Q&A

Thanks to those of you who left blog post ideas. Some of you left ideas here and some on Facebook. There were a number of great suggestions and questions. I’ve decided to try to discuss some of then in a modified Q&A format. I probably won’t get to all the suggestions today, but I promise to file the rest away and deal with them in another post.

Q: How to handle multitasking and switching from writing to other types of writing or to editing or layout without getting tunnel vision on any one task?

A: I’ll admit, I rarely edit and write at the same time, at least not my own work. One thing Sarah told me long ago was not to edit my work until I finished the rough draft. The reason she told me this was because I was getting caught in an endless editing loop, something that happens to a number of new writers. Since then, I’ve learned that the only time editing my own work works before I finish the draft is if I have somehow written myself into a corner and can’t find a way out. Otherwise, I wait to edit until the story is done.

That isn’t the case when I am trying to edit someone else. The only caveat I have for that is I don’t edit the same genre I am writing in at the moment. The reasons are simple. I don’t want my “voice” to bleed over into my edits. As an editor, it isn’t my job to give a voice to the client’s work. Nor am I to try to change the voice. It is their story and not mine. In fact, if you have an editor — be it a content editor, copy editor or proofreader — trying to change the voice of your work, you need to look long and hard at what they are doing and why. Yes, there are times it might be appropriate to say a scene would be better from another person’s POV, but changing the voice of a character is completely different.

As for formatting, I tend to write in the format that will be converted to e-books. I’ve built a template that I will periodically tweak for genre and appearance but basically the format I write my rough draft in is exactly the same format you see in an e-book. Also, because I try to make sure my e-books look as close to the print versions as possible, it doesn’t take long to change page sizes and substitute section breaks for page breaks. Then it is just a matter of tweaking it to make sure everything is as it should be for print.

My biggest downtime any more is between projects, especially if I am changing genres. I’ve learned I have to take at least a week after I press the publish button to just recharge the batteries. Otherwise, I almost always have to go back and rewrite — majorly rewrite — what I tried to do before I made the mental switch from one book/genre to another.

Q: What is the importance of print versions of your work?

This is kind of a loaded question where there is no right answer. The truth of the matter is, most indie authors will never sell enough print books to really justify the time, effort and money needed to put them together. Before, when you could get an ISBN through Createspace for $10, it was worth it. But now, it is hard to justify it, to be honest. Yes, having a print book makes you look more “professional” when readers go to a book’s product page on Amazon, etc. However, with more and more readers going strictly digital, I’m not sure how important that is.

Then there is the belief that having your book printed and distributed through Ingram Spark will get you into the bookstores. No, it really won’t. Yes, you are listed in the catalog store buyers (think purchasing agents) see. But it is also, or at least it was, listed at the back in the section for indie authors. And, let’s be honest, most bookstore operators — ie, B&N — hate indies almost as much as they hate Amazon. As for the owners of locally owned bookstores, you have two things you have to do before you can worry about the stocking your book. The first is making sure you have a valid ISBN so you will be listed in Books in Print. The second, and more important, is you have to establish a close relationship with the person in that store who chooses what books they stock. That means spending time in the store — and spending money — as well as getting to know those who work there. Again, it is up to each indie author to determine if that is worth time.

There is one other thing to consider when it comes to print books. If you, the indie author, make the con circuit, having print books on hand to sell or even to just hand out may be a good thing. However, for every author who manages to actually make money selling books at a con, there are dozens more who don’t make the cost of the table rental back. Then you have to consider what the tax laws are in the city/state where the con is. You most definitely do NOT want to run afoul of those.

Frankly, right now, while I do still put out print books, it is more to make the product page look like a pro page. I work through Createspace and use the Amazon ISBN (free or relatively cheap. Haven’t done it in several months, so I’m not sure what it is right now). It will list Amazon as the distributor and will not be assigned to my imprint, Hunter’s Moon Press. But, it is listed in Books in Print and it is listed in such a way the local libraries can pick the book up and stock it if they want.

I am hearing rumblings that audio is really where we need to start focusing our attention. So I am in the process of trying that out.

Q: What is the difference between using beta readers and having your work edited?

This question came from Facebook and I’ve paraphrased it. But it is a good one and one that I see a lot of writers not understanding. A beta reader, for those not familiar with the term, is a lot like beta testers for software or computer games. It is someone who reads your work before the final edits. They tell you if the book works. They should let you know if something felt wrong to them. Some will focus on proofreading and you’ll get a manuscript back that looks like someone bled all over it — hint, I’ve discovered that most of the time when that happens, the person either isn’t as great at grammar and punctuation as they think or they don’t get that, in fiction, your characters don’t have to speak proper King’s English.

Anyway, your beta readers are there to see if there is anything broken in your book. Many times, they will catch consistency errors or science/engineering/weaponry/whatever errors. This is invaluable to a writer.

Where do you find beta readers? Here is where I may upset some folks. I recommend you not use family for beta readers, at least not unless you have several other non-relatives reading the same piece. Why? Because family will often try to cushion the criticism and that doesn’t help. You want someone who will be brutally honest with you. Someone who will tell you what didn’t work for them and why. If they are really good, they might even offer a way to fix the problem.

You can find beta readers from your critique group. You can ask on social media for volunteers. The caveat here is those who volunteer this way often will not get back to you. It really is sort of a trial and error until you find a few folks you can trust to give you solid feedback.

Another way I differ from some writers is I want one beta reader who isn’t a big reader in the genre of the current project. Why? Because I want to make sure I don’t rely so much on tropes that someone picking up the book because they liked something I wrote in another series or other genre will be able to be pulled into the story. If you rely too heavily on genre-specific tropes, you risk not being able to do that.

So what is the difference between a beta reader and an editor? A beta reader will usually only be looking at if the story grabbed them and kept their attention throughout the story. They will come back with suggestions or critiques but it is still based on their enjoyment or lack thereof. An editor has a different job based on what sort of editing they are doing.

As noted above, some beta readers will give you back a manuscript marked up for spelling, punctuation and grammar errors. In other words, they will have acted as a proofreader. IF, and this is a big if, they are good at it, keep them. But take them out of the beta reading circle and give them the manuscript after it has been through the beta readers and editing cycle. They are the last eyes save yours you want to see your manuscript before publication. Believe me, you want to do this because, no matter how carefully you check your work, you will miss something and you will eventually get the review criticizing all the spelling errors or bad grammar etc.

Copy editing and content editing are two very different things. Copy edit is the step before proofreading. One of the most concise explanations of what a copy editor does comes from Wikipedia (which I normally hate but it fits here). A copy editor’s job is  “improving the formatting, style, and accuracy of the text. The goal of copy editing is to ensure that content is accurate, easy to follow, fit for its purpose, and free of error, omission, inconsistency, and repetition.” They are your fact-checkers, your person who makes sure you don’t repeat things unless such repetition is necessary, and who removes all those words that really don’t add to the story.

Unfortunately, too many writers and so-called editors think copy editing is content editing and it isn’t. A good content editor will take your book, read it, be able to increase the impact of a scene by rearranging the order of sentences in a paragraph, etc. They are the doctor instead of the technician. Not every author needs a content editor because they have a solid grasp of story structure, pacing, foreshadowing, etc. If you don’t, then you need to consider finding a solid content editor to work with.

Each of these, from beta readers to content editors play an important role in letting us put the most professional product out possible. The more you network, the more resources you will find for all of these. The key is, especially if you are going to pay for services like proofreading or editing, is to get recommendations, to ask to see finished work by the person you are considering hiring and to check to see what you can find out about them online.

Finally, I’d like to add one more note. If you decide you want to go with a “real” publisher — and I’m not talking one of the established traditional publishers but a small press — check them out. Don’t just look at the usual resources like Preditors and Editors. Do a google search to see what you can find out about them. Do they have a website and does it look professional? What is their payment history? Ask yourself what they can do for you that you aren’t doing for yourself already. Look at their covers. Does the artwork look professional? How about the lettering? Do all the covers look the same, even if the books are different series or genres? Finally, don’t sign anything without letting an IP attorney look over the contract. That is a given for any publishing contract you are considering.

More later. Keep posting your questions in the comments to the previous post. I’ll do my best to answer them later.

 

23 Comments

Filed under AMANDA, MARKETING, WRITING: CRAFT, WRITING: PUBLISHING

23 responses to “Q&A

  1. Re-print versions, thanks for that. I don’t want to be that guy sitting at Comic Con in front of a skid of unsold hardcopy. ~:D

    • I’m not saying not to do it. I’m saying look at how much money you invest in not only the creation of the print edition and then the cost of the table, booth, etc., and determine if that is the best use of your money or if there isn’t another outlet for the print versions.

      The two major sources right now are Createspace and Ingram Spark. There is a pretty good price difference between them, or there was the last I looked. So look at it as a business decision and determine what best suits your needs. My biggest caution I give authors when it comes to print is not to expect your books to start showing up in bookstores just because you go with Ingram. It simply doesn’t work that way.

      • I say skid of unsold copy because I’ve seen guys there, at ComicCon before. Those tables are expensive, and sitting at a con for a whole weekend can take it out of you. They didn’t look happy or prosperous.

        I know an author who did that, years later he’s still giving away copies to random people he meets.

        In my particular case, having a hardcopy is a “First Book!” vanity thing, you know? Something to give my Mom, so she knows her son is a Real Author. 🙂

        I’ll do some research before spending money, that’s for sure.

        • As I said, I do hard copies for some of my books. Part of it is, I like to have copies to give to friends and family who don’t do ebooks. Part is they are good visual aids when I do a talk. But I know they aren’t a real money maker for me. I also know that the potential of getting into a bookstore are pretty much nil. So why spend the additional money? Shrug.

          • Holly

            Audience. My kids and their friends don’t *have* ereaders. Many don’t have smartphones. So if your market is YA or juvinile, there is a portion of the market that will not buy it.

            • Absolutely. Also, there are still some teachers who won’t accept a book for reading credit if it isn’t in print version. So, yep, you have to look at what your target audience happens to be.

              • I am hoping to have -any- audience at all, at this point. First horse out the gate will be running with a really cheap saddle. My vanity extends to a couple hundred bucks maximum. I’m sure I can get Mum a signed copy for that money, even if I have to print it at Staples.

                • Depending on how many pages, size, etc., you can have a single copy printed and mailed for you for $10 or so from Createspace. It may be a bit more because I’m not sure what the postage is for a single copy. And, as with anything else, the more you order, the better of a break you get on shipping.

                  • Uncle Lar

                    Just fyi, with our latest foray into print we did a 356 page trade paperback through Ingram Sparks. Initial outlay of $25 each for two ISBNs and $45 one time charge to enter both formats in the Ingram Sparks system plus time and effort spent in formatting text and cover for both. Once that’s done our unit cost including shipping to a single destination in the US is just over $7 per print copy and in addition the e-book is available with all on-line distributors.

  2. Draven

    I actually came up with a post idea when i woke up a bit ago Amanda, i know a post has been done on it but … ‘things (not politics) that knock you out of a book’ because i got knocked out of a book recently

    • I’ll file it away for another post, especially since that happened to me not too long ago.

      • Luke

        Besides, it’s a subjective question.

        I recall following the link the last time it was discussed, reading the article, and realizing that a full third of things that kicked the author out of a story were things I actively want to see in a story.

        • Draven

          in my case it was a technical mistake…

        • Yep. I know there are a number of readers out there who love all the technical details Weber puts into some of his books and others who completely skip over them. It really is a matter of personal taste in many cases. But there are a few things, imo, that are pretty universal in kicking folks out of the narrative. I’ll pull something together about it in the near future.

        • Character’s “voice” changed half-way through the story. Went from urban tough gal to really bad Suthun good-ol’-gal. Followed by a virtual thump as the book hit the virtual wall (ebook).

  3. I know a small press owner who tried out a convention strategy of having one or two copies of the books and then having instant ordering available at the booth. That way, she didn’t have to pack in (or out) huge amounts of stuff, she didn’t guess the market wrong, and a lot of people liked the idea.

    If I find out the specific details of how she did it, I will let you know.

    • I’ve heard of others doing that and actually making more money that way. For one, it allowed those interested in the book to order either print or e versions. For another, those who wanted the book didn’t have to worry about carting it around with them, carrying it on the plane, etc. They ordered it and it arrived shortly after they arrived home. That said, I’d love to hear more about how this press handled it.

  4. What’s your thought about going into something you’ve already written and published on Amazon and fixing it?

    • If you are talking about going in and fixing formatting errors, absolutely. Indies are still judged harder than trad published authors when it comes to formatting glitches. I try to catch those before I hit the final “publish” button but sometimes things just get borked in the system. If you get a lot of complaints about spelling errors – and the complaints are valid and are showing up in the reviews, sure, fix them and note in a response to the reviews that you appreciate the comments and have gone back and fixed the problem.

      What I don’t recommend is doing it every time someone says they found a problem. I know it is tempting because ebooks make it so easy to edit and upload a new version. What you have to remember is that those corrected versions aren’t necessarily automatically pushed through to those who have already downloaded the book. They might get a notification a new version has been uploaded but that isn’t guaranteed.

      If you mean fix it in some other way, let me know and I’ll do my best to answer. Great question, by the way.

      • My main thing was that a commenter said that there was too much description in the story, and I thought they were right. Just about no one has ever read my story, so it probably wouldn’t make much of a difference if I changed it anyway. Thanks!

        • If you honestly feel they are right, the you might try it. However, my rule of thumb – one Sarah taught me – was not to change omething unless at least 3 people told me to and I agreed with them. However, if you feel strongly about it, then go ahead. I don’t think it can hurt from what you’ve said.