The Cover is Only Cosmetic–Honest It Is

I was reading comments on a forum the other day. Someone asked about hiring an editor to edit his book and was that really necessary. And if it was necessary, where could he find a good, inexpensive editor? The comments rapidly shifted from making the contents of the book as highly polished and professional as possible to “hire a good cover artist,” “a great cover will sell your book,” and “you need an eye-popping cover!”

Okay, an excellent cover is a plus. A lousy cover will turn off most potential buyers. I know that. No argument.  But guess what will turn off all your buyers? Lousy content. Sloppy writing. Cardboard characters who don’t act like any human beings who ever lived. Stilted dialogue. Bad spelling. Typographical errors. Wack-a-doodle punctuation.

Go to Amazon. Read a few book reviews. Any reviews. Any genre. Any writer. How many will say, “This book was full of bad grammar and spelling mistakes. 1 star!” Short answer: Lots. How many will say, “What a great cover! I didn’t even mind that the writer couldn’t tell a semi-colon from a hole in the ground!” Go ahead. Find one.

It’s true that I’m a freelance copy-editor. I don’t make much money at it. I’m not looking to make much money at it. I’m more interested, honestly, in helping indie writers improve their writing than in being able to light fires with hundred dollar bills. Or even one dollar bills.

But, seriously, sometimes I wonder if some indies are ever going to “get” it. It’s not the flash. It’s not the paint job. It’s the content. It’s the actual work that matters. The words. The sentences.

You can paint up a jalopy. You can re-chrome everything. You can tart that sucker up till it shines like a second sun even on a cloudy day.  But if it doesn’t have an engine, it won’t run.

A book is exactly the same. You can slap a brilliant cover on sloppy work and it’s still sloppy work. And your readers will recognize that it’s sloppy work and will “reward” you accordingly.


This is such a handy acronym. Kristen Lamb talks about it today in her excellent blog Kristen Lamb’s Blog and also in her also excellent book on blogging Are You There Blog? It’s Me Writer, but I’d like to expand on it.  She says she didn’t invent it either, so I don’t feel too guilty for swiping it from her, even though, you know attribution has been made. *grin*

Before you say something (or, you know, Twitter it or email it or Facebook it or whatever) take a moment – especially if you are angry or hurt – and both think and T.H.I.N.K.

Ask yourself if what you’re about to spray out onto the internet (or, of course into your Significant Other’s ear) is






Sometimes a particular communication might well be True, but not Necessary (at this moment) and certainly not Kind or Helpful.

Keeping this little acronym in mind would have kept Anthony Weiner from Tweeting his political into ashes. Well, maybe. It certainly would have saved a relationship or two I can think of.

Frankly, at times I don’t live up to my own standards here. I’m not a paragon of angelic perfection. But at least I try – well, after I’ve had my coffee. Don’t talk to me pre-caffeine. It’s not safe.



Lightning bugs, doggone it!

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.”

These are famous words by Mark Twain, a man who knew a thing or seven about picking exactly the right word.

This weekend I read two books by well-known writers. Their names are not the point of this little rant so I won’t mention them. Both writers used the word “disinterested” to mean “uninterested.”

Uh. No. Sorry. Lightning bug!

Disinterested simply is not a synonym for uninterested. Disinterest means impartiality, to be above the argument. A disinterested person is impartial. Uninterested means not to care, to be indifferent. An uninterested person is bored. Not the same thing at all.

Last week I read that a character was “totally nonplussed.” Okay, fine. Except that in the context of the sentence, what the writer meant was not nonplussed (bewildered, at a loss, perplexed) but nonchalant, unfazed. Uh. Really not the same thing.

When you use a word and it’s not the right word, you can say something you completely don’t intend.

The difference between lightning and lightning bugs, people.

And, sometimes, the difference between sense and nonsense.