Are You Stylin’? Ten Tips to Writing in AP Style

ap style2

Since Saturday I’ve been preoccupied with finding a topic for this week’s blog. Then I discovered two articles on AP style I’d saved. I’m trained to write in APA (American Psychological Association) style, which I learned while earning my BA in Psychology. There are some notable differences between them; a major difference is there are no in-text citations or reference lists in AP style. In AP style there are smaller paragraphs of 1-2 sentences; writing is clear and concise; wordiness, long sentences and jargon are used in APA style but not AP style.

The AP Stylebook, used by professional journalists, is a good referral source to improve and correct your writing. It’s a good idea to keep a copy on hand. While some rules have been abandoned in this digital age of abbreviated language, these are still important. I hope they help your technical writing skills.

  1. Use more than when you’re referring to numbers; ex: more than 10 miles, not over 10 miles.
  2. Paraphrasing – when paraphrasing a source, attribute it to the source at the beginning or end of the sentence: “Several factors could determine how quickly a fire engulfs a resident’s room, Frederick said.”Always use said, not pointed out or claimed, which can be perceived as bias. The person’s name or a pronoun always precedes ‘said.’
  3. Commas – in AP style, the comma before the conjunction is deleted: He used a hammer, some nails and a long board.
  4. Trademarked words should be capitalized but avoid if possible and use generic words: Kitty Litter vs. cat box filler, Dumpster vs. trash receptacle.
  5. Composition titles: AP style requires quotation marks around titles, not italics or underlining; however, the Bible, reference books and software do not need quotations.
  6. Most abbreviations are spelled out on the first reference and abbreviated on the second: American Psychological Association (APA); some abbreviations are acceptable in every reference: FBI, CIA, ATF
  7. Dates: abbreviate dates (Jan., Feb., etc.) with a specific date; spell out months when used alone or with a year only.
  8. State abbreviations (I always get these wrong) – spell them out when they stand alone but abbreviate when with a city, town, etc., or with datelines or text:
    1. Never abbreviate Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas and Utah
    2. The rest can have two or three letter abbreviations (I cheat and use the two-letter style: CT, CA, NY, etc.); see the AP Stylebook for the complete list.
  9. Prefixes – Use a hyphen if the prefix ends in a vowel and the word that follows begins with the same vowel (re-entry, anti-inflammatory). Use a hyphen if the word that follows is capitalized (the ex-Beatle Paul McCartney).
  10. Money – use a $ sign and numerals for an exact figure
    1. For amounts less than a dollar, use numerals (99 cents)
    2. Use a $ sign and numerals to two decimal points for amounts of $1 million and up.
    3. Spell out special cases (She loaned me five dollars).

As writers it’s vital we not let our guard down; we cannot contribute to the “dumbing down” of American reading and writing skills. Stay the course, refuse to take the low (grammar) road and, just maybe, we can maintain a level of literature (and journalism) undaunted by those who choose another, less intellectual path.

Write on!

 

Sources:

11 AP Style Guide Rules That Are Easy to Mess Up by Melanie Brooks, March 2012.

Writing in AP Style by Sarah Bennett, Bear Claw Center for Learning and Writing

I Repeat, It’s Redundant

social-media-cube

Do We Need All This SM?

I’ve blogged about how I feel overwhelmed at times with Social Media (SM). I’ve also been thinking about how much of it is actually redundant. We build a nice website, maybe with an RSS feed or comment section on our blog page, and we add to that mix more SM than we have time for in our daily lives because we want everyone (or anyone) reading our books. If you can visit an author’s FB page and like it, do you also need to visit the website, or vice versa? Or the Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, or Twitter accounts? What’s different? What’s not?

I question the necessity of having more than a few good SM accounts. I understand we’re not all on the same SM so picking those that do the most good for you and your business (because writing is a business, if you’re selling your work) is smart. Which SM do you really need? Do you need to be on ALL of them? Only you can know the answer, after researching how you want to market yourself and your work. Factors in that decision might be age, gender, or cultural, for example; these are your target demographics and you need to know whom they are and where to find them on SM. Do you believe that all your fans (readers) are on the same SM as you?

How much of your SM is redundant and taking away from the quality of your life? Or more importantly, your writing time? (Really, how many pictures or videos of cute puppies or kitties can you get excited about?)

Marketing, Branding, Promotion, and SM

Marketing our work and our selves is important and necessary as authors. A SM-savvy person can utilize SM to its fullest capacity, if you do the homework. The rest live with a basic marketing plan and will (eventually) work their way up to the one that provides the most benefits (more sales, increased exposure, better branding, etc.). It all depends on what you want to achieve (fame, fortune, notoriety, bestseller lists, be besties with your readers, etc.) and the steps you must take to achieve it.

In a recent blog by USA Today bestselling author Kristen Lamb wrote “ads without an established relationship (platform and brand) don’t work.” She’s right. And neither does spamming everyone on your LI list (or any SM list) with a link to your book (like I did years ago; lesson learned). You need to establish yourself (brand) before readers begin lining up to buy your books; you have to build the excitement. Be selective about which SM works best for you (read: what is my target audience and where are they), build your platform on those SM and work from there. Are you on YouTube or other video sites? Or do you prefer sites where you communicate only via texting/comments? You need to know what you’re comfortable with; you also need to understand that you can’t spread yourself so thin (be everywhere on all SM) and expect to build trust in your brand (you) and your product (books) if you don’t offer something unique on each one.

Promotion is nice but it’s a long way from establishing and maintaining that critical relationship with your readers/fans. If you can tie your name (brand) with your book (marketing) with an emotional experience, then according to Kristen Lamb, you’ve got a winning combination. (Think Harley-Davidson or Geico) What emotional experience will readers gain from reading your work?  

Mix Up Your SM Options

Let’s do some math:

Website/blog + POD publishing site (Lulu, Ingram, Book Baby, etc.) + Facebook + Twitter + Instagram + LinkedIn + Snapchat + YouTube + Social Media2 = Redundant; same information in too many places; reduce the load unless you can offer something unique on each of them

Here’s my math:

Website/blog + Facebook + Lulu Press + radio interviews + car signage (I often drive to areas far from home; great advertising on the highway) = global distribution (includes Amazon, B&N, Ingram, and many others) = minimalist approach but smart, affordable, and a good start (last year I began earning royalties every month so now I can up my game a bit)

Here’s another option:

Website/blog + Lulu Press + Facebook groups (literary) + Twitter + Goodreads + guest blogging + radio interviews = easy to maintain, affordable approach

And another:

Website/blog + Ingram (this gets your book into physical locations) + Twitter + YouTube + Goodreads + author podcast = easy to maintain, offers fans text, video, and recorded/live access to you

Consolidate Your SM

How many author pages do you need (Amazon, KDP, Smashwords, B&N, etc.)? Too many ‘author pages’ can become difficult to keep track of (again, lesson learned), especially when you need to update personal or book information. Keep it simple and manageable.

Ask yourself: What do I want from SM? More book sales, people reading my blogs, connecting more with my fans? Do you want/need to be rich and famous or are you happy with the fact that some, but not all, folks are reading your works? Do the math; see what works, what’s in your budget.

Avoid redundancy; stay original.

Then repeat (for your next masterpiece).

A Writer’s Legacy Part 2

photofunia-last will

In November 2016, I posted a blog, A Writer’s Legacy in a Digital World, where I discussed the importance of planning for the future of your digital and intellectual property. I recently read two blog posts on the same subject but with a few more bits of information, like appointing a Literary Executor (separate from the Estate Attorney) to protect your intellectual property (IP).

To reiterate, it’s vital you prepare for the inevitable. You must decide what kind of legacy you wish to leave, if you wish to leave one at all. In this new digital world, our lives are complicated by our dependence on many devices, each with its own password and accessible only by you. The first step in the process is to take an inventory of your digital (online world) and intellectual properties:

  1. Do you have a Paypal, Google Pay, or any account, in addition to personal banking, with monetary value? Who will have access in case you’re incapacitated, or worse, if you die? What happens to the money? Whom will you designate as your beneficiary?
  2. What about personal and business email accounts, blogs, and podcasts? Personal and business websites? Do you want them up and running for people to read your when-you-were-a-breathing-starving-artist work?
  3. Do you keep a list of logins and passwords to all of your online accounts? I keep an updated copy in one of those many cloud accounts, just in case. Update it regularly and make sure your designated Estate attorney has the most recent copy on file.
  4. What electronic devices do you own that need a password for access? Do you have a laptop, smartphone, tablet, DVR/Tivo, Ring, or a home burglary system? How many apps do you access from your phone?
  5. Do you bank online? What about mortgage payments, investment banking, utilities, and airline (or other) memberships? Which memberships automatically renew online? You’ll need to spell out which to cancel and which to keep active for your heirs/estate.
  6. Do you have any online accounts like Facebook, LinkedIn, or YouTube? Any accounts to e-commerce sites (Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, Ebay, etc.)? Check the policies of these companies regarding access by another person. You’ll need to legally designate someone if you want that person to clean up your online life.
  7. How much of your work is unfinished? Do you want someone else to finish it? Or would you prefer your Executor/Executrix just heave every incomplete project, every potential novel/poetry book/best-selling short story into a shredder? What will you do with the work you have completed? Who gets the royalties?
  8. Do you have translations of your book? Movie deals? Audio books? Who will oversee these if they become options after your death? Who will make the decisions about maintaining and growing your work after you’re gone? (Think: Elvis Presley estate.)
  9. Will you leave the option to own, sell, or operate your business and control your intellectual property? Or will you decide so your heirs don’t have to? One option is to designate a micro-publisher to oversee your work so that royalties will be properly paid to your heirs.
  10. What about cleaning up your personal information collected by those data-mining companies? If you think it won’t matter once you’re gone, you’re wrong. Someone could use your identity and gain access to your intellectual property and online life, and then your hard-earned money. This can affect any heirs you designate and their ability to oversee your IP or pay any monies owed. One site, My Life, mines all sorts of personal information; you’ll need to sign up and join to have access to your personal information and request they delete all of it.
  11. You need to be concerned with writer scams popping up all over the web offering unauthorized copies of authors’ books or scamming writers out of money. Writer Beware is one of many sites that track predatory sites and unscrupulous people trying to steal our IP. Make sure all is good before passing it on to the heirs.

I don’t have children so I’ve been thinking about how to ensure my IP is safe so that whomever I designate as heirs (charities most likely), they will benefit properly. It’s mind-boggling for sure, but getting started is the hardest part. Start with making a list for numbers 1-4; those alone will take some time. Once that’s done, you’re more than halfway to protecting your IP. Nolo.com is a good site to find Estate and Literary attorney recommendations; you can also call or check online with the Bar Association in your state. You can find Last Will and Testament forms (as well as Healthy Proxy, Power of Attorney and other estate forms) online and at Nolo.

I’m not trying to be morose; this is a necessary part of owning a business (yourself) and smart business owners/independent contractors prepare for the worst. How many famous people left no Will for their estates, tying up legal proceedings for years in probate with family members each trying to get his share? Don’t let this happen to you – or your heirs.

Some links to good articles on this and other subjects:

Anne R. Allen on Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris
New Writing Scams to Look Out for in 2019
“As long as there are writers, there will be writing scams. Hungry predators will always be lying in wait, ready to pounce on any tender young scribe who strays from the safety of the mainstream herd.”

Maggie Lynch on Self Publishing Advice From The Alliance Of Independent Authors
Why Indie Authors Need Literary Executors & How to Appoint One
“Today I’m going to address how to make sure your heirs (whether that is family, friends, or a nonprofit) benefit from that and who makes the decisions about licensing future intellectual property rights (eg translations, movie or TV deals, audiobooks, etc.) that may not have been licensed at the time of your death.”

Chris Syme on Smart Marketing for Authors
Why Word of Mouth Marketing Will Sell More Books [Research]
“In this episode of the podcast, Chris reviews the 2018 Word of Mouth Marketing Report from Convince and Convert Consulting and how it can help authors sell more books.”