MS WORD for Writers: Pesky Punctuation: The Em Dash

Judging from my own experience while processing innumerable Word docs, em dashes give writers fits. I see everything from single dashes to multiple dashes to em and en dashes used indiscriminately—often with creative and/or inconsistent spacing. Go here for a good explanation of how they are used.

The number one problem is that the em dash is not on the keyboard. Good intentions or grammatical knowledge aside, it’s easy to make typos.

In MS Word, they are several ways to insert an em dash:

  • Use a hotkey. Press the following keys simultaneously: Ctrl+Alt+- (the minus sign on the number keypad)
  • Use Symbols. Go to the Insert Ribbon, click Symbols>More Symbols. In the task menu, click Special Characters. Em dash is on the list. Double-click to insert it in the text.

2018-01-13_Word Em Dash Symbols pane

  • Use AutoFormat. Go to File>Options>Proofing. Click “AutoCorrect Options…” and click “AutoFormat”. Check the box for “Hyphens (–) with dash (—). Doing this means whenever you want an em dash, type two dashes and Word will turn it into an em dash.

2018-01-13_Word Em Dash File Options Autoformat

  • Use a shortcut to auto-format. Go to Symbols>More Symbols. Click Special Characters. In the list of characters click the em dash once to highlight it. Click AutoCorrect. Check the box for “Replace text as you type” and check the “Formatted text” box. The em dash will be displayed in the “With” field. In the Replace field type in your shortcut. Two dashes (–) is the most common shortcut.

2018-01-13_Word Em Dash Symbols Autocorrect

  • Create your own hotkey. Go to Symbols>More Symbols. Click Special Characters. Click on the em dash to highlight it. Click the box for “Shortcut key”. The Commands field will have the em dash in it. “Current keys:” will show Word’s hotkey. In the “Press new shortcut key:” insert a new hotkey. In the image, my example is Ctrl+`. Make certain you don’t override any hotkeys you currently use or that can get very confusing. Click “Assign” and the hotkey is live.

2018-01-13_Word Em Dash Make a shortcut

  • Use Find/Replace. This is a good method for those who don’t like AutoFormat and AutoCorrect, and have trouble remembering hotkeys. While you’re composing use a double dash to indicate an em dash (–). When you’re done writing, go to the Home Ribbon and click “Replace”. Click “More” to open the full Find/Replace task menu.

In the Find field: – – (two single dashes)
In the Replace field: ^+ (or click the box called “Special” and select Em Dash from the list)
Replace All

Word Quirks to Drive You Nuts

Because Word is an office productivity program rather than a straight word processor, it doesn’t always get that it is perfectly acceptable to end dialogue with an em dash closed by a right (close) single or double quote mark. Depending on your version of Word, it will insert a left (open) single or double quote mark.

“Now is the time for all—“

(I say “depending on your version…” because Microsoft is always updating its products. On the computer I use for fiction, the problem persists despite updates. On the computer on which I’m writing this blog post, Word recognizes that a space or hard return after the quote mark means to use the right quote mark to close it. So if your version is inserting the correct punctuation, skip to the next quirk.)

If your version is putting left (open) quotes after dashes, your best defense is awareness. Either manage them as you go along—I type in a quote mark first, then insert the dash where it belongs—or run a quick Find/Replace operation when you’re done to fix them all with one Replace All. Doing it that way means you will have to copy/paste the correct dash and left (open) quote mark into the Find field, correct the instance, then copy/paste the dash and right (close) quote mark into the Replace field. That way Word knows to do what you intend to do.

In the Find field: ^+“
In the Replace field: ^+”
Replace All (But only if you know there aren’t any em dashes that should have a left quote mark. If that is the case, use Find Next and check each instance before you change it.)

* * *

Another annoying quirk is Word’s tendency to orphan quote marks. The text wraps and the dash stays on one line and the quote mark ends up on the next line.

2018-01-13_Word Em Dash orphan quote mark

From a digital perspective, it’s mostly an aesthetic problem while you’re working in Word. Ebook devices have gotten smarter and I haven’t seen an orphaned quote mark in an ebook in quite some time. So if you’re formatting an ebook, grit your teeth and ignore it in your Word file, confident that your ebook will not experience the same problem. (Just so you know, Kindle devices do not recognize the No-Width Non Break or the Nonbreaking Space characters created in Word. That could change in the future, but currently that’s the way it is. I don’t know how it is with EPUB platform devices.)

Orphaned quote marks are, however, a problem in print documents—you do not want orphaned quote marks in a manuscript, print-on-demand edition or business letter. The solution is to insert a special character called a “No-Width Non Break.‍”

2018-01-13_Word Em Dash No Width Non Break

Unfortunately, you won’t be able to do a Find/Replace operation for this; Word disallows the character in search and replace fields. My recommendation is that once you have the print document formatted that you run a search for the em dash with a quote mark. If you find an orphaned quote mark, place the cursor between the dash and the quote mark, go to Symbols>More Symbols, click Special Characters and double-click the No-Width Non Break character to manually insert it. (In the Home Ribbon, click the Show/Hide icon—looks like a pilcrow ¶—so you can see that the character is inserted where you want it.)

* * *

In the next blog post I’ll discuss the ellipsis character, which also seems to give writers fits. Watch this space.

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My goal for 2018 is to teach as many writers as possible how to efficiently and expertly use MS Word as a writing and self-publishing tool. Watch this blog-space for more tips, tricks and techniques. Or, if you’d prefer all the information in one package, including step-by-step instructions for formatting ebooks and print-on-demand editions, WORD for the Wise: Using Microsoft Office Word for Creative Writing and Self-publishing is available at Amazon as an ebook and in print.

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MS WORD for Writers: Working with Styles

The very best feature of Microsoft Word—or of any word processor or writing program—is styles. Open up Word and you’ll see the Styles handily placed in the Home Ribbon. Many writers have no idea what those do or why they are there. You may have clicked on one out of curiosity and oddball things happened in your doc and it freaked you out.

Fear not. Styles are easy. Easy to use, easy to create, easy to modify. They make writing easier, reduce errors, and prevent destructive coding caused by over-formatting. Trust me. If you’re writing fiction, you only need two: Normal and Heading 1.

(Nonfiction sometimes requires extra heading styles. Formatting ebooks or a print-on-demand edition means using multiple styles. Once you see how easy it is to use Normal and Heading 1 in your daily writing, you’ll have no problem if/when there comes a time when you need multiple styles.)

Normal Style

If the Tool Ribbon is not displaying in your Word setup, click Home. When the Ribbon opens you will see a pin icon in the lower right corner. Click that and the Ribbon will stay open.

2018-01-10_Word Style Ribbon

How it works: Open a new blank Word doc. In the Home Ribbon, hover your cursor over the style that says “Normal”. Right click and select “Modify”. A “Modify Style” tool box will open. At the  bottom check the boxes for “Add to the Styles gallery”; “New documents based on this template”. Under that, click the arrow to open the options for Format. Select “Paragraph”. A Paragraph tool box will open.

2018-01-09_Word Modify Styles

In “Indents and Spacing” select:

Alignment: Left
Outline Level: Body Text
Indentation Left: 0”
Indentation Right: 0”
Special: First Line
By: 0.5”
Spacing Before: 0 pt
Spacing After: 0 pt
Line spacing: 1.5 lines
At: (leave blank)
In “Line and Page Breaks” clear all boxes.
Click OK

Next, from the Modify Style box Format dropdown menu select “Font” and a Font tool box will open.

Font: Times New Roman
Font Style: Regular
Size: 12
Font color: Automatic
Underline style: (none)
Effects: clear all boxes
Click OK

In the Modify Style box click OK.

2018-01-09_Word Modify Paragraph2018-01-09_Word Modify Font

Now type a few paragraphs. Every one of them, without you doing anything except type words and hit Enter, will look the same. Same indent, same font, same spacing. From this point forward, when you open a new blank doc, the Normal style will be your default. Unless you modify the style, a doc you write today will look exactly like anything you’ll write years from now.

The set up above is a suggestion for writing fiction. If you prefer different line spacing or another font or narrower or wider indents, modify the style. Find a look that is comfortable for you and works well with your creative process.

A few cautions:

  • In Line spacing select single, 1.5 lines or double; avoid At Least (it has a specific purpose when creating print layouts). If you prefer no paragraph indents, you will need to add spacing either before or after each paragraph so they don’t all run together. 6 pt will approximate one line of spacing.
  • When selecting a font, stick to the “common” fonts such as Times New Roman, Garamond, Arial or Courier. Some of the fonts included on your computer or imported from other sources are not recognized by other programs or operating systems. If another program can’t substitute its own fonts for your fonts, the recipient will see gibberish.

Heading 1

Heading styles (Word has them built in up to nine levels) affect more than just the look of the text. Headings create navigation in a doc. To see this in action, type a list of headings in your Word doc. Chapter 1, Chapter 2, and so on. Without modifying anything, set your cursor at the beginning of a line and click on Heading 1. (Don’t worry about what it looks like right now.) Next, in the Home Ribbon click “Find”. A Navigation pane will open on the left side of the screen. Click Headings and you will see every heading to which you’ve applied a heading style.

2018-01-10_Word Styles Pane

Using heading styles

  • Eliminates the need for page breaks (unnecessary in a work in progress);
  • Allows you to easily navigate through a long doc without scrolling or paging—click an entry in the Navigation pane and Word will take you right to it;
  • Makes it easier to see and repair the common error of incorrectly numbering chapters;
  • Ensures consistency in that you’ll never have to remember the font size or effects, or worry about placement.

Heading styles can be modified the same as the body styles. Hover the cursor over the style, right click, and the Modify tool box will open.

Styles Pane

The easiest way to track styles is to open the Styles pane. (See image above) In the Ribbon Styles command box, click the arrow in the lower right corner of the box. A pane will open. The first time it’s opened it will display a list of every built-in style offered in the template you’re using. The Styles pane can be customized so it only displays the styles in use. Click on “Options…” (at the bottom right of the Styles pane) and a tool box will open to customize the display.

The Styles pane has three Quick Access icons at the bottom. “New Style”, “Style Inspector”, and “Manage Styles”. Clicking any of them opens a tool box for a specific task.

Create New Styles

Select the text you want styled. Click the “New Style” icon in the Styles pane or click the down arrow on the styles display box in the Ribbon and click “Create a Style”. Either way will open a New Style tool box. Give the new style a name and set up the font and paragraph any way you like.

Apply Styles in an Existing Word Doc

If you have a work in progress for which you have not been using styles, applying styles can be easy or tricky depending on how much formatting you’ve done.

The easy way:

  1. Select all the text. (Ctrl+a)
  2. Click the “Clear all Formatting” icon in the Home Ribbon Font command box. (See the image of the Ribbon above for its location.)
  3. With the text still selected, click “Normal” to apply the style.
  4. Deselect the text then scroll through the doc and apply Heading styles to chapter and section headings.
  5. Done.

If however, you clear the styles and apply Normal and your doc is a mess, that means you’ve done a lot of extraneous formatting that needs to be cleaned out. There isn’t enough room in this blog post to cover a thorough clean, but there are four common things writers do that mess up their docs. Running the following Find/Replace operations will take care of them.

1) Tabs: To get rid of tabs, go to the Home Ribbon Editing command box and click “Replace” to open the Find/Replace box.

In the Find field: ^t
In the Replace field: (leave it blank)
Replace All

2) Soft Returns (Shift+Enter): Change soft returns into hard returns.

In the Find field: ^l (that is a lower case L)
In the Replace field: ^p
Replace All

3) Extra Spaces:

In the Find field: (hit the space bar twice to create two blank spaces)
In the Replace field: (hit the space bar once to create one blank space)
Replace All and repeat until results show zero

4) Extra Hard Returns: Be cautious with this operation. If you’ve been using extra hard returns to indicate scene breaks, you need to tag them first. Use pound/hashtag signs or asterisks or even insert [SCENE BREAK]. The same thing goes for deliberate blank lines such as those between stanzas in poetry or songs. If you need deliberate blank lines, tag them so they aren’t lost. When the tagging is done:

In the Find field: ^p^p
In the Replace field: ^p
Replace All and repeat until the results show zero

There you have it, how to use styles. Increase productivity and remove the distraction of “formatting” when you’re supposed to be telling a story.

By the way, even if you don’t use MS Word, almost every word processor or writing program uses styles. In your program of choice, look under Edit or Layout, or search the Help menu. Find styles, set them up, and use them.

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My goal for 2018 is to teach as many writers as possible how to efficiently and expertly use MS Word as a writing and self-publishing tool. Watch this blog-space for more tips, tricks and techniques. Or, if you’d prefer all the information in one package, including step-by-step instructions for formatting ebooks and print-on-demand editions, WORD for the Wise: Using Microsoft Office Word for Creative Writing and Self-publishing is available at Amazon as an ebook and in print.

MS WORD for Writers: Views and Working in Web Layout

There’s a simple trick I’ve learned that makes my job easier. Whether I’m writing or processing a client’s Word doc for editing or formatting, I work in Web Layout View.

In the Word Tool Ribbon is Views. Click on that then over on the left side of the Ribbon is the command box for Views. Your choices are Read Mode, Print Layout and Web Layout along with Outline and Draft. Click Web Layout and now your screen acts similar to a scalable website page.

In Web Layout view you are not limited by the “page” size of your document (Word’s default is an 8.5” by 11” page with one inch margins all around). Decreasing the size of the window causes the words to rewrap and adjust to fit the screen—as opposed to Print Layout where decreasing the window can cause text to be cut off. Web Layout has no margins and no pages.

Also in the Views Ribbon is the command box for Zoom. Here you can increase or decrease the size of the text, or change to multiple pages. Word also has a scroll bar at the bottom right of the main screen for quick zooming in and out. The latest version has icons for switching between Read, Print and Web Layout.

(The only time I use Print Layout is when I’m creating a doc for printing. Considering 99% of the docs I process are for digital sharing or for formatting in other programs, that’s not very often.)

You wouldn’t think something so simple as switching views could increase productivity or make writing easier. It’s highly effective for several reasons.

One, I’m a multi-tasker with bad eyes. I keep multiple programs open and viewable so I can quickly switch programs or keep an eye on email or compare one doc against another. I usually work at 150% zoom with a fairly narrow window width. Web Layout keeps everything readable. When I’m working on my own writing, I like to keep the browser open so I can easily look up words or do some research or view images. (Okay, sometimes I play YouTube videos. Inspiration, not procrastination, all right?) Even on the smaller screen of my laptop, this gives me plenty of room to work comfortably.

Two, I’m easily distracted by widows and orphans. Dear Blog Readers, do not for a second pretend you don’t know exactly what I’m talking about. You’re writing along, coming to the end of a chapter, and Word drops you to a new page and there it is—a single word. Or you insert a scene break, start the new scene but after only one line, it goes to a new page, leaving that single line sitting on the preceding page like a lonesome doofus. You know and I know, it drives you nuts. Then your writing flow is interrupted while you compulsively “fix” the problem by cutting or adding words, or screwing around with inserting extra hard returns and other nonsense. It’s a form of procrastination easily resolved by working in Web Layout.

Three, it reduces the urge to “format” while I write. Even I, who definitely knows better, gets caught up by the appearance of the words on the screen. When I’m composing fiction or something like this blog post, I do not format other than using basic styles (a subject for another blog post). I don’t insert page breaks or change the alignment of paragraphs or center text. I just write. It doesn’t matter what my doc looks like. Eventually it’ll be shared or formatted for a specific purpose, but that’s later, down the road when I’m finished writing and all the editing, revising and polishing is done. Any “formatting” in the doc will have to be stripped out, thus it’s a total waste of time and mental energy. Not to mention that a lot of “formatting” writers do in Word is destructive when docs are shared digitally or formatted for ebooks.

What about page count, you ask. Web Layout gives you the word count, but not the page count and how are you supposed to keep track of your productivity? If it really matters, you can switch views with one mouse click. Or, if you’re inclined to track your page progress as you write, go the Home Ribbon and in the Editing command box click Find. That will open a Navigation pane on the left side of your screen. It has three options: Headings, Pages and Results. Click on Pages and it’ll display thumbnails of your pages.

So there you have it. Web Layout for increased productivity and fewer opportunities for procrastinating when you should be telling a story.

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My goal for 2018 is to teach as many writers as possible how to efficiently and expertly use MS Word as a writing and self-publishing tool. Watch this blog-space for more tips, tricks and techniques. Or, if you’d prefer all the information in one package, including step-by-step instructions for formatting ebooks and print-on-demand editions, WORD for the Wise: Using Microsoft Office Word for Creative Writing and Self-publishing is available at Amazon as an ebook and in print.

 

 

MS Word and Print on Demand Books

Since I published the ebook, WORD for the Wise, I’ve been getting some questions. Since I know for every person who actually sends an email, there are many more with the same questions who don’t send emails, thought I’d throw out some answers here.

  • Yes, there will be a print edition. I’m working on it now and it should be available for sale in a few weeks.
  • Yes, Word formats for ebooks are perfectly acceptable and not at all difficult to do as long as you’re aware of the limitations. There are plenty of good resources on the internet and in how-to books, including mine, with step by step instructions.

The main question I want to cover has to do with print on demand books. I know a lot of you are currently publishing print editions–I’m doing as many print editions these days as I am ebooks. Judging by the questions I’ve gotten, a lot of writers have doubts about both the quality of Word formats and how easy it is to do.

Regarding quality, if a book is formatted properly and uses good fonts, the average reader would find it very difficult to tell the difference between a book formatted in Word and one formatted in a publishing program such as InDesign. A book designer, a professional typographer, or a hardcore bibliophile who collects books as objects would see the difference. But a reader who buys a romance or mystery or science fiction to enjoy the story either won’t notice the difference or won’t care. The self-publisher with more time than money or who wants to handle production themselves because Go, DIY!, should feel perfectly confident that it is possible to format their book in MS Word so that it looks professional and can proudly take its place on readers’ bookshelves.

As for ease of use, Word can be persnickety, as those of you who use it are well aware. Because it’s an office program rather than a publishing program, it’s not set up to do some of the things that a publishing program can do. With a little patience and some practice, however, a determined do-it-yourselfer could format a novel in a few hours. The example below took me five minutes.

pod format

Granted, I’ve been doing this a while and I’ve been immersing myself in Word for the past few months, but even so, with a bit of practice you can do it, too.

The keys to a good print-on-demand format:

  • Use a good font. The majority of fonts pre-installed on computers are too wimpy or too “homemade” looking for commercial publishing. There are a few fonts that are suitable, however, and with some testing you’ll be able to find one that’s suitable.
  • Keep the design simple. The very best models are sitting on your bookshelf. Take a look at traditionally published books in your genre. That’s what readers expect to see and most of the designs are simple enough to emulate.
  • Be patient with yourself. If you get tangled up or the program starts fighting with you, be willing to start over. It’s okay. Practice makes perfect.
  • Take it step-by-step. There’s an order to doing a print format that greatly reduces frustration and creates a better product. In WORD for the Wise, I lay out the process as clearly as I know how. Even though there are a lot of steps, no one step is difficult.

I hope that answers your questions. If there are others, well, you know where to find me.

WORD for the Wise
Using  Microsoft Office Word for Creative Writing and Self-publishing

 

 

 

 

I Finally Did It: WORD FOR THE WISE is now an ebook

I know, I know, I haven’t posted in ages. I’ve been very busy. Anyone want to know how to scan and restore foreign edition paperbacks and turn them into ebooks and print books without being able to understand the words? *crickets* No? Okay, on to the subject at hand.

After years of cleaning and processing MS Word docs, and posting tips and tricks and hacks for using Microsoft Office Word for writing and self-publishing, and answering a lot of emails about problems with Word, I finally compiled that hard-earned knowledge into a book.

2017-11-08_Ebook Cover_Manus_Word for the Wis copy

Here’s an excerpt from the Introduction:

Word is an excellent word processor, one of the most powerful on the market. All that power comes with a price: Where the act of composing fiction or nonfiction is a simple process (in technical terms) Word is complicated. It’s right there in the name itself: Microsoft Office Word. It’s a productivity program for businesses; not a publishing program for writers of commercial fiction and nonfiction.

For writing a report or a business proposal or a policy & procedures manual, it’s one of the best programs around. For writers, though? It’s kind of like driving a Porsche Carrera to the grocery store.

Even so, just about every writer I deal with uses Word. Even Mac users. Even writers who wouldn’t touch a Microsoft program send material that has been exported as a Word doc. Word is everywhere thanks to Microsoft having installed it on all Windows PCs for decades. (They no longer give away the Microsoft Office Suite; Word must now be licensed via subscription.)

Smashwords, the largest and heartiest of the aggregators for self-publishers to distribute and sell ebooks, converts Word docs into a wide variety of ebook platforms. (A publisher can also upload an EPUB file to Smashwords.) Other sites now allow self-publishers to upload Word docs. Even Amazon allows it. The conversion processes they use are programmed to recognize and modify the HTML coding in a Word doc.

Writers are using Word to compose their work, and some use it to format ebooks, and others use it to format print-on-demand editions. Even some professional ebook and print formatters use Word. Word might not be the best word processor for writers, but it is everywhere and it’s not going away for a long, long time.

I have processed thousands of Word docs, millions and millions of words, from hundreds of clients. The majority of those writers are like me from ten years ago, using the program inefficiently and often destructively. Cleaning up those files is how I’ve become an expert.

I can help you use Word like an expert, too.

My goals with this book are:

  • Teach writers to customize Word to suit their particular needs.
  • Teach writers to use the features that actually make their writing lives easier.
  • Help writers increase their creative productivity by eliminating destructive practices.
  • Teach writers to create the various types of docs used for editorial tasks, digital submissions, ebooks and print-on-demand interior files.

Even if you don’t use Word, you might find this book useful. There are dozens of word processors and programs created specifically for creative writing. The majority use the same underlying principles as Word.

I give you my promise. There are no gotchas in this book. No traps. No need for special skills or technical knowledge. I won’t use tech-speak because I don’t know any; I’m talking to you writer to writer. You don’t even need a spectacular memory since many of the things I recommend will require your attention just once. Set it and forget it and write on.

For the time being it’s only available on Amazon. (Have to figure out how to sneak all the mentions of Amazon and Kindle past Apple–heh.) I’m working on the print edition and should have that live in a week or so.

So if you ever wanted to know what I know about using MS Word, now you can, all in one easy guide.

WORD for the Wise:
Using Microsoft Office Word for Creative Writing and Self-Publishing

I’m Baaaack!

I’m back and it’s time to rock ‘n’ roll!3-quinn

First, apologies to those who contacted me for book production services and I had to refer them to other sources. I spent the last few months of 2016 pretty much playing catch up, and I was so swamped I even disabled my service pages just to slow down the flow of queries (Gah, butI hate telling people no!). I have some serious updating to do to this poor neglected blog, but my pages will be going back online soon and I’ll be able to accept new clients in the next month or so.

Second, much gratitude and warm fuzzies for those who offered kind words and MUCH understanding about my husband’s health issues. His treatments seem to be working and he’s slowly, but surely getting back to his normal ornery self. He’ll be back to driving me nuts in no time at all.

Third, I’ve stopped working on Sundays. I have to force myself to take a day away from the computer or I will go blind or my hair will fall out or something horrible like that. I know, I know, I’m writing this blog on a Sunday, but I have so much work to do next week that this won’t get written unless I do it today. But, the norm will be, I’m offline on Sundays. What this means is that emails that come in late Saturday won’t be answered until Monday. And scheduling will take my days off into account.

The biggest news is that I’m taking on a partner. What, Jaye? A cranky old loner like you? Yep. I’m training him in book production right now, so I’ll introduce him when he’s fully on board, but rest assured, he cares as much about production values as I do. (Plus he’s young and energetic and types really fast.)  We’ll be coming up with plans to keep prices as low as possible so you all can focus on your writing and not have to worry that production costs blowing your budgets. With two of us sharing duties and quality checking each other, we’ll be able to produce more and better books.

So what’s coming up in 2017?

Ebooks (of course). High quality, guaranteed to work across devices, no-hassle updates–that remains the same.

Line-editing. I have a few editing clients and have been hesitant to take on more because of time constraints. That may be changing and it’s possible I’ll be able to expand my client list.

Proofreading. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know I’m a bear about proofreading. When a writer clicks the Publish button, I want for their work to be the very best it can be. Readers deserve no less. There will be some changes in prices and policies coming up, but my intent is to broaden my proofreading services AND keep the cost as low as possible.

Print. Just about all my clients are doing print on demand editions. With fiction I can keep the costs down to where the print version is comparable in price to the digital version. I’ll be posting prices and even some package deals.

Backlist Restoration. Writers who manage to get their rights reverted often end up with a print copy of their book and a heart filled with dismay as to how to go about recovering the text so it can be turned into an ebook or a new print edition. Easy enough to take it to the copy shop and have it scanned, but then what? Converting the scanned text via OCR can result in an unholy mess. I’ve dealt with writers who’ve spent months trying to get text in good enough shape to read. I’m going to boast a little here–I am the Queen of Text Restoration. I have the tools and skills so that I can accomplish in days what might take most people months. So if you have some backlist in need of restoration, we should talk.

2016-11-05-mockup-classic-crime-libraryCovers. Regular readers know I’ve been dabbling in covers for a while. I’m getting pretty good at it. I’m on my way to getting really good at it. I’m more than happy to work with writers on a tight budget to come up with reasonably priced covers that look good and serve their purpose. I can also modify most ebook covers for print and audio editions.

Translations and Foreign Editions: I’ve been doing a lot of German, Italian and Spanish novels here of late. I’ve figured out how to get the best results for digital and print so the books can be sold on Amazon and through other distributors. (I’m not doing Asian editions–yet.) It’s a big world full of hungry readers. If you write in an other than English language or have translated editions of your English books you’d like produced in digital or print, let’s talk.

Marketing and Promotion: Nope, sorry, still won’t/can’t do that for you. My brain just refuses to wander down those paths.

Thanks for dropping by. If you need to contact me now you can reach me at
jayewmanus at gmail dot com

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

The Lost Art of Customer Service

This is what happened on my last trip to Staples:

serviceI needed a ream of 3-hole punched copy paper. I needed it right then. So off the old man and I went to Staples. I hadn’t been inside this particular Staples before, so when a clerk approached and asked if I needed anything, I told him: “I need 3-hole punched copy paper. Where–” He went loping off and I hurried to follow. He pulled a package of college ruled notepaper off a shelf. “No,” sez I, “copy paper. A ream of it. If you could just point–” Off he loped, calling over his shoulder, “Follow me!” Oh, come on, it’s a big store, but not that big, but apparently some brilliant joker in corporate decided “Show don’t Tell” is the new policy. So I hurried to catch up with the rapidly moving clerk. He ended up at a wall display filled with copy paper where he proudly shoved a ream into my hands. “No,” sez I, “I want 3-hole punched copy paper.” To which he gave me a disgusted look and said, snarkily, “We have 3-hole punches. You can put holes in it.” (I’ve been buying and using 3-hole punched copy paper for YEARS. I can buy it on Amazon. I can buy STAPLES brand on Amazon.) At this point I was ready to walk out, empty-handed, and buy it from Amazon, even if it meant waiting a few days. Then another clerk showed up and I told her what I wanted and she pulled a ream off the shelf. The first clerk gave me a filthy look and slunk away. At the cash register the checkout clerk asked if I’d been helped on the floor. I said, “If by ‘help’ you mean did some knucklehead try to make me feel like an idiot for wanting something I’ve been buying for years, then yes, I was helped.” She got that Oh please let this person get the hell out of my store look on her face, and I took my paper and left.

“This,” I told the old man, “is the reason I hate shopping in person.”

The other day I read this article on The Passive Voice, “Just How Many Stores Must Retailers Close to Beat Amazon?” I thought about telling my Staples story, but I was busy, so I didn’t. But I kept thinking about it. I kept thinking about why I rarely go shopping in brick-and-mortar stores, even though I used to love, love, LOVE browsing office supply stores, bookstores, home improvement stores and craft stores. It all boils down to customer service. A lot of these stores are run by big corporations and whenever sales/profits are down it seems as if the first question asked is, “How do we make more money?” This is a bad–terrible!–question for any business to ask. It’s all about focus and attitude. And when one’s attitude is entirely focused on making money, then it’s NOT on customer service.

The Staples clerk had been ordered, I’m sure, to “serve” customers, probably via a corporate directive. The problem was two-fold, though. He didn’t know his inventory and HE DID NOT WANT TO SERVE ME. I don’t know how well Staples pays or how it treats its employees, but it apparently doesn’t hire people for their love of office supplies or desire to help people. Other than my local grocery store, it’s been my experience of late that the majority of people who work in retail establishments would rather be doing anything other than their jobs. I keep running into dispirited, grumpy, and put upon clerks who refuse to look me in the eye or listen to me while they’re spewing dull scripts about loyalty cards and purchased warranty plans. Whenever I have a rare good retail shopping experience, I am so astonished I blather on about it for days. For the most part, shopping in person is such a chore that I’d rather take my time (and dollars) to Amazon. Pretty sad state of affairs when a computer screen offers a more pleasant shopping experience than any brick and mortar establishment.

I have a suggestion for the corporate bigwigs: Visit your stores, anonymously, as a customer. Check out the customer service. Do to the floor clerks look you in the eye? Do they listen? Do they know the inventory? Do they WANT to help? Maybe instead of hiring people based on some computer generated algorithm or merely their willingness to work for minimum wage, how about looking for people who can love their job? You’ll never beat Amazon by cutting costs and closing stores–or by forcing scripts on your employees that are as meaningless to them as to the customers forced to endure them.