“Could you sell the same text, unchanged, to both magazines and newspapers?” is the most often asked question at my writing seminars!
I suppose you could, but I wouldn’t because I wouldn’t know how to unravel the rights issues. Anyway, it’d be far more profitable with a lot less work just planning five to eight sales from the same fact (and photo) pool.
Here’s how I might sell one topic (in this case, the Chicago River on St. Patrick’s Day) as widely as possible for the most yield and the least amount of additional research, composition, and jpg taking?
1. I’d first query the idea to the highest paying magazines (in order, one at a time). Then I’d write my lead article for the first editor giving me a “go-ahead.” This article might focus on a St. Patrick’s Day special, a big deal in the Windy City because at 9 a.m. that morning the Chicago River turns orange for a few minutes until (it’s said) the leprechauns switch it to green so lush it puts tears in every O’Brien eye—and stupefies much of the rest of midland America as it flows in reverse to the Illinois River and the Mississippi to and past New Orleans! Some 400,000 visitors a year line the downtown Chicago bridges, then watch the St. Patrick’s Day Parade march through the city that day at noon, rain or shine.
2. After that magazine article (sold first rights) appears in print, I could sell it exactly as is to any other magazine as a reprint. (If you sold the photos first rights too—or for one-time use—you could also sell them to the same [or other] reprint buyers!)
3. But since I’ve got a box full of facts and quotes, why not query, then write another main article about a similar happening that takes place the same weekend: the Flower and Garden Show at Navy Pier (nearby, on the same verdant river as it reaches Lake Michigan)? This is a loose example of a rewrite since you can slip in the key points about the concurrent St. Patrick’s Day festivities. All you have to do is rewrite that used text, which you’d have to do anyway because it must be in a different layout for both publications. Or you could call this rewrite “Chicago’s Greatest Gift: the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and the Flower and Garden Show Side by Side!” (What a title!) Since this magazine piece is a first-rights sale, why not sell this distinct offering to other magazines seeking reprints?
4. We’ve still not sold to the newspapers! I would significantly rewrite either of the magazine articles (or mix and match) in newspaper fashion, give the result a different title, and maybe try for a national newspaper sale first. Since this is a major set-date activity (like Christmas or Easter), most major newspapers look for event-related special articles. So I would query here several months earlier so it can get scheduled, then work out the special submission process with the travel editor.
5. Or if the national newspapers aren’t enchanted by the Chicago Journeyman Plumbers’ river magic, I’d send it simultaneously to all of the Midwest newspapers 100 miles away from each other to see if I can spin the special event one last time (this year), before the emerald is long gone.
6. And, of course, I’d handle the photos myself so I could sell them as widely as possible without messing up their rights!
By March 1, 2016 I will release a brand new book about this topic where each of the resale means to magazines and newspapers are explained in detail. Those are simultaneous submissions, reprints, rewrites, reprints of rewrites, rewrites of reprints, modified reprints, sidebars, overseas sales, and shorts. Check Amazon Books under Gordon Burgett for the still-undecided title and release date–or email firstname.lastname@example.org for specifics and cost.
Typically, as I write a “go-ahead” article, I encounter some additional facts that are so spectacular or unique I think they would make an interesting sidebar or box, in or near the printed article, to excite the readers and add much substance to the article without changing its primary structure. So I write and send a sidebar cover note (see below) by email or snail mail to the editor, reminding him/her of the subject of the article of mine they are considering or just accepted. Here, I share some of the most exciting facts (for baseball fans) that apply to the first year that the Cubs (and the National League) were in existence: 1876. That’s it. He/she will likely respond by email, a short yes or no, with a suggested content size.]
Sidebar Cover Note
Dear Ms So-and-So:
I doubly appreciate your giving me the go-ahead on the article “Wrigley Wouldn’t Recognize His Field.” I’m shooting to have it there within a week. But as I’m gathering current facts amid the cranes and disappearing bleachers, I wondered if you’d also want a Chicago-based sidebar (or box) about the earliest Cubs, long before P.K. Wrigley was in baby britches.
Here are some of the items it might contain:
1. The Cubs are the oldest team in the National League. They played from day one, in 1876—and won the first pennant by beating the Louisville Dark Blues in six games. Called the White Stockings then, they finished the year with a 52-14 record. (They didn’t use the name “Cubs” until 1907.)
2. Chicagoans also gave birth to the term “out of left field” in their early years. The left field in the pre-Wrigley playing grounds butted up to a many-storied insane asylum, and when the crowds made too much noise the lunatics screamed out the windows and banged on pans. Their comments truly were “out of left field.”
3. Al Spalding (of later sports equipment fame) managed that team, plus he helped write the first set of official baseball rules. He also pitched in 60 of the 66 games they played in 1876, winning 47. (Spalding was also the only pitcher on the team wherever he played, winning more games in his six professional baseball seasons than any other player in the league.) Al was the first major league player to use a fielding glove. His total pitching record was 252-65 with a 2.15 ERA and a .313 batting average! He also owned the team for a decade.
4. Players had no numbers or names on their uniforms then so crowds only vaguely knew who they were or what they did. Spaulding’s solution one year was to assign each position a different color, and the player there wore a hat that was colored to match the position’s hue. The fans called the team the “Tulips.” Hats (and baseball gloves) were sold, of course, by Spaulding.
5. Ross Barnes took most of the rest of the honors that year, batting .429 in 1876, hitting the Cub’s first home run, and winning nine of the other 10 major categories that inaugural season (hits, RBIs, runs, and so on…) But he got the ague (a fever) in the Windy City after 22 games in 1877 and never fully recovered. Fortunately, “Cap” Anson was there to pick up the slack, and, later, Tinkers, Evers, Chance, Hornsby, Dizzy Dean, and Grover Cleveland Alexander.
That may seem like a lot of numbers for a sidebar, but what numbers! And those reading about Wrigley Field will be Cub fans eager to relive those golden days. They are also hoping that the new playing grounds will bring the glory back.
If that interests you, on speculation of course, please let me know. It would help if you would indicate an approximate number of words you’d like in the sidebar.
P.S. This is an excerpt from my book Profitably Resell Your Copy Again and Again (and Again)…, with the subtitle Magazines, Newspapers, Reprints, Rewrites, Modified Reprints, Sidebars, Sales Abroad, and Other Copy Resales. Available from Create Space and Kindle after March 10. Or contact us for details.
Chicagoans gave birth to the term “out of left field” about 100 years ago. The left field in the pre-Wrigley playing grounds butted up to a many-storied insane asylum, and when the crowds made too much noise the lunatics screamed out the windows and banged on pans. Their comments truly were “out of left field.”
How would you like to design one article to appear in five different magazines or newsletters that explains the benefits, through example, of your firm’s specialization and why they may want to know more about your services? The best thing: it’s pretty much the same article with a similar message, and the five articles will probably take far less than 40% of the time and effort!
Let’s say you consult in the first-contact field, to help improve relations and create more business follow-through between receptionists and front-desk employees in small to medium-sized businesses. You can outwit your competitors by using the same basic idea five times through a popular reprint and rewrite concept familiar to journalists.
Perhaps your consulting would work well for offices that deal in insurance, real estate, loan processing, titles, and interior designing. What you must do is create a master article that will work well in publications to each of those five fields. Let’s say the creation of a telephone answering approach and basic script that would make all who phone (1) feel welcome and reassured by the professional message content and tone, (2) would be promptly directed to the person best prepared to answer their question or give advice, (3) or would be sent to the department or desk that handles their needs, and (4) would experience the properly directed pass-off smoothly and courteously.
That master article (probably about 650-900 words long) would give an example of how the greeting program you would design would function, with now-and-then examples and benefits clearly visible. But it would be niche-tailored to meet the needs in the five fields just mentioned. To do that you might interview a first-contact person or two in firms in each field, so the article has the right tone and vocabulary, and meets the unique needs in the different niches.
For example, you might call the office manager in, say, a loan office nearby and tell that person that you are ___ and you are writing an article about greeting solutions in the loan field and could you interview her/him for 15 minutes in person or by phone to have a better understanding of how greeting is handled in the loan office field. It’s surprising how eager others are to be interviewed. You could do the same to the other four fields too. What you need for all or most of the niche articles is inside, hands-on, how-to information from an experienced practitioner.
Later, you might call the same person again, thank them once more, and ask if they could suggest the three niche magazines in their field they think might be interested in sharing the short article–that you will handle the placement but thought it prudent to see what is most read right now.
Since you already know how positive greeting programs can be designed, you can then take the problems mentioned in the interview and design a program that would provide significant benefit. (And do the same in the other fields too. The second article will be much faster; the fifth, about as fast as you can type.)
Then you use the usual submission procedures to the target magazines, in this case a query letter suggesting the article or a direct submission of the finished article with a cover letter. When accepted and submitted remember to include a “bio slug,” a 20-35-word short that tells about you, the author, or the firm, plus the address/phones/email info so the readers can contact you for business!
Why would you do this? To make local contacts through the interviewees, get your firm’s beneficial suggestions in front of readers nationwide in five different fields, and to have copies of in-print articles to use for your p.r. or direct promotions. What I like best is doing five while you do one. As long as you are thinking this way, why not think a bit deeper and get a much better return?
P.S. To see other blogs about reprints, rewrites, query letters, and selling freelance writing, just type those words in the search box, upper right, and the other blogs will appear after this article.
This is an excerpt (part of a chapter) from my coming book, Interviewing. I talk about tools and means used to interview:
Interviewing is mostly you asking questions to a person or, rarely, a group, and receiving an intelligible response in return. When you record what you asked and what they replied, that is the thinnest skeleton of a completed interview.
That’s a bit simplistic but most of the rest just adds bulk and hope to the process.
A huge percentage of my interviews have involved direct communication with my target person. More than half were done eye to eye (really mouth to ear), and most of those were done when I was learning how, usually on the road last century gathering travel material. I asked and they responded, and I translated and wrote what they said into a notepad, in a kind of shorthand that spontaneously evolved (nouns mostly, other key words underlined.) It was give and take, staccato fashion, one question/a reply, segues… My goal was about five minutes, which was a long time for them and for me. It rarely lasted 30 minutes; an hour interview never happened.
Well, that sense of brevity may be somewhat misleading because many “interviews” became conversations, and ended when it was comfortable or necessary to do so. If the other person wanted to keep talking I was usually game to do so (unless I absolutely had to be somewhere else right then–sometimes we resumed the exchange later over lunch or coffee.) Other times they just wanted someone to talk to, or were lonely, or were proud of what they had done or seen and wanted to share more of it. That was fine. Often it gave me more, better information and a deeper interview.
Occasionally I was drawn to an interviewee. I wanted to know them better, and (hard to believe) that seemed mutual. They were interesting, often passionate about some cause, and they almost always bubbled or bristled with humor. What they said was worth sharing; it was fun; they were worth knowing. A few of those contacts became lifelong friends, particularly those still living.
But mostly interviewing is fast and focused. It’s kind of a dancing duel: you extracting what you need (and hoping for more); them telling you what they want you (and your readers) to hear, hoping they didn’t say too much.
In my mind, first interviews should be courteous, painless, and fairly fast, leaving open the possibility of a later follow-up. But I don’t mention that before or during the first interview other than asking them how I might later contact them should I run into a fact or a phrase that needs clarification and asking for or verifying an address where I would send them a copy of the printed article. (If you offer, do send it.)
Most of my interviews not done eye-to-eye were done by telephone. Those weren’t as satisfactory because you couldn’t tell how much of what they were saying was true, a greased lie, or something in between. Nor did you ever know if the voice you were hearing belonged to the actual person you had called. (I don’t think I ever interviewed a stiff or a stand-in, but surprisingly often they grilled me to make sure I was the journalist they were supposed to be talking to and that I was writing an article for such-and-such a publication. Everyday people took me at face (or voice) value, happy to be the one being interviewed. The higher ups were more likely to have their assistant or caretaker vet or check me out first).
Another telephone problem: the tenuous connection between you and the person you are interviewing—one wire—almost invites the other person to simply hang up or disconnect when they have said what they think you should (or need to) hear. It’s a true test of your interviewing (and inventive) magnetism to be able to keep the other person focused and actively responding. Some of that is created before starting the actual interview by getting the respondent’s buy-in to the importance of the exchange so what they say can reach their target listeners’ or readers’ ears.
My restraint to interviewing by phone was personal—and, in my dotage, still is. I grew up weaving waggish humor and pun-riddled, antic wordplay into my everyday conversation. It drove my few friends crazy. But all of that tomfoolery had to be excised when phone interviewing strangers for print, particularly when they envisioned sparks or bolts of radiated global fame emanating from the article (or even book) they would be in. It was their big moment and they didn’t expect mirth or frivolity—any humor at all—then, particularly over the telephone where smiles are never seen and barely heard. So half of what I normally might have said, or how I might have said it, was verboten and probably dumbfounding. However funny, they never, ever would have laughed. They were expecting to be asked to share gems of wisdom, poignant observation, Christian guidance, and household tips. Out the telephonic window flew my witty high jinks, which left the interviewer, me (or you), nearly speechless, jocularly disarmed.
Alas, nothing is incurable when regular eating is at steak. I immediately reverted to my telephone high school date-getting scheme of imploring (or interviewing) by script. My first 100 or so interviews (it may have been 500) were very, very tightly structured, almost every word written or typed. It looked something like this, although where you see ideas below I had complete sentences, short sentences to give them time to respond:
* wee introduction
* reminder of why I was calling and where their words would be shown to the world
* a question
* a second question—these were the most important answers in case something else interrupted the call—it happens often—and there would be no chance to finish… [more on this later]
* [if something relevant in their reply to my questions was said or hinted at I would ask more, prodding queries about it, to provoke more facts or brilliance]
* a third question
* [if they verbally wandered off and what they said would also interest my imaginary readers I let them wander. I only reherded them back into my imaginary readers’ corral of interest when they wore out or I still had a final question to ask]
* fourth question (or more) if needed. See above.
* anything else, Mr./Ms. ____, that I should have asked but didn’t?”
* “is there a phone number I could use to reach you if I find something I need to verify later?
* “I’ll gladly send you a copy of the printed article as soon as it appears—remember, printing can sometimes take months”
* “is ____ the address where I should send the article, in your name?”
* “thank you again, Mr./Mrs. _____, for the information and your time”
* “it sounds like a very interesting article. I appreciate your kindness and your sharing”
* (hang up softly, breathe deeply, wipe brow, hydrate rewardingly, and type out the whole interview then or before nightly repose)
Interviewing by email, or even by social media, is fast, sometimes too public too soon, and a whole lot less expansive. Combined with Skype or other computer-to-computer linking, it’s fairly easy and much faster to talk with others now—if they agree to talk with you.
For example, …
This is an unedited extraction of part of an early chapter of a book called INTERVIEWING. Check future blogs for more copy about the topic.
Here’s a comment/question that I get too often: “I published my book on Kindle but I don’t know how to make changes in it. Help”!
So let me list the steps that will let you tinker or rewrite or clarify your book. Whatever you want to change, the train always takes the same simple track.
Your book enters the Kindle publishing brainworks through two files, one for the cover, the other for the interior copy and artwork. Let’s assume the interior copy was prepared in Word and that you have it stored on your personal computer (or you have access to it). You or another person submitted both of those files at KDP.Amazon.com. And as the publisher you also opened an account at Kindle, which is how you got through the publishing gate.
Let’s say that the book being displayed on Kindle says, on page five, “I am the greatest writer alive.” But others (including the greatest writer alive) told you that claim should be corrected (or painfully censored). So now you want to substitute “After having been the greatest writer alive, I am now number two.” You want to modestly set the record straight.
Get or find the book’s interior copy file, make a digital copy of that file, and set that copy aside, for old-time’s sake. Now go to page five and replace the offensive boast by erasing and retyping a correction. First check to see the font and font size that copy was prepared in. For example, if it’s Century Schoolbook 11-point, make your correction in the same font/size. Give this new file a new name (say, from Book 1-1 to Book 1-2) and save it. That’s how changes begin. Find the original file, change it, and save it with a different name–or you will drive yourself, Kindle, and us batty. Then here’s how to put that “corrected” file inside Kindle so it will appear on monitors (or like devices).
Assuming by now you have a Kindle publishing account, open it up and do the following:
1. Go to the Dashboard, then the Bookshelf.
2. Find “Your Books” and the title of the book you want to change.
3. On the far right side along the book title line find a shaded box with three dots on it, near “Book Actions.” Push “Edit Details.”
4. Go down to #6, “Upload Your Book File.”
5. Open “Browse.” It will take you back to your home files. Find Book 1-2 and open it.
6. Kindle will start downloading the corrected version of your book right away.
7. It may take a few minutes to download. When it’s done, it will invite you to look at the changed book by going to #7, “Preview Your Book.” You will see how fast one can plummet from being the world’s greatest writer to the second greatest.
8. If that’s what you want your book to say (and how you want it to look), check the orange “Save and Continue” box at the very bottom of that section.
9. That will open the #8-#11 section. Below #11 is a wee box that you must check. Read the text you just approved, and confirm it again in a yellow “Save and Publish” box on the lower right.
9. You’re done! But Kindle isn’t. If your book is in English it will take about 24 hours for your changed book to reach eager readers and buyers.
Congratulations on having a book or good news to share at Kindle!
P.S. This is an updated submission version from my How to Get Your Book Published Free in Minutes and Marketed Worldwide in Days.
The author of the best-selling Self-Publishing Manual, Dan Poynter, has died. We were “in the trenches” writing friends and I already miss him, in part because it was Dan’s turn to buy lunch. So will thousands more whose lives he touched and changed. He had been quite ill for a while, seemed to be improving, but, instead, Dan passed away a few days back.
Poynter wrote almost 100 books but he was best known for his Self-Publishing Manual, now in its 14th edition. Many of us exploring the hinterlands of “doing-it-ourselves” publishing, with our starter books (rarely sought, even more rarely bought), pounding away on clunky typewriters and wading in rubber cement, wandering through the last days of the past century, when up popped his how-to gift. The SPM was a light from heaven. It answered questions we didn’t even know we should ask. As Dan learned more, the book kept getting better and bigger. In short order his grateful fans, hat in hand, too often bruised by the titans from Gotham and other bookstore bulk buyers, turned his manual into a huge seller…
Dan was a close friend of mine for lots of decades. We’re a few weeks apart in age (he would never admit it), I lived about 20 miles away, and we seemed to wander into the same ersatz gatherings and adventures, befriending many of the same odd people, and we quietly joined the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA)—Dan helped birth it—and the National Speakers Association (NSA).
He was a tall, quiet fellow who gave freely of his knowledge. Many know that he was President of the Parachutists Assn as well. He joked that he married the thrill of descent (he was a life-long bachelor), and was faithful to the end.
In fact, rather than using his law training Dan set up and ran a loft in Oakland. His publishing career (and life) started when he couldn’t find a book about parachute knotting that his clientele needed, to get licensed. “I knew as much about publishing as some poor soul tapping rubber trees for a living,” he told me. So he contacted every company however involved with knotting and made copies of the diagrams and instructions they sent back, pulled them into a $40 three-ring instruction manual, wrote the conjunctive copy, then bought a dandy house near Goleta (Santa Barbara) from the profits. It overlooked the Pacific Ocean east of the UC Santa Barbara. From his front porch you could see the only American mainland target attacked by the Axis in World War II, an oil tank sighted by the misdirected Japanese Navy.
I first met him at a free lunch where Xerox was showing their brand new copiers to a bevy of hungry writers (becoming publishers). We passed on the street a couple of times but we didn’t really meet again until he tried to kill himself (inadvertently, he claims) by falling 100+ feet straight down and almost impaling himself on a volleyball net pole on East Beach. He had written (or was writing) a book about Parasailing (or was it Paragliding? He also wrote a pile of other weird books). There was a slack in the tow rope and he found himself stalled in midair! Alas, the pause was miraculously timed–a gaggle of bone doctors taking a break from a convention happened to be playing volleyball when he dropped in on them! He was nearly killed. A few days later, in the weakest voice hearable, he called and asked if I’d take his newest book to the ABA in Los Angeles the next week. I did (when I found out what the ABA was), and that started a long string of lunches, Gold Coast meetings (a sort-of branch of NSA), and so on…
Dan had a sense of humor, much of it hoarded internally. He didn’t have time (or much patience) for editing would-be books sent for his help by adoring fans. He threatened to farm them all off to me, and rarely he couldn’t help himself: I would get a DOA bundle (with a spine) in the mail with a note daring me to make sense and save the soul of the hapless scribe of the offending manuscript. The note usually mentioned that I was the only person who could get the author in print since the bundle was so much like my own books!
A final story. Dan gave weekend gatherings for book creators at his palace. The couple of times I spoke there he would hold up one of my early books and tell the attendees that it was certainly not how to design your own cover–and that he had bought a couple of copies of the book so he wouldn’t run out of such a pitiful display. I told him I was hunting for some hole in one of his books, the table of contents lost in the index, upside-down chapters, or something equally egregious for revenge. But I never found anything out of place–and now he’s left before me and the fun is gone.
Dan Poynter was a smart fellow and already is a much missed friend.
There are ways to do what the title says—and about 1000 other ways that guarantee writing penury, most about as lucrative as begging for or selling writing pencils on the street! I’ll not foul this blog by describing how you can find cliche distress or dangling destitution—poverty you can find on your own. Or it will find you, particularly if you’re lazy or wreyete horroribly!
For the rest of you wordsmiths overflowing with words, wit, proper punctuation, vivid imaginations, and computers that spell well, here’s what an old writer thinks are the most likely paths to help you at least end up paying your own bills—and comfortably at ease between now and then.
We can eliminate some kinds of writing at the outset, like essays and poetry. Verse may be the showcase of a mastermind, but 99%+ of the poets, bless them, even when in rhyme don’t have a dime.
Let’s focus on the four paths that make the most cents.
Geniuses could secure comfort if they could express their wizardry in lucid, sought prose, then link themselves to vendors who could harness, package, and sell their brilliance. (So much for geniuses.)
A harder path would be from the bottom up, from stringer to city editor to editor-of-editors. Theirs might be the bobbing path of nervous comfort while publishing mastheads sink into the sea. Editing excellence may have to be mixed with the deft art of vessel leaping, derring-do in life preservers, afloat, preserving words and news while awaiting the calm. Still, in business and government there may be a million jobs that have a writing core. They pay well and keep the faithful comfortable during retirement. Some of the greatest writers had their day jobs there, and bloomed into fame from the product of their nighttime/weekend passions.
Fiction writers have the privilege of inventing comfort when needed, of living where their imagination takes them to find solace. But to have enough coin to eat and stay warm as needed requires that they cook up a tasty singular plotstew of people, purpose, and place that readers want, then keep that blend boiling until their culinary/literary fame makes them well rewarded. For most this is surely the hardest way to spend a life fed solely by writing.
The fourth path is obvious but its luster is so unseen by the everyday public that most miss its truly gilded glow. These are the folks who write for close-knit bonds of workers. They define their niches—surveyors, goat breeders, school principals—and write books or create how-to guides or give workshops transformed into BOR tomes about what every member of the group needs to know to do what they do better. Most also speak professionally about what they write. And if their primary field folds or changes form they reform their knowledge to match the new configuration, get the groups’ email addresses and sell their solutions to their associations and their members. They have ready-made followers eager for every applicable word that they write or speak. When they write articles, they know specifically who will read them and what they need or want to read. Their blogs are avidly awaited, they use social media to enhance their expertise, and as they get known and grow older their demand grows proportionately. They’re probably too busy to be too comfortable in their prime years, but they could have a self-generating empire that would keep them very comfortable as they age. The downside? Who knows they exist (comfortably or at all) and who reads their chosen words, other than the tight circle of their followers.
That’s it. Musing about how those fed by the flames of imagination and word-molding are most likely to be able to be comfortably closer to their preferred mode of creation longer and freer from debilitating or impoverishing distractions.
P.S. I write books and speak their messages, mostly. Some are published by others, while I also publish niche books, all of which I edit but are written by others. Here is a list of those books that are currently available. (Oh yes, I’m also old.)
You want to get paid for your wordsmithing by some deep-pocketed, eagle-eyed editor who refuses to rewrite your mistakes, here’s something that can keep you poor and quickly rejected. Even worse, it’s easy to spot before the editor reads a word.
Learn how and when to use the “en” and “em” dashes right every time.
Worse yet, do you know that there are em dash, 2 em dash, and 3 em dash decisions too? And do you put a space before and after it or snug it up to the type every time it is used?
The dashes all get their names from their girth and volume. The “en” dash is the size of a hyphen and is the width of the letter “n”; the “em” dash is twice as wide (but all in one dash) because it’s the size of the fatter letter “m.”
“Look at me, I’m a simple en dash!”
The easy dash is the skinny brother, en.
You use the en dash all the time. It even has its own key on the keyboard, above and to the right of the letter “p.” And there are never blank spaces before or after it. It usually means “to” when you connect numbers in ranges, like dates (2001-2013), or months (June-July), or miracles, like the Cubs won the pennant game 9-1.
But you don’t use the single dash when the number or word is preceded by from or between (from…to, or between…and). Two examples: “The zoo is closed from November to February” or “It’s most comfortable when the temperature is between 65 and 77°F.”
The most confusing is when the en dash is used when joining compound modifiers where at least one of the words is an open compound (meaning not hyphenated) or is already hyphenated. Like, the Chicago-Rome connection, bridesmaid-approved dresses, or pre-election polling restrictions.
“No, look at ME, I’m a bewildering em dash!”
The em dash should look like ——, but it still appears (in earlier typed text) as two hyphens without a space between (because that was your only choice on old-fashioned typewriters.) The em dash is so common that it is what most mean when they say “a dash.” It’s used primarily in informal writing in place of a comma, colon, semicolon, or parentheses to provide emphasis.
You most often see it used to set off parenthetical expressions like “When I hit the high C—or tried to hit, or at least reach, the high C—the students broke out laughing!” I could have substituted with parentheses, but not a comma because commas cannot be used to set off parenthetical expressions when there is internal punctuation (commas inside the expressions.)
Two uses where the em dash, usually used in pairs, might appear alone:
“Betty, How could—Why would you do such a thing?”
“Can I finish my—,” the husband pleaded.
It can also be inserted, alone, in place of an unknown value in a table.
Where do you find em dashes on a keyboard? Go to “Insert/symbol/special characters” and both the em and en dashes will appear. But most software programs let you type two consecutive hyphens (no space between) and as you type the next item the double hyphen will also convert into an em dash.)
Don’t forget us: we’re double em and triple em!
I’m double and you see me used to indicate missing letters in a word, either because material is missing or illegible, or to conceal a name. Like Sister M ————. Or “Two of the players, ———— and ————, got thrown out for fighting.” (Notice that in blogs and computer text the spaces between the en dashes still appear? Imagine here they are joined, two in one.)
I’m triple em (didn’t you notice?) and I am much more formal. I am used in bibliographies when the author’s name is repeated, like
———————. Adventures in Dashes. New York: Big House Publisher, 2015.
Finally, do you insert a space before and after an em dash? It depends. They seem to do so almost all the time in England, and some U.S. newspapers (and a few magazines) do too. I don’t nor do I see it much where I publish (articles and books) and I think the trend is to join the em dash on both sides, like: “this is an example—albeit a bad one—of what…” I’d just be consistent throughout the piece and the editor will recognize and usually correct your weird style. But inconsistency, at least here, may drive the editor daft—or dafter. That will leave you—broke(r).
I hope this helps.
If you are digitally displaying your achievements and the products/skills that you have for sale, where might that be shown to your best advantage? Even if it’s only done to delight your kids, prove your prowess to your spouse, or put some strut in your aging parents’ prance, where might they most likely (and logically) see it?
Maybe at your website, where you can hide almost anything in its most exquisite, self-defined detail?
Or, in miniature, in your social media profiles?
Yesterday I became convinced that at least for writers, speakers, and publishers maybe the best shout sheet would be at our Author Central page at Amazon.com.
I concluded that from a dandy multi-segment workshop given by three BAIPA leaders at the monthly (second Saturday) gathering in Novato, California. (BAIPA is the San Francisco Bay Area Independent Publishers Association.) According to David Cutler, Judy Baker, and Ruth Schwartz, we would be woefully derelict if we left anything unrevealed at that site.
Why would Amazon be the prize listing site for our bios and the related exposition of products, services, and current or coming activities? Because far more buyers go to or through Amazon to buy paperbacks, ebooks, and audiobooks (plus batteries, kettles, and harmonicas, etc.) than anywhere else. And more eyes usually mean more buys of our printed or spoken gems! (You don’t publish through Amazon? You can list all other products there too.)
What can you include there to prove to the hungry public that you know your stuff and that your knowledge is immediately (and wisely) purchasable? Your books (bound or digital), audiobooks, articles, blogs as they appear, a long introduction, photos, videos, events (present and future), plus more…
How can others review and use this well presented repository? You can link them there, put a widget at your website, or they can just put your name up at Amazon.com and your Author Central info will appear—if you create it, which is fast and free.
I know, others have to go through Amazon to reach it. That bothers me too. But I will simply explain to them that it is where they can find the best and most recent list of my publications and services–and give the link or widget.
That’s it. I felt a bit stupid being all but unaware that Author Central existed despite the fact that Kindle and Create Space sell lots of my books (as do several other publishers, and us too). But I will use it often now. I’m interested having them hawking the existence of my words, wit, and (rumored) wisdom 24 hours a day, though I hope they keep that display some distance from the kettles and harmonicas.
P.S. There’s an obvious exception to the Amazon answer to this blog’s query: if you are a niche-oriented publisher or speaker, the best location would be in niche-related places. You are unlikely to be selling through Amazon.com. Two very unlike business models! (See my blogs about niche publishing if this is unclear. Just write niche publishing in the “search” box in the upper right corner.)
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