Articles by Arrie

How To Write A Great Book Title

Choosing a clever title can be as hard as writing the book itself. Some writers say their title comes to them first, and the story develops from there, while other writers have folders of documents like, “Untitled, fantasy time travel book, name TBD.”

Your title should do three things: Attract readers you want, distinguish your book from others in its genre, and leave a lasting impression on the reader. Here are Lulu’s tips for giving your masterpiece a great name.

  1. Avoid clichéd nouns like “chronicles,” “tale” and “adventure.” Sure, some of the great classics use them – The Chronicles of Narnia, The Handmaid’s Tale and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn come immediately to mind – but usually these descriptors are unnecessary and over-used. Distinguish your book with an original title, even if it is a chronicle, a tale, or an adventure. John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War could easily be described as a chronicle, but doesn’t rely on that descriptor to be memorable and powerful.
  2. How to choose a clever title? Consider an important object, character or idea from the book and start brainstorming. Perhaps a line from the book during a critical scene would make a good title. Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, for example, takes its title from a character’s description of time travel to a child – creating a “wrinkle” in the fabric of time to get to and fro easily. The relevancy of the title may not be immediately apparent, but when the reader finally figures it out within the text, the realization can be just as satisfying as finishing the book.
  3. If your book is non-fiction, consider a subtitle to clarify your clever main title. Readers of non-fiction want to know up-front what they’re going to get from your book. Before it becomes a nationally-known best-seller, a vague title like What Color is Your Parachute? needs a descriptive subtitle (A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers) to appeal to the job-hunters who might need the help this book can provide. The combination of title and subtitle of Deborah Frye and Tracy Mercier’s Our Father Who Aren’t In Heaven: A True Story of a Career Criminal does a great job of telling the reader the subject and tone of the book. (Don’t worry; if you’re using Lulu’s cover design services, we can handle a subtitle, a sub-subtitle and all the authors, illustrators, editors and contributors you want to include on the cover!)
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DIY Proofreading

Happy Editing Month: DIY Proofreading

Proofreading is an important topic these days, particularly for indie authors. Just this week we caught sight of a conversation on Quora that started with the thread: “What does it say about you if you are terrible at proofreading?” What we’ll say is that self-proofreading is very challenging, but doable. So, we thought we’d provide some tips.

Once you’ve edited your text and you’re 100 percent confident as to your content and narrative, it’s time to proofread. Self-proofreading isn’t optimal. Look at it this way: self-proofreaders inevitably see what they want to see. In other words, if you’re not serious about finding errors and typos, then you’re probably not up for the task—there’s that and let’s face it, if you don’t know something is a mistake, then a different set of eyes can make all the difference. That said, while it’s not ideal, it can be done. Editing expert Ellie Maas Davis is back today to give some tips on self-proofreading.

How To Choose an Editor

Happy Editing Month: How to Choose an Editor

When it comes to finding an editor to help you with your book, make sure it’s someone who responds to what you’ve written and how you’ve written it. Make no mistake: no one likes to be edited. It can be an incredibly painful process. You’re basically paying someone to poke holes in what you’ve done and critique every aspect of it from concept to comma use. Like many things in the publishing process, it requires a leap of faith, and if you want to ensure your book is marketable—or at the very least navigable to readers—then it’s absolutely necessary.

Here are a few pointers for starting the editing process, from editing expert Ellie Maas Davis:

1. Make sure your editor specializes in your genre—if you’ve written a book about the Civil War or advanced polynomials, by all means, find an editor who has edited similar titles. If you have an uncommon topic, a Lulu Services rep will be happy to give you background information about the editor most likely to tackle your manuscript.

Happy Editing Month: Only You Can Prevent Bad Book Reviews!

It’s time for Lulu’s Editing Month once again – that time of year when the editors line up their metaphorical red pens and break out the prose polish.

To kick off the month, we pose a question: What’s the last thing you want to read after publishing your pride and joy? A bad review, right? We hate reading them too, but we know that, much like sunburn and forest fires, they are preventable! The remarks below are from actual Clarion ForeWord and Kirkus Indie reviews, with identifying details removed.

“… the book yearns for a good editor. It is rife with missing words, punctuation errors and other grammatical mistakes that impede the narrative flow and distract the reader.”

“It’s not merely a matter of how polished the prose is; rampant sloppiness inhibits rhythm, fluidity and pleasure that might otherwise be derived from the narrative.”

“Syntax is convoluted to such a degree that sentences often require multiple readings.”

How to write a successful author bio

Quick, look at your back cover. If there’s a big blank space there, you probably need to write your author biography.  This is not the time to be shy; your author biography, while only a few sentences long, can have a huge impact on the success of your book and you as an author.

CONTENT:

Consider your audience; what do your readers want to know? Keep your information relevant to the book’s subject and your audience.  If you’re writing children’s books, leave out the fact that you started your own tax firm at age 19, and vice versa; if your books are about preparing your own small-business taxes, don’t mention that your two Shih-tzus are named Jingles and Meriwether.

Elements to include:

  • Education. Where did you get your advanced degree(s)? If you don’t have a lot of other career or writing experience, name-dropping your university helps show qualification.
  • Experience with the subject. Tell us how you became an expert, or how you’ve recently used your expertise.
  • Previous publications/writing experience. Were you published in the New York Times? Fantastic! If this is your first book, you might mention it briefly, but only if you have room after all of your more important information. Otherwise, you can simply state what you are in vague terms: novelist, writer, poet, etc.
  • Other ways to find you. Do you blog? Have a podcast? Write regular articles for a popular site? Include other ways for readers to find your work or contact you directly, if you wish.
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Everybody Needs an Editor

Happy Editing Month, everyone. Didn’t know May was Editing Month? Well it is, because Lulu says it is! And we all have our virtual red pens poised and ready to edit some great books!

“I was an English major, so I don’t need editing.” “My professor already edited it.” “My mother was a teacher for 27 years; she can proofread it.”

We here at Lulu have heard every rationalization authors have for not investing in professional copy editing. It’s completely understandable—editing can be costly, especially if you have a very long manuscript. And for some, it may seem preposterous to pay someone else to do what your professor or a relative has already done.

So why should you consider a professional copy edit?

First, remember that, while it is great that you have friends or family that will closely read your book (trust me, not everyone is that lucky!), more than likely, these people are not editors by trade. A teacher is not an editor. An English major, while he or she may have a better grasp on the English language than most, probably isn’t up-to-date on the changing style rules. (The Chicago Manual of Style is on its 16th edition—which edition is that dusty copy of yours?) Not to mention, your friend knows how hard you’ve worked on your book and may be afraid to tell you that your dialogue is dry and unrealistic, or that Chapters 9 through 14 go off on a tangent they didn’t understand. An editor doesn’t know you from Adam, and isn’t concerned with hurting your feelings—they want your book to be as good as it possibly can be.

Second, a proofread is not a copy edit. What your friends are probably doing for you is checking for typos and grammar mistakes. While these are, of course, very important, they only scratch the surface of what a true editor looks at in a manuscript. A professional editor is also looking at syntax, word choice, organization, plot and character development, text flow, inconsistencies in tense, among other issues.

Third, consider the value that a copy edit will add to your book. You wouldn’t go out the door without looking in the mirror to make sure your shirt is buttoned correctly, right? Now imagine if you had a stylist from Vogue stopping you at the door each morning to tell you if your shoes are inappropriate for the interview/wedding/wrestling match you’re headed to. That’s what editing does for your book. It adds credibility—you obviously think so much of your book, and of the information you are relaying, that you won’t settle with only one pair of eyes going over it. Yes, the cost of editing might be higher than what you’d planned to spend on the whole pre-publishing process, but it’s really an investment in your book’s future.  You’ve worked on this book for months, or maybe years—you certainly don’t want your reviews to start, “Great message overall, but couldn’t get past the glaring typos and strange sentence structure.”

How can Lulu help with editing?

An Editorial Quality Review is a great place to start. This service is included in our three main Pre-Publishing Packages, and is also available on its own. This review not only provides helpful feedback that you might use in your own revisions, but also recommends one of our three levels of copy editing. And to celebrate Editing Month, we are offering the Editorial Quality Review itself, normally $199, for $149, plus 15% off the price of whichever copy edit we suggest. And if you decide to take that polished manuscript all the way to the finish line with one our publishing packages, we’ll reduce the cost of the Review from the package price. To get started, just click “Add to Cart” here.  This promotion, along with Editing Month festivities, will end on June 1, 2011.

Fun Ways to Improve Your Next Book Pt. 2

Last week, we posted some new ways to help you make your next work even more remarkable. Below are two more tips to help inspire you to put pen to paper or start hammering away on your keyboard.

3. Challenge your vocabulary at Knoword.org.

If you’re a word nerd like I am, you will quickly find yourself addicted to this vocabulary game. Unlike some games that have you match words and their meanings, this one gives you the definition and first letter, and you just fill in the word. It’s harder and faster paced than some others I’ve played. You can choose your level, and either Canadian or US dialect. This is really valuable for those studying for SAT and GRE exams, too.

4. Follow your favorite authors on Twitter.
If you’re a Twitter user, you’re probably following a number of celebrities–why not authors? Here are some of our favorite tweeting writers from a variety of genres. (Of course, the opinions expressed by these authors do not necessarily reflect those of Lulu, so tweet at your own risk!)

Science Fiction author Cory Doctorow @doctorow
Young Adult writer Adam Selzer
@adamselzer
Fiction writer Chuck Palahniuk
@chuckpalahniuk
Novelist and poet Margaret Atwood
@margaretatwood
Jon Winokour gives daily quotes from famous writers, as well as goings-on from the writing and publishing world.
@AdviceToWriters

If you’re not on Twitter, it’s free to sign up! Check out InkyGirl’s Writer’s Guide to Twitter.

Be sure to check back next week for even more tips.