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The Invisible Gorilla

I recently completed editing an academic textbook. This was a heavy copy edit, as well as reference checking and formatting. I made suggestions for the structure, requested some clarifications, proposed a few transition sentences, and even fixed spelling here and there.  I was happy with the work, and so was the client.

Having a little time on my hands, I drafted an academic article in my field, and asked my former client to take a look at it for me. They made suggestions for the structure, requested some clarifications, proposed a few transition sentences, and even fixed spelling here and there. My initial reaction was to think, how could I have missed these things?

I blame the invisible gorilla (read about it here). Because of how our eyes and our brains work, we often don’t see what we are not looking for. This can have fatal consequences for activities such as driving. You might hear someone say, after a collision, “he came out of nowhere” or “I never saw him.” Good driving means watching for the unexpected. The stakes are lower when you are writing, but the same problem exists.

As an author, you may overlook errors because you are not looking for them. You are concentrating on putting your thoughts on paper, or perhaps imagining the fame and fortune that await, once your masterpiece is published. (That’s how I overcome procrastination, and it’s helped get me published a few times, though fame and fortune still elude me.) It’s hard for an author to switch roles and be the editor of their own work. It can help to take a few days, and work on other things, but nothing beats a second set of eyes.

They say that a person who is their own lawyer has a fool for a client (and they’ve been saying it since at least 1809). That’s not a comment on the skill of the lawyer, but a reminder that one person should not take on two roles. No matter how good a writer you are, the editor should be someone else who can see the gorillas you miss.

Selling on Your WordPress Site

If you use WordPress for your self-hosted site, there are many plugins available to support marketing and selling your products. The free, or nearly free, WordPress.com service can also be used to promote a business, sell products, or request donations, but there are a few conditions. These are discussed below, and are largely summarized from this WordPress page.

You should be familiar with the user guidelines for WordPress.com. Basically, site content should be original, and not offensive. You should read the terms and conditions too.

Forget running ads to make money, no matter how many posts you read about making fortunes running ads. WordPress.com runs ads on your site, unless you pay to remove them. That’s part of how they can offer the service for free. You cannot place Google AdSense Ads or anything similar. If you are getting thousands of page views per month, there is an advertising service from WordPress you may be able to join, but for most of us that’s not an option.

However, you can place affiliate links, such as links using the Amazon Associates program. Links have to be for reputable sites, and WordPress decides what is reputable, but if you have to wonder, it’s probably not. Also, you cannot build a site just to place affiliate links. If you write book reviews, and post an affiliate link for each book reviewed, that’s okay, but you cannot make a site that looks like an online bookstore.

A site that promotes your business (like this site) is allowed, though I recommend purchasing a package that removes ads. There’s no point in promoting potential competitors. You can also sell products and request donations. You won’t be able to set up a shopping cart system or payment system, but you can provide links to your products on sites like etsy, or sell items directly and collect payment through PayPal. You can post PayPal links or buttons following these directions.  WordPress also has a complete tutorial on setting up a business site.

You can request donations, using the PayPal donate button, but you must meet the PayPal requirements for donations – in other words, be a registered charity. Charities may also quality for a discount on their PayPal processing fees. If you are not a charity, you can still request contributions, but those contributions are purchases, not donations.

If you are selling or promoting products that might be considered mature, such as nude photographs or drawings, make sure you mark your site as Mature, and understand the limitations of mature content.

Although there are some restrictions and conditions, in many cases you can use a free WordPress site to quickly and easily promote your business, or sell products you have made. If you would like assistance setting up or modifying a WordPress site, please contact us.

WordPress Bookmarks

WordPress makes creating web sites easy, but there is one handy web page feature that requires a tiny bit of coding: Bookmarks. Fortunately, it’s simple coding that anyone can do. These instructions apply to WordPress.com and WordPress.org.
Introduction
Create a Bookmark
Link to a Bookmark from the Same Page
Link to a Bookmark from Another Page

Introduction

Bookmarks allow you to jump to anywhere on a page (or post), from the same page, or from somewhere else completely. If there are sections on a page, like this one, you can create a table of contents at the top of the page, like the one at the top here, and allow users to click and go directly to that section.This is useful on longer pages, and remember that a one screen page on a large desktop monitor might already require a lot of scrolling on a mobile device. There are two steps for each bookmark: Create the bookmark, and create the link to it.

Create a Bookmark

  1. Switch to Text or HTML mode (depending on which WordPress editor you are using). The mode is selected by tabs in the upper right, above the toolbar for the typing area. The default mode is Visual, and you can switch back at any time.
  2. Find the location for your bookmark. For example, to set the bookmark for the heading at the top of this section, I scrolled down to the heading. The line looked like this:
    <h3>Create a Bookmark</h3>

    Just ignore the characters around the text, but be careful not to erase or move any of them. If you accidentally delete something, go back to Visual editing and fix the appearance there.

  3. The bookmark should always go on the line above the heading (or paragraph, or image) that will be the destination for the link. If there is no blank line, add one with the Enter key.
  4. Type the bookmark code, including a name. For this section, the bookmark code is
    <a name="Create"></a>
  5. The name of the bookmark is between the quotes. It can be anything you want, but it should be short, simple, and descriptive, with no spaces or odd characters. You can put as many bookmarks as you want on a page, but each one must be unique. This bookmark could also have been
    <a name="second_section"></a>

    or

    <a name="part2"></a>
  6. You can also create a bookmark at the very top of the page, just in case you want to offer users a Return to Top link. That bookmark might be
    <a name="top"></a>
  7. That’s it. If you go back to Visual mode, WordPress will show a little anchor symbol where your bookmark is. If you make any errors typing the bookmark, WordPress may delete it completely, or your page may look odd. If so, just switch back to the Text/HTML editor, and double check that the bookmark is typed correctly. Now you just need to create a link to your bookmark.

Link to a Bookmark from the Same Page

  1. First you need to type the word or phrase that will be the thing to click. For example, if you are making a table of contents, you need to type the headings at the top of the page. If you want to offer a Return to Top link, type that wherever you want to offer it.
  2. Highlight the text, and click the Insert/Edit Link button in the WordPress toolbar.
  3. In the box for the link, type a hashtag, and the name of the bookmark. For the example bookmark above, you’d enter #Create
    For a link that goes to the top of the page, you’d enter #top
  4. Click Apply. The link is created.

Link to a Bookmark from Another Page

  1. Bookmarks can also be added to a page address, so that when someone clicks a link to a page, they go directly to a specific place on the page.
  2. For example, the address of this page is http://tctext.ca/wordpress-bookmarks/
    (it will be different if you are looking at this page as part of the blog page, but you link to this page using its own address, not the blog page address).
  3. To go directly to the Create a Bookmark section of this page, from any other page on the internet, the address is   http://tctext.ca/wordpress-bookmarks/#Create

Bookmarks are a simple but powerful tool that make it easier for your readers to find things on larger pages, and for you to offer links to sections of your pages.

Making web sites better for you and your readers is one of the services we offer. If you’d like assistance with your site, please get in touch.

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How to Fix a Facebook Share

You’ve finished a great blog entry. You share it to Facebook – and then realize there’s a typo in the headline, or you forgot to add an image. You cancel the Facebook share, fix the blog, update it, and share it to Facebook again. The headline still has a typo, or the image is still missing. The page has updated, the link goes to the updated page, but the preview on Facebook did not update. What happened?

Facebook does not automatically refresh link summaries and images, so if something changes on a page that has been  shared to Facebook, the link preview might not update to show the change. It does not matter whether you shared it or someone else did. For example, you might share a link to a newspaper story, and see a description and image on your Facebook feed that is from an earlier version of the story.

Fortunately, there is an easy way to force Facebook to refresh the link summary and image.

  1. Make sure you are logged into Facebook.
  2. In a new tab, go to this page: https://developers.facebook.com/tools/debug/og/object/
  3. Enter the URL for the item you want to share.
  4. Click the button that says “Fetch New Scrape Information.”
  5. Facebook refreshes and displays all the data it has about the shared item, including an updated summary and image. You can close this tab.

Now you can share the post, and this time the link preview will be current.

 

Please Get a Second Reader

I recently saw an interesting tweet from an author promoting her e-book. The pitch was good, so I clicked the link through to an Amazon page selling her book. The additional information there was promising, but the reviews were alarming. Just two, and both were one star ratings. The reviewers complained of poor spelling and grammar. No sale. I returned to Twitter, saw another book by a different author, and discovered similar poor reviews. This time the complaints were about a character that apparently had two names, and a sudden ending. A look through Amazon’s listings reveals many more books with one star ratings.

I feel sorry for these authors. They took the time and effort to write  stories. This is not easy. Then they did the work of preparing e-books, posting them to Amazon, and promoting them. All of this takes hard work and courage. The result is public shaming over easily avoided mistakes, and probably poor sales.

Before publishing your e-book, please ask at least one other person to read it. A second set of eyes can spot mistakes that you might overlook. Ideally, the other person reading your book will have a strong grasp of English and is familiar with the genre. They should be able to give you honest and objective feedback about your work.

Other readers can be anyone from friends and family to critique groups and beta readers. Services such as ours offer manuscript evaluation or editing. A manuscript evaluation is a broad review of the strengths and weaknesses in areas including grammar, plot, characterization, and style, with tips for improvements. Editing is a more thorough analysis and correction of one or more specific areas, and is more costly than a manuscript evaluation.

Asking a friend to read and comment on your work is easy. For any other service, make sure you understand exactly what is provided, the terms (such as how long it will take to get the response), and the cost.

If you are interested in a manuscript evaluation from us, you can contact us for more information, or send us your manuscript for a quote and details of what we will provide.

Regardless of how you do it, please get a second reader. Don’t go to all the work of publishing your book, only to end up with discouraging 1 star reviews and poor sales.