I love the em-dash. I love the way it looks in text—that long, straight line punctuating our prose. It can take the place of commas, colons and parentheses. It’s more emphatic than the tiny comma, not quite as much as the emphatic colon, and, sometimes better than parentheses, which can interrupt the flow of the text. The em-dash is resourceful and multitalented. It is zealous in manner. It stands out, causing the reader to pause and pay attention to what comes next.
The em-dash is so named because the length of the dash equals the length of the letter “m.” But because of its diversity, I like to think it earned its name from its “m”ultitalented ability.
Good: Vladimir slipped away in the middle of the night, as he did during every full moon, to metamorphose into a vampire.
Better: Vladimir slipped away in the middle of the night—as he did during every full moon—to metamorphose into a vampire.
Good: When Archimedes climbed into the bathtub and noticed the water level rose, he shouted, “Eureka!” The water displacement theory was born.
Better: When Archimedes climbed into the bathtub and noticed the water level rose, he shouted—“Eureka!” The water displacement theory was born.
Good: The last time Earl hauled his monthly accumulation of beer cans to the recycling bin (all 151), he decided to improve his health by switching to wine.
Better: The last time Earl hauled his monthly accumulation of beer cans to the recycling bin—all 151—he decided to improve his health by switching to wine.
And now, here are a few other examples for substituting the em-dash for emphasis:
Before: The last donut (chocolate cream) sat on the plate calling my name.
After: The last donut—chocolate cream—sat on the plate calling my name.
Before: The weary editor, whose eyesight was strained, had a difficult time noticing the difference between a colon and a semi-colon.
After: The weary editor—whose eyesight was strained—had a difficult time noticing the difference between a colon and a semi-colon.
by Kathleen Kaska
I’m still reaping benefits from attending the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) trade show in Portland this past October. As marketing director for Cave Art Press, it’s my job to promote our titles and this includes mingling with others in the publishing business. During the two-day event I made an effort to meet as many authors, booksellers, and publishers as I could. My colleague, Lisa Wright, and I also had the opportunity to attend a couple of workshops. One was hosted by Cynthia Franks, president of Cypress House, a publishing company that also offers full-service book production and promotional services. I was impressed by Cynthia’s knowledge and expertise. I called her when I returned from the trade show, and she kindly offered some marketing suggestions for our growing publishing company and shared some promotional tips.
One tip already is showing some promise: “piggybacking”, or co-promotion. In Cave Art’s case, it involves working with other small presses to promote one another’s businesses. It might seem odd that two competing publishing companies would work together, but mutual advertising of books on similar topics boost sales overall for those topics. If someone is interested in sailing travel-adventures, chances are they will purchase several books on the topic no matter the publisher.
The key is finding another publisher that fits. After a day of studying the list of publishers who attended the trade show, and looking for small independents similar to Cave Art Press, I narrowed the list to ten and contacted each one about of co-promoting. Two of them responded immediately: Forest Avenue Press in Portland and Microcosm in Seattle. We began by “liking and “following” each other on Facebook and Twitter, and sharing promotional ideas. We then began sharing blog posts and have since agreed to reciprocally send everyone’s catalogs and promotional materials.
All this reminded me that years ago when I began teaching, I had very little support, but once our school developed team-teaching and I started working closely with other teachers, everyone’s teaching skills improved. I became a better teacher.
Whether it’s teaching, writing, or marketing, working with others in your field not only yields benefits, it keeps you abreast of changing trends and techniques, especially in the ever-changing world of publishing.