20 February 2016

Book Buying Links - Be Wise

I was reminded this week that not every author, mainstream or indie published, has a grasp of the basics. The discussion was about handling long buying links.

For instance, if I use the Amazon search facility for one of my own novels I arrive at the page but find this as its given URL (Uniform Resource Locator)...


...and who would want to put that in a Tweet, or a Facebook post, or even in a blog article?

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B003VTZZNO looks so much better and does exactly the same job. I can use .com instead of .co.uk for the USA link. This works for print-only books as well as ebooks. Just ensure you leave no spaces and add on the correct ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number).

Using https://bitly.com/ will create an even shorter URL, with the added benefit that you'll be able to see how many times it is clicked, and these aren’t restricted for use with Amazon. More than that, the default URLs created can be changed manually. How about http://bit.ly/amusBSM for Amazon.com? Or http://bit.ly/bnBSMountains for Barnes & Noble's Nookbooks? Notice what I did there? No need to go hunting for my crib sheet, the destination is integral with the link: bn [Barnes&Noble] amus [Amazon USA].

If you’ve no interest in checking numbers of clicks, sign up for Hootsuite, or Tweetdeck, or a similar social media manager which can take a long URL and shrink it to something meaningless -  http://ow.ly/Yrj7g - but it will reach the desired target, nonetheless. Social media managers are a one-stop portal for use with Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Instagram and more.

The problem with buying links is that there can be so many of them, so where possible it helps to condense the number. http://www.booklinker.net/ does just that by creating a universal link to all Amazon stores.

http://viewBook.at/BSMountains will reach the correct Amazon store for your region no matter where in the world you click the link. There’s a choice of initial domains: myBook.to/ viewBook.at/ getBook.at/ viewAuthor.at/ and Author.to/ How you decide to complete the link is up to you. Again, there’s a dashboard which shows the number of times each has been clicked.

Best of all? None of these facilities will cost you a penny. Or a cent.

Catch me at http://Author.to/LindaAcaster

13 February 2016

Please... Learn How To #Edit

Far too many writers rely on their generation-ago education for their sense of written English, forgetting that bad habits can creep in over the years. Worse, they abrogate responsibility in their own work: but the publisher’s editor will sort that. Only to a certain degree. If it’s too much of a dog’s breakfast, the work will gain a rejection slip. Editing is time consuming, and therefore expensive. The better self-edited a final copy the more likely an acceptance.

Reading aloud is the No 1 editing tool. Speak your own punctuation. If you are fighting for breath add in commas where needed. Could a long sentence be spoken more easily if split into two? Can’t get your tongue round the words, or the context sounds confusing? Check the sentence structure and rewrite to enhance fluidity.

Really look at what you’ve written and don’t read what you think you’ve written.

How many exclamation marks are used? When I was a reader for a literary consultancy I received a script littered with them. Picking a single page, I ringed each in red ink. There were 33. The writer emailed back full of apologies and thanks – the epidemic had not been noticed.

Software such as Grammarly or Pro Writing Aid will pick up such blindness, but so will Word via a global search.

This blogpost came about because I was handed a paperback novel. As many do, in the Acknowledgements the author had showered praise on the book’s editor. Was it justified?

Second page in (narrative only) – 5 adverbs: highly, cruelly, bravely, remorselessly, inexorably.
Two-thirds in (dialogue exchange) – 10 adverbs: curiously, anxiously, reassuringly, awkwardly, thoughtfully, embarrassedly, softly, numbly, eagerly, lovingly
Each list is from a single page, and all the pages I flicked through were the same.

Had it been me, I wouldn’t have showered praise; I would have complained – bitterly. There again, it’s the author’s own fault. If the author had undertaken a global search for ly[space] and highlighted in yellow each instance, the problem would have been more than obvious.

Study a couple of pages of your work, identify possible oversights, and undertake a global search to see how many times each is repeated. It could save blushes later.

6 February 2016

How Historical do you like your Historicals?

History or Fantasy?

The current adaptation by the BBC of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace seems to be flavour of the month, both on screen and in the newspapers, as Tolstoy’s written incestuous relationship “subtly alluded to” turns into on-screen nudity, presumably to sex up the story for a modern audience. After all, 40% of people polled by the BBC admitted they’d lied about reading the book. However, it isn’t the sexing up of body parts that brings the most shock-horror reactions, it’s the anachronisms: an out-of-politic military decoration, velvet worn on a battlefield, modern make-up, and a certain one-shouldered mauve satin dress. Ignoring the highly dubious cut, its colour didn’t exist in clothes until the 1890s.

Do we care? Should we care?

Also currently on British television screens is ITV’s Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands which was avidly awaited by this viewer and dumped after the second episode in favour of housework. Any housework. The only connection this has to the Anglo-Saxon poem is the hero's name. The howl of derision on Twitter had to be seen to be believed.

Yet what about the acclaimed series Wolf Hall, adapted by the BBC from Hilary Mantel’s novels set in the court of King Henry VIII, shot both in natural light and in candlelight? It had its detractors: an Elizabethan house used instead of a Tudor, its drab tapestries, its slow pace blamed for a slump in audience figures. Ah... audience figures. Not ‘sexed up’ enough, or not ‘dumbed down’ enough for a mass audience? I found it gripping, the double-dealing undercurrents both horrific and creepy. I’ve not read the books (I make no apology and I’m certainly not lying about it) but I know that a first-person narration, through the historical Thomas Cromwell, was used to bring an immediacy across an extended time frame.

I mention this because I’ve just finished reading The Bones of Avalon by Phil Rickman, in which is also used a first-person narration, through the historical Dr John Dee, mathematician and court astrologer to Queen Elizabeth I. As well as humanising a name from the somewhat distant past, it certainly helped to deftly convey both historical context and minutiae without getting in the way of the story.

And this, I think, is the entire point: to put across a detailed historical background without info-dumping it on the reader. If readers wanted to read the history they would have picked up a history book not a novel; if viewers wanted to watch history they would not be watching a drama but a documentary, however factionalised such have become. Yet dramas, in novel or screen form, are often the first door to exploration of a historical period. Perhaps those who live by audience ratings don’t care enough whether there is a second, but I believe writers should. I think most writers do, hence the sometimes detailed ‘Historical Notes’ to be found after the fiction has concluded.

Am I alone? How historical do you like your Historicals?