By Sandra Valente
Before you read what I have to say, please take into account that these are things I constantly pick up in books, and it seems to be an emerging pattern.
● First rule, always: please, please make sure that before your book is beta read, proofread or edited, you decide which spelling you will be going with, and then make sure that your beta reader, proofreader and/or editor knows this. So many people including (yes) editors still don’t know the difference and mix both – I see it every time I read a book. This is frustrating and more often than not when reviews are written, readers will point out that a book was riddled with errors when in fact they weren’t typos at all.
Some examples of US and UK spelling:
You will note that with the US spelling, the ‘u’ where anything ‘our’ is concerned is dropped. Note the difference regarding the ‘s’ and ‘z’ as well. With the UK spelling, most words ending with a ‘t’ are spelt differently when using US spelling as they then end with ‘ed’. Be careful, though, as you would not want to write ‘spent’ as ‘spended’. When in doubt, ask or look it up.
● Make sure that the word you want to ‘write’ is the ‘right’ spelling of the word. It’s important that you not only know the correct spelling, but that you know the meaning of the word you want to convey to your readers. The below mentioned words are tricky as they are pronounced the same. If you ever have any doubts, it’s as simple as doing a Google search. If you still can’t find it, ask someone, heck ask me and I will try and help. Incorrect use of these words can totally stop the flow in your story, and done more than a few times will put a reader off your book leaving them no choice but to put it aside… in the DNF pile. You do not ever want this to happen.
Although most of us know the difference, it’s still surprising that most of us don’t. Remember, they really are so easy to miss.
Some examples are:
|Conscious||Conscience (This one got me recently, although I know the difference!)|
|To||Too and two|
● Be consistent! How many times have I read a book where the girl has blue eyes, only to reach a new chapter and she suddenly sports green eyes? Or, blonde and short hair for half the book, to fiery red down to her waist the next? It happens… a lot. I’ve just read a book recently where a particular sentence went something like this: ‘I shoved him back, stared into his eyes but kept my head on his chest.’ Do you see what’s wrong? She didn’t shove him with her ‘head’, unless she’s a bull. She shoved him with her hands, yet she kept her ‘head’ on his chest. A simple spell check is not going to do the trick or fix this for you. Each word has to be read as a stand alone and then the sentence as a whole, because seven times out of ten these types of mistakes will be missed. There are so many sentences I could add here, but I’m sure you get the gist of what I’m saying.
These are the ‘top’ issues I constantly come across in books. I hope they are helpful.
I will end with one more tip, and this has nothing to do with what’s on the inside, but rather what’s on the outside. Book covers. They are important. I said this recently when interviewed by an author regarding book covers. ‘I love and am mad over book covers.’ This is how I see it (just bear with me): pretend you own a store. You want to draw people into your store hoping they part with a portion of their hard earned money. What do potential customers see first? The outside of your store front. If it’s not eye-catching or it’s shabby looking, they (including me) will walk on by without giving it a second glance. In order to draw customers into your store, you would need make sure it’s appealing, right? It’s exactly the same with your book cover. Much like having beta readers or proofreaders working on your story, why not ask a few people what they think of a particular cover/look you are debating over? One author (quite cleverly) put two book covers together, posted them on her blog and invited readers to comment. She asked which one was better looking, and which was the more appropriate for her story. Not only did they help her with this daunting task, but it was actually fun. What better way to find out what your readers look for than by asking for their input? There is no better way. Ultimately, it’s your choice but at least this way you get a feel for your market.
After this mouthful, I will say that there have been times I’ve read a book sporting a gorgeous cover, yet what was within was not up to par. All in all, to make your book as much of a success as you want it to be, work extremely hard or harder than you already have, and pay attention to not only one but all aspects of your book. Do this and you will receive positive feedback. For those who constantly put down Indie/self-published authors, shame on them. I’ve read independently published books and believe you me, most of them were better than books I’ve read by traditionally published authors. It’s a given though that in both there’s good and bad (ummm, Stevie Wonder – now I’ll be singing this all day) in the traditionally and self-published world. All you need to do is make yours stand out. Be the best you can be.