How to Punctuate Dialogue

double quotation marks, how to punctuate dialogue

Is it a struggle for you knowing how to punctuate dialogue? How to punctuate dialogue correctly eludes a lot of writers. Yet once you know the rules, it is straightforward.

Quotation marks, speech marks and quotes

Quotation marks are also referred to as ‘speech marks’ or ‘quotes’. I’ll use the term ‘quotation marks’ here so as not to confuse it with the other meanings of ‘quote’.

Quotation marks are either single – ‘ or double – “

In Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, it seems more common for writers to use single quotation marks for dialogue, while in the United States, double quotation marks are more common. Either is correct – consistency is the key.

Opening and closing quotation marks

When you use quotation marks in dialogue, you use opening quotation marks – ‘ – to begin the dialogue, and closing quotation marks – ’ – to end the dialogue.

Do you always need to use quotation marks in dialogue?

The English language is very flexible and readers are not too fussed about whether you do or don’t use quotation marks in dialogue. However, most writers do, because it clearly separates narrative from dialogue. So if you don’t use quotation marks, then you need to make clear to the reader in some other way when you are switching between dialogue and narrative.

Comma to introduce speech

When you have a dialogue tag – she said/he said or similar – introducing a character’s speech, you need a comma before the opening quotation marks.

Example:

Jenna asked, ‘Can I go to the movies with you tonight?’

Comma after speech and before dialogue tag

When the dialogue finishes and you are using a dialogue tag – he said/she said or similar – as long as the dialogue doesn’t end in a question mark or an exclamation mark, you use a comma before the end quotation marks.

Example:

‘I’m going to the movies with you tonight,’ Jenna said.

But:

‘Can I go to the movies with you tonight?’ she asked.

‘I’m not going to the movies with you tonight!’ she said.

In the above two sentences, you only use a question mark or an exclamation mark, not a comma as well.

You’ll note that the first word of the dialogue tag – she – needs to be in lower case (small letters), as the sentence is not considered finished until after the dialogue tag.

However, sometimes a separate sentence follows the dialogue, as in the example below, so that sentence needs to begin with a capital letter:

‘I’m going to the movies with you tonight.’ It was clear that Jenna was not going to take no for an answer.

Punctuation falls inside closing quotation marks

Just keep in mind that before using closing quotation marks, you need to finish punctuating the sentence – with a comma, a full stop, an exclamation mark, or a question mark – just as you’d do if the sentence had no speech.

Examples:

I looked at James and said, ‘Your glasses really suit you.’

Here, you can see that the full stop comes before the closing quotation marks.

‘Can you send me that file today please?’

The question mark comes before the closing quotation marks.

‘How dare you!’

The exclamation mark comes before the closing quotation marks.

More than one person or character speaking

When two or more characters are speaking, make sure you have a paragraph break for each new speaker. This makes it clear to your readers which character is speaking.

Quoted text within quotation marks

When a character is quoting another character or person, put the words they are quoting within double quotation marks nested inside the character’s speech.

Example:

Jenna said, ‘Mum always used to say to me, “Be careful who you associate with”, and I’ve always taken notice of that.’

Note that the closing quotation marks of the quoted speech go before the comma.

Dialogue plus dialogue tag plus dialogue

When you have your character begin a sentence, then interrupt their speech with a dialogue tag, then resume their speech after the dialogue tag, this is how to punctuate the sentence correctly.

Example:

‘Your glasses really suit you,’ I said to James, ‘so I think you should wear them more often.’

You could also break it down into two sentences separated by a full stop:

‘Your glasses really suit you,’ I said to James. ‘You should wear them more often.’

Dialogue interrupted by an action or a thought

Example:

 ‘Your glasses really suit you’ – actually, I couldn’t take my eyes off him so I was just stalling so he’d keep talking with me – ‘and I think you should wear them more often.’

‘Your glasses really suit you’ – Penny walked past and threw him a come-hither look – ‘so I think you should wear them more often.’

Multiple paragraphs of dialogue by the same speaker

Characters sometimes have a lot to say for themselves! While it’s wise not to tax the reader’s patience by frequently having characters talk for several paragraphs, when their speech is longer than, say, five or six lines, it’s a good idea to break it into two paragraphs. The rule is to use an opening quotation mark in the second paragraph to indicate the same character is still speaking, and to end the quotation marks after the paragraph in which the character finishes speaking.

Example:

‘I want to see you every day of my life from now until forever and I hope you feel the same way. Do you know when I first fell in love with you? It was that day at the market when that little kid fell down the steps and you rushed to help him up.

‘There was so much tenderness in your eyes, it was all I could do to stop myself from proposing to you then and there. You have the biggest heart of anyone I’ve ever known.’

Anything else you’d like to know about punctuating dialogue?

Contact me to have a chat about your manuscript. You may be ready for an edit, or you may like a manuscript appraisal, or to ask about writer coaching. Asking is free and I’m very approachable! Check out my testimonials while you’re on my website. Read some of the other informative blogs!

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Is your Book Character-Driven or Plot-Driven?

First of all, what does character-driven and plot-driven mean?!

Illustration of a confused person looking at different options to represent the choice between character-driven and plot-driven stories
What do character-driven and plot-driven mean?

Plot-driven

In a plot-driven story, the action is the focus of the writing, not the character. The character tends to be static; there is little character development. Plot-driven stories are often genres like horror, action, science fiction. An example of a plot-driven story is Dan Brown’s mystery thriller The Da Vinci Code. The story focuses not on the development of protagonist Robert Langdon or focus character Sophie Neveu but on their search for clues in an attempt to solve a mystery.

Character-driven

Character-driven stories focus on the character, the character’s emotional depth and the transformation the character experiences. A famous example of a character-driven story is Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. The central characters, children Scout and Jem Finch, develop an awareness of racism and its implications when their lawyer father Atticus defends Tom Robinson. They also ‘grow up’ (develop) in their understanding of their neighbour Boo Radley when he ultimately saves them from the story’s villain.

NY Book Editors  explain it like this: ‘Whereas plot-driven stories focus on a set of choices that a character must make, a character-driven story focuses on how the character arrives at a particular choice. The plot in a character-driven story is usually simple and often hyper-focused on the internal or interpersonal struggle of the character(s).’

Do you write character-driven or plot-driven stories?

As writers, our style naturally tends towards either character-driven or plot-driven stories. What’s important is to get the balance right – because both plot and character are necessary!

This means becoming aware of how we approach storytelling – that is, whether we write character-driven or plot-driven stories – and then consciously making a choice to keep the balance right between character and plot.

Problems of imbalance

Why is it necessary to have a balance between character and plot? Most of us write because we love writing. Beyond that, we write so that readers will want to read our books. We’re writing for an audience, ultimately, and good storytelling engages our audience through to the end of the story. This means we need to find the happy balance between character and plot.

Losing the plot

Stories that focus so much on character that they ‘lose the plot’ risk making their characters yawningly boring. A character may be appealing, intelligent and good-looking but if they are given no task to fulfil in the story – no conflict they have to face, so no growth and no development – then there’s unlikely to be great reader engagement with the story. 

Too much focus on plot

A fast-paced page-turner with heaps of action and heart-stopping scenes that leave the reader breathless, but that star one-dimensional characters, will be unsatisfying to the reader. One-dimensional means the characters lack depth, they do not learn or grow – they are boring.

How to nail it

If you’re struggling with getting the balance between character and plot right, these ideas may help:

Analyse movies

When you’re watching a movie, follow it more closely than you might usually and work out whether it’s character-driven or plot-driven.

Read

Read excellent books written by excellent writers. You can’t go wrong with the classics of worldwide literature, and if you’re unsure, a quick Google search will reveal them. Your local librarians are a good source of knowledge on first-rate writers and books.

A couple of examples of books where the author got the balance between character and plot just right are:

Do a writing exercise

Challenge yourself to come up with an interesting situation asking a ‘what-if’ question, like Stephen King suggests (see below). Think up your main character, and then write a scene or a couple of pages. You never know; from these humble beginnings an award-winning story may be born!

Take courses

Many writers’ centres all over the English-speaking world now offer online courses in many aspects of creative writing. Search online to see what’s on offer for 2019.

What Stephen King says

Let’s finish this discussion with what storytelling master Stephen King says in his book On Writing: A memoir of the craft. He says that he distrusts plot, putting forward two valid reasons: ‘… our lives are largely plotless, even when you add in all our reasonable precautions and careful planning’. He also believes that ‘plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren’t compatible’. What is needed is a strong situation. He proposes that the ‘most interesting situations can usually be expressed as a What-if question’, and gives examples of his own books: ‘What if vampires invaded a small New England village? (Salem’s Lot). What if a young mother and her son became trapped in their stalled car by a rabid dog? (Cujo)’ (© 2000 Stephen King).

Acknowledgements

Australian Writers’ Centre, Character-driven versus plot-driven stories, 2014.
https://www.writerscentre.com.au/blog/character-driven-versus-plot-driven-stories/. Accessed 14 Jan 2019

Jennifer Kenning, How to be your own Script Doctor, 2006, the Continuum International Publishing Group, New York. Page 83: https://books.google.com.au/books?id=WT4VZC4lKiQC&pg=PA83&lpg=PA83&dq=Character+driven+vs+plot+driven+stories&source=bl&ots=biInlzdkNQ&sig=MeS9yKpo4drzEEIcC0_JBKBRws4&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjFtpTCvuzfAhUFKo8KHcQtA084lgEQ6AEwAHoECAoQAQ#v=onepage&q=Character%20driven%20vs%20plot%20driven%20stories&f=false. Accessed 14 Jan 2019

Stephen King, On Writing: A memoir of the craft, 2000, Hodder & Stoughton, London.

NY Book Editors, Character-Driven Vs. Plot Driven: Which Is Best, nd.
https://nybookeditors.com/2017/02/character-driven-vs-plot-driven-best/. Accessed 14 Jan 2019

The Guardian, How to Write, 2000. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2000/oct/01/stephenking.sciencefictionfantasyandhorror. Accessed 15 Jan 2019.


Gail Tagarro, Accredited Editor (AE)


Contact me to have a chat about your manuscript. You may be ready for an edit, or you may think you need a manuscript appraisal for further development. Ask about writer coaching. Asking is free and I’m very approachable! Check out my testimonials while you’re on my website. Read some of the other informative blogs!


I invite you to download my self-published eBook – see cover below. Click here to download. Enhance your writing technique and skills! Learn how easy it is to self-publish your book!

book cover gail tagarro author

The Incorrigible Optimists Club

the incorrigible optimists club

A Book Review

I had never heard of The Incorrigible Optimists Club or the Algerian-born writer Jean-Michel Guenassia. I came across it in the library when I was selecting books for my Christmas holiday reading. The original is written in French and I read the English translation by Euan Cameron.

It is quite untrue that covers don’t sell books. I was drawn to the cover and then I was hooked after reading the blurb and the first page. (It wasn’t until later that I noticed the border design of the book bizarrely matched that of my laptop case.)

I love long works of quality fiction, especially for Christmas holiday reading, and at 624 pages, this one fulfilled my craving.


A Highly Recommended Read!

The Incorrigible Optimists Club is one of those special books that’s hard to set aside when you have to do necessary things, like cook meals, or sleep.

It’s hard to believe that The Incorrigible Optimists Club is this author’s debut novel. Written against the backdrop of the Algerian War (the war for independence between France and the Algerian National Liberation Front 1954—1962), and the era of the Iron Curtain, the book offers no facile solutions to the issues raised. Neither does it excuse the terrible tragedies caused by politics and war. What’s more, the author manages to maintain an optimistic tone, and insert humour, despite the seriousness of some of the issues.

Paris 1959

The year is 1959, the place Paris. The story follows Michel Marin, a twelve-year-old compulsive reader and amateur photographer who’s a champion table football player at the local neighbourhood bistro.

But for his age, Michel has an extraordinary interest in the wider affairs of the world and a special empathy. He is drawn to a curtained-off area at the back of the bistro where a group of exiled Eastern European men gather to chat, play chess and smoke: the Incorrigible Optimists Club. As he is gradually accepted into their circle, he listens to their stories about their homelands before they fled to France, and becomes involved in their lives.

He forms a friendship with a Russian former doctor and expert chess player, Igor, who teaches Michel to play chess. He also becomes friends with another exile, Sacha, who is rigorously and aggressively denied access to the club, especially by Igor and another Russian, Leonid, whenever he dares show up. We do not learn until the end of the book why these two men hate him so much.

Michel becomes an important connection to the outside world for Sacha. In his turn, Sacha becomes a trusted sounding board for Michel’s teen angst in the absence of his father who has moved away from Paris when he and Michel’s mother, an aloof figure in Michel’s life, separate.

The club is also the occasional haunt of Jean Paul Sartre, French philosopher, writer and political activist, and Joseph Kessel, Argentinian-born French journalist and novelist. Many of the men in the club survive thanks to the generosity of Sartre and Kessel. The author drops these famous characters into his book as if he were telling the time of day, although the characters treat them with due reverence: “We gazed at him [Sartre] from a distance, slightly intimidated, feeling we were privileged witnesses of creativity in action, and even those who disliked him watched in silence…”

In the tense resolution of the story, Sacha’s strange rituals and the mysteries surrounding him are finally revealed in a way Michel could never have foreseen.


Jean-Michel Guenassia, The Incorrigible Optimists Club, 2014, Atlantic Books Ltd, London. Available through the Book Depository with free shipping.


Gail Tagarro, Editor (AE)


Contact me to have a chat about your manuscript. You may be ready for an edit, or you may like a manuscript appraisal, or to ask about writer coaching. Asking is free and I’m very approachable! Check out my testimonials while you’re on my website. Read some of the other informative blogs!


I invite you to download my self-published eBook – see cover below. Click here to download. Enhance your writing technique and skills! Learn how easy it is to self-publish your book!

book cover gail tagarro author

ON THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES and other words

While Charles Darwin gave us the theory of evolution in his ground-breaking work On the Origin of Species, the subject of this blog is etymology: the origin of words and how their meanings have changed over time.

This blog is not intended as an academic treatise on etymology. It does not give every single meaning of the words given below. It is intended as a light and playful skim of the surface rather a plunge into the depths of the meaning, history and origin of words.

On the origin of species and other words

on the origin of species

On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin, 1809-1882

species

The noun species comes from Latin species, which meant ‘a particular sort, kind or type’. In Late Latin, it also came to mean ‘a special case’. The Latin noun is related to the verb specere ‘to look at, to see, behold’. From the 1550s, species came to mean ‘appearance, outward form’, and by the 1560s it had evolved to mean ‘distinct class (of something) based on common characteristics’. The biological meaning of ‘species’ dates from c. 1600. The term ‘endangered species’ appears to date from 1964.

Did you know? The word ‘spice’ derives from the same Late Latin word species.

…and now we go alphabetical

Now that we’ve looked into ‘on the origin of species’, we’ll look at some other words.

I’ve chosen the theme of prefixes and compounds. A prefix is a group of letters, with a specific meaning, added to the beginning of a word to create a new word with a different meaning. The prefix un-, for example, added to the beginning of happy, changes the meaning to, in this case, its opposite: unhappy. Compound nouns comprise some or all of the letters of two separate words in combination.

ante-

This prefix derives from the Latin ante, meaning ‘before (in place or time), in front of, against’.

Some examples:

antechamber – a chamber, room or apartment through which access is gained to a principal apartment

antenatal – before birth

ante meridiem – before midday. Most of us are familiar with the abbreviated form am, which is used in the example sentence below.

Sentences using the above:

The king’s youthful groom of the stool looked up when the queen entered the antechamber on her way to the king’s private apartments.

The young parents attended antenatal classes to be ready for the birth of their twins.

‘We leave at 11 am,’ Dot’s husband announced.

What’s the opposite of ante-?

The opposite of ante- is post-.

bene-

bene- comes from the Latin adverb meaning ‘well, in the right way, honourably, properly’.

Some examples:

beneficence – kind, charitable

benefit – something beneficial or advantageous

benign – kind, favourable

Sentences using the above:

The king’s beneficence was appreciated by all his medieval subjects.

A benefit of working from home is you don’t get caught in peak traffic.

He has a benign smile.

What’s the opposite of bene-?

The opposite of bene- is mal-.

cardio-

This prefix comes from the Greek word kardia meaning ‘heart’.cardio

Some examples:

cardiologist – heart specialist

cardiometer – a device to measure the strength of the heart

cardiopulmonary – relating to the heart and the lungs

Sentences using the above:

The cardiologist measured the strength of Sue’s heart using a cardiometer.

The conference addressed specialists in cardiopulmonary diseases.

dec- and deca-

These prefixes derive from the Greek word deka meaning ‘ten’.

Some examples:

Decalogue – the Ten Commandments. The word originally came from the Greek dekalogos; later, in Latin, this became decalogus.

decagon – a polygon with ten angles and ten sides

decaspermal – a botanical term meaning a plant that contains ten seeds

Sentences using the above:

God handed Moses the Decalogue on Mt Sinai.

A polygon with ten sides is called a decagon.

The berry of the plant Psidium decaspermum is decaspermal.

eco-

This is a shortening of ecology or ecological and refers to the environment and its relationship with human beings. It originates from the Greek oikos for ‘house, dwelling’.

Some examples:

ecofreak (that’s a good one!) – someone who is fanatical about conservation of the environment

ecology – the branch of biology dealing with the relationship of living organisms to their environment (Greek eco- + logos ‘word, reason, discourse’)

eco-friendly – causing limited or no damage to the environment

Sentence using the above:

Some people think Ben’s an ecofreak because he majored in ecology and he works for an eco-friendly organisation.

Franco-

Franco- derives from the Medieval Latin word meaning ‘French’ or ‘the Franks’. From the early eighteenth century it has been used to form English compound words.

prefix Franco

ooh la, la

Some examples:

Francophile – a person who loves France and the French to the point of obsession

Francophobe – a person who has a morbid fear of the French

Franco-Canadians – French-speaking Canadians

Sentences using the above:

All Fred’s friends call him a Francophile because he visits France every year and he’s in love with France and the French.

Robert is a Francophobe who can’t stand France or the French.

People who speak French in Canada are called Franco-Canadians or Canadiens.

gastro-

Deriving from the Greek word gastēr, this meant ‘stomach’.

Some examples:

gastroenterologist – a specialist in the branch of medicine dealing with the stomach and intestines

gastroenteritis – inflammation of the stomach and intestines. You may have heard this abbreviated colloquially to ‘gastro’

gastropod – a class of molluscs that move by sliding along on a ventral (relating to the belly) muscular ‘foot’

Sentences using the above:

Frank was having recurring problems with his digestion so his doctor referred him to a gastroenterologist.

I had to take two days off work because I had an attack of gastroenteritis.

Slugs and snails are gastropods.

hydro-

From the Greek hydōr meaning ‘water’.

Some examples:

hydroelectric – electricity produced from the energy of running water

hydrogen – colourless, gaseous element. From the French hydrogène (Greek hydōr + Greek genēs meaning ‘born’), coined in 1787 by French chemist L.B. Guyton de Morveau in reference to the generation of water from the combustion of hydrogen

hydroplane – motor-powered boat that glides on the surface of water, coined 1895 by U.S. engineer Harvey D. Williams. (Greek hydōr + Latin plānum ‘level surface’). As a verb, it was first recorded in 1962 meaning to ‘skid on a thin layer of water’ (especially of car tyres)

Sentences using the above:

The Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River, China is the world’s largest hydroelectric dam, commissioned in 2008.

Hydrogen is a colourless gas and it is the lightest and most common element in the universe.

hydroplane is a speedboat that rises out of the water when it reaches a certain speed.

idio-

From the Greek idio- meaning ‘private, separate, distinct’, this indicates peculiarity, isolation, or something pertaining to an individual person or thing.

Some examples:

idiom – words whose meaning cannot be understood from the meanings of accompanying words, e.g. ‘It was raining cats and dogs’. Unless you’re a native English speaker, or a proficient non-native English speaker, you cannot predict the meaning of ‘cats and dogs’ in this sentence

idiosyncrasy – a quirk or unusual trait, mannerism or behaviour (from Greek idiosunkrasia: idio– + sunkrasis mixture, temperament)

idolatry – ‘the worship of idols’ or ‘excessive devotion to someone/something’

Sentences using the above:

The English-language students looked at one another in astonishment when their teacher used the idiom ‘bite the bullet’.

Her idiosyncrasy was that she wore reading glasses when she didn’t need them.

His idolatry of the president is insufferable.

kerato-

From the Greek kerat-, keras meaning ‘horn’

Some examples:

keratin – a  protein in the outer layer of the skin and in hair, nails, feathers, hooves, etc.

keratosis – a harmless skin condition characterised by a horny or scaly growth

Sentences using the above:

A horn is a permanent pointed projection on the head of various animals consisting of a covering of keratin and other proteins surrounding a core of live bone (Wikipedia).

When I had my skin cancer check recently, the specialist said not to worry as I only had a solar keratosis.

Did you know? The word cornea (the transparent membrane covering the front of the eyeball) is a Latin word related to the Greek keras.

If you’ve enjoyed reading about the origin of words like ‘species’, ‘ecofreak’ and ‘Francophile’, drop me an email.

Acknowledgements

Collins Online Dictionary, accessed 03/01/19, https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english

Macquarie Dictionary, accessed 03/01/19, https://www.macquariedictionary.com.au/

Online Etymology Dictionary, accessed 02/01/19, https://www.etymonline.com/

Oxford English Dictionary, Second edition, CD-ROM Version 4.0

Wikipedia, accessed 03/01/19, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horn_(anatomy)

I invite you to download my self-published eBook “Ten Ways to Super-Charge your Writing Skills! with bonus chapter on Self-Publishing”

How Can I Publish My Book … what are my options

All that hard work…

Whenever I’m approaching the end of a book edit, most of my clients begin asking me the question, ‘How can I publish my book?’

So … that precious manuscript of yours that took you months, maybe years, to write, has now been professionally edited, and you’re ready for the next step.

This blog does not pretend to go into all the possible publishing options that exist. Nor is it a comprehensive go-to of publishing. The purpose of the blog is to give you a boost in the right direction so you can begin thinking about those next steps, and about what option suits you and your book best.

e-book or print book?

This is your first consideration. So how do you know whether it’s better to produce your book as an e-book or a print book?

Cost of publishing

Arguably, cost is one of the biggest determiners as clearly, there are no printing costs associated with producing an e-book. Also, you don’t have to consider book storage as you do when producing a print book, a factor many first-time authors overlook. Do you have storage space for 100+ books in your house?

how can I publish my book

Where will you store your books?

Type of book

The type of book you have written may determine whether it will sell better as an e-book or a print book. For example, a coffee table style book, while expensive to produce, is designed to be picked up and looked at, rather than read on a device. Having said that, however, my daughter has now written and published two vegan cookbooks as e-books. They contain colour photos on almost every page, she has received positive feedback and she is happy with the sales to date. Her readers are clearly happy to follow recipes on a device rather than from a traditional paper cookbook. Check out her books here: The Hippie Cook Cookbook.

Audience

If the potential audience of your book is not tech-savvy, you are likely to sell more copies of a print book. Nevertheless, with so many people having now joined the digital age regardless of stage of life, the tech-savvy population is on the increase so this may not be such a big consideration.

How can I publish my book? Should I try mainstream or subsidy publishing, a literary agent, or self-publishing?

how can I publish my book

This is the next big consideration: deciding whether to make submissions to publishers and literary agents, to contact a subsidy publisher and try for a publishing contract, or to self-publish your book.

Mainstream publishers

The first thing you need to know about publishing with a mainstream publisher is that they call the shots. You don’t just walk into a publishing company office with your manuscript proudly tucked under your arm and ask for the editor. Neither can you get the name of the submissions editor and address a personal request to them.

(That is, unless you know someone who knows someone and can get an introduction to the submissions editor in the publishing house. But even that, of course, is no guarantee. They then have to approve your book, and it has to fit with their current publishing list.)

No. You have to join the ranks of all those other author hopefuls and follow the publishing house online submission guidelines – to the letter, to stand any chance at all of your manuscript even being read. And that’s only when they are accepting unsolicited manuscripts. An unsolicited manuscript is yours and mine: the publisher hasn’t asked to see it; you are essentially cold-calling them with your manuscript.

The times that a publisher accepts unsolicited manuscripts may change. For example, up to just a few months ago here in Australia, there were four mainstream publishers accepting unsolicited manuscripts. Currently, there are only three. You will find them by clicking on this link (they are listed towards the end of that blog). Also, there are often specific days, with a cutoff time, that they accept these manuscripts,

(For help doing publisher submissions, click here.)

Subsidy publishers

With subsidy publishing, the author contributes to the cost of producing the book (the publishing costs), and the publisher assumes responsibility for editing the book and for all aspects of producing the book. They also have channels for distributing the book. A reliable subsidy publisher is worth gold. An ethical subsidy publisher in Queensland is Zeus Publications. Click here for links to their story, and for new author information.

I’ve also had a good report from a client about another Queensland subsidy publisher called Odyssey Books. I did find it disconcerting that there was no number to call on their website – you have to submit a query on their online form.

Literary agents

Literary agents work in a similar way to publishing houses. They accept certain types of manuscripts only, and like publishers, may only accept unsolicited manuscripts at certain times. Some may not accept unsolicited manuscripts at all. Please click here to find two links to Australian literary agents.

(For help making submissions to literary agents, click here.)

Vanity publishers

I have one word to say if you are considering a vanity publisher: DON’T. To read a sage article on why to avoid vanity publishing, click on the following link that ends in the word ‘beware’ to see what the Australian Society of Authors (ASA) has to say.

Self-publishing

The stigma of the self-published author has disappeared, and it is possible to be very successful indeed in promoting and selling your book. I have a client in Baltimore who, in September 2018 alone, sold 7,000 copies of her book Sidelined: The Penalty on Amazon! Check out this amazing lady who works full time yet has now written and published two books: Bianca Williams Books.

What a self-publisher isn’t

Let’s start with what self-publishing isn’t! Many organisations that have set themselves up as author services’ businesses erroneously call themselves self-publishers. It is a contradiction in terms.

What is self-publishing?

The reflexive ‘self’ in the word means that you, the author, are also the publisher of your own book. You write the book, and you publish it.

This means that you buy the ISBN and the bar code for your book, and register it with the national and state libraries (the latter is free in Australia). You also need to get a book designer to lay out your book using book layout software, and have a cover designed. You are in full control of how your book looks (within the limits of what is possible), and are responsible for distribution and promotion. You can also set and control the price of your book. If you list your book on major databases such as Amazon, however, you lose control of the pricing but gain a worldwide audience.

Promoting and distributing your book

Promoting and distributing books, including via your own website and social media,  is a whole topic on its own, which I plan to discuss in the future. Watch this space!


Hopefully, you are now a little more informed than at the beginning of this article when you asked, ‘How can I publish my book?’


Please contact me for more in-depth information and pricing for any of the following services:


I invite you to download my self-published eBook – see cover below. Click here to download. Enhance your writing technique and skills! Learn how easy it is to self-publish your book!

book cover gail tagarro author

Writer Coaching to Develop your Writing

writer coaching to develop your writing

Writer coaching to develop your writing: A writing coach supports you

“Writer coaching empowers you with the tools and knowledge to write your book and evolve as a writer.”

If you want to write a book but…

  • you just can’t get started, or
  • you’ve almost finished writing the book but you’ve come up against dreaded writer’s block, or
  • you’ve finished writing the book but it doesn’t seem ready for the next step – editing

…then writer coaching and mentoring to develop your writing might be just what you need.

The aim of coaching is to empower you with the tools and knowledge to help you write your book and evolve as a writer.

Writer coaching and mentoring help you grow and develop as a writer, improving your writing skills and your craft. You receive feedback on your writing, with focus on both the strengths and the issues. With one-on-one coaching and mentoring, you can thoroughly pick the writing coach’s brains!

Can I write a book?

I often hear from people who’ve never written a book before and who think they don’t have the skills. They ask about ghostwriting. That is one solution. But for most people, ghostwriting is significantly out of budget.

People are often surprised when I suggest they can learn the skills to write a book themselves – with the right guidance. Sure, you can wait until you’ve written the book and then have it professionally edited. That is another way to go about it, especially if you’re confident about your writing skills. If however you’re a new writer and you haven’t had the benefit of guidance through the writing process, it’s likely the book’s going to need a very heavy edit. That translates into a significant editing fee.

A friendly little caveat here: While coaching will improve your writing immensely, it is not intended as a substitute for editing. It is strongly recommended your manuscript be professionally edited after the final draft is complete. However, because your manuscript will probably go through several improvement passes during the coaching/mentoring period, the subsequent edit should take less time and therefore cost less.

Making a start

You’ve decided you have a book in you. But each time you try to make a start, you walk away from a blank piece of paper or an empty computer screen after half an hour of frustration.

Writer coaching to develop your writing

Writer frustration

A good writing coach can help you get started. One way they can do this is by working out a structure first. Another is by helping you come up with a strong opening scene for a fiction novel. Different writers have different creative processes, and your writing coach can help you in the way that works best for you.

I’m close to the finish

Have you written a lot of the book but have now reached a roadblock?

You might be unhappy with the sentence structure, the beginning, the ending… You might think there are plot holes. The pacing might be off. You might lack confidence in writing dialogue, or have issues with spelling and grammar. Perhaps you’re unsure how to resolve the problem that your hero faces.

A writing coach will discuss your issues with you and offer objective input and suggestions so that together, you’ll come up with solutions and you can continue writing with confidence.

The book is finished, but it doesn’t feel right

Have you written the book, but feel that it is not yet ready for editing?

When you have been very close to your book for a long time, it is almost impossible to be objective. You simply can’t see the issues.

writer coaching to develop your writing

Read your manuscript aloud

A great first step is to stand back and look at your writing objectively by reading it aloud – to yourself preferably, when no one else is around, otherwise you will probably feel self-conscious.

A writing coach will be able to see the issues that you can’t. Writers tend to make the same kinds of errors. You might overuse ‘as’ constructions, or ‘tell’ in your writing rather than ‘show’. Your writing might be narrative-heavy so that it would benefit from more dialogue. The sentence structure might be awkward in parts and when the coach points this out to you, you’ll understand how to restructure the sentences for better flow. You might want to work on point of view in writing, or learn how to correctly format your manuscript for submission to publishers.

When you work with a writing coach, you can decide: to methodically work through your manuscript together; or focus on specific writing techniques such as those mentioned above.

 

To discuss writer coaching and mentoring with editors4you, or just to find out more about it (no commitment!), drop me an email.

Client Testimonials for Writer Coaching

M.B. Wynter: “Writer coaching with Gail has changed my novel from an amateur’s first draft, to a well-put-together manuscript. I sought a writing coach and editor who would understand my manuscript, respect it, and most importantly, work with me to better it for publication. Gail succeeded in all areas. She was honest and gave thorough notes and advice on not only the manuscript, but for me as a writer. It was an honour to be Gail’s first formal client for writing coaching!”—Aug 2016-Jan 2017. M.B. Wynter recently published her book, The Fetal Position. 
 
B. Kennett: “Our initial coaching session has had a lasting impact on my writing. My confidence has gone through the roof, as well as my overall awareness pertaining to what I write. This week alone I’ve hammered out nearly 20,000 words for my novel and they’ve been good ones too! In any case I really just wanted to say thank you for the excellent work you’ve done and I’m looking forward to the next session.”—June 2017
 

I invite you to download my self-published eBook “Ten Ways to Super-Charge your Writing Skills! with bonus chapter on Self-Publishing”

Ghostwriting Australia

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Ghostwriting Gratitude

What is a ghostwriter?

A ghostwriter is a writer who writes books, stories, blogs, magazine articles, or any other written content that will officially be attributed to another person – the credited author or ‘commissioner’.

Why use ghostwriting services?

Sportspeople, politicians, celebrities, and business people are the traditional users of ghostwriting services. While these people are experts in their fields, they are not professional writers. Hiring a ghostwriter to write their autobiography, biography or business document ensures they convey their message clearly and professionally.

I’m not a celebrity. Why do I need my story ghostwritten?

Some reasons that you may choose to work with a ghostwriter are:

  • English is not your first language and you are not confident about writing a book for publishing
  • You are writing your first book and need help getting started
  • You have a story that is important to you. It may be a memoir, a biography, your autobiography, ‘that’ story you have held inside you for your whole life, a ‘how-to’ or self-help book that you want to share with others, an article, or an online blog. You do not have the confidence to express your ideas with clarity or the experience to write with confidence.

What do ghostwriters write?

A ghostwriter may be hired by the credited author (or the credited author’s publisher) to:

  • write a complete book, article or blog
  • do most of the writing for a book based on a specified outline
  • do research for a book, article or blog
  • finish off a book in the same style as the author to free them up for other writing work
  • write sections of a book in collaboration with the credited author (similar to ‘developmental editing’).

How do I find a ghostwriter for my book?

The best way to find a good ghostwriter is to:

  • consult professional publications
  • consult professional organisations
  • do an online search for ghostwriting, contact several writers, and ask them about their experience.

Ghostwriting Australia: Finding a Ghostwriter

Ghostwriting fees

How much does it cost to ghostwrite? There are several considerations around fees:

  • How much material is involved and how long will it take to write?
  • How much written material can you provide the writer, and what kind of shape is that material in?
  • What is the complexity of the subject matter and the required expertise of the ghostwriter? If you need a book written on rocket science, you would expect to pay both for the ghostwriter’s writing expertise and for their knowledge of the specialised subject
  • How established and experienced is the ghostwriter?

To write a complete book, a professional ghostwriter can take several months to a year to research, organise, write, edit, and revise a non-fiction work. Meantime, they have to live, and so if they are working pretty much full time on your book, you will need to expect to pay accordingly.

Some ghostwriters charge a flat fee per word, or per page. Other ghostwriters may accept a percentage of the royalties on the sales of the book. If you are an unpublished author and you do not yet have a publishing contract, it is unreasonable to expect the ghostwriter to accept payment based exclusively on a percentage of royalties when there is no realistic basis for expecting there will be any.

Book ghostwriting fees can range from the ‘low’ end at $10,000, to $100,000 per project charged by established celebrity ghostwriters (some celebrity ghostwriters command $250,000 plus).

If the project is small – the ghostwriter will write a blog, an article, or a few chapters of your book – then you can expect to pay an hourly or per-page rate, and this depends on what the individual ghostwriter charges per hour or per page.

It is worth checking with your accountant, as the cost of ghostwriting a book related to your business may be tax-deductible.

How long does it take to ghostwrite a book?

As a rough guide, a 200-page non-fiction book may require close to 300 hours of time – around 70 hours of research and organisation time, one hour’s writing time per page, and one hour of editing/revision time for each 10 pages.

Why shouldn’t I hire a ghostwriter offshore?

A recent trend has been to outsource ghostwriting jobs offshore. While this may initially save fees, the quality varies wildly and usually, a book that has been ghostwritten by someone whose first language is not English is never published. The ghostwriter does not understand the culture, or the nuances of the English language, or the vernacular (e.g. Australian English).

In suggesting that it is not ideal to hire a ghostwriter whose first language is other than English, my intention is not to be culturally insensitive. I am simply being practical. If the boot was on the other foot, and you wanted your book written in a language other than English, you would not hire a writer whose first language was English.

Choosing a ghostwriter based exclusively on price is false economy and ultimately not cheaper. You may need to spend a lot of time communicating your intent when the ghostwriter does not ‘get it’. The ghostwriter may have to rewrite multiple times before they get it right – if they do. Isn’t that precisely why you hired a ghostwriter? To get it right the first time?

It’s simple really; you get what you pay for.

What should I look for in a ghostwriter?

  • A good writer. Give them an idea of what you want and ask them to write a few pages
  • A ghostwriter you communicate with easily and feel at ease with
  • A ghostwriter whose first language is English
  • A ghostwriter who understands the cultural context of your story, and the nuances of the English language.

Should I credit the ghostwriter for writing the book?

There are various ways that a ghostwriter can receive credit for their writing contribution if you as the credited author wish to. It is up to you how much credit, if any, you give to the ghostwriter. The ghostwriter may receive partial credit (‘with…’ or ‘as told to….’ on the cover), or the acknowledgement may mention the ghostwriter’s contribution.

If you do not wish the ghostwriter to receive any official credit for writing your book or article, you as the credited author can agree this with the ghostwriter. You may ask them to sign a nondisclosure contract that forbids them from revealing their ghostwriting role.

Is the ghostwriter entitled to a share of royalties when my book is published?

If you are paying per page or per word, or you have agreed a flat fee for ghostwriting your book, you generally keep the royalties. How you pay the ghostwriter and whether you share the royalties is part of negotiating with the ghostwriter.

Should we have a contract?

As with any business arrangement, it is always a good idea to have a written contract, signed by both parties, setting out the agreement between you. The Australian Society of Authors has a template the ghostwriter can use as a basis for the agreement.

Is ghostwriting really for you?

This post has explained that ghostwriting is a lengthy and costly process. That’s why it’s mainly well-known people like politicians and sportspeople who commission a ghostwriter. Also, the manuscripts of such figures are much more likely to be picked up by mainstream publishers, who need to minimise their risks. One of the main ways to reduce their risk is by being confident that the book will sell. A well-known writer will more easily sell a biography or an autobiography than an unknown writer. While this may be discouraging to hear, it is an understandable reality.

What’s an alternative to ghostwriting?

I’ve discovered that around 98 per cent of the people who first contact me about ghostwriting would actually like to write their book themselves. But they don’t have the confidence, believe they don’t have the skills and don’t know where to start.

Writer coaching and mentoring

That’s why I began the writer coaching and mentoring service a few years back. With guidance, people with the drive to do so, even those who’ve never written before and think they don’t have the skills, can write their book. Over the years, I’ve worked with writers who’ve started with nothing, with writers who’ve had a rough draft that’s all over the place, with writers who’ve written several chapters but then got stuck, even with writers who have finished writing the manuscript but feel it’s lacking and not yet ready for editing.

Writer coaching and mentoring is a much more affordable service than ghostwriting. Once you commit to a ghostwriting contract, you are contractually obliged to see it through. With coaching and mentoring, you can have as many or as few sessions with me as you wish.

Ghostwriting Australia Demystified

NOTE: For the forseeable future, I am no longer taking on major (novel-length) ghostwriting projects. If you have a short ghostwriting project such as a blog or an article, or you would like to enquire about WRITER COACHING, please connect with me.


I invite you to download my eBook – see below. Improve your writing skills and learn how easy it is to self-publish your book!

book cover gail tagarro author