Monthly Archives: August 2012

Neil Armstrong – Rest in Peace

You will be remembered.

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Instructing your editor

Experience: [noun]  Something you obtain only after you needed it.

As I’ve previously mentioned professional editors are for the self published writer a necessity rather than an optional extra and unlike some of our formally published counterparts, it is a very hands on process. There are plenty of blogs and websites on the subject of finding a good one, what I would like to offer is a few notes on the subject of getting the best out of yours.

1) Your editor is not a mind reader they can only do/correct/apply that which you have told them about.

2) You’re the boss. That might sound a little confrontational but ultimately the name on the cover is mine (or yours) not the editor’s. As a self publisher the glory or the blame goes to you, there is no one else to hide behind. So don’t be afraid to alter something they’ve changed. That being said…

3) They’re professionals, take seriously any changes they do make. That change they’ve made that in your mind completely ruins the point you were making, it might not have been clear to them. You should never be too precious about your work, take a long hard look at it again.

4) Internal rules. Depending on your genre you may have unspoken rules that effect the way you’ve wrote a section. I write science fiction and as an example I offer a recent personal experience. One of my alien races don’t use the word ‘and’; this was mostly to introduce an alieness to their speech, while keeping it understandable. Unfortunately I forgot to mention this to my editor and I refer you back to point one.

5) Give instructions in writing. It doesn’t need to be much more than a basic list but it can avoid a lot of problems or duplication of labour.  An example might be names of characters, are some referred to by their first names and other surnames? Have you applied certain conventions? Ultimately what format is your work going to be produced in? The better the editor understand what he/she is working towards the better the result is likely to be.

6) Watch for widow and orphan control. If you are wondering what that means, it is putting in breaks so you don’t have a single word from a sentence on a line on it’s own. It is a process for making a page of text look more balanced and attractive. It is also totally dependent on the physical page size. Since there is no such thing as a fixed page size on a e-reader it will result in random line breaks which makes your work look shoddy. If you are setting up your book on Print on Demand, then it can only be applied once you know your page size. So in short, instruct your editor not to do widow and orphan control.

7)  Finally, once you have your manuscript back, read through it again. Ultimately the buck stops with you; make sure you know exactly what is going out in your name.

So those are my words of wisdom, which hopefully maybe of some help to some of you.

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Filed under science fiction, Self Publishing, Writing

Damn you blurb! Damn you!

The last weekend saw the start of one of my least favorite self publishing tasks – the horror that is attempting to write a blurb.

I am in all honesty not sure who does the blurb writing within a publishing house but I have heard that it is the editor and this work is done perhaps only months after reading the book. The source of this possibly questionable information took this to be an example of traditional publishing failures (it was a pro self-publish blog) but personally speaking I’m not convinced it is.

A blurb is a complicated little beast that needs to do several things, firstly and foremost it needs to be short. Now maybe some people will disagree with that, certainly I’ve read (or at least tried) desperately earnest blurbs that run on for line after line after line. I’m sorry but No. In my mind it needs to be short and sharp. A traditional paperback novel gave one page of space; once pictures, barcodes, price tags and wherever else were added though that would drop to less than half a page. Obviously in the case of an e-reader file on Amazon or Kobo there is no physical limit on space but we are all still used to short blurbs. So I say keep it short. Next it needs to leave the reader in no doubt what kind of a book this is; we’ve probably all picked up the ‘wrong’ book by accident at some point and it’s irritating it actually makes you feel short changed and potentially puts you off the writer.  True as a writer you want new readers to come on board but that will be at a time of their choosing.  After that some the broad brush strokes of the story; you don’t want to drop spoilers and you don’t want to bog down in detail (again keep it short). So you can give one exact detail like the main character’s name and keep the rest very general. Finally and by far the most important it has to sound interesting. That last one is the one that has had me most frequently bang my head against the keyboard.

In some respects the writer is probably the wrong person to write a blurb. After all we have put our blood, sweat and tears into this thing and now we have to distill it down to fifty to a hundred words!? How can we not mention that really cool bit on page forty seven or the clever twist in the last chapter? In fact when writing the blurb a suitably literate friend is a great help and perversely one who hasn’t actually read the book is even better. Simply because they don’t know the fine detail, they aren’t as emotionally invested but once you have to verbally explain your work to someone you will find the main themes pretty fast.  Together you stand a better bet of pulling together something solid.

So my tips for blurb writing:

1) Dig out some formally published works that you are thoroughly familiar with which belong to the same genre as your own work. Study them. What do their blurbs mention, what do they Not mention. Try to figure out what the formula is and apply it to your own work.

2) Seriously, keep it short. Fifty to a hundred word depending on the conventions of your genre.

3) Expect to have several – probably many – attempts. You aren’t going to get it perfect in one sitting. Even if you do, you can never admit it, because if any other blurb writer hears about it, you’re likely to get beaten up.

4) Second opinions. Get lots. You already know how great your book is, this is about trying to sell it to others.

5) Make sure the spelling and grammar are sound. I know that sounds like the blindingly obvious but people do occasionally blunder.

As a finally note writing the blurb for a follow on book in a series adds another layer of complexity. Since now in one line you have to try to cover what happened in the last book.

To date I’ve been responsible for two blurbs:


The Job Offer

My next book – The Landfall Campaign – and its blurb are due out in October 2012.


Filed under Self Publishing, Writing


Got the following email this week from my editor:

“It’s only a small point but I’ve noticed that one of the ships in the story is called “Thurder”. You’ve consistently called it this so it’s clearly not a typo. I mention it because it’s uncomfortably close to “Turder” (as in dog turds) – also if you Google it the top answer defines thurder as “a word that relates to the nasal opening (the nose hole(s)) in a sexual way.”

I therefore suggest it might be an idea to call it something else. How about Thunder?.”

Frankly – whoops! It was meant to be called Thunder. I think I had a Find and Replace All mishap when I was applying the convention that ship names are give in Italics. This ladies and gentlemen, girls and boys, is why editors are a necessity rather than an option.


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Ships of the Fleet 2064AD – an introduction

Ships of the fleet is an intermittent side project related to my Battle Fleet universe, inspired by both my interest in warship design from 1860 to 1945 and the Star Trek fan site Starfleet Museum It has tends to be something I’ve worked on when either stuck or taking a break from the process of story writing. It won’t be a complete record of the fleet and I have chosen 2064AD as the date of ‘publication’ to avoid overlap with the Nameless War Trilogy . While in any future writing I will attempt to remain consistent, this might not be totally possible for stories that at this point in time are little more than a few mental notes. As such the novels will be what I consider ‘canon’. What I put here is for the enjoyment of my readers.

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