Monday, March 27, 2023

Why Grammar Checkers Are Not Always Accurate

I am an English major. For this reason, using correct grammar is something that I really do pay attention to. Now, with that said, am I someone who is going to be all in your face about active versus passive voice? Absolutely not. However, grammar is something that, frankly, many authors are not paying attention to, and may be the reason for their rejection letters.

Grammar checkers are now becoming something more people are paying attention to, especially with the introduction of AI programs that proclaim their ability to write amazing documents. 

I started thinking about it this weekend as my son was working on his Master's Thesis. His professor, sent the partial rough draft back to him claiming it was full of a massive amount of grammar mistakes. But here is the issue. The professor was using one of those "grammar checkers" out there that many universities are using. The "mistakes" that were supposedly there were not mist, but general suggestions that really focused on a personal approach to writing. The other issues stemmed from "potential mistakes" in complex and compound sentences. 

The problem here is that grammar checkers, of any sort, are looking for "trends" in the writing. These look for theoretical patterns in the writing that "may or may not be an issue." In fact, if you use a grammar checker, the message that pops up does indeed suggest that it "may be a issue" but does not say that it is definitely an issue. 

I think it is also important to remember that unless an author has personally made adjustments in his or her grammar checker/spell checker, it is not going to find all of the mistakes. A good example of this would be finding fragments in writing. MS Word does not traditionally look for fragments because, in many pieces of business writing, fragments are justifiable. Even if you did look for fragments in a piece of fiction, we have to remember that we speak and talk using fragments. 

So, what does it come down to? You do need to know grammar. BUT, it still requires you to have some common sense to the writing. You can often trust your own gut instincts. 

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Where Are You Getting Your Information From?

I am often amazed at some of the submissions I receive. Let me say, that amazement is not something that is good, but something that scares the heck out of me. I get it! There are a lot of sources out there proclaiming the ultimate in "One Stop Shopping" of editors an agents. I get that there are also a lot of people out there trying their best to provide authors with "the resources they need to make a fortune in publishing." 


Do you have any clue who these people really are? Have you done your personal research on these people to see if they really know what they are talking about? My bet is NO!

Let me give you some very vague examples so as to not run into someone out for a pretty penny with a lawsuit. These are, however, examples of people I have seen out there

  • An author, who has never been published but presenting at workshops of how to create a manuscript that anyone would by.
  • An author presenting at conferences on how to be successful, but has been essentially fired from multiple publishing houses.
  • Authors who proclaim their great successes at publishing, but have only written one book and self-published it with very small sales. 
I get it! You want to learn as a writer. You want as many resources as possible to grow and develop as a writer. But it is still crucial that you take the time to research what this person has REALLY done. 

Friday, March 24, 2023

Have You Done Your Market Research

Time and time again, I get submissions where I really question what planet that author came from. They are overly enthusiastic about their story and seem to believe the story will sell. AND YET... I look at what is selling and this story is not even on a radar of anyone. 

Authors need to understand they are selling a product for consumers. This means that their product needs to be something that the current market has an interest in, and will spend their hard earned money on. 

Market research is all about looking at what the larger population is looking at purchasing. This is where a lot of people screw up. They look at a small minority of people and think that this is representative of a larger population. Consider this...

You are part of a group of people who love to go RV'ing. We know there are clubs all round the world of people who live over half of the year in their RV's. Is this a large population? Sure! But now let's ask ourselves the questions. Are these people ALL interested in reading a series about people who go out in the RV world? Probably not! The reality is that they all do the same things on the trip. And frankly, how many different stories can you tell about people who go RV'ing? Not a lot.

There is also the group of authors who go out to the bookstore and realize "there are no books about their topic." They then go on to believe that "if there are not books out there now, people will want the book." OK, I might give that to you, but the bigger, and probably more accurate answer is, there are no books out there because people are not interested in the topic.

If you are someone who is upset with the publishers you have submitted to, and have sent you rejections, it is time to stop and think about a few things. First of all, these companies, who have millions of dollars in sales a year, ARE doing their market research. They know what people want and what people do not want. The people are not "misguided." but the odds are, you are. 

Even if your closest friends love your book, publishers are looking for a larger population. I don't care if it is a small press, or a large press, it requires having A LOT of people interested in buying your book. The50 of you in a quilting club is not a large group.

So please, take the time to do the market research. In fact, take the time BEFORE you start writing that book to do your research. It will save you a lot of wasted time on this book that won't sell, this book you will use as justification of why the publishing world sucks, and, more importantly, this book, when you put it out on self-publishing will not sell and you will have a negative net income on.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

How To Know What's Hot and What's Not?

You are trying to determine if the story you want to write, or the story you have written is really marketable. How do you do it?

Too often, this is what I hear from authors. 

I know from talking to people that they really want to see a story about this. OK, that sounds good, but the question is, who did you talk to? How many people have you had this discussion with? In many ways, this is what we look at when we evaluate if a survey is legitimate. If you don't check with a large number of people from a diverse background, then that information is not that accurate. For example, if I were to want to write a lot of fictional stories about crocheting, and I talk to the other members of my crochet club, would they be potentially interested? Sure. (Of course they could be saying that because they like you). The real question is, are there easily 50,000-100,000 people out there who would actually invest in money in buying the book? My bet, probably not.

Here is another one. "I have gone to the bookstore and there are no books out there about my topic. Clearly there is a need for this book"


There are no books out there because people are not buying the book. This is more likely the case. 

What's hot is what people are watching on TV, what they are seeing in the movies, what they are discussing actively (and enjoying talking about) is what we are referring to as being hot. Look, were a lot of people talking about Covid-19 when it was happening? Sure. Are they talking about it because it is enjoyable? I seriously doubt it. We are looking for general public trends.

We also have to consider if this is a topic that people would really want to read. I see a lot of stories that show up that I am thinking, why, on earth would anyone want to read that? Sure, it is different, but it is just weird. Of course, at the time of writing this, I can't come up with one, but I am sure you know what I mean. 

The key is to look at the world around you. Also, consider if there are actually any publishers with lines that are focusing in on that genre or topic, or even have sold books in that area.

That is going to tell you A LOT!!!