Reporter syndrome happens when the point-of-view (POV) character becomes a third party to the action in the scene, rather than being a direct participant
Keep blunders out of your books.
Medieval Underpants by Susanne Alleyn addresses the most common anachronisms and other mistakes in historical fiction, while providing an entertaining read for the even the non-historical buff.
Anachronisms: the bane of historical fiction
As an editor, anachronisms are one of my biggest pet peeves. The author’s job is to create an immersive setting, but so often single a glaring mistake will rip the reader out of the experience. While most writers wouldn’t have their knight in shining armor whipping out their cell phones to check up on their damsels, there are plenty, less obvious, mistakes that are just as ridiculous littering the pages of period novels. Alleyn takes us through the worst offenders in this order: (her table of contents)
General Rule No. 1:Never Assume
- Let’s Start With the Underpants
- Anachronisms In Locations: Getting the Geography (& the Street Names) Right
- Anachronisms & Bloopers in Dialogue, Expressions, & Slang
- Anachronisms Of Attitude: Misplaced Political Correctness, Informality, & Feisty Females General Rule
General Rule No. 2: Wikipedia Is Your Friend
- Anachronisms: Food, Plants, & Animals
- Anachronisms: What’s In a Name?
- Anachronisms: Guns General Rule No.
General Rule No. 3: Do Not Borrow Your Period Details & Information From Other People’s Historical Novels & Movies
- Money Bloopers: Getting the Coinage, Prices, & Values Right
- Bloopers: English Aristocratic & Royal Titles
- Bloopers: Lights Out!
- Bloopers: A Quick Chapter on Slooooow Travel
General Rule No. 4: Don’t Just Swallow the Propaganda, Clichés, & Myths
- Myths: Hygiene, Cleanliness, & More
- More Anachronisms Of Attitude: Servants—Not a Luxury, a Necessity
- Bloopers: Guillotines & the Obligatory Heart-Wrenching French Revolution Execution Scene
- A Grab Bag of Brief Oddments
- And Finally, the End: Death & Burial
- Bibliography & Research: Further Reading
Alleyn covers each of these topics thoroughly and then (my favorite part of the book) she substantiates all her claims with references to source material. If you are using the digital version of the book, these references are linked to their respective webpages making deeper study of the topic quick and simple. She reminds the reader throughout the book to favor primary source material in all their research and to never ever use another fictional work as a historical reference. (Lest you copy their mistakes into your own work!)
While this might seem persnickety to the casual author, Alleyn reminds us that readers of historical fiction love history and will notice sloppy research.
Any writer of historical romance will appreciate the extensive explanation of the intricacies of the English aristocratic titles. She not only explains the conventions of what each means, she explains how titles can change and how titles work in special circumstances. Since this is one of the most common blunders in historical fiction, this alone makes the book a worth its purchase price.
While the book’s content is already strong, Alleyn doubles down by providing a truly jaw dropping bibliography in the final section of the book. These references are organized by topic as to be more useful to the reader and all are hyperlinked. For this reason, I recommend anyone purchasing this book do so in the digital form. Even if you prefer your reference manuals in print (as I do) the hyperlinked bibliography will more than make up for the inconvenience of digital.
Not just a dry reference
Although much of this material is technical, the writing is engaging and humorous enough that even a non-author would find it entertaining. I found myself laughing throughout the book and would even recommend it to friends who enjoy historical fiction as they would have undoubtedly encountered many of these errors in their own reading.
Informative, covers a large number of topics in several categories
Research-based information. Alleyn warns readers to never assume and she doesn’t either.
Engaging, entertaining writing-style
Authors of Historical fiction need to get their facts right. This book will not only help authors keep the worst mistakes out of their manuscripts, it also provides a thorough reference list for further research. Anyone who writes historical fiction should have a copy of Medieval Underpants.
Medieval Underpants is available here: (affiliate link)
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Think your Amazon Ad is Profitable? Better look again
For most indie authors, Amazon ads are an unavoidable fact of life. But Amazon’s oversimplified reports can leave the author with the wrong impression. Getting to the truth of the numbers requires a little digging.
The main problem with the Amazon reporting method is the ACOS number. Amazon calls this the Average Cost Per Sale. The theory behind this number is that this tells you what percentage of your sales you spent on advertising. This is a great number to know because it will tell you if you are spending more on advertising than you are making back in profit. The problem with this number is that Amazon uses the book’s cost for the customer as its number for determining sales.
This is deceptive because writers don’t get 100% of the sales, they only make a percentage of that sale as their royalty. In other words a book that costs the consumer $4 at Amazon’s 70% royalty rate, only makes the author $2.80. But Amazon calculates the cost per sale using $4, not the actual profit to the writer of $2.80. If the author had spent $1 for that click (Yes, there are many genres that cost that much) then according to Amazon the cost per sale is 25%. The reality is that the cost per sale to the author is 36%.
If we consider that most clicks don’t result in a sale that distinction becomes critical. If the author had two unsuccessful clicks before generating a sale, Amazon would still report the ad as being profitable: 75% ACOS, but the author would have actually lost money because she spend 3$ on ads, but she only generated $2.80 in royalty payments.
This number gets more deceptive when you have a mix of print and ebook sales. If you only have an ebook, your Amazon reported ACoS should be below your royalty rate (70% or 30% depending on your royalty structure.) But print books must account for the cost of printing. I’ve priced my print book so that it generates a similar royalty to my 70% ebook, but the percentage of profit is actually closer to 30% of the cover price. But Amazon reports my cost per sale based on the print book cover price. Talk about misleading!!!
As an author you need to know what your real ACOS is
Finding the real numbers
Unfortunately, Amazon doesn’t make it easy to find the real numbers. Their ad campaigns do not offer monthly stats, and you don’t get your final royalty statements until two months later. One possibility is to start a new ad campaign every month. All you need to do is copy the current one and set the timeline to run for one month. This will help you keep an eye on your monthly expenditures. You can manually monitor your real costs by comparing them to your current estimated sales. (You can also estimate your KU sales by using last month’s rates as a guide and then make a final comparison when the real numbers are released.)
Doing the math
How much did you spend on ads? (Spend)
How much did you make on royalties (Royalty)
Subtract your (Spend) from your (Royalty) to get your profit.
Take your (Spend) divided by your (Royalty) (Spend)/(Royalty) to get your true ACoS. Anything above 100% and your are losing money.
If you don’t want to generate new ad campaigns every month, you can also create a spreadsheet.
Here’s a copy of mine (numbers have been changed). This shows you the costs I track. Notice that some months I made money and others I lost money, but if I looked only at Amazon’s ACOS, I would mistakenly believe that every month showed a profit!
Indie authors must treat their writing like a business and this means tracking your expenses. By having your real sales and profit figures, you can make better decisions about where to spend your marketing dollars. Don’t let Amazon’s deceptive practices cost you money. Dig deeper to find your real cost per sale.
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I’m happy to announce that I am appearing again on the podcast Shameless Plugs. This time was are talking about NaNoWriMo and Your Novel, This Month. https://www.shamelessplugspodcast.com/ I’m also happy to announce that Your Novel, This Month is now available in print!!! If you haven’t […]
Halloween is a good time to let bad habits die
As a fantasy writer, I love all things magical, and recently I have turned that attention into researching Wiccan beliefs. (This is a purely scholarly pursuit, I promise.) One of major the Wiccan holidays is Samhain which is also known as Halloween. (I should note that some Wiccans make the distinction between Halloween and the true cross quarter day of Samhain, which usually falls around November 6-7.) Many of the familiar Halloween customs can be traced back to pagan fall festivals.
If you’ll forgive my getting personal, I love Halloween, and not just because it’s the one holiday that’s all fun with no pesky visiting family obligations. Halloween is the one time of year where even us muggles can imagine a certain charge in the air.
But how does this all relate to writing?
One of the major themes around Samhain is death. This can be seen not only in the skeletons and ghosts decorating homes and businesses, but also in nature. Plants have begun dying back, leaves are dropping, and many insects will soon perish in the coming frosts.
Drawing from this theme, many Wiccans consider this time of year an ideal time to reflect on their own lives to identify personal traits or habits that they wish would die as well.
In the spirit of Samhain, here is a list of bad writing habits. If any of these are holding you back, make an effort to let them go.
Comparing yourself to other writers
There will always be someone better than you, that doesn’t mean you are a bad writer. Constantly comparing yourself to others will stifle your creativity and paralyze you. It will also make you feel as if you are never going to be good enough. The only person you should be comparing yourself to is you. Make your goal to be better than you were yesterday.
Butt in seat. I know the pantry needs organizing. I know you need to check you stats, your Twitter followers, your… whatever, but you can’t publish what you didn’t write. And the only way to get it written is to stop procrastinating and get it done.
Waiting for inspiration
This isn’t exactly the same as procrastinating. The simple truth is that writing isn’t sitting around waiting for your muse. Muses show up when you are actually working. So get your pretty pens and fancy notebooks (I know you have them.) and actually brainstorm. Get into the habit of thinking about stories. If you have 10 ideas and 9 of them are complete crap, then you still have one good idea. And one good idea is all you need to get started.
Editing while drafting
As an editor, I must insist that you DO NOT try to edit your stories as you are drafting them. Drafting and editing take two different parts of the brain. Don’t stifle your creativity by stopping your workflow to fret about commas or restructure sentences. Especially since I (or another editor) may tell you later to delete the entire scene. Editing while you are drafting is a complete waste of time. And it’s keeping you from achieving your goal: a completed draft.
Editing in the wrong order
Books are really written during the editing cycle, but if you do your edits in the wrong order you will be wasting countless hours. There is no reason to worry about punctuation in a sentence that will need to be reworded. There is no need to worry about paragraphs in a scene that will need to be cut. Make sure you are doing your edits in the right order.
Not promoting yourself or your work
If you aren’t promoting your work, you won’t get anywhere as a writer. You don’t have to be everywhere, but pick somewhere to start. Right now, I focus on connecting with writers on Twitter, promoting my blog on Pinterest, and I have an ad for my book on Amazon. Without these, I would have few “writer” friends, no blog traffic, and almost no book sales. Yes these things take time, and yes they eat into my profits, but 100% of zero is zero.
Bashing other writers/editors/agents on social media
You’re allowed to not like something, but loudly proclaiming how awful the writing is on the latest bestseller just makes you look petty. The same goes for slamming the judges of a writing contest. Also whining about agenting process isn’t going to win you any friends.
Abusing “nice” agents/editors
Most agents and editors are truly nice people and many have a hard time saying “no.” If an agent or editor has been nice enough to give you a few suggestions, don’t badger them with endless revisions. Looking at your pages costs them time, which translates into time they are not spending on “paying clients.” Nearly everyone in publishing is on a strict budget. Don’t expect professionals to do work for you for free.
This is just a short list, but I hope it gives you a place to start. Anytime of year is a good time to give up bad habits, so even if this time of is more about parties and candy than recognizing the cycles of nature, you can still make a promise to yourself to eliminate the bad habits that are holding you back and give your writing the attention that it deserves.
Happy Halloween and Happy Writing
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