Take the time to proofread everything you write

Three weeks ago, I wrote a post on the need for people to be able to write a professional e-mail. Soon after that, the principal of my kids’ school sent out a long email riddled with grammatical and punctuation errors. Many of the teachers seemed quite embarrassed by it.

When we as authors get ready to submit or publish our book, we usually take great pains to proofread the text, whether we do it ourselves or hire someone else to do it. Even then mistakes slip through the cracks. But beyond your book, do you proofread everything you send? Or are you like the principal and just send something out without a second glance?

proofI have to say that I spend probably way too much time crafting my emails. I almost never jot off a quick message. I read and re-read it to make sure it says what I want it to say clearly. This actually is considered editing. It is the looking for grammatical and typographical errors that are considered proofreading. I typically give my email a once over for punctuation before sending it.

Now I can say for a fact that not all authors do the same. I get email correspondence all the time from authors for my Friday Featured Author spot. And then there are the submissions – especially the author interviews and author bios. Many times I see grammar, punctuation and style errors in these documents.

Now sometimes, I may make the correction such as italicizing the book titles, but often I don’t have the time to correct someone else’s work. I did put in paragraph breaks for the one author, who didn’t seem to think he needed any. This was on an excerpt, and I don’t know how he thought anyone would want to read this long block of text.

Both the emails and the submissions for my blog, in my opinion, should be proofread before submitting. These authors are putting their work out there for others to see. If I was a reader and I saw an interview riddled with mistakes in grammar and punctuation, I might wonder about whether the author’s books are this way too. (Of course, course I guess it could be reflecting poorly on me since it is my blog. I hadn’t think about that until just now.)

So my suggestion for authors is to proofread everything you write – from a quick email, to your interview questions, to your post on your own blog and of course your novel.

Some tips for proofreading:

  • Take a break between writing and proofing
  • Read the text aloud
  • Read it backwards
  • Use a grammar-checker – but don’t rely solely on grammar or spell check.
  • Print out your text and proof it on paper versus the screen.
  • Have someone else read it

As an author, you want to have the best image possible. To ensure that comes across to your associates and potential readers, please make sure you proofread all of your correspondence and anything meant for posting online.

Amazon Author Central is an author must

As an author, there are numerous sites and resources out there but one that definitely should not be ignored is Amazon’s Author Central. (Amazon after all is the largest e-book retailer out there.)

Once you log in, you will see the Welcome screen that invites you to update your author page. This is more than just listing your author bio (which of course should be on the page). You can add photos, blog feeds, videos and even includes your latest Tweets or Facebook posts.

Author page amazon

***If you are an author, you NEED to have an Amazon Author page. Readers want to be able to find information about you, plus it easily links them to your other books. They need a way to connect with you and this is one of the easiest places to list all your links, news and events. (I am always amazed at how many authors, and not just newbie authors either, that don’t have an Amazon Author page. It is free, so there is NO excuse not to have one.)

Now back to my information on Amazon Author Central…Once you have logged in…

Click to view your list of books to ensure that Amazon is showing all the books you have written. If any books are missing, simply click the “Add more books” button, which will bring up a search screen for you to locate your other books.

books by SLN

Clicking on any book in your book list will bring up details about that book. Here you can edit the product description, add snippets from professional reviews, add notes from the author, inside flap or back cover information as well as your author bio. Whatever is entered in these sections will appear on this book’s Amazon page.

If you flip to the Book Extras tab (remember we are still looking at just one of your published books), you will see a list of extras you can add by visiting shelfari.com. Shelfari is a community of authors, Amazon customers and Selfari users. On the site, you can include series information, character descriptions, and memorable quotes. If information is added, readers can see a link for Book Extras on their Kindle or Kindle app. (Doesn’t work on Kindle for your PC though.)

OK, back to the home page of Author Central real quick. You can also find Author Central news here as well as links to Kindle Direct Publishing, CreateSpace, Audiobook Creation Exchange and other areas that might interest you.

At the top of the page, in the blue bar, you will see Sales Info. Clicking on this brings up a new screen where you can select to view information on all your books or just one select title. Clicking on “Rank over time” will let you see mini charts of your books’ sales history, their current rank, and how much they have moved today. This is updated hourly.

rank amazon

By clicking on any title, you can see that books detailed information. You can see the sales information for the past two weeks, one month, six months, one year, two year or all time. This information can help you evaluate how well any marketing endeavors have fared.

Search sale info

The Rank section shows your author rank on Amazon. You can do it for All books or break it down by the genre you are listed under. Again, you can select the period of time to view.

The last tab is Customer Reviews. Here you can see each review on Amazon about your books.

Author Central gives you a wealth of information and best of all it is free. There is no reason any author out there is not using this tool – if for nothing else then use it for your Amazon Author page. Just remember you need to keep it up to date.

Selecting an Author Photo

Last May, I wrote a blog with tips for drafting your author bio. Because I feature authors on my blogs, I see all types of author bios – some good and some really bad ones. (Remember – short and relevant and above all don’t list every book or award you have ever published or won.) Now while not all authors supply me with an author photo, I get bad and good ones of those too.

As with your author bio, you want to take some time and find the best author photo. If you are serious about being an author, you need to think of writing as your business. If you want people to take you seriously, invest in the time to find a good, professional-looking photo.

This means don’t use the fuzzy photo taken of you at the last picnic or use one where you have cropped out your honey’s arms around you. You don’t need one of you with your cat or your kids (unless you are known for writing about these topics.)

Here is my author photo which was cropped from a picture taken inside my house.

Here is my author photo which was cropped from a picture taken inside my house.

Now this doesn’t mean you need to hire a professional photographer or go down to a studio for pictures. In fact, studio pictures may be too formal for your author photo. You can opt to do the photo yourself (or with the help of a friend).

When deciding on a photo, you need to think about the setting, pose and clothing. If you write gardening books, an outdoor shot might be appropriate. If you are writing comedic stories, you won’t want to be wearing a suit as you might if you were writing about a legal thriller or discussing business topics.

My suggestion is to take a LOT of pictures with different poses and settings. You might consider some with a smile versus a more serious look. You never know which photo you will like or feel fits the image you want to project. Take your time to find the “right” one. (You can read online all sorts of tips such as looking above the camera to reduce red eye as well as tips on picking the best clothing colors and backgrounds.)

Remember that you will need several versions of the photo. For printed material like book covers and promotional flyers, you will need a high-resolution image (300 dpi). For online use, you can use a low-resolution image (usually 72 dpi). Using a low resolution image will allow for faster page loading and take less room on the server.

It is a good idea to use the same photo everywhere so you can build face recognition. But you may need to crop the photo depending on the use – a tighter crop for Twitter while using a wider shot for Facebook or your own website.

Whatever photo you decide to use – formal, fun, serious, or happy – just make sure it projects the image you want to convey as an author.


Publishing your novel – recap

I am coming up on two years as an Indie Author. Summoned came out in August 2011 and was followed by Quietus in November of that year. The final book in my trilogy, Destiny, was released in November 2012. CIMG1036I also published a short story, The Search, in September 2012. I have learned a lot over the past two years and have written numerous blogs about self-publishing your book. Here is a recap of some of those posts…

Investing in an Awesome Book Cover – The cover of your book is probably one of the most important decisions you will make. It doesn’t matter if you have a great story if no one is willing to pick up the book or in the case of e-books, click on the link.  Click here to read more.

Setting the price for your e-book – You have spent months, even years, toiling over this book. You of course think it is worth just as much as any New York bestseller. The problem is you aren’t Stephen King or John Grisham. No one – or very few people – recognizes your name. Click here to read more.

Writing an awesome book blurb – A few weeks ago, I wrote about the importance of having a book cover that entices the reader to pick up your book or in the digital age, click on the link for your book. Now that the cover has done its job, you need an awesome book description to entice the reader to purchase your book. Click here to read more.

Tips for drafting your author bio – Every author needs an author bio, whether it is for their book, web page, Facebook, author page or when appearing as a guest blogger. The purpose of an author bio is to give readers a clue about who you are and what you are about. Click here to read more.

Does your e-book need a table of contents? You have written your e-book and are ready to publish it. So do you need to include a table of contents? Well, that will depend on the type of book. Click here to read more.

Should you use a Pen Name? – Actors and musicians often don’t use their given names. Some authors also decide to publish under a pseudonym or pen name.  Click here to read more.

Virtual Book Tours: Are they worth it? A popular way to promote your book is to do a book tour. But with limited time and money, many authors opt to forgo touring to physical locations and choose a virtual tour. Click here to read more.

The Benefit of Joining Author Groups  – Becoming a self-published author doesn’t mean you have to navigate the self-publishing world alone. One of the best things I have found is all the wonderful support from other indie authors. They can help you promote your book, give you encouragement, discuss current publishing trends and advise you on which promotional opportunities helped them the most. Click here to read more.

Publishing your e-book through Smashwords – Often the first place new authors think of publishing their e-books is Amazon. And this makes sense since Amazon is the largest e-book retailer out there. But not everyone has a Kindle. Some people have Barnes and Noble’s Nook or Sony’s Kobo or choose to read off their smart phones or computer. To reach these readers, you need to have your book in iTunes, Barnes and Noble, the Kobo store and various other e-book retailers. Click here to read more.

Hopefully, these nine posts can help you start your own self-publishing career.

Tips for drafting your author bio

Every author needs an author bio, whether it is for their book, web page, Facebook, author page or when appearing as a guest blogger. The purpose of an author bio is to give readers a clue about who you are and what you are about. Sometimes writing a bio can be difficult, especially for new authors. Here are a few tips for drafting your author bio.

Author BioLength

I suggest you actually create several bios of different lengths. You can use longer ones on your website or author pages on Amazon or Goodreads but you will need shorter ones for your books or for appearing on other blogs. Typically, your shorter bio should be about 75 words (give or take about 10 words).  (The example at the right is 82 words.)

Limit your accomplishments

When writing your bio, don’t list every book or award you have ever won. Focus on a few accomplishments (no more than three) to highlight. Also don’t list every book you have written. You can provide them with your website address for them to find out more about you and your others works and accomplishments.

Keep it updated  

Don’t forget to update your bios as you continue writing. If you are using the same one as when you first became published, you probably need to change it from saying you finished your first book to you are now on book seven.

As you change as a writer, your bio should reflect these changes. And while you are updating your bio, make sure you have included a photo of you, not your dog or your book cover. (This holds true especially for Twitter.) Readers want to be able to relate to you and picture you as a real person.

Contact information  

An author bio is like your business card. It should provide readers with a way to contact you. The contact information should appear at the end. You can use your Twitter, Facebook or email address as your contact info or simply provide your web address.

If you don’t give readers some way to contact you, then you have missed an opportunity to interact with a fan and interaction means everything in today’s high-tech world, even if it is just virtual interaction.

A few other dos and don’ts

  •  An author bio should always be written in third person.
  • Keep the information relative to who will be viewing it and tailor it to that audience.
  • Don’t include “resume” type information such as education and job history, which tends to be boring unless they are relevant to the book you are promoting. (This could be key if you are writing a non-fiction book and want to establish yourself as an expert.)
  • Include biographical information such as marital status, number of children, pets or hobbies as these show you are a normal person and can help readers relate to you.