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Posts tagged ‘editors’

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.

 

Networking works for Writers

(Cedar here. I’m sick and slightly incoherent. My dear husband surprised me with something nicer than flowers or chocolates: a post so I wouldn’t have to write one)

Networking, when we think of that word it is usually someone using a network of friends to land a job or contract. We think of it in the realm of business, it can be useful to writers as well. Take today for example. I’m writing this essay on networking because Cedar has been sick for a couple of days and probably won’t be able to write as coherently as she would wish in the morning. While open floors are not unknown here an actual post is preferable, and the schedule doesn’t remember that people get sick. If she does write a Mad Genius Club post this one can go into archives and be pulled out as needed.

Now when I talk about networking for writers there are several areas to network in. This post is from a personal support network. If Cedar wasn’t stubborn about getting well “NOW” she has any number of writing friends that would be happy to do a post for her. Some of them because they are smart enough to be doing their own networking and others because they want a little exposure. Oddly enough those are both the same group, the second one just doesn’t realize it.

Now what kinds of networks should a writer cultivate? I’m not sure. A lot depends on the aims and situation of the individual. Someone who plans to be traditionally published eventually needs to network with editors, while someone who has sworn never to go through a traditional house might not, or so they think. After all, different networks of editors exist and some of them can be vital to the indie author. I’ll tell you some of the networks I’ve seen and why they work. Note, I am not a real writer, just someone who can write and does so on occasion. I am closely networked to a number of them and have been observing.

 Ok, first thing to do is figure out which networks you need. If you are a WriterPseudocoffeehousis  then all the network you need is the social group you are trying to impress. If you are someone who writes and the stuff will never be finished or seen you don’t even need that much. If you actually finish things and are willing for them to be seen you need more.

Your first, and ultimately most important network is your fans. Fans talk about authors they like and do grassroots promotion.  But, but, but I don’t have any fans you wail? Wrong. You have fans, or at least potential fans, they are your seed. Ultimately, if you are successful as a writer this network will consists of thousands, possibly millions of fans, right now that number may be much smaller. Ok, that “may be” is in case someone Like Larry Correia or John Ringo reads this blog. For more normal humans it will be much smaller.

Who makes up this network of fans I was talking about everyone having? Well it depends. Even if you are extremely reclusive you still have your mother, or possibly the old harridan down the street that is thrilled every time you kick the neighbor’s yappy poodle. I can’t say for your exact situation. For most of us the network of fans consists of family and friends at the very basis. Now if you are on social media you will probably have a potential fan base among them. And every one of them is hoping for your success as an author. They all want to be able to name drop that they are good buddies with the next JK Rowling.

Still that is a few hundred at best for most of us, we don’t have such huge networks unless we have had a lot of success already. This is why a John Ringo will have a waiting list of people wanting to friend him and a newbie is sending out friend requests to anyone they think might have some influence with someone who has influence. And those newbies are correct in a way. The larger number of readers on your friend lists the higher likelihood that some of them will buy your work when published.

There are other ways to build your fan base, even if you are not publishing anything soon, if ever.  Guest blogging on a blog with followers can get you exposure and, if they like what you write, fans. Starting your own blog can be another way. I’m no expert on building your fan base, but I know it is something that needs multiple approaches. You can even go my route and marry into a fan base.

Above all you need to be interesting to people. Whether in your actual life or in your public writings. I have become aware that I have a fan base. I’m not really sure how I got one, other than the previously mentioned marriage, but I have one. I developed it by making snarky comments and writing guest blogs with a bit of bitter edge to them. Do not think that snark and bitterness are the way to build a fanbase. Those things work for me in a small way. They would not work for someone else, or maybe they would, thing is, your way of building must suit your personality, not someone else’s. I know of a middling famous author who has horrible personal problems because of the way he chose to build his fan base. He is a tea and crumpets kind of guy who keeps meeting fangirls who think he is a whips and chains type.

So, now you know that you must network your fans, what other networks do you need? Well let’s go back to those editors I mentioned earlier.  If you want to be traditionally published networking editors is very useful. If your manuscript comes across the desk of an editor and she remembers that you are the one who gallantly laid your cloak across the puddle so that she wouldn’t get her shoes muddy she will automatically look with more favor upon your work. On the other hand, if he remember you pinching his butt just before throwing up in his lap you will probably get a less favorable look. This includes public positions taken. A sad puppy will have a higher bar to cross with a Tor editor than Joe Nameless who made no waves.

Now for Indies who are sitting there saying “I don’t need an editor network I’m publishing through Amazon” you are dead wrong. You probably need an editor network more than the traditional guys do. The biggest complaint in bad reviews for indies is usually the editing. Now a lot of that is people finding typos. If the book were traditionally published they wouldn’t even notice the typos. Much traditional publishing contains typos worse than much indie work, you’ll still get the complaints. You need a copy editor, period. I don’t care how much of a Grammar Nazi you are, you will miss stuff in your own work. The copy editor won’t catch all of them either, but it will help. You may also need a structure editor. Some people can write clearly and tell a complete story without needing a structure editor. Most can’t. What a structure editor can do is find that gaping hole in your logic that has the Evil Overlord being so incompetent at something he has already proven competent at. Now it might be that he is just having a blond moment, if so you have to show that. This is where the structure editor can help.

Now that I have shown that you need an editor or two, why do you need to network them?  Why can’t you just hire one from their ad on FailBook and be done? Well all editors are not created equal. And if the one you have been using is busy for the next two years, well, you need to find another one. A network that includes editors will help you find one that does copy editing, maybe a structural editor. More importantly a good network will help you avoid the incompetent. Many people talk a good game at various skills, most of them aren’t all that good. Even if someone is a good copy editor normally, they might be horrible for you. There is a possibly apocryphal story about one of the early twentieth century editors,  Ring Lardner I think, memory is failing me now. A copy editor went through and corrected all his spelling and grammar on a story. Made it unreadable. He wrote in the vernacular and his slang made the stories.

So find a good editor network and join it, find your fanbase network and expand it. Find all your networks and work them. It may or may not help your writing, It’ll damned sure help your business side.

Speaking of networking, there is a new book out you may want to check out:

jade star ebook coverJade Star is now available in ebook and print formats.

So it begins…

Jade is determined to die. She is old, and feels useless, when she points her tiny subspace craft at the cold stars. She wakes up in the care of others who refuse to grant her death, and instead give her a new mission in life complete with a new body.

Jade isn’t happy, and she only gets angrier when she learns that her mysterious new home hides a horrible secret. It’s time for this old lady to kick butt and take names. Aliens, death, destruction… nothing trumps the fierce old woman who is protecting her family.

 

It is a business. . .

So treat it as one. Yesterday, as I was looking at FB, I came across a post from someone I respect a great deal. He also has one of the most unverifiable jobs there is in publishing. No, not reading the slush pile, although that is part of his job. He has taken it upon himself to do what so many publishers don’t do. He responds to those who send something in, letting them know whether or not their work has met the minimum threshold to be passed up the line for further consideration. Believe me, that is definitely more than a number of publishers do. Too many simply never get back to you unless they are interested.

What caught my eye with his post was how unprofessional someone had been in response to his email letting them know their story had not been passed up the line. Now, I know how it stings when you get a rejection. It’s like someone telling you your baby is ugly. But it happens and we have to accept it with grace and move on. Yes, we can kick and scream and curse in public but you do not send a note back telling the editor how wrong they were. Nor do you tell them that the title has been published during the time the editor was considering it, especially if the editor has gotten back to you in less than half the time they say it normally takes.

And that is where this particular author screwed up. Not only did they send back an unprofessional note to the editor, insuring he will remember the author and not in a good way, but he went ahead and self-published the book without removing it first from consideration by the publishing house. That is two very big strikes and, in this case, the author doesn’t get a third strike before he’s out.

There there is this post from over at The Passive Voice. Yet another author powering up his computer when he should have been walking away from it. In this case, he submitted his work for consideration to an agent, said agent rejected it and then made the mistake of not remembering the work when she and the author met for a face-to-face pitch session. Never mind that the agent probably receives thousands of submissions each year. Never mind the agent had been seeing other authors with other pitches that particular day. She obviously hadn’t read his earlier submission or she would have remembered it. How dare she!

So, instead of asking himself why he had just received rejection #319, this author decided it was a good idea to go onto his blog, name the agent and then proceed to try to shame her for her actions — or should I say inaction?

As I read his post, all I could think of was a situation five or so years ago where an author went on a tirade on his blog against his editor who had sent back edits he didn’t agree with. By the time his agent saw, or heard about, the post, it had gone viral. Yes, he finally took it down, but the damage had been done. I have a feeling that author is still trying to climb out of the hole he dug for himself.

In this instance, the author was so tied up with his own ego, he didn’t realize that he was shooting himself in the foot when it came to doing what he wanted — getting an agent. This time, the agent he was attacking took screen caps of his blog and then did her own post about what happened. That post has been picked up and is making the rounds of social media. The author now has the reputation of being, at worst, an online bully and, at best, someone who can’t control himself.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again. If you are a writer, you have to treat your writing as your business. That means you have to be businesslike in your dealings with others in the industry, especially if you are trying to get them to buy your work or act as your agent. Ask yourself before writing that scathing blog or tweet or FB post if you would be doing this if the person in question was someone you had interviewed with for a mundane job (something not related to writing). Is it something you would want a perspective employer reading before your interview with them?

Remember, the internet is forever. Just because you take a post down, it doesn’t follow that the post hasn’t been memorialized elsewhere. So pull your head out of your ass and think before hitting the send button. Otherwise, don’t be surprised when you find you have just killed your chances for a traditional publishing career.

The inmates are running the asylum again

The past couple of weeks have been surreal when it comes to some of the things I’ve seen coming out of this profession I love so much. I know that the publishing industry is changing. I’ve been following the industry for much longer than I’ve been writing as a profession. I’ve had to accept that, by some people’s standards, I am not a professional because I don’t have a contract with one of the major publishing houses. That doesn’t matter because I know I’m a professional because I write enough and make enough to live off my writing now. (Yes, my expenses are low but that doesn’t matter. I can live from my writing if I have to.)

But some of the head-shaking stupidity that I’ve seen of late really does leave me at a loss. We have John Scalzi telling us that youngsters don’t get into reading science fiction by reading the classics. On its surface, that is such a sweepingly broad statement as to be false. True, a number of readers don’t first discover their love of science fiction by reading Heinlein or Asimov or any of the other Grand Masters of the genre. But, it is just as true that there are any number of them who do because they see their parents reading them or they find the books on the bookshelf at home. He tends to ignore the fact that our children learn their love of reading, in many cases, from the example set for them by their parents. A kid who has run out of books from the library will go to the bookshelves at home to find reading material (or to the family Amazon bookshelf on their electronic devices).

I could have lived with Scalzi’s statement as just being Scalzi but it was what came next that blew my mind. Scalzi wrote in his blog, “All love to Heinlein, Clarke, Asimov, et al., but they’re dead now. They don’t need the money from readers; living authors do.”  So, if an author is dead, his books should be set back so living authors can sell theirs. What? If that is the criteria, why not apply it to living authors as well? After all, if an authors has been making six and seven figure advances for years — or even more — why do we need to continue buying their books? They have enough money now. Right? Let’s start supporting those other authors who haven’t been so lucky. Why isn’t Scazli supporting that position? Oh, wait! I know the answer. He isn’t because he just got that huge, multi-book, mutli-million dollar contract from Tor. He isn’t about to cut his own throat that way.

Scalzi isn’t, believe it or not, the most unbelievable part of what’s been going on of late. That has to go to the bean counters at Samhain Publishing. Samhain has been around for years. I know authors and readers alike who have sung its praises. However, many of them are now looking at Samhain and wondering what in the world is going on. You see, word has gotten out that Samhain has fired horror editor Don d’Auria. That is bad enough. Authors loved working with d’Auria and his reputation is one of being an exceptional editor.

What makes the news even more unbelievable is the fact that just days before news of his termination reached Samhain authors, they received a request from Samhain’s PR Department asking them to write testimonials about d’Auria. Was this a case of the right hand not knowing what the left was doing or was it an attempt by Samhain to make it look like d’Auria was leaving on his own or perhaps even retiring? I don’t know and I’m not sure anyone does.

What I do know is that the ripples of disbelief and anger are running through the horror community. Samhain has completely bungled the matter, making it seem that having someone who knows social media is more important than having an editor who is respected and who has a proven track record of knowing what he is doing. Worse, it appears from what little Samhain has said on the matter that they are going to, at least for the immediate future, have their romance editors take over the editing and acquisitions on the horror side of the business. You can imagine the howls of outrage that is causing and rightly so.

There is something else that is a perfect example of what is happening in our industry right now. When he learned of d’Auria’s firing, horror author Brian Keene called for a boycott of Samhain’s social media outlets. Using the hashtag #‎SamhainBlackout‬, he asked others who supported d’Auria to join him as he unsubscribed from Samhain’s twitter feed, etc. Guess what happened? Within minutes, the panic set in from those who hadn’t taken time to read what Keene actually asked for. The cries of foul! and traitor! began. After all, he was calling for a boycott of Samhain itself. That would wind up hurting the authors more than the company. Didn’t he see that? Where’s the cliff we can all jump off of?

Except that isn’t what Keene proposed. He proposed a course of action that did nothing more than get people to quit following Samhain in social media, an ironic plan of attack since the company said it let a ell-respected editor go so it could afford more social media exposure. Keene proposed a reasonable consequence for an unreasonable action. But, as we have seen so often before, one person saw the words boycott and Samhain in close proximity and jumped the shark and all the rest of the sheeples followed suit.

Finally, a word of warning. For those of you who are considering going with a publisher, especially a small press, please do your research. Go to Absolute Write and see what the boards there have to say about the publisher. Check out Preditors & Editors. Do a Google search. And then go to Amazon. Search out that publisher’s name as well as authors who have worked with that publisher. Download samples of e-books put out by the publisher to see things like how well they actually edit a manuscript, the formatting, etc. You can tell a lot about not only and author but an editor/publisher by the first few pages of a work.

Look at covers. If the cover is like one I saw from a small press recently, run away. This particular cover was for a supposedly young adult novel. The cues were Western and female because there was a teenager on a horse. But whether it was a straight Western, a romance, a coming of age, Christian fiction, whatever, I couldn’t tell. Worse, when looking at the cover, even in thumbnail I could tell it was a lousy Photoshop job. How? Because half the girl’s leg was missing. Her boot in the stirrup was there and her thigh upwards was there but everything between was missing. Only the horse was present.

But then there was the final straw, at least in my book. For the e-book version, the publication details on the Amazon page looked “legitimate”. Everything was there, including the ISBN and publisher’s name. In other words, it looked like a traditionally published book, even if it was from a small press. But, when checking out the page for the print version, that disappeared. Yes, there was an ISBN. What was missing was a publisher’s name. Instead, it showed that is was published by Createspace.

Now, as an author who uses Createspace for her print books, and as an editor who did the same, I know that there are ways to avoid having Createspace listed as the publisher. You can either supply your own ISBN that you’ve purchased previously for the book or you can spend a whopping $10 to buy one through Createspace. The latter will mean Createspace is listed as your distributor in things like Books In Print. But your publishing house’s name is listed on the product page — thereby making your work look like it came from a “real” publisher.

If you have signed with a publisher who doesn’t do one or the other, you may have some problems. Either your publisher doesn’t know the tricks of the trade, so to speak, or they are in serious financial straits and can’t afford the $10 or they simply don’t care. All should be red flags. If you are giving up a portion of your earnings to go the traditional route, that publisher had better be doing everything it can to make your book look like it came from a traditional publishing house.

So do your homework. Please.