortunately, for authors, the craft of writing requires using both sides of the brain with an emphasis on the left side of the brain’s organized, analytical, fact-based logic where editing skills hide.

Writing the rough draft of a book length manuscript is the easy part of an author’s work and mostly this work takes place in the right side of the brain.

For editing and revisions, authors must switch gears to the left side of the brain where these skills work. If those skills have not been developed, the author—as an artist—is crippled.

However, there is an option. Authors may hire someone (more on this later with links, but I want to be clear—I am NOT an editor for hire. I am an author and I do most of my own editing) and pay for the left-brain labor of editing/revisions unless the author is economically deprived.

For example, economically deprived authors should know there are rules that govern where commas go. In fact, there are thirty-three pages in The Writer’s Digest Grammar Desk Reference on how to properly use commas, and I use my copy of this 354 page book (designed for writers) often.

More examples: The dash [ — ] looks similar to the hyphen [ – ] but these two punctuation marks have different functions in a sentence, and the semi-colon has a different job than the colon (and I’m not talking about the colon that is the main part of the large intestine but the one that is a punctuation mark—they are both nouns and are spelled the same way).

Did you know there is a difference in meaning for on to and onto, and what does the dash [ — ] and the ellipses [ … ] have in common?

The odds are you do not know the answers to the previous question. Yet, the dash, if you have not heard, is “the most dramatic punctuation mark you can deploy within the interior of a sentence. Use it sparingly.”  Source: The Writer’s Digest Grammar Desk Reference

About this time, the author, as an artist, is complaining that he does not have time to mess with editing. Instead, she wants to write the next so-called great novel and has endless excuses why learning how to edit is not important when it comes to the creative process.

Wrong!

Writing, revising and editing are part and parcel of an author’s work, especially if she doesn’t have a contract with a traditional publisher that hires editors to do more than half the author’s job for him.

Moreover, the economically deprived author does not need editing skills equal to an anal-retentive grammarian with a photographic memory and instant recall that has memorized all 532 pages in the fourth course of Warriner’s English Grammar and Composition textbook.

Since the average American reads at fifth-grade level, authors should not worry about a few grumpy perfectionists.

As you will discover by the end of this series of posts, all an author has to do is to write a book that does not distract an avid reader with too many mistakes—let’s say no more than one error every 10,000 words or if we are generous, one error every 5,000 words. If mistakes appear on every page, that may signal the death of a writing career before it has a chance to begin.

Continued August 7, 2012 in The NEED to Edit – Part 2

View this Six-Part Series as a Single Page

Note: My Blog posts do not go through the exhaustive editing process my novels do.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

Watering the Backyard or Exercise – as if I have a choice

If given a choice between watering the backyard and regular exercise, I’d rather lift weights and do cardio exercises for an hour and then take a one-mile walk on nearby streets.

Heck, to avoid watering the yard, I’d walk two miles a day.

The reason is simple: watering the backyard is exercise that involves a lot of climbing.  We live on a hillside. Our house is surrounded by HUGE oak trees and the largest one behind the house is about 400 years old.  The circumference of this ancient oak tree is twenty feet.


below the tree from the house

Imagine what would happen to a raw egg if you stepped on it with all your weight. If that old oak tree decides to fall on the house, the house would be that egg. Don’t get me wrong. That tree is majestic. It is breathtaking to see, and the wild bees that live in some of its hollow limbs love it too.

Besides, where we live, the law says, “No person shall cut down, destroy or remove any tree(s) growing within the City limits from any property without a tree removal permit, except as provided herein.”

I don’t want to go into detail about what it takes to get a permit to cut down a four hundred year old oak tree like the old goat in our backyard. However, the fine for cutting (what the city calls a Civil Penalty) that tree down without permission would be about $43,000 and that might include six months in jail. In other words, it is okay for that tree to crush our house and us in it, but it is not okay for us to cut down that tree.


from street to driveway – top > down

Back to climbing stairs—there are four flights of stairs leading from the street to the top of backyard for a total of ninety-nine steps.


from driveway to second story front door – top > down

The one stairway inside the house from the ground floor to the second story has thirteen steps. Using that stairway to represent one story means that climbing from the street to the top of the backyard equals climbing a seven-and-a-half-story building that does not have an elevator or escalator.


stairway inside house – top > down

Why all the effort to water a yard? Because the yard has an elaborate drip system with five valves scattered around the slope.  To water the yard takes about three hours and five trips to turn the valves on and another five trips to turn the valves off.


first flight of stairs behind house – bottom > up

However, only fifty-three steps are used during watering, which means climbing 530 steps—equal to climbing the stairs of a forty-story building.


second flight of stairs behind house – top > down (the last one)

Then there is putting out the trash. To do that requires climbing another 50 steps or about four stories.

Today I put out the trash and watered the yard, so I climbed a forty-four story building. I’d rather lift weights but if I let the plants in the yard die, well, I’d never hear the end of it.

Am I complaining?  Yes!

Should I be? No!

Anyway, enough procrastination (about four hours worth – maybe more). I have to get back to work editing and revising my next novel.

Discover the Sunday Hike (within walking distance of this backyard)

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”