Monday, May 6, 2024

Consider This...


Watched Me and Orson Welles last night - brilliant movie if you haven't see it - and they used this Yowzah word in it (the film is set in 1937): I didn't realize the word had such old roots!

Anyway, talking of literary trivia, I see there's a kerfuffle brewing over the "Oxford Comma".

You may be wondering what all the fuss is about...

It's that little comma that goes before the 'and' in a list, as in:

The protagonist was cold, wet, and tired.

Purists like the Chicago Manual of Style, Strunk and White and even The Oxford University have argued that it's not strictly necessary - except where the sense demands it.

Oxford Uni has apparently changed its mind and advises students to use its eponymous comma liberally (at least in their internal correspondence.)

This - believe it or not - has caused a bit of a storm, at least in Twitterdom.

My experience has taught me that Americans favor its use whereas UK and Ozlanders tend to leave it out.

It seems such a little thing but...

Personally I prefer its omission if possible, if only to prevent a potential 'hiccup' in the flow of a sentence. But I understand, strictly speaking, it delineates a list more emphatically - and can remove potential confusion.

What to do in your MS submissions? Use common sense, I'd say, and know that leaving the Oxford comma in place probably isn't going to alarm an editor!

Paulo Coelho has a clause in his publishing contract with Harper Collins that allows him to give away some of his books free on the Internet.

After a fan published an online translation of one of his novels, sales of his books offline jumped from a mere 3000 copies to over one million in just three years. His penchant for offering his books free online has apparently made him the most Googled author in history.

Writers get funny about the idea of giving away their writing for free, especially if it's fiction. I guess they feel they should be compensated for all that hard work!

I'm not sure I agree. I mean, if you really want to be a successful fiction author, what do actually need in the long term?

Readers, clearly, fans, followers, a mailing list of potential customers.

What better way to acquire followers than by enabling the maximum amount of readers to actually see your work, enjoy it, send you their reviews and, hopefully, recommend it to others?

It's common knowledge - in the advertising milieu - that word of mouth is the most powerful marketing tool in the world.

Even Hollywood relies on it. Good WOM in an opening weekend for a movie can turn an obscure flick into a blockbuster - without a penny spent on advertising. It happens all the time.

Okay, so the film, or your book, has to be good. That's a given. But why focus on just the money? Selling books is hard - any publisher will tell you that. Printing books and selling them yourself is also hard - and an expensive option if you're going to just give them away.

But with the Internet you have the opportunity to get your work out there for next to no expense - especially if you already have a website or blog.

I mention all this because I plan to follow in Mr Coehlo's footsteps.

Next week I'll be giving away my latest novel: PSI-KIDS: Willow.

It's about a young foster girl on the trail of a murderer, in which she garners the support of a psychic friend and a ghost to help her.

The subject matter, as far as I can tell, is a little ahead of its time, because it assumes the story's characters have no real issue with psychic phenomena. Though there are some skeptics in the book, the lead characters 'know' that some kind of 'other', some might say 'spirit' world is part of their - and by implication, our - reality.

Publishers I've sent it to have remarked on this aspect and don't believe that modern audiences will yet buy into this scenario.

I disagree. And I intend to prove them wrong by allowing you, my dear subscriber, to download the book for free - so you can read it and, if you like, let me know what you think.

Of course the main criticism leveled at the idea of giving away things is that people tend to regard anything free as essentially without value.

I understand this argument but also know that 'free' also triggers a natural response in the majority of humans which says: must have!

It's a swings and roundabouts thing. And for the sake of getting my latest novel out there, and read, I'm willing to take the risk.

After all, I didn't become a writer for the money. Writing chose me - a long, long time ago!

Why would I want to restrict the number of readers I can reach by placing a barrier - the price tag - in their way?

Basically, whether you, as writer, want to follow this path is a personal issue.

Many writers don't feel validated without a price tag on their work.

But by sticking to the principle that your writing must have a monetary value, you run the risk of alienating the very people you want to reach.

How many of us won't try a new author unless we're given a second hand book - or perhaps by finding an unfamiliar writer at the library first - before we'll invest in paying full price for a novel?

It's human nature to be cautious with our money. Writers are not alone in this. The buying public is the same.

And if you believe in your book, wouldn't you want to get it out there?

I'm not saying this idea is for everyone. Just that you might consider it as a strategy - the old loss leader approach to self publicity.

It's worth a shot, surely.

If you're not convinced yet, I invite you to follow my journey as of next week. I'll keep you posted on how it goes.

In the mean time, look out for your own FREE copy of PSI-KIDS: Willow - the first in a series of hopefully bestselling books - coming to an in-box near you!

Keep writing!

© Rob Parnell (2011)

Writing Academy

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