Answers to Questions About Non-Bookstore Marketing

“Because of high costs, I need to price my book at $19.95, but my competitor’s book is $14.95. How can I compete with that?” George Lascar   The price of your book is a feature; the value of your book is a benefit. Customers attach value to books in proportion to the extent they believe it will help them solve their problems. If your book is more expensive than competitors’ books, your promotional material must translate the price into value for the consumer. One way to do this is to describe the incremental difference and what the reader receives for it. Since your $19.95 book is $5 more than the competition, demonstrate to the potential buyers what they will gain in exchange for paying $5 more. Or, you could appeal to their fear of making a wrong decision and how much they will lose by not spending the additional $5. In either case you will be more effective if you communicate the value your book offers your customers.   You can also use a surrogate indicator, a cue that takes the place of a buying criterion, to demonstrate the benefits of your higher price. These cues include endorsements, guarantees and slogans. Even the way you write the price makes a difference. For example, which looks like a larger figure, $5 or $5.00? If you want to make a price look smaller do not include the numbers to the right of the decimal point. On the other hand, if you want to accentuate the difference, include the decimal point and zeroes.

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The Squinting Modifier

What Is a Squinting Modifier?

When an adverb or phrase is placed in a sentence so that it can be interpreted as modifying either the words before or after it, then it’s called a “squinting modifier.” Take a look at this example:

Running long distances quickly builds my endurance.

It’s a little hard to tell what this sentence means. Is the person running long distances quickly? Or quickly building their endurance? The squinting modifier here is the word “quickly.” Its position in the sentence makes the meaning murky. Here are some more examples:

Taking time to think clearly improves your test scores.

Helping people often brings pride.

I told my grandma this morning I would visit.

Squinting modifiers are always sandwiched in between two words or phrases. That’s why they’re sometimes called “two-way modifiers.”

Other misplaced modifiers don’t need to be in between two words and phrases. For example, take this famous joke from comedian Groucho Marx:

“One morning, I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas, I’ll never know!”

In this case, the ambiguity of the misplaced phrase “in my pajamas” is being played for laughs. But, typically, misplaced modifiers do only one thing — confuse a sentence. They make the meaning ambiguous or wrong and should be avoided, unless you’re Groucho Marx.

How to Fix a Squinting Modifier

When speaking, squinting modifiers are rarely an issue because you can convey the meaning with your voice and tone, but writing is a different story.

It may be hard for writers to spot squinting modifiers in their own work. Of course, as the author, you know what you mean. Readers will get confused more easily. Pay attention to adverbs and be wary of words like “only” and “often,” which can subtly change the meaning of a sentence.

Once you spot a squinting modifier, you can usually fix it by rearranging the words in the sentence.

Bad: Having a baby often changes your life.

Better: Often, having a baby changes your life.

Bad: Beating eggs rapidly creates a whipped foam.

Better: Rapidly beating eggs creates a whipped foam.

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Naming a Character

The most unforgettable fictional characters begin as a glimmer in the author’s mind. Only in writing the novel does the character go on to acquire the dimensions that will make him or her live in the imagination of the reader years after the book has been read.

Sherlock Holmes, Captain Ahab, Huckleberry Finn, Jo March, Dorothea Brooke linger in our memories as if they were real people we have known.

These examples are all from the English classics, but even the writer whose ambitions focus on something less monumental than Moby Dick or Middlemarch needs to give adequate thought to the principal character/s who will carry the story, whether it’s a light mystery, a romance, or a middle school adventure.

The place to begin is with the character’s name.

Some writers, in a hurry to start that first draft, will tack the first name that comes to mind on the main character, intending to come up with a better name “later on.”

Bad idea.

A purely practical objection is the danger that the substitute name will creep into a few paragraphs in the completed draft, creating embarrassment for the author and confusion in the reader.

A more important reason to begin with the most appropriate name is that the name is part of the character’s persona and can inform the developing action. The right name can also send a subliminal message to the reader. Take the name Atticus Finch.

The antique Roman name Atticus suggests formality and is imbued with connotations of law and justice. Finch is the name of a harmless bird and, as such, reflects the title of the book, To Kill a Mocking Bird. Harper Lee may or may not have been aware of the useful qualities of the finch as a destroyer of weeds and harmful insects, but Atticus Finch lives in our memories as a dignified representative of the law doing what he can to protect the social garden from destructive influences.

The very letters in a name can connote characteristics. The k sound suggests strength and courage. Consider: James T. Kirk, Kinsey Millhone, Alex Cross, Brother Caedfal, Kate Beckett.

Other sounds, like those of h and r and the vowels, can suggest such characteristics as weakness, hypocrisy, and—sometimes—evil. Consider: Iago, Humbert Humbert, Professor Moriarty, Dorian Gray, Uriah Heep.

A combination of strong and weak sounds can produce a name that suggests a multi-layered character who possesses strength and courage, together with a willingness to use others to their advantage. Consider: Becky Sharp, Scarlett O’Hara.

The sounds of l and n may suggest sexiness or feminine weakness: Ulalume, Lolita, Annabelle Lee, Anna Karenina.

And, finally, it’s possible to incorporate a suggestive word in the name of a character. Holly GoLightly’s name contains the sexy l ‘s, together with a word that conveys her unconscionable view of life. Bigger Thomas, born in different circumstances, could have had a bigger, better fate. Edward Murdstone has a heart of stone and a murky disposition. Sam Spade digs ploddingly for information, while Mike Hammer gets what he’s after by any means necessary.

Before you get too far into that first draft, take the time to give your protagonist the right name.

 From: Daily Writing Tips

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5 Ways to Minimize Prepositional Phrases

A prepositional phrase is a series of words beginning with a preposition and providing additional information in a sentence that pertains to position (hence the word preposition) or relationship; the phrase “with a preposition” is itself a prepositional phrase. Though such phrases are not inherently undesirable, they are often easily avoidable contributors to compositional clutter. This post lists and describes five strategies for eliminating prepositional phrases by omission or alteration.

1. Use Active Voice

Keeping your writing in active voice is the best way to keep your work fresh and interesting.


 A prepositional phrase beginning with by often signals an opportunity to convert a passively constructed sentence into active voice (and render it more concise), as when “The action was seen by observers as nothing more than a delaying tactic” is revised to “Observers saw the action as nothing more than a delaying tactic.”

2. Omit Prepositions
Many nouns pertaining to a characteristic or a quality are nominalizations, or buried verbs, which are valid words but should be used in moderation, if at all, because they encourage verbose and overly formal composition. The sentence “They conducted an investigation of the incident,” for example, becomes more concise when one converts the noun investigation into its verb form and alters the rest of the sentence accordingly: “They investigated the incident.” (This strategy reduces the three-word prepositional phrase by only the preposition itself, but it further simplifies—and shortens—what comes before.)

3. Omit Prepositional Phrases
In the sentence “John Smith is the best runner on the team,” the prepositional phrase “on the team” may already be apparent from the context, so consider omitting it: “John Smith is the best runner.”

4. Use Adverbs in Place of Prepositional Phrases

Use this recommendation with care. Too many adverbs (ly) words can make your verb usage weak. In this instance, search Roget’s International Thesaurus for a stronger verb that does not require a supporting adverb.


Just as conversion of a nominalization into a verb can render a prepositional phrase unnecessary, such a phrase can be eliminated by changing an adjective to an adverb and further revising the sentence accordingly: “Jane stared at him with a quizzical expression” becomes “Jane stared at him quizzically” (or even, by omitting the sentence’s other prepositional phrase, “Jane stared quizzically”).

5. Use Genitives in Place of Prepositional Phrases
A genitive, or possessive, can substitute for a prepositional phrase beginning with of, as when “John sensed the annoyance of his teacher when he offered yet another glib excuse” is revised to “John sensed his teacher’s annoyance when he offered yet another glib excuse.”

From: Daily Writing Tips

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You Know It’s Creative Writing When…

Five fundamental elements are the clearest way to distinguish between well-written non-creative writing and creative writing. You can write about the same subject matter in a different way, but creative writers will use poetic license and storytelling tools to bring a story to life.

1. It’s told from a specific point of view

Point of view humanizes a narrative by offering personal insights and perspectives. Unlike news reporting, which aims to be impartial and objective, creative writing leans into the fact that each writer has a unique personality, and uses this to its advantage. From using first person and owning your ‘I’ to express your feelings or experiences, to dramatizing the gaps of communication between characters in a fictional piece, contrasting viewpoints make a work ever more immersive, vivid, and inherently interesting to read.

Need an example? Take Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood and contrast it with news accounts of the same murder. Capote’s book gives the reader a closer perspective of the killers, making an effort to understand them, whereas news reports simply list the facts in chronological order.

2. Its narrative structure is designed to engage readers

Fiction and nonfiction share an important unifying core: that of narrative structure. Both use the principles of storytelling to express events, realizations, or complicated plots and subplots. Regardless of what happens in each narrative, the opening, ending, and in-between sections of a piece of writing need to be tightly structured for cohesion and coherence. 

A personal essay that does this well is Lilly Dancyger’s essay “Don’t Use My Family For Your True Crime Stories”. Instead of a chronological retelling of her cousin’s murder and her own subsequent grief and aversion to true crime writing, Dancyger opens by introducing the fact of the murder then briefly visits the present to explain her current feelings, before returning to the past to narrate how she and her family heard of Sabina’s murder. This structure allows the reader to empathize by mirroring the shock of death: being taken by surprise is followed by a need for facts and explanations. 

Top of Form

Bottom of Form

3. Tension is used to make readers feel invested

Whether the tension arises from an impending realization or comes in the form of suspense as the perpetrator of a crime is about to be revealed, the existence of tension means that a writer has managed to write something where the stakes are high, and the reader feels emotionally or intellectually invested. The Serial podcast, for example, does this particularly well, as it tells a true story in a serialized form with cliffhangers and a central mystery. 

4. A central theme is used to organize the narrative

Life, it must be said, is not quite as neat as literary theme analysis will have you think. Writing, however, tends to operate as an opportunity for thoughts, feelings, and events to be organized into information the reader can process. Because of this process of organizing thought, certain central themes appear in each work. In a memoir, for example, that might be the lessons someone has learned, or the principle they believe best represents their experiences. To give you an example, Michelle Obama’s aptly named Becoming keeps returning to the same conclusion after reviewing each of her experiences: that you, too, can become whatever you want, despite adversity. In this case, the story’s recurring themes are hope, growth, and perseverance in the face of discouragement. Unlike the dry Wikipedia page giving Michelle Obama’s biography, Becoming is a compelling piece of creative writing that tells a cohesive story by focusing on this central theme.

5. Literary devices are used freely

Imagine reading the newspaper and encountering a report of an accident that begins with this sentence:

 “The sun had just begun to awaken, emerging sleepily from the shadowy depths behind the skyscrapers and casting a pale yellow light onto the street when Yamada Kumiko had a terrible accident.” 

That’s a tad too poetic for a newspaper article, isn’t it? Aside from being tragically insensitive given the accident context, the reason this sentence feels so wrong is that it uses figurative language in a way that is not common for factual journalism. That’s because literary devices (and some rhetorical devices, too) are generally reserved for work considered to be creative writing, instead. Otherwise, it might feel a little bit like the writer is showing off in the wrong context — if your washing machine troubleshooting guide is all ornate turns of prose, something’s gone wrong (and your machine is likely to stay broken).

We hope this guide has armed you with the questions you need to ask if you’re ever unsure about whether something is considered to be ‘creative writing’ — why not turn your attention to trying creative writing yourself next? May your writing flow not like a faucet, but a waterfall: abundant, uninhibited, and breathtaking to all who behold it.

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Stay Trim and Tidy

Short, efficient sentences are easier to read. To get really concise, try the Hemingway Editor, an online editor or a Desktop package ($19.99) that will make your prose as linguistically efficient as the renowned author’s.

A few pro tips for trimming down the word count:

“That” is a word that you do not need. Take out the second “that” in the previous sentence, and it still makes perfect sense.

No need to use multiple syllables or extra words when one will do. “Utilize” → “Use.” “In order to” → “To.”

Be spartan with your adverbs and adjectives. Too many are distracting.

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Irregular Verbs

The simple answer is: Any verb that doesn’t follow standard rules of conjugation. Unfortunately, there are so many “irregular” verbs in the English language that the title doesn’t really make sense. These grammar anomalies have been lurking in plain sight for yearsand they might just come naturally to you, but we’re still going to take a closer look.

Irregular Verbs and the Past Tense

Typically, it’s correct (and easy enough) to say the past tense of a verb ends in an “-ed.” For example, “I drop the kids off in the morning” in the present tense becomes, “I dropped the kids off this morning.” Or, “I scrub the dishes,” in the present changes to “I scrubbed the dishes” in the past tense. Those two letters added to the end of a word are a pretty good indicator of past tense.

Then you come across a verb like “speak.” In the present tense, you’d say, “I speak.” In the past tense, you would not say, “I speaked.” Instead, you’d say, “I spoke.”

Boom. You’ve just found an irregular verb. As you might have guessed, irregular verbs break the standard rule of ending in “-ed” in the past tense.

To further confuse the issue, irregular verbs have no discernible pattern themselves. They’re just … irregular. These irregular verbs are some of the most commonly used in English — “go,” “say,” “see,” “think,” “make,” “take,” “come,” and “know.” These workhorse verbs take on different spellings in the past tense.

In general, irregular verbs are easy enough to spot in the past tense — if it doesn’t end in “-ed,” it’s irregular.

Spotting More Irregular Verbs

Test yourself: Which of these examples of irregular verbs are correct?

  1. She drunk the glass of water.
  2. The phone rung and rung.
  3. The pants shrunk in the dryer.

Answer: Only number three is correct. In one, the correct past tense is “drank,” and in number two, the phone “rang.”

It’s still quite easy to get confused by irregular verbs, especially when you look at the difference between simple past tense and past participles.

For example, “Stacy drived to the public pool where she swum for hours.” Hopefully this sounds wrong to your ears, because it’s just an irregular mess.

There are two irregular verbs in this example, but neither is correct. The first is obvious – “drived” attempts to follow the regular verb “-ed” ending. It sounds awkward, because it’s not a real word at all. The correct (irregular) past tense is “drove.”

The second one is a little trickier. “Swum” is in fact the past participle of the verb “to swim,” but it’s not the simple past, which is “swam.”

The correct version of Stacy’s day at the pool is, “Stacy drove to the public pool where she swam for hours.”

As confusing as irregular verbs may seem, they start to come naturally with practice. What irregular verbs do you still stumble over?

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The Dash Family’s Roles

From: Daily Writing Tips

The en dash is the oft-neglected middle sibling of the horizontal-line family of symbols that serve to connect words and numbers for various reasons.

The em dash (—) is the dashing member of the brood, used somewhat sparingly to indicate a sudden break in syntax—either to signal a shift in sentence construction, as here, or joining with a twin to frame a parenthetical word or phrase (just as a pair of commas would be used in the midst of a sentence or two parentheses would be employed anywhere).

The smallest, the hyphen (-), is the busiest, indicating connections between words, such as when the phrase “highest scoring” is hyphenated to signal its combined modification of the word that follows in the phrase “highest-scoring player” or to link two numbers in reference to a score or vote.

The en dash (–), however, sometimes steps in to take the place of the hyphen: It is employed when an open compound is part of the phrasal adjective, signaling that the entire compound, not just the last word in the compound, is linked to the next word, as in “Civil War–era artifacts” (rather than “Civil War-era” or “Civil-War-era”) or “Los Angeles–to–San Francisco flight” (rather than in “Los Angeles-to-San Francisco flight” or “Los-Angeles-to-San-Francisco flight”).

Note, however, that open compounds need not be proper nouns, as this quip about an advertising agency with a name consisting of a sequence of initials demonstrates: “This alphabet soup–named firm helps get clients on the gravy train.” If a hyphen were used in place of an en dash here, the reference would (confusingly) be to a soup-named agency of an alphabet nature. (Also, some publishers, presumably for aesthetic reasons, employ en dashes in place of em dashes.)

The other major function of an en dash, by the way, is to replace to to indicate a number range, as in “Answer quiz questions 1–10.” (Remember that because scores are not number ranges, a hyphen is the correct symbol for linking two totals.) In both types of usage, a hyphen is often erroneously employed in place of an en dash (though for the sake of simplicity, some publications, especially newspapers, deliberately avoid use of the en dash).

Also, note that although both hyphens and en dashes are employed as minus signs, the minus sign is technically a distinct symbol that in formal publishing is set using a distinct code. In informal usage, an en dash, more equivalent in size to plus and equal signs than a hyphen, is preferable.

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16 Substitutes for “Because” or “Because Of”

Many words or phrases can be used to set up an explanation. The most common is because (or “because of”), but others have their uses. Here are alternatives and a discussion of their uses and their merits.

1. As: As is a direct synonym for because (for example, “He opted not to go see the movie, as it had gotten poor reviews”), but it’s inferior.

2. As a result of: This phrase is a substitute for “because of,” not because, as in “As a result of his intervention, the case was reopened and they were ultimately exonerated.”

3. As long as: This informal equivalent of because is used to express the thought that given that one thing is occurring or will occur or is true, another is possible, in such statements as “As long as you’re going, could you pick some things up for me?”

4. Being as (or being as how or being that): This phrase has the same sense — and the same formality — as “as long as.”

5. Considering that: This phrase is essentially identical in meaning to “as long as” and “being as” and its variants.

6. Due to: Like “as a result of,” “due to” is a preposition, rather than a conjunction like because, and is used in place not of because alone but instead of “because of.” It applies specifically to an explanation of why something occurred or will or will not occur, as in “Due to the large number of applications, we cannot respond individually to each applicant.”

7. For: This substitute for because is reserved for poetic usage, as in “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”

8. Inasmuch as: This phrase is a very formal equivalent of because, as in “Inasmuch as his account has been discredited, I wouldn’t believe anything else he says.”

9. In view of the fact that: This phrase is identical in sense to “inasmuch as.”

10. Now that: This phrase informally connotes cause and effect, as in “Now that you’re here, we can proceed.”

11. Out of: This phrase applies to explanations of emotion or feeling — for example, “She asked out of compassion” or “Out of spite, I refrained from passing the message along.”

12. Owing to: This phrase is equivalent to “due to”; the two choices are more formal than “because of.”

13. Seeing that: This phrase is identical to “considering that.”

14. Since: This alternative to because is informal and is considered inferior because since primarily refers to elapsed time and the usage might be confused, as in “Since it had rained, we didn’t need to water the garden”; the reader might not realize until reading the second half of the sentence that the sense is causal rather than temporal.

15. Thanks to: This equivalent of “because of,” despite the wording, can apply to either a positive or a negative outcome; “Thanks to your meddling, we’re receiving much unwanted attention” demonstrates the latter sense.

16. Through: Through is a preposition; it takes the place of “because of,” as in “Through the efforts of these charities, the city’s homeless services have been reinstated.”

From: Daily Writing Tips If you would like a subscription to Daily Writing Tips please go to https://www.dailywritingtips.com/pro/?r=nal

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Have you ever heard of Scare Quotes?

Framing a word or phrase in scare quotes, or quotation marks used for emphasis, can be an effective tool for signaling editorial distance—that is, subtly and succinctly clarifying that the word or phrase is not of the writer’s choosing or that it is euphemistic or otherwise specious or spurious. However, too often, scare quotes are gratuitous or redundant, as shown in the examples below:

1. They must look to the senior management to help them acquire this “big picture” view.

This sentence features gratuitous use of scare quotes—gratuitous, because the writer seems to mistakenly assume that any idiom, no matter how quotidian, must be enclosed in quotation marks to signal that the meaning is not literal. The marks are unnecessary with most established idiom: “They must look to the senior management to help them acquire this big-picture view.”

2. The guidelines set forth the separate responsibilities for management and so-called “front-line” units.

Here, the scare quotes are redundant. The quotation marks serve to inform the reader that the writer did not generate a word or phrase; rather, he or she is merely reporting a usage that someone else employed. But so-called signals this fact to the reader, so it is superfluous to use scare quotes as well. When such redundancy occurs, the writer (or editor) should opt to delete the scare quotes and retain so-called: “The guidelines set forth the separate responsibilities for management and so-called front-line units.”

3. That same budget funded quote-unquote “crisis pregnancy centers.”

Using the phrase quote-unquote in speech is understandable, because scare quotes are not visible in speech—another approach is to use air quotes, hand gestures that suggest quotation marks—but in writing, doing so is an intrusive alternative to so-called: “That same budget funded so-called crisis pregnancy centers.” (In this case, however, because the writer is criticizing the use of the euphemistic phrase “crisis pregnancy centers” for a type of facility associated with deceptive advertising and misleading information, use of scare quotes in lieu of so-called is also appropriate.)

From: Daily Writing Tips

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