After your book has been written, edited and laid out and ready to be printed, you need to start thinking about ways to market it so that people know about your book and set out to buy it. Book marketing, perhaps, is most ignored by authors when they could themselves be the most passionate salesperson their book could have. While we do provide a wide range of marketing plans, here’s a list we put together for our authors to do themselves. Perhaps something you could borrow from?

Online promotion:

1. Have bloggers review your book. Choose relevant bloggers. For example, if your book is on science fiction, send it to bloggers who are sci-fi aficionados

2. Add a “signature” to your email. Signatures should be brief and “punchy”. Add a link to information about your book if possible

3. Get friends to add your link to their email signatures

4. Create a free website (blog) for your book. These are free and easy to set up. For blogs visit http://www.blogspot.com/ or http://www.wordpress.com/. For websites, visit www.weebly.com. Alternately you can contact us and we will set up one for you. When you set up one, make sure it is easy for people to find ways to contact you.

5. Post extracts of your book on your website or blog. Although this may see counter-intuitive, posting such free content allows your book to come up during search results. It also makes readers want to read more

6. A download of a few chapters of the book along with a discount coupon for purchase of the entire book. Or an online game where the winners get a discount on purchase of your book

7. Comment on other peoples’ blogs, especially those on topics that match that of your book. Comment intelligently and don’t brag. Sign off with your name and with a link to details of your book.

8. Guest blog on other sites that will allow you to.

9. Invest in social media such as Twitter, MySpace, Facebook and Orkut. The investment is of time, not money. This is a whole new beast called “social media marketing” and if you are here, you have probably heard of it already

10. Send out free press releases. Google “free press releases” and you will find many such services. Your press release should be brief and should contain the words users might search for.

Offline promotion:

1. Invest in getting your book edited and in getting a good cover designed for your book. Nothing turns readers away as much as an error-riddled book does. Similarly, an attractive cover can help market your book.

2. Dig into your mailing list – email every contact and tell them about your book. Ask them to promote your book in turn.

3. Similarly phone your friends and tell them about your book.

4. Contact your local newspaper. Ask them to do a review of your book. There is a certain prestige that comes with being a reviewed author. Give free copies away for reviews

5. Contact your local FM station and ask them to do an interview. Promote your book there

6. Make post cards for Diwali, Id or Christmas. Promote your book on it and send it to friends and acquaintances

7. If your book is on a niche subject, offer your services as a speaker when a seminar or conference is held on that or on an allied subject.

8. Promote your book at social meetings and gatherings.

9. Depending on the audience for your book, keep your book for sale in “unusual places” like coffee shops or supermarkets. People who frequent these places often have time to spare and money to spend. An attractively placed book might just trigger an impulse purchase

10. Arrange for readings and book signings if your environment allows it. Have them in prominent bookstores in your neighbourhood. In places like Bombay and Bangalore, weekly bingo is a common occurrence. Have your book launched before or after one such or similar meet. Cafes are another place where you can promote your book

Perhaps there is no greater pleasure on earth, than being immersed in a good book. For me, it has to especially be crime fiction. I guess I will be eternally indebted to innumerable authors who have lightened up my life every single day. How much ever crappy the day was at work, the thought of a crisp thriller lying by my bedside, always made me look forward to the end of the day. Be it the immensely sexy, deadly Charles Calthrop as Jackal in Forsyth’s Day of The Jackal; or the century’s most enigmatic villan Dr.Hannibal Lecter – they’ve been a part of my life, as much as my family, friends and colleagues. No, I don’t hear voices in my head…yet.

So, when I decided to take a break from the corporate scene, I was warned gently that I would be back at a cubicle in no time. It was tempting. 13 years of experience behind me. Good pay. Bad roles. Why not? But then, it got me thinking. Did I not see anything else in my life, apart from sitting in front of a laptop? Here I am, young (okay…younger than most Hollywood top paid heroines. Younger, but heavier…) mid-thirties…and I don’t know what to do with my life? That scared the crap out of me. I decided to sit it out. I actually mean sit-it-out. Sit on the sofa. Stare into space…well stare at a communal garden where a three-legged cat did the same thing. A result of that ‘sitting out’ was the decision to try out something new. Something I loved. Writing. The thought was stimulating. I did not want to just blog. Not even short stories. I wanted to do a full-fledged novel. Did I have it in me? Did I have the discipline? What if I don’t get any ideas at all? Again, I decided to sit it out.

Four weeks. I cooked, I cleaned, I sat and stared into space. What did I want to write about? Well, I KNEW what I DID NOT want to write about. Identity crisis due to immigration to another country, arranged marriage, a bored housewife rediscovering her sexuality, slums, corruption …basically all the literary fiction that is associated with India and Indian authors. I wanted to write a story that I would personally love to read. My favourite genre. Crime. Good. What kind of crime? Will it be a robbery? A murder? A serial killer on the prowl? I scribbled the thoughts in a notebook. I did not want to write an apology for a novel – a one dimensional array of words – A kills B. A tries to escape. But A gets caught. I wanted to write something that was complex, rich and had strong, interesting characters. Something that would make the readers smile. Something that would make them put off the chores to see what happened next. Something that would make them look over the shoulders every time the power went off and the room plunged into darkness. At the end of two months of ‘sitting it out’, I had a basic plot in my head. I had my ‘subject’ – a paranormal thriller! It was a challenging, mind-numbing exercise, replete with derisive self-doubt. Can two separate genres – crime and horror be intertwined successfully? It requires skilful weaving of subplots. It requires bringing out amazing chemistry between the characters. Above all, both these genres are almost absent in India (at least in the mainstream English fiction). Yet, can I steer away from the cinematic clichés of ‘horror’ in an Indian context? Vermilion smeared lemons, headless chicken lying around, the weird-looking, cave-dwelling exorcists (if it is a man) or…if it is a woman – someone who smears kajal with a vengeance. The challenge had me salivating. I plunged into it.

I had the characters worked out. I had the location worked out. And yes, I took a month to get the first para right. No jokes, folks. Writing that first line is a b****. I did not follow any ‘rules’ or use any ‘planning software’ to prepare my manuscript. I suppose that’s an efficient way – figuring out the chapters etc. But these frameworks hamper creativity, and I just wrote as the words fell out of my head. In many ways, I did not know what happened next in the story. While the outline was there, the details were missing. But as I wrote, the sequences revealed themselves – it was like driving in the dark. You don’t know the road; but you can see only a few feet ahead thanks to your headlights. I think that was very thrilling.

The principal characters of my story are as unremarkable as you and I. Regular blokes going about their routine. Yet, they are remarkable when pushed to a corner – again like you and I. The only liberty I’ve taken is probably to make most of them good looking! We all love good-looking, sexy, intelligent principle characters…right? My principal characters are urban, chic, globetrotters, well-off and intelligent. Someone of my world, with whom I can identify with…and so can you. I believe we are a summation of our experiences. We are what we are because of those memories, those lessons learnt. And that’s how I’ve attempted to reveal the characters to the readers throughout the book. Memories and experiences that made a character stronger, weaker or altered a personality.

The entire sequence of events takes place in my home-state in India – Karnataka. The mysterious, dark, brooding, yet enthralling lush forests of Kukke Subramanya, Sakleshpura, Bisle – the abode of the majestic King Cobra – I could not think of a better place for the story! Again, the challenge was – will it be a simple case of possession, a haunting? Or something more? I wanted to steer clear of the hackneyed ‘soul of suicide/murder victims coming back to nail the perpetrator’. I wanted this entity to be ancient. To have a specific purpose. To have a very, very strong character, with remarkable mental prowess. I wanted to develop this entity so that the reader loves her, sympathises with her, sheds a tear for her, above all, fears her. Thus, it felt only right that this entity belonged to the glorious Vijayanagara era – the most important time period in the history of Karnataka – marked by remarkable rulers and a golden period for music, literature and the arts. An era that sadly spiralled towards a most gruesome end in the hands of the Deccan Sultanate. And so, the story spans across two eras – 1550 – 1565 CE and present day (2005).

Given the fact that I am a debutant; and that I chose a genre which has not been a part of mainstream fiction in India, I did not even bother going to traditional publishers. After some research, I decided to go ahead and self-publish through Print on Demand. My publishers are CinnamonTeal, based out of Goa. They are book-loving blokes like me, and I’ve had a remarkable experience with them. They are not all ‘corporaty’ – just a homely bunch of geeks (I mean this in the most loveable way). They are flexible, approachable and always open to ideas. Above all, they are a very honest team. I got the same service as I would have if I’d been ‘selected’ by a traditional publisher. The only difference was that I was paying for the services.

As my book goes up on sale, I can’t eat, I can’t sleep. I am not nervous about the number of copies I sell. This was a hobby, an experiment – so it’s okay if just one copy is sold. I am more nervous about that single book-loving reader who finds the story disappointing. And so, my fingers are crossed, and I am waiting with bated breath for the first review to reach me!

So I hope this tickles you enough to buy the book! Since this is print-on-demand, the book is available only at this online bookstore –

http://www.dogearsetc.com/mainpage.jsp?type=2&id=36715

by Claire Odogbo, Author of “Learning to Learn”

I recently had a conversation with a senior colleague at work. She told me that she didn’t consider herself to be intelligent. I was shocked because I KNEW she was intelligent – I mean, that is how she got to rise in such a highly competitive environment like the firm in which I work.

In any case, I realized that she, like most people, rate their level of intelligence based on comparison with other people’s levels of expressed intelligence in popular areas such as academics, how quick you think on your feet or in verbal jabs, or whether you are always the one who comes up with the ideas that in quote ‘save the day’. Some of us are very ordinary in all the areas I mentioned. We have never done better than average in school, people may have finished laughing before we get the joke, and we never have any grand ideas, so in conclusion, we are not very clever. We believe so and perhaps others think so about us. But I will tell you something that might just make you metamorphose from the proverbial caterpillar into the beautiful winged butterfly.

According to a researcher and writer, Howard Gardner, there are 9 types of intelligences namely:

1. Naturalist Intelligence (“Nature Smart”)

People who are ‘nature smart’ have the human ability to discriminate among living things (plants, animals) as well as sensitivity to other features of the natural world (clouds, rock configurations). Taken in today’s consumer society, this is usually mobilized in the discrimination among cars, brands of clothing, shoes, accessories and the like.

2. Musical Intelligence (“Musical Smart”)

Musically smart people typically have the capacity to discern pitch, rhythm, timbre, and tone. This intelligence enables people to recognize, create, reproduce, and reflect on music, as demonstrated by composers, conductors, musicians, vocalist, and sensitive listeners.

3. Logical-Mathematical Intelligence (“Number/Reasoning Smart”)

Number/reasoning smart people are usually the number crunchers. Those who tell you they love mathematics, theories and hypothesis. They typically perceive relationships and connections, use abstract, symbolic thought; sequential reasoning skills; and inductive and deductive thinking patterns.

4. Existential Intelligence

People who are ‘existential smart’ have the sensitivity and capacity to tackle deep questions about human existence, such as the meaning of life, why do we die, and how did we get here.

5. Interpersonal Intelligence (“People Smart”)

Interpersonal intelligent people typically interact effectively with others. It involves effective verbal and nonverbal communication, the ability to note distinctions among others, sensitivity to the moods and temperaments of others, and the ability to entertain multiple perspectives.

6. Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence (“Body Smart”)

Body smart people usually have the capacity to manipulate objects and use a variety of physical skills. This intelligence also involves a sense of timing and the perfection of skills through mind–body union. Athletes, dancers, surgeons, and craftspeople exhibit well-developed bodily kinesthetic intelligence.

7. Linguistic Intelligence (“Word Smart”)

Word smart have the ability to think in words and to use language to express and appreciate complex meanings. Linguistic intelligence is the most widely shared human competence and is evident in poets, novelists, journalists, and effective public speakers. Young adults with this kind of intelligence enjoy writing, reading, telling stories or doing crossword puzzles.

8. Intra-personal Intelligence (“Self Smart”)

Self smart people typically understand themselves and their thoughts and feelings, and use such knowledge in planning and directing their life. Intra-personal intelligence involves not only an appreciation of the self, but also of the human condition. It is evident in psychologist, spiritual leaders, and philosophers. Self smart people may appear shy, but they are very aware of their own feelings and are self-motivated.

9. Spatial Intelligence (“Picture Smart”)

Picture smarts usually think in three dimensions. Core capacities include mental imagery, spatial reasoning, image manipulation, graphic and artistic skills, and an active imagination. Picture smart people usually see pictures in everything.

So which one(s) are you? You may not be word smart, logical smart, or people smart. But nobody sees how well you dance in your room, or how good you are on the tennis court, or how you can make creative music, or yet still, have an ear for the intricacies of good music which no one else hears. You are quite clever indeed; just find your niche and maximize your potentials.

About Claire Odogbo.
Claire is a freelance consultant in learning and creativity. She organizes seminars, workshops, classes and webinars on creativity and maximizing your potentials.
She is the author of the book ‘Learning to learn’. Available on her website www.lifetrackinternational.com, and on amazon.com.

My romance with crime fiction started way back during my childhood. Thanks to Enid Blyton. Holidays, especially summer holidays meant trekking to the nearest library. The library close to my home in Malleswaram, Bengalooru, was actually a hole in the wall. It was a 10 feet by 15 feet window-less shop. Books were piled and strewn around in an organized way. The man who ran the shop had a constant sleepy expression. There was no way one could stroll around the shop and pick up a book they wanted. We had to stand near the entrance of the shop and tell him the book title. And he would find the book within a jiffy. How he did it …I have no clue. And so, it would be some Famous Five or Secret Seven for me, a James Hadley Chase for my Dad, a Sharat Chandra for my Grandmom, a Jane Austen for my mom and a Tintin for my sister. The books would be retrieved from dark, secret corners, dusted against his trousers and handed over. As far as I remember, there was no return date stamped. My dad would give ten rupees once in a month or once in two months, depending on the number of visits.

From Famous Five, my friends and I slowly graduated to Agatha Christie. Then came the wave of American teen detective fiction – Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys. By then, someone had stealthily smuggled their dad’s copy of Forsyth’s Day of The Jackal. The book made rounds – and there were hushed reviews. Why were we wasting time reading ‘crap’ like Nancy Drew? More dads had their book shelves raided. There was someone called Robert Ludlum. Someone called Sidney Sheldon. Someone called Robin Cook. They all wrote ‘mind-blowing’ thrillers.

Decades later, as life has pecked away at much of our creativity thanks to mind-numbing corporate culture, my friends and I somehow managed to retain this single-most passion for crime thrillers. (The latest doing the rounds is of course Stieg Larsson.)

But time and again, I have been puzzled to find that for a country that laps up crime fiction, we don’t have a single internationally successfully author in the crime genre. Another strange fact, crime fiction is very much alive and kicking in regional languages. It is only now that English translations of these are furiously underway (ref: http://www.mid-day.com/specials/2010/may/020510-crime-fiction-agatha-christie-novels-tv-shows.htm). In fact, the leader in crime genre in Asia is Japan apparently! I found this interesting insight from an article in the Guardian. The only Indian author who got a mention is Vikram Chandra for Sacred Games. Check out http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2007/aug/27/top10s.asian.crime

I can only guess the reasons behind this fact –
1) Thanks to the Booker success (Arundhati Roy, Kiran Desai, Aravind Adiga), more and more authors like to follow their footsteps and write similar literature.

2) Thanks to the success of Chetan Bhagat (and I am talking about Five Point Someone), we have a sudden flurry of activity from the ‘intellectual’ class. Management grads, investment bankers, IT consultants are all pounding away on the keyboard writing slim volumes on relationships in modern India.

3) Perhaps the lack of a sophisticated and glamorous law enforcement infrastructure – like the FBI and Scotland Yard in India is another factor. In most of the international crime thrillers the crime detection is as interesting as the crime itself. Authors like Patricia Cornwell have literally built up the CSI legend in USA with her detailed forensic analysis interwoven in her stories. Not that is impossible in an Indian setting. But it would require a detailed, ground-up research into the working of our police force. Going by the books that are getting published as we speak, it looks like no author has the time, or the inclination to put in such effort.

4) Perhaps there are good manuscripts, but they are rejected – the publishers rather put money in a proven genre than try out a new one
All said and done, the Indian publishing scene shows a lot of promise – at least on the author’s front. We have a whole generation of well-travelled, well-read authors, who are unafraid to pen their thoughts. On the other hand, I don’t see the publishing end keeping up with this talent pool. There is no innovation, no creativity to encourage new genres or market good authors internationally. I guess that’s the reason why more and more Indian authors who write on offbeat subjects go through the self-publishing route, or seek out agents abroad.

If you have written a crime thriller, I would really love to hear about your experience with agents/publishers in India!

U. A. Kiran was born in Cannanore in Kerala, India. From Kerala, he came to Howrah in West Bengal to learn Bengali, Hindi and finally English which became the medium of expression and the language of his creativity.
Having completed his Diploma in Management in West Bengal he worked in Andhra Pradesh for some time. It was not until late that the writing bug bit him. Currently he resides in Goa.
The author likes writing poems, stories, novelettes/novels, dialogues/dramas, chalk-shaping, making puzzles. He has a passion for instrumental music and loves travelling.
U. A. Kiran is the author of The Alpha and The Omega and Other Stories and Beginner’s English Grammar.
1) Can you tell us what your latest book, Lost Smiles, is all about?
In the book ‘Lost Smiles’, I have brought together various natures, relationships and moods of people around us and the usual and unusual situations in human life.
‘My Tummy’ and ‘My Figure, My Problem’ would tickle your funny bones till the end. Some stories, like ‘Fear of Defeat’ and Beauty at the Window’, have the pinch of suspense which you would find enjoyable. ‘The Wood’ and The Last Train’ would terrify you, while romantic airs are spread all over ‘The First Kiss’ and The Casket’. Sometimes, you would feel whether such an incident could really happen. While writing this book, I have kept in mind to entertain the reader with plenty of imaginable and unimaginable characters and their affairs.
2) What inspired the stories behind Lost Smiles?
I’m a keen observer and like to write about things that I think need remembering—things that stimulate an emotional response; be it suspense, fear, pleasure. So it was obvious that Lost Smiles was inspired by the characters around me.
3) When did you first see yourself as a writer?
In my childhood, I was an ardent story-teller and gradually attempted to write in my teenage days. I was drawn towards fiction novels as they offer an endless chance to explore and experiment, without anyone imposing limitations. In the later years this passion for fiction pushed me to do what I like doing the best, i.e. WRITING…
4) Tell us why readers will enjoy your new release.
Each character in the book has a different story to tell. And since the characters in the book are inspired by the people around me it would make for enjoyable reading for the readers. Besides, the human emotions that pop up every time you turn the page will keep the reader engrossed every time he flips a page.
U. A. Kiran’s latest book, ‘Lost Smiles’, published by CinnamonTeal Publishing, can be found on

Grammar Nazis and the Zen Grammarian
Towards the fag end of the second World War, a rumour was running through the Allied countries, characterized by this paragraph from Time Magazine:
But what of the top Nazis who cannot hide? With a compact army of young SS and Hitler Youth fanatics, they will retreat, behind a loyal rearguard cover of Volksgrenadiere and Volksstürmer, to the Alpine massif which reaches from southern Bavaria across western Austria to northern Italy. There immense stores of food and munitions are being laid down in prepared fortifications. If the retreat is a success, such an army might hold out for years.”
This Alpenfestung, or Alpine Fortress, was mostly a fantasy; the Nazis of Germany would stand routed with only a few big names making it out alive. But a different group, the Grammar Nazis, have set up a formidable array of such redoubts, in the form of propah professors, competitive entrance exams and meticulous editors. It is the last that concerns this article. Every editor, particularly a fiction editor, has a choice whether to be a Grammar Nazi or not.
The association with the Nazis may come across as offensive, but it isn’t really intended to be, and isn’t really offensive in the world-at-large. There are some things that it is socially commendable to be a Nazi about, like not spitting on the road, or not travelling ticketless on a Mumbai local, or even vegetarianism. Even though ‘Grammar Nazi’ is used by the layman to mock the average pedant who pipes up to correct your syntax in class, I know that there are many who take an evident pride in the label.
I know because I was once a junior, card-carrying member of the Grammar Nazis.
The idea has a certain classical appeal. What Grammar Nazis are looking to build is an ineffaceable edifice, a monument that enduringly presides over the language, rewards its devotees and chides the deviants and the offenders. There is peace in stillness, safety in the solidity of the framework. In general, one of man’s pet bugbears is uncertainty; it takes special training to be able to tolerate uncertainty. Forget about accepting it.
Their arguments are strong as well. If language is to be used for communication, doesn’t it make sense to have a stable framework that everyone can understand? More importantly, long years of associations have lent certain shades of meaning to the “correct” terms and phrases. Won’t these be lost if you loosen the framework, lower the drawbridge and let the ignorant and unscrupulous masses storm the Grammar fortress?
There is one more thing that I would like to say about Grammar Nazis: their assurance is infectious. There is an immediate feeling of respect when you hear a man confidently assert his views, there is an automatic charm in a man who knows what he’s talking about. One of my favourite Grammar Nazis, Henry Watson Fowler, addresses the issue of the stasis of language by introducing two terms, Idiom and Analogy. Idiom is the linguistic convention, the way things are done in language, while analogy is the attempt by people (both who are aware and unaware of the convention and the rationale behind it) to experiment with language.
Here is a passage from Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English Usage, 2 e. (1965), delightfully and idiosyncratically titled ‘The Cast-Iron Idiom’ (my paragraphing and pruning to the permitted 250 words):
cast-iron idiom.
Between IDIOM and ANALOGY a secular conflict is waged. Idiom is conservative, standing in the ancient ways, insisting that its property is sacrosanct, permitting no jot or tittle of alteration in the shape of its phrases. Analogy is progressive, bent on extending liberty, demanding better reasons than use and wont for respecting the established, maintaining that the matter is what matters and the form can go hang.
Analogy perpetually wins, is forever successful in recasting some piece of the cast iron, and for that reason no article in this book is likely to be sooner out of date in some of its examples than this. Idiom as perpetually renews the fight, and turns to defend some other object of assault. ‘I doubt that it ever happened’, ‘He is regarded an honest man’,… —all these, says Idiom, are outrages on English; correct them please to ‘ I doubt whether it ever happened’, ‘He is regarded as an honest man’…
But why? retorts Analogy. Is not to doubt to be unconvinced? Is not regarding considering? …Away with such hair-splittings and pedantries! …I propose to neglect your petty regulations…
Not that Analogy, and those whom it influences, are offenders so deliberate and conscious as this description of them might seem to imply ; they treat regard like consider not because they choose to flout the difference that Idiom observes, but because it comes natural to them to disregard distinctions that they have not noticed.”
Note the absolutely wicked pardon proffered by St. Fowler: “not because they choose to flout the difference that Idiom observes, but because it comes natural to them to disregard distinctions that they have not noticed”. That kind of eloquence is rarely possible in a more permissive framework; the grand authoritarian rhetoric gives it its power.
Wherein lies the rub?
The very arguments that Grammar Nazis use turn against them once one views the matter of language from a slightly different angle. This is the small matter of the gap between an existing system and man’s capacity to describe, order and govern that system.
An example is the ecosystem: we may study it and classify it, but can we really order it or control it? Can we declare what exists as ‘incorrect’? Can we, for instance, dismiss the duck-billed platypus as an error in biology? No; we must make room, we must create a new box for it or admit our ignorance.
Language, though it seems to be in our control because it is the currency of our own species, and does not carry biological inevitability, is as much of an ecosystem. And this is because of an important hierarchy that Grammar Nazis ignore: the authority of spoken language over written language.
Written language comes second to spoken language, for written language begins by being primarily a record of spoken language, a hierarchy dominated by the order of human development, starting with speech and followed by writing. And speech is free and situational, and grammar can go take a hike when someone speaks under the influence of passion, of anger, of fear.
Besides, the number of people who have the desire to communicate far exceeds the number of people who are interested in memorizing the conventions of a language.
I have now come to look upon conventions of language, and some conventions of grammar, as not laws but etiquette: and I have a healthy contempt for etiquette as a rigid code of conduct. Etiquette for me is not about specific, high-brow, snooty knowledge, but about grace, the true marker of distinction and class; if etiquette makes one of my guests uncomfortable, it isn’t etiquette, it is a barrier. Similarly, if my Grammar Fascism makes the person speaking to me uncomfortable, I am creating a greater block to communication than his own ignorance.
Language is flux: to impose stasis on it is not only futile, but also arrogant. Static grammar is both comfortable and limited, but our experience of the world is both ever changing and unlimited, and therefore language will always find ways to break out of its own straitjackets. Communities will be reared on “I ain’t going nowhere notime soon”, and, less anomalously, will say “It’s me” and not the pompous but oh-so-correct “It is I”, and there’s very little the small circle of Grammar Nazis can do about it.
There is another deep failing of Grammar Nazis: they lack consensus. Different grammar handbooks will give you different ironclad rules. What one Grammar Nazi will consider excessive and do away with, another will consider mandatory.
The question becomes more fraught when discussing fiction. Two categories of ideas are at work here. One is the right to use non-standard dialects in fiction, often used to assert individuality in the constellation of fiction written in English. Mark Twain’s use of a dialect in both the Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn is an important example. The modern poet John Agard exemplifies the creative use of non-standard dialect to make a political statement in his famous poem ‘Half­­-Caste’:
Explain yuself
wha yu mean
when yu say half-caste
yu mean when picasso
mix red an green
is a half-caste canvas/
explain yuself
wha u mean
when yu say half-caste
yu mean when light an shadow
mix in de sky
is a half-caste weather/
well in dat case
england weather
nearly always half-caste
in fact some o dem cloud
half-caste till dem overcast
so spiteful dem dont want de sun pass
ah rass/
explain yuself
wha yu mean
when yu say half-caste
The other tendency is more aesthetic, an attempt to play with language for either rhetorical effect (“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.”) or to convey interior mental states (James Ellroy in White Jazz: “Fever-that time burning. I want to go with the music-spin, fall with it.”) or as a formalist device (Finnegan’s Wake famously begins “riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodious vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.” and ends “A way a lone a last a loved a long the”, leaving the book without either a beginning or an end).
How should an editor, particularly a former Grammar Nazi, deal with fiction editing? What can be the aesthetic value of a looser framework of grammar, to compare with the charming assurance, sense of order and clarity championed by the Grammar Nazis?
For that, I will introduce the other half of my title: say hello to the Zen Grammarian. The Zen Grammarian has a particular perspective towards the world; she knows its mutability, and is not militantly attached to anything. She has great love for what she values, but she recognizes that as her preoccupation, as her passion, and does not demand it of anybody else. Nor does she react in horror or despair at its passing. If people will spell definitely as definately, or will say “She is taller than me”, she will be mindful of the situation and only correct them where absolutely necessary.
The Zen Grammarian knows what is important: communication and a level of comfort between those communicating, and she sees language as a tool facilitating that communication. She knows that there is nothing to be arrogant about, and that the richness of the varied uses of language can provide both delight and insight, not to mention the playfulness in tinkering with language.
The Zen Grammarian will therefore nitpick less, listen more, and give a writer the benefit of the doubt.
PS: Readers in the know will recognize that what I have described is an old debate, that between Prescriptive and Descriptive grammar, where the former tries to frame the rules and the latter tries to describe the way language is used in the world, and derive its laws from that usage. Cambridge Grammarians have done some admirable work in descriptive grammar recently, though their conviction is sometimes faintly offensive; the Student’s Introduction to English Grammar by Huddleston and Pullum is a great starting point for those interested in exploring descriptive grammar.