Category Archives: Publishing industry discussion

Beyond hono(u)rable travel(l)ers going to the theat(re/er): British and American English

Most of us are familiar with the most commonly seen differences between British and American English, and can recognise which side of the Atlantic an online commenter is from based on such spellings (most of the time anyway; but I won’t get into Canadian and Australian spellings here).

You’re probably already thinking about some of these differences: the inclusion or exclusion of U in words like colour/color, honour/honor and labour/labor; whether an S or a Z is used in realise/realize and analyse/analyze; whether you go shopping in the city centre or the city center, or go to the theatre or the theater. Perhaps even whether the L is singular or doubled in words like traveller/traveler and barrelling/barreling – and, conversely, skilful/skillful, enrol/enroll and instil/instill.

There are numerous sites that cover these sorts of differences. In today’s blog post, I’ll be looking at some of the less familiar rules and individual words which don’t fall into a particular rule of difference, but stand alone.

Ending with T or ED for some past-tense verbs

This is a rule that is starting to become obsolete as the ED version is starting to become dominant in Britain, in line with English in the rest of the world, but it’s worth knowing about – and worth recognising that these are valid, if less common, spellings in British English.

Words include:

  • Burnt/burned
  • Dreamt/dreamed
  • Knelt/kneeled
  • Learnt/learned
  • Leapt/leaped
  • Spelt/spelled

If you’re British, you may be familiar with the first of each pair, though both are acceptable; in American English, only the second is used. It is also worth noting that “spelt” does exist in American English too – as it is also a grain variety related to wheat.

Feel free to use these spellings in documents intended for British readers – but remember to be consistent. You don’t want to have learnt in one paragraph and learned in the next.

SC or SK

Fans of Terry Pratchett might be aware of this one: Discworld is a world located on a disc. Or on a disk, if you’re American. This is an odd one, actually, since the disc spelling is universal within the record industry, and disk is universal within the computing industry. You might have hired a disc jockey for your party, and saved the photos of said party onto your computer’s hard disk. But for general usage, such as referring simply to the flat circular shape, it’s disc on my side of the Atlantic and disk on the stars-and-stripes side.

This rather small rule extends to a few other words too. Garden snails are a variety of mollusc – when they’re in Britain. Across the pond, they’re a variety of mollusk. You might be sceptical about a snail’s ability to cross the Atlantic, unless you’re on the other side of it, where you’d be skeptical instead.

Enquiries and Inquiries, Ensuring and Insuring

In Britain if you are subject of an inquiry, you’re probably in legal trouble, but in America it might just be that someone has asked a question about you – a usage that in Britain would instead be spelled (spelt?) “enquiry”. The two meanings – the specific formal investigation and the general questioning – are encompassed by one word in America and separated into two in Britain.

Similarly, if you’re insuring something in Britain you are entering into a commercial transaction to protect your property or yourself from risk. An American insuring something might be doing the same thing – or they might simply be making sure – checking that the lights are turned off before going out, perhaps, or that a document has been properly proofread before it is sent to a client. This second meaning in British English is covered by the word “ensure”.

EY up

Paraphrase this for me: “there’s a fake wall on the fifth floor”.

You might have come up with one of these two sentences:

  • There’s a phoney wall on the fifth storey
  • There’s a phony wall on the fifth story

Or, well, it might be the sixth story or the fourth storey, given that British and American architecture counts levels within buildings differently (American: Floor 1 is the first you reach; British: Floor 1 is the first above the ground floor). Either way, the versions ending in EY are British; in just Y are American. For storey at least this British spelling distinguishes the word from that for a tale.

Silent E ending

Drawing on original French spellings, some British English words end in a double consonant and an E where the American spellings end on a single consonant only. This is to be found in words such as omelette/omelet and programme/program (though the latter is used in British English for computer programs). This is less commonly seen in gramme/gram, where the shorter spelling is now more common. Note: tonne in British spellings specifically refers to the metric tonne, while ton is used for the imperial unit; in America ton is used for both.

Individual words

Moustache is the British spelling; mustache the American.

Sulphur is British; sulfur, dropping the ph that comes from the Greek letter phi and replacing it with the more straightforward f, is American.

Aluminium with an -ium ending is British, and aligns with the endings of other elements such as calcium and potassium, but is pre-dated by the American spelling aluminum.

Following the trend in British English where different meanings of the same word sometimes get different spellings, the word for the rubber casing of a wheel is a tyre in British English, but a tire in American English.

A colour that might be formed of a mixture of black and white paint would be spelled gray in America and grey in Britain; a black tea flavoured with oil of bergamot, however, should be Earl Grey both sides of the Atlantic, as it is named after a person.

Do you have any favourite – or any that confuse or confound you? Do you prefer British of American spellings – or are some you prefer one way and some the other? Personally, I don’t think the O in a British moustache is needed, but appreciate the British spelling nuances available in written texts for words like storey, ensure and enquire. And while I’m equally comfortable with both T and ED endings for dreamt/dreamed, leapt/leaped and learnt/learned, I prefer spelled over spelt but also knelt over kneeled.

Most important, of course, is consistency. Whether American or British English is used – or indeed Canadian, which has elements of both in roughly equal measure, or Australian, which mostly follows British English with a few exceptions (like their Labor Party) – any piece of writing should stick to just one and use it throughout. We can’t have you analysing results on one page and realizing something on the next. And we certainly can’t have you drinking any Earl Gray tea.

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Amazon is blocking book reviews if it thinks you know the author

In a Guardian article posted this afternoon, it is revealed that Amazon’s attempt to clamp down on fake and inaccurate reviews has taken a creepy turn. An author called Lori L Otto posted on her blog some weeks ago about a fan who was blocked from posting a review of her latest book on Amazon, because, to quote the Amazon email she received:

We cannot post your Customer Review for “Olivia (Choisie Book 2)” to the Amazon website because your account activity indicates that you know the author.

Continue reading Amazon is blocking book reviews if it thinks you know the author

Kindle Unlimited changes are good for readers and bad for content churners

This month Amazon announced a change to the Kindle Unlimited payout system. Effective from July 1st, authors will be paid based on pages read. At present, authors are paid per book, where a reader has read at least 10% of the book. This change is going to have a significant impact on the incomes of authors, with some seeing an increase and others seeing a decrease, but it was also change the kind of content readers see included in the Kindle Unlimited scheme.

Continue reading Kindle Unlimited changes are good for readers and bad for content churners

A 1 star review is an ATTACK on a book, apparently

Dylan Saccoccio isn’t happy about a 1 star review he received for his book The Boy and the Peddler of Death (Tales of Onara book 1) on Goodreads. He is offended that someone could be immoral as to leave a 1 star review, which is clearly an attempt to ruin his dreams and hurt him financially.

No, seriously.

That’s the archived page behind that link there. Mr Saccoccio has deleted his comments in response to the offending review, having eventually come to his senses and realised what a mistake he’s made.

“Do not engage.” This advice is given to authors who receive bad reviews. When an author ignores this advice, the results show why it is given. Whether that advice should be considered gospel or not is another matter (I see no problem in thanking a reviewer and politely asking for more detail on why they disliked a book). It is advice Mr Saccoccio should have followed. But, since he didn’t, he has provided both entertainment for us and a cautionary tale.

Continue reading A 1 star review is an ATTACK on a book, apparently

How to request a review from a book blogger

I’ve written on this subject before, and me previous advice still stands, but after having received some more unusual requests, I feel it’s time for a refresh of the topic. If you’re an author with a new book you’re trying to promote, you’ll be looking for reviews. Book bloggers are a good place to get reviews because they give your book exposure to an audience who might not have seen it before, rather than just providing reviews on Amazon or Smashwords, which will only be seen by those already considering buying the book.

So how do you go about getting book bloggers to review your book?

Continue reading How to request a review from a book blogger

“That book should never have been published.”

Do I have the right to say “that book should never have been published”?

According to a participant in a discussion on self-publishing I’ve been involved in, I do not. After all, if I didn’t like the book, others might have.

But I don’t mean the divisive books of the world – the books I didn’t like, but others did, the Twilights and Eragons of the literary landscape. Nor do I mean the self-published books that were submitted to traditional publishers and rejected because they were “not right for us at this time” or “not marketable in the current market”, which authors decided they would go it alone with.

Continue reading “That book should never have been published.”

How to ask for reviews of your self-published novel on forums

Congratulations, you’ve published your novel! Well done, that’s a point many people don’t reach. Now you just need to sell it. And that’s harder than it looks. Statistics published in The Guardian reveal that half of all self-published authors earned less than $500 in 2011. When you consider that hundreds of thousands of books are self published annually (319,000 in 2012), you’ve got a lot of competition.

It is widely acknowledged that having reviews helps sell your novel. On Amazon Kindle, readers can browse by review rating – and any book that’s never been reviewed is cut right out. Reviews help wavering potential readers make up their minds whether or not to buy. Readers might even discover that your book exists by reading a review of it on a book blog they follow. So reviews are an important component of marketing your book.

So how do you get reviews?

Continue reading How to ask for reviews of your self-published novel on forums

How to pitch your novel to a book blogger

If you have published a book, reviews are important. Reviews on Amazon and Smashwords help sell more books and reviews on book blogs present your book to an interested audience. So you go looking for some book bloggers who review your genre. Now you just have to convince them to read your book. How do you do that?

Know who you’re pitching to

Before you do anything, research. Don’t just look for an email address and get started. Read the blog’s review policy and make sure your book fits within the genres the blog reviews. If the blog has review submission guidelines, make sure you read them carefully. A busy book blogger will refuse or even ignore an incorrect submission.

Continue reading How to pitch your novel to a book blogger

On reviewers, authors and online behaviour

I recently heard of a situation in which an author had allegedly been bullied so much by reviewers that she withdrew her book. Because she has expressed the desire to move on and a distaste for the drama and misinformation that has grown around the situation, I won’t link to her story. The fact is, though, it’s not the first time I’ve heard reports of authors being bullied by reviewers.

So I mean to set a few things straight here regarding the behaviour of both authors and reviewers. I will not be naming any names in this post as I don’t think it will do any good.

Continue reading On reviewers, authors and online behaviour

Author engagement

Author engagement is important for an indie author because it humanises you to your potential audience and encourages them to be interested in you and emotionally invested in your success. If readers feel that you are their friend, they will be more willing to support you and your work.

But recently I’ve come across a few authors who just don’t seem to get it. They posted links to their blogs without getting stuck into conversations, or they tweeted nothing but promotional information about their books. From a reader’s point of view, this is off-putting. Nobody likes a spammer. What we want to see in our twitter feeds and on the forums we frequent is interesting information, helpful advice, people talking with passion about something they enjoy.

Continue reading Author engagement