Use contractions for “friendlier” writing

Sterling FB ContractionsContractions are shortened forms of words and phrases. Let’s is the contracted form of let us. An apostrophe is used in place of all omitted letters.

Contractions—such as “don’t” instead of “do not”—can make writing and speech sound friendlier. Contractions in dialogue make it more natural sounding and mimic how people actually speak, which helps to keep the reader captivated by the story.

Read your story aloud. Does it sound natural? Contractions create a conversational tone that makes a story easier to read.

If you’re writing a children’s book, look at the dialogue of any recently professionally published children’s book to see if they use contractions. Or if you’re writing an adult fiction novel, see how they handle contractions.

In an older Dr. Seuss book The Cat in the Hat (1957), contractions were not used:
“And this mess is so big
And so deep and so tall,
We can not pick it up.
There is no way at all!”

In a newer Dr. Seuss book If I Ran the Rain Forest (2003), contractions were used:
“Down at the equator
I’ll show it to you.
Your mother won’t mind
very much if I do.”

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Important Dates for Authors and Bookstores

Here is Barbara Fanson’s list of special dates in 2016 to include in your promotions. Please note that three of them have not posted new dates for 2016, so get the news as we do. Follow our blog: SterlingEd

Jan. 27                    Family Literacy Day

Feb. 24                   World Read Aloud Day

Mar. 2                     Read Across America Day, Dr. Seuss’ birthday

April 7 – 10           GritLit, Hamilton’s Readers and Writer’s Festival

April 30                  Canadian Authors for Indies Day

May 7 to 14           Children’s Book Week in Canada:

May 2 to 8             Children’s Book Week in U.S.:

May 13                   Forest of Reading in London, Ont.

May 17 & 18         Forest of Reading in Toronto, Ont.

May 27                   Forest of Reading in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

June 11                  Robert Munsch’s Birthday

June 27, 2015       Flash Fiction Day (no date for 2016 yet)

Sept. 18                  Telling Tales Storytelling Festival,

Sept. 18 – 24         Lifelong Learning Week, Adult Basic Education

Sept. 27, 2015       The Word on the Street (at Harbourfront Centre) (no date for 2016 yet)

October                  Canadian Library Month, Libraries Inspire

Oct. 19                    International Print Day

Oct. 18–24, 2015  Ontario Public Library Week (no date for 2016 yet)

Nov. 7 – 11            National Young Reader’s Week is 2nd week of Nov.

November is National Writing Month

November is Picture Book Idea Month PiBoIdMon

Nov. 25                   Black Friday

Nov. 28                   Cyber Monday

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How many errors can you spot?

This paragraph was written with several intentionel mistakes to see how many my word processor will spot and to test some free online programs.   Some times I type to fast and put three spaces after a period, that effects my layout. Lets’ see if Microsoft Word or Grammarly spot at least 7 errers.

A professional editor would spot 8 errors; how many did you spot?

Microsoft Word spotted 4 errors: 3 possible spelling mistakes and one grammar.

Here are the results when I pasted the paragraph into some free online programs:

  • spotted 3 spelling errors and 1 style error (was written) in the free version; the paid Premium version may have spotted more.
  • Ginger Software spotted 6 errors: intentionel, many, Some times, to fast, effects, errers.
  • spotted 3 errors.
  • spotted 3 errors.
  • spotted 3 errors.
  • spotted 3 errors.
  • spotted 4 spelling errors and 1 grammar error (was written)

A professional editor would spot 8 errors:

  • 2 spelling errors: intentionel, errers
  • 5 grammar errors: was written is passive voice, Some times should be Sometimes, effects should be affects, to fast should be too fast, Lets’ should be Let’s.
  • 1 Typographical error: 3 spaces after a period should be 1.

 Conclusion: We still can’t rely on software programs or apps to catch all mistakes; nothing tops a good editor.

How about you? Have you tried any online spell checkers?

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My Top 10 Blog Posts of 2015

My-Top-10-2015If you haven’t read some of these posts yet, now is a good time. I have three different blogs, so narrowing it down to my favourite 10 blog posts was not an easy task.

  1. 32 clever ways to get notice in a Facebook newsfeed

  1. Top 10 mistakes businesses make on Facebook

  2. 8 ways to get viewers to scroll downto view your whole email

  1. Use your book to gather email addresses and social media followers

  1. Look for speaking events in less obvious places

  1. Looking your best in author photos

  1. Nametags are an essential networking tool

  1. Add fresh content to your website

  1. 9 types of social media posts guaranteed to attract readers

  1. Submit upcoming events to newspapers

I have 3 blogs; subscribe to all 3:

Promoting Your Book 

Writing and Design     

Computer and Design Tips

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Use Find and Replace to remove extra spaces

Word Find ReplaceYou can use the Find and Replace feature in most software programs to spot extra spaces. Sometimes, if you type too fast, you can get an extra space or two. Professional book publishers and designers use one space after a period.

If the text is justified—aligned on both sides—the extra space shows up even more.   A professional designer aims for consecutive word spacing—the space between words.   Why should some spaces be bigger than others?

Did you notice the extra spaces? There are 2 spaces after the word “two” and three spaces after the words “more” and “words”.

After typing your story and running a spell check, do a Find and Replace.

  1. In Microsoft Word, choose Edit > Find > Replace.
  2. In the panel, click in the first text field and press the Space bar on your keyboard twice.
  3. Click in the second Replace With text field, and press the Space bar on your keyboard once.
  4. Click on the Replace All button to replace all double spaces with one space.
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Wider margin in print book not desirable in PDF version

PDF-with-wide-margin-web4By Barbara A. Fanson
I was reading the PDF version of a book recently and realized that every time I scrolled down to the next page, I also had to shift the page left or right. After some time, it became a little annoying. Why can’t I just scroll down to the next page? Because there was a wider margin on one side of the page, but on the next page, it was wider on the other side.

Often, we make the inside margin a little wider in a print book because we know it will be bound and become slightly smaller. The binding edge or gutter or inside edge is the left side of a right-hand page, but the right side of a left-hand page. The binding could make the inside edge 1/8 inch smaller or so, so we often make the inside edge a little larger.Page Margins

It’s acceptable to have a wider margin on one side of the page of a print book, but do we need this on the PDF version or e-Reader version? No. Why not copy and paste the story into a new document with identical margins and use this new document to create PDF and e-Reader editions?

Usually, left-hand pages have an even page number and right-hand pages have an odd number in reader’s spreads—the way a reader views the book. That’s how books have been laid out for decades, but now we have more writers laying out and self-publishing their own books without realizing the industry standard.Word Margins Mirror sm

You can change the margins in Microsoft Word by clicking on the Layout tab at the top of your screen. Click on Margins and you can choose from several pre-formatted margin sizes. If you choose Mirrored, the inside margin will be wider. If you’re on a right-hand page, the left margin will be bigger. If you’re on a left-hand page, the right margin will be bigger.

My newest book Tragedy on the Twenty is a standard 6”x9” novel with inside margins of 1” and an outside edge of .75”.

In Adobe InDesign, you can change the size of the book and the margins when you create a new document.

InDesign New Doc Margins Print sm

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Use your book to gather email addresses and social media followers


In his book Creative Writing Career 2, author Justin Sloan shares his advice on becoming a professional writer of movies, video games, and books. He also does an excellent job of collecting email addresses of his readers, encourages them to connect with him on LinkedIn, and boosts website visits. You should read his inspirational book for the practical information and interviews he conducts, but also how he is able to gather email addresses from his readers. You can use the techniques in your next book or social media post.

Collect Email Addresses of readers

Right at the top of his introduction page, he encourages you to sign up for his newsletter and receive a free story and audiobook, as well as future updates. At the end of the Introduction, he suggests that if you would like a free PDF to print for your writing career plan, email him at (his email address) with the subject line “Writing Career Plan.”

Do you have a worksheet or free eBook that might interest your readers? Entice readers to get the free download by going to your website. You can have a pop-up box to get readers to subscribe to your blog. The title page of my book From Desktop to Book Shop encourages readers to download our free eBook: “Free eBook: 100 Headlines for Promotions and Social Media. We’ve compiled a list of catchy headlines that you can use in ads, email promotions, and social media. They’re organized by month and by topic. Download our free eBook from our website:”

On the title page and the last page of my book Tragedy on the Twenty, I wrote: Visit our blog for tips on publishing your own book: writing, designing, marketing, or self-publishing.


Author Justin Sloan also encourages you to keep your LinkedIn profile up to date: “View my profile for some ideas on how to present yourself as a writer, and feel free to send me an invitation to connect while you are there.” And now he’s your friend in social media.

Website or Blog

In his book Creative Writing Career 2, author Justin Sloan interviews Tomiko Breland who recommends building your readership before your book is published with a blog or social media. Hopefully those readers or followers will buy your book once it’s published. Create a blog that provides useful or interesting content that will attract followers. The blog should also be related to the book you plan to publish.

My blog is updated twice a week with stories about promoting your book, which is the title of my upcoming book Promoting Your Book (or Business). If I write a short blog at least two days a week for one year, I will have 104 blog posts or pages for my next book. Be sure to subscribe to read the blog for free, before the book comes out:

Sloan also suggests that your website should list what you are currently working on, and include a writing resumé if you’re looking for a job in writing. PDF versions of your book can contain a hyperlink to connect the reader to your website with just one click. Justin Sloan’s web address is:

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Speed up promotions with a page of bios and summaries

Bios-on-Paper-on-DeskCreate a page of biographies about yourself in several different lengths. Sometimes, you’re required to submit a bio of 25 words or 50 words. Why not take your time and prepare several bios in advance?

While you’re at it, create some summaries of your book—and memorize them. The next time someone asks what you do for a living, you’ll know what to say. Here are a few samples:

Tag line: Barbara Fanson is an author and graphic designer. She has just released a historical fiction book called Tragedy on the Twenty.

25-word bio: Add awards, books, and publications. If you don’t have any awards or your book has not been published yet, don’t say anything.

50-word bio: Add more words such as more awards and speaking events that are relevant.

100-word bio: Building on the previous, add more fun or interesting facts and details.

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Shortening a link in Microsoft Word

You don’t have to show the entire hyperlink in your blog or promotion. Most software programs allow you to shorten the amount of text in your sentence, but the link to the website will still work.

Why type:

When you can type:

9 Types of Social Media Posts

Both links work. You can shorten a link to the name of the website or one word, such as or Posts.

In Microsoft Word:

  • In your Internet Browser such as Safari or Internet Explorer, copy the web address of the web page you want to link to.
  • Highlight a word in your paragraph that you want to add a link.
  • Choose Hyperlink from the Insert menu across the top. A dialog box appears.
  • Paste the web address into the Link text field.
  • The word you want linked is in the Display text field.
  • Click on the Choose button at the bottom.
  • Test your link.

Hyperlinks in MS Word

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Has someone used one of your images without permission?

Google-Image-URL-smYou can check Google Images to see if someone is using one of your pictures

If you’re an illustrator or photographer, you can do a Google Search to see if the image is duplicated on another website or social media page. It’s a great way to see if any of your images have been stolen or used on other websites.

  1. Open Google images:
  2. Click on the Camera symbol on the right side of the search text field. You will see two options: Paste Image URL or Upload An Image.
  3. If you want to use an image URL, open a new web page that contains the image. Right-click on the image on the web and choose copy image address.
    Go to the Google Image search field and paste the URL you copied
    Click on the Search by Image button. You should see your image and similar images.
  4. You can also click on Upload an image. If you have an image on your local hard drive, you can upload it.
    Click on Choose file and select an image from your computer.
  5. Click on the Search by Image button. You will see if someone has used this image or a similar one.Right Click Save Image
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