Friday, October 31, 2014

Reader statistics 2014

The Romance Writers of America commissioned Nielsen to survey romance readers.

Some key things they learned are:
84% of romance book buyers are women.
The largest group is ages 30-54.
64% read romance more than once a month.
53% of print readers and 48% or ebook choose romantic suspense. Contemporary romance is the second biggest category (41%/44%). Historical romance is 34%/33% and erotic romance 33%/42%.

Most important factor when deciding on which romance novel to buy:
(1) The story
(2) The author
(3) Price

Ways romance buyers are most likely to discover new romance authors or titles to read:
(1) Browsing in a bookstore/ online book sites
(2) In person recommendation from people you know

In the last six months, the top activity done in regards to romance reading is searched for a new romance author to read, followed by: received social media updates from favorite authors through either Facebook or Twitter, shared author or book information on social media, offered feedback on romance to others, and participated in discussions online about romance books.

More details about the survey are at:

Helen Woodall

Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Do you know what these words mean?

Here are some words from everyday speech that are often used incorrectly.

Literally: means something that really happened.

Regularly: something that happens at fixed pre-planned intervals

Factoid: A fun fact that is wrong

Invariably: Something that never changes

Enormity: The extreme scale of something that is bad or wrong.

Refute: To prove something is wrong

Now here are some others that the author might have meant to use correctly but that spellcheck won’t find for you:


If you need a dictionary to understand what I’m saying, there’s a good one at:

Helen Woodall

Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

World Dictionary Day

October 16 was World Dictionary Day, and in honor of that momentous occasion “The Huffington Post” published an article about Noah Webster, who they described as “the foremost lexicographer of American English”.

His “American Dictionary” published in 1828 took him twenty-eight years to complete. In preparation he learned twenty-six languages, including Old English, Ancient Greek, Latin, and Sanskrit. The final draft listed and defined seventy thousand words, more than any other dictionary in history. One in every six of Webster's words had never been listed in a dictionary before. He included a whole new vocabulary of emerging Americanisms like squash, skunk, hickory, chowder and applesauce for the very first time. And he took the opportunity to push through his ideas on English spelling reform - some of which took (center, color, honor, ax), and some of which didn't (dawter, wimmen, cloke, tung).

The article lists twenty-six of his more interesting inclusions, one for each letter of the alphabet.

This fascinating story includes daggle-tail, nuncupatory, tardigradous, and rakeshame which I actually recognized from reading Georgette Heyer books.

Okay, click on the link. You know you want to read the rest of these words.

Helen Woodall

Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The passive voice - by zombies

I’ve written about the passive voice before. Here’s a recap for you:

A writer is said to be using passive voice when the subject of the sentence is who it happens to, rather than who dun it. Very occasionally this may be a good way to build up tension in the story, but as a general rule, it slows the story down and lifts the reader out of the action. Therefore it’s best to avoid using it.

The door was opened by the hero as he entered the room.
Seriously, that’s a pretty boring sentence. It’s passive.
The hero opened the door and entered the room.
That’s better.

Better still would be actions showing us how the hero entered the room. Most people open the door first. Did he kick it down? Slam it open? Peek around the corner first to see if the heroine was inside? Any of those would not only be active voice, but much more interesting to read.
Also they show us what happens instead of telling us, which is what the author should be aiming for.

The hero opened the door. He was angry.
Yes, so what.
The hero kicked the door open and raced into the room, fists clenched.
Ah, now we’re with him, wanting to read on.

And now, here’s a neat trick to find out if you’re using the passive voice or not. Rebecca Johnson (no, I don’t know who she is, but she’s amazing!) tweeted that if you can add “by zombies” after the verb, it’s passive voice.

The door was opened… by zombies. Passive voice.
The hero kicked the door open by zombies. No, by zombies doesn’t work, so it’s active.
Thank you, Rebecca!

Helen Woodall
Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.

Thursday, October 9, 2014


Proofreading is an important step before submitting your book, your report, your synopsis or even just an important email.

An author may be part of a wonderful crit group and be certain there are no consistency errors, POV mistakes or plot holes. But there are still likely to be annoying spelling or grammatical errors that spell check won’t find, and the human eye tends to gloss over. Competent readers tend to see the word they expect to see, which makes it harder to find glitches.

It’s very easy to write a run-on sentence when the book is full of drama and action. But the proofreader slows down her reading to ensure clauses match and modifyers aren’t left dangling. She also checks for comma splices and sentence fragments and other nitty gritty things that may antagonize a reader and take the shine off an otherwise good book/document.

In the olden days a professional proofreader read a document from the bottom of the page to the top. That way the eye isn’t misled into thinking it’s seeing what it assumes will come next. The brain has to actually read the sentence properly.
Another trick is to print out and read a digital document in hard copy, or to scan a hard copy document into the computer and read it electronically. Changing the format helps the brain to engage.

Whatever means you use, do ensure your important document or book is given this final polish before sending it into the world.

Helen Woodall

Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Read the Contract: Caveat Emptor

There's been some trouble in the publishing industry lately and authors discussing contracts so I'm reposting this blog.

Caveat Emptor: Latin, Let the buyer beware. A warning that notifies a buyer that the goods he or she is buying are "as is," or subject to all defects.

Nowhere is this warning more important than when an author signs a contract to publish their book. Now I know that for an author who has been struggling for years to be published, the euphoria of actually being an offered a contract for their book may be overwhelming. So sing, dance, get out the champagne. BUT before you sign the contract READ it. Read every single word. Look at what is there and what isn’t there. Just because your good friend talked her advance up from $1000 to $3000 doesn’t mean you will. Just because she increased her percentage of royalties from 35% to 50% doesn’t mean you will do that either. Especially if you don’t have a dozen bestsellers under your belt already.

Does the company help you promote your book? Do they challenge book piracy? Who pays for cover art and editing? How often do they send out your royalties? Have you heard stories about authors not getting their checks regularly? What happens if the company goes bust? This is very important as companies go belly-up with distressing frequency. Do you automatically get your rights back or not?

Google the company and do some research. You really should have done all this before you submitted your book to that publisher, but if you didn’t, at least do it now before you sign the contract. And if you can’t understand the contract, warning lights should be going off in your brain. Get someone to explain it to you. Whatever happens don’t just sign it and hope it’ll be okay. It’s much better to submit the book somewhere more reputable, or self publish it.

For more details on this topic, check out Writer Beware:

Helen Woodall
Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.