Tag: Writers Resources

When Are You Ready For An Editor?

When Are You Ready For An Editor?

I see this a lot. Authors regularly come to me with books that just aren’t ready for me to look at the way they’re hoping. That isn’t to say I can’t help, but they’re trying to put the final polish on a book that hasn’t yet been cut, so to speak. While I’ll do the job they ask of me if they’re sure that’s what they want, it isn’t usually the best option.

So, in order to answer this question to its fullest, let’s start with discussing the types of editing available as well as other services that are related to this whole mess. I’m going to do this in order of where they come in the writing process, earliest to latest, so that way you can gauge where you are and see what you might need.

Book Coaching

A book coach helps you find your way through the process of writing a book. I provide this service to clients who are looking for organization, guidance, and structure. While coaching is unique for each client, it often looks like us meeting every week or so and discussing where an author is, what challenges they faced that week, how much they’ve written so far, and tackling things that are keeping them from making the progress they want. I also typically give lessons on structure, critique scenes or chapters, and help them stay on track with regular check-ins, even if we aren’t meeting every week.

Developmental Editing

This phase helps you put together the bones of your story. Hiring a developmental editor is for a manuscript that is pretty early in the process. A developmental edit addresses structural changes to a story–things like pacing, characterization, character development, and other such broad stroke items. That isn’t to say a developmental editor will make chop suey of your manuscript. Recently I worked with a client who was struggling with structural problems between acts one and two, and I advised that they add some scenes. The issue for them was they weren’t super clear on where the exact break between the acts was supposed to be. I didn’t advise the client delete anything wholesale.

I had another who needed a lot of structural work for pacing because partway through the story they didn’t know exactly where they were going. They figured out the thread toward the end of act two, but there was a lot in the middle we had to work out. We cut out the chaff and zeroed in on the things that needed doing.

If this sounds like a big, scary process, I promise it doesn’t have to be. A good developmental editor is there to help you tell your story the best they can in your voice. We aren’t trying to tell it in ours. If a developmental editor feels like they don’t get your book or aren’t giving you feedback you need, it’s totally okay to cease work (though it’s best practices to pay people for their time) and find another editor who you mesh better with.

To go back to the analogy of gems, this is where we start examining the quality of a raw gem to see what we can help you create out of it. We see the promise; we just need to get out of the surrounding rock.

If this sounds like a big, scary process, I promise it doesn’t have to be. A good editor is there to help you tell your story the best they can in your voice.

E. Prybylski

Line Editing

Line editing is going through the manuscript line by line (hence the name) and looking at things like word choice, sentence structure, and clarity. This is the phase where we iron out how many adverbs you really need (yes, you’re allowed to use them), help you use stronger verbs, give you insight into how to use your voice to its fullest advantage. This is the kind of editing people usually think of when they think of editing. It typically costs more than developmental editing and copy editing because it is the most labor-intensive for the editor in terms of hours spent because we need to evaluate every single word of the manuscript.

As before, of course, the intent of this is not to sanitize the author’s voice. Your voice. I’ve done blogs on author voice in the past, though I can’t find any more recent than 2011, so it’s probably due for an update. However, the long and short of it is: your voice is the way you write that makes you unique from any other. It’s not about whether or not you use adverbs or semicolons or what have you. It’s bigger than a sentence or word.

In order to really change or alter an author’s voice, I would either have to rewrite the entire thing myself or make such substantial changes to every single sentence that it is unreadable. These changes are bigger than punctuation or correcting inaccurate grammar. They’re also bigger than helping an author avoid passive voice, flying POV changes, and other such things. Don’t fret.

In the gemstone analogy, this is where the gem is cut.

Copy Editing

Copy editing is the highest level of editing. At this point, the editor doesn’t care if you used too many adverbs, if you wrote the entire thing in passive voice, and so on. Well, that’s mostly true. It’ll still make our hair stand on end, and we might leave you a comment, but we aren’t going to fix it for you because we’re not being paid to.

While in some parts of the editing community, line editing and copy editing are smooshed into a single service (I often do both at the same time), if someone just pays for copy editing, that’s what they are going to receive. If you are hiring an editor for copy editing, a few things are expected: you have either self-edited to the point where you are confident your book says what you intend or you have had another editor(s) review the book already to your satisfaction.

As you can see, this is also pretty far down the list in order of what happens when. Hiring someone to copy edit your book too early (if you plan on adding/changing scenes or doing a line edit) will just mean having to pay for one again later. While, yes, copy editing is less expensive than line editing, I wouldn’t skip that phase unless you really know what you’re doing. I have clients who come to me just for copy editing on their fiction, and they are extremely good at what they do. They’re experienced authors who don’t really need me to go word by word to make sure everything’s where it ought to be.

If you aren’t an experienced author who really has a good handle on all the bits and bobs of writing, I wouldn’t skip around. However, you might be able to find editors willing to work with you in your price range, so if money is an issue, shop around and see who’s available and at what price. That said, editing is one of the industries where you tend to get what you pay for. If you see someone charging a fair chunk of change, there’s likely a good reason for that.

In our gem cutting metaphor, this is the polish phase.

If you aren’t an experienced author who has a really good handle on all the bits and bobs of writing, I wouldn’t skip around. However, you might be able to find editors willing to work with you in your price range.

E. Prybylski

Proofreading

Finally, we get to proofreading. This is done when the book is formatted to make sure everything is caught and clean. If you are doing an ebook only, it may well be done in Word, but traditionally it’s done either in print or in the software the book is being formatted in. This can include things like making sure leading and kerning are correct, catching widows and orphans, and fixing up any last-minute typos. It is the very last look before something goes to print.

Proofreading is the absolute final step in review before your book is published. This is the final pass, and the last pair of eyes. Ideally it should be different from whoever did the other rounds of editing. I always advise two editors look at a project before it goes out. Even if one has done the rest of the editing process, having a fresh set of eyes to catch typos and find last-minute errors is invaluable.

When publishing novels through Insomnia, we always pass them back and forth to another editor in the company for this final run before the book is published for realsies. While this step may not be doable for all authors, I cannot overestimate the value of it.

SO!

All of that explanation out of the way, when should you hire an editor? The real answer, at the end of the day, is: It depends.

E. Prybylski

All of that explanation out of the way, when should you hire an editor? The real answer, at the end of the day, is: It depends. Where you are in the writing process tells you what kind of editing you want and who to look for. Absent you hiring a book coach to help you get your work on track, however, you should wait until you’ve finished your first draft and done at least one round of self-editing.

That means you finish it, have a celebratory glass of your favorite beverage, wait a few days, or a week or more for some folks, and then re-read what you wrote. Take notes. Outline your book again based on what you wrote (that’s a blog for another day that I’ll do) and really evaluate your novel. Then maybe send it to a beta reader or twelve. Once you’ve done that, then see where you’re at. If your story structure is solid, and you don’t think you have any pacing problems? Start looking for a line editor.

When in doubt, too, you can contact an editor to tell them where you’re at, what’s going on, and ask them what you need. Many editors perform manuscript evaluations for a reasonable fee in order to give you specific feedback about what you need, where, and why. They may pitch specific services to you, also.

I’ve had authors come to me for a line edit and I’ve told them what they really need is developmental or copy editing. It can go either way. While a manuscript evaluation may feel like an extra expense, the reality is it can save you a lot of money in the long run, and it’s worth considering if you’re feeling wibbldy about where you are in the process.

For what it’s worth, and to plug my services down here at the bottom, if you are interested in any of these types of editing, want a manuscript evaluation, or just in general are looking for help figuring out what you next step is, you can contact me through my editing website, and we can talk through what you need. If I’m not the right editor for you, I know many in multiple genres who may be able to help. I have resources to help you find what you’re looking for. That service is free. I’m here to help, not wring every penny out of you.

E. Prybylski has been in the publishing industry as an editor since 2009, starting at Divertir Publishing and eventually partnering with her close friend Richard Belanger to begin Insomnia Publishing.

Ever since childhood, E. has been an avid reader and writer of fantasy. The first chapter book she remembers reading is The Hobbit, followed swiftly by most of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series. In high school, she perfected the skill of walking while reading without slamming into anyone. Mostly.

When she isn’t reading or writing, E. is an active member of the Society for Creative Anachronism and has a B.A. in European history from SNHU. In addition to her many historical pursuits, E. is a musician of multiple instruments, a cat mom, and a loving wife to her husband, J. E. also speaks out for the disability and chronic illness communities being a sufferer of chronic migraines and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.

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Advice In Context and Style Guides

Advice In Context and Style Guides

I come across writers all the time who are bucking “the system” and posting rebellious tweets or Facebook messages about how they’ll keep their adverbs in (thank you very much) and how much they hate editors and how much they’re keeping very single dang comma. While I don’t always agree, I understand the frustration and backlash against what they see as prescriptivist, pedantic nonsense.

As you may have come to expect from me, I’m going to be straight with you here: they’re not all wrong.

The problem with a lot of the writing advice I’ve read, seen, and had given to me even by well-meaning and experienced authors has been that it lacks context. Let’s look at, for example, the injunction against using adverbs in prose. The reality is, adverbs have an important and valuable function. They’re a part of language for a reason, and I won’t tell you otherwise. The sticking point that isn’t usually explained along with the “avoid adverbs” advice is that you should avoid them when a stronger verb is available. The example I always give is: “he ran quickly” vs. “he sprinted.” In this example, “ran quickly” is redundant due to the presence of good, descriptive, solid verbs that could be used in place of it, so it weakens the writing.

As in all things here, adverbs (and pretty much everything else, if I’m honest) should be used like you use salt in cooking: The correct amount of salt enhances a dish, too much destroys it, and everyone’s taste differs. Also, certain genres are more forgiving of some types of tropes and language uses than others. YA would likely be more accepting of adverbs than, say, epic fantasy. The readership has different expectations.

Note: I am NOT in ANY WAY implying that epic fantasy is superior to YA. It’s not. They’re just different. I love both genres.

And this is just one example!

As someone who hangs out in writing circles and dispenses advice, the key for most things authors wrestle with is context. An “info dump” (aka. expositionary passage) is utterly necessary in some genres and places. There are right and wrong ways to go about it, but in SF/F you just have to get the world building out there sometimes, which means dropping it on your readers. In some subgenres of fantasy (like epic fantasy) readers live for the Tolkien-esque descriptions of kings and queens of old and historical events and so on. I think space opera sci-fi has a similar bent.

My point here is that writing advice shouldn’t be discarded wholesale, but contextualizing the rules to explain what, where, when, and why too often goes by the wayside. That’s how you end up with the idea that all adverbs are forbidden and any setting information is info-dumping and all the other misguided advice.

My point here is that writing advice shouldn’t be discarded wholesale, but contextualizing the rules to explain what, where, when, and why too often goes by the wayside.

E. Prybylski

Unfortunately, as a byproduct of that misguided advice, you end up with authors ready to heave all convention out the window and end up hateful and suspicious of editors. I’ll admit to being kinda sus, but so long as we’re not playing Among Us you’re probably okay. Probably. All joking aside, though, editors aren’t all pedants. In fact, the vast majority of the ones I know see variations in language as healthy and something to be celebrated. Also, we want to support you, not tear you down. That wouldn’t help anybody.

Another thing most people don’t tell writers is that grammar and punctuation has multiple styles. Most folks wouldn’t know AP from Chicago, and that’s why we editors have a job. Beyond that, many publishers (like mine for example) have in-house style guides that cherry-pick the punctuation norms we prefer. Oxford Comma? Style. Spaces around em-dashes or ellipses? Style. Using UK or US spelling? Style. Commas as breaks in ways other than strictly defined? Depending on their use, it could be pulling on older styles of comma usage. Also a style.

The key thing, however, is that whatever you do, do it on purpose. If you are messing up and trying to cover your butt by claiming you, uh, meant to do that, it’ll be obvious. I always advise to my clients to learn the rules first. Learn the irritating, pedantic, prescriptivist rules. Then once you know them, have internalized them, and understand them, at that point you can start breaking them. If you are doing things out of ignorance, there’s a good chance you won’t be able to back things up and will just be wrong and inconsistent. And that won’t be a good look for you.

However you choose to go about it, consider making your style guide something you codify. Do you spell it “gray” or “grey?” I infinitely prefer “grey.” I don’t have a good reason why except for the fact that I grew up reading UK authors, and some of their spellings and conventions leaked into my internal lexicon (thanks, Anne McCaffrey and Tolkein). This style guide serves two very specific purposes. The first is to make sure your work is internally consistent. If you are consistent in how you do or do not use specific linguistic tools, it shows you are doing it on purpose. Now, there’s a chance that you’ll be wrong (I have an author who struggles with terminal punctuation in dialogue, for example), but if you’re consistent it’s also easier to fix with find/replace. Second, this style guide will be something you can provide to your editor so they know what you want when they’re editing your book. While they may have feedback to give on your style guide, if they know your intent, it will require less of an attempt at mind reading.

One thing to note, however, is if you are traditionally publishing, the publisher will have a house style guide that will supersede your own. You may not get a say in it at all, and at that point you’re rubbing up against the realities of traditional publishing. While it provides you with the benefits of not having to do and source everything yourself, you lose certain elements of creative control and are bound by the regulations of the publisher. The good news is, though, publishers have reasons why they want things the way they want them, so it’s not just arbitrary, and they aren’t going to ruin your book. Well, any good publisher won’t, anyway. I can’t account for jerks.

E. Prybylski has been in the publishing industry as an editor since 2009, starting at Divertir Publishing and eventually partnering with her close friend Richard Belanger to begin Insomnia Publishing.

Ever since childhood, E. has been an avid reader and writer of fantasy. The first chapter book she remembers reading is The Hobbit, followed swiftly by most of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series. In high school, she perfected the skill of walking while reading without slamming into anyone. Mostly.

When she isn’t reading or writing, E. is an active member of the Society for Creative Anachronism and has a B.A. in European history from SNHU. In addition to her many historical pursuits, E. is a musician of multiple instruments, a cat mom, and a loving wife to her husband, J. E. also speaks out for the disability and chronic illness communities being a sufferer of chronic migraines and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.

Writing. We Hates it.

Writing. We Hates it.

There are days–and more of them than we are likely excited about–where writing feels like pushing our brains through a cheese grater. I’m having one of those days now, actually. As I write this, it is extremely hot (over 90F with 41% humidity) for where I live. Now, if you don’t know, I’m a New Englander. We usually don’t see these temperatures until August. So our AC isn’t in (we have window units), and I am melting in a puddle of nope. If I didn’t have housemates, I’d probably be lying on the kitchen floor in my underpants. To top off this sundae of suck, I have had a migraine for three days now. Not fun.

On days like this, we need to be kind to ourselves. I saw a tweet the other day with someone talking about not shaming folks for only writing a few words in a day. Apparently they have received flak for having low word-count days and sessions. And I am here to squash that like a bug. (I don’t usually squish bugs, honestly. I feel bad about it.) There are days where I stare at my Windows desktop with a blank expression for half an hour before I have the mental energy to open something. I’m sure you’ve had days like that, too.

It’s okay.

We all have days like this. We might even have weeks, months, or years like this. There are times when life has decided we aren’t writing right now. That’s okay,too. If you are dealing with problems or situations that require all your energy to manage then it’s only natural your creativity will take a hit.

From Wikipedia

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs shows creative activities as the top of the pyramid. If your other needs aren’t being met, there’s a good chance you may be feeling like you just don’t have it in you to write at the moment. And that is okay. If you need a hall pass from someone telling you that it’s okay to take time off, this is it. Here you go. Come back to class when you’re feeling better.

If you need a hall pass from someone telling you that it’s okay to take time off, this is it. Here you go. Come back to class when you’re feeling better.

I am all for pushing through and writing when it’s hard. You shouldn’t quit when it gets tough, but recognizing times in your life and in your health that you need to step back and focus your time and energy onto other things. I have, at many points in my life, needed to take breaks. Also, don’t be afraid to acknowledge burnout. It is real and can drain you of your ability to put words on a page. These are all real, and they are all valid. It’s not just major emergencies that can destroy your ability to write for awhile. Sometimes just working all your scheduled hours can be enough to throw you.

I don’t have much more to add here. Just be kind to yourself. Write when you can, be honest about when you can’t, and stay hydrated.

Write What You Know

Write What You Know

We hear this often, but what does it really mean? It certainly doesn’t mean you can’t write thing outside your realm of personal experience (though things you relate to personally will be stronger stories for you). What it means is you should write things you understand. No, that doesn’t mean no fantasy or sci-fi.

The genre I write most in is historical fantasy. I love dragons, faeries, knights, princesses, kings… etc. For me “write what you know” means taking my degree in history and my understanding of real-world medieval history and applying it. My characters most often will use proper weapons for the time period, have views at least somewhat appropriate to the time period, wear clothing that fits the time period… getting my drift? It also means I’ll never write a medieval romance about Scotland where the men wear kilts (yep, they were a Renaissance invention).

I’ve always felt that “write what you know” is only half the lesson. The other half is “…and if you don’t know it, study.” A few years ago I had an author who wanted to write about guns but had never seen, held, or fired one. My first reaction was to take him to a gun range and have him fire several calibers and talk to him about ballistics and safety. I’m almost qualified to be an NRA basic pistol instructor, and we were at a range with experienced people around. I don’t advocate running off to the gun range without someone who knows what they’re doing. But if you’re going to write about guns, you should at least study them a little and maybe fire one so you can write about it with authenticity. I say the same thing about horseback riding, archery, martial arts, or just about any topic. I obviously draw the line at illegal activities because I’m just not that lady, but the  more I know about the topic the more accurate and real my writing becomes.

The thing to remember in all of this is that if you write with authenticity and accuracy it will make your readers more prone to suspend disbelief on the aspects you are changing. It makes your story more concrete and real. For example: I have an author I’m working with who wrote a fantastic book series on Rome. Absolutely amazing. His research is on point, and it makes up for the parts where he changes the story and alters history a little. The departures from real world history are believable in a context where he does so much amazing work in being authentic to the world and time period.

In science fiction, you can make up all kinds of crazy things to create new technology and new worlds. But the more you understand about real-world science the more authentic those new technologies will feel. You don’t need to be a physicist to do it, but studying will help you create believable worlds! it also will help you feel more confident in your world when people start poking holes in it or asking questions you might not have answers to immediately.

Finally, it’ll prevent you from making silly mistakes. I tolerate kilt-clad Scotsmen in Medieval romances because 95% of people don’t know better, but when an author gets it right? I squeal and clap. No joke. I do it. Ask my husband. I also get giddy when I read historically accurate fantasy. When I discovered in “Rise of a Dark Queen” by Raymond E. Feist that most of the business was taking place in a coffee house (which is accurate to the Renaissance, the period after which that setting is modeled) I just about fangirled. I still talk about it. I did the same thing when exploring Rome as Ezio in Assassin’s Creed 2. I lost it when I explored the historically accurate streets of Venice, too. That game still stands out in my memory as one of the most amazing historically-accurate games I’ve ever encountered.

That kind of experience, connecting with something from a place of authenticity, will make your work stick in the mind of your readers long after they’ve moved on. That isn’t to say the story and characters won’t resonate, too, but the realism adds another layer that people can attach to. It’s an invaluable tool for connecting with your audience.

Plot Architecture

Plot Architecture

Many new writers I encounter chafe at the idea of having to “fit their story into a structure”. “Why can’t I just write and see if it fits later?” they ask. That question shows a fundamental lack of understanding of what story structure really is. When editors, teachers, and other experts in the literary field talk about “structure” what they’re talking about isn’t some set of rules you have to comply with; they’re talking about the underpinnings of how stories function and have functioned since the earliest days of storytelling.

There are arguments about whether structures have three arcs or five arcs or more (or less). However, the foundations are the same, even if the numbers change. Overall, good storytelling has a specific rhythm of rising and falling action. It has to do with building tension and releasing it at key intervals to keep readers engaged. While the “three-act structure” is often used in playwriting and screenwriting, you’ll find it’s just as applicable to novel writing (or even short stories). It’s about the nature of storytelling rather than the medium.

Let’s start our exploration of structure with “Freytag’s Pyramid”.

Freytag’s Pyramid is one of the most common story structures taught to students. It breaks your story into five acts with each act landing at a different point in the pyramid. This structure is most often applied to classical literature rather than modern, but it still holds valid there. Now, I’m going to venture into the realm of opinion here, but I believe that this method is folly to use as a barometer for writing because it has the climax in the middle of the book which means the latter half of the book has breaking tension all the way down. You’ll lose steam in your storytelling and lose readers. But, in the interests of full disclosure I thought it important to cover.

The second structure I’m going to lay out to you is the one I employ and believe in. It’s called the “Three-Act Structure”, and it’s one of the most fundamental and important structures you can learn as a writer.

As you can see, in contrast to Freytag’s Pyramid, the tension doesn’t fall until the very end of the novel which keeps readers (viewers etc.) engaged until the last moment of the story. In my opinion this is a far more effective structure than Freytag’s Pyramid due to the use of rising and falling beats through the whole piece. The Three-Act Structure epitomizes the way most novels, plays, and screenplays operate. You can fit most of them into the format with relative ease, though certain people still believe there are five or more acts (which some stories may use, depending on who you ask).

Both are valid forms of structure, but you will also see a resemblance between the two forms of structure—they both have rising and falling action, albeit at different points of time.


Structure is what will make or break your book. Now, structure isn’t a set of rules so much as it is a set of push and pull points of rising tension, as you can see in the pictures earlier in this post. When writing your work, chances are you’ll employ these structures instinctively because it’s what most of the media we consume uses. Anyone who has spent time reading or devouring media of most flavors will have internalized this structure because it’s what works.

Storytelling has a rhythm to it. In some ways, it’s like exercise. You start out slowly to warm up, then you jog for awhile, drop back to a walk, jog for awhile, drop back to a walk, and then sprint through the finish. That’s what a story is like. You’ll find this rhythm as you write, and when you’re done and look back, chances are you’ll be able to see the three-act structure come to life.

My favorite form of utilizing the three-act structure is from Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat. He calls it the “Beat Sheet”. It’s a fantastic resource you can use to organize your plot points into the act structure, and it helps you think of roughly where you are going to be in the story at what time. I’ve found it incredibly useful.

If you’ve found the Beat Sheet and are curious about what it looks like in use, check out this link. It’s from Blake Snyder, and it shows the way various films employ it. Of course, if you haven’t seen the film you’ll probably spoiler yourself, so think before you click!

Traditional vs. Self Publishing Part II

Traditional vs. Self Publishing Part II

Continuing yesterday’s discussion of what the real differences between self-publishing and traditional publishing are, let’s step into the nitty-gritty and lay out the pros and cons (I was tempted to write “prose and cons”) so we can compare the two side by side.

Now that we have looked at the steps required in putting together a book, let’s consider the differences between self-publishing and traditional publishing. I am, through this list, going to assume the publisher the author works with is a legitimate publisher who will do right by the author. There are, as I so often say, sharks in our waters. Those sharks can take many forms, so I’m not going to address all of them here.

Who Pays

Traditional Publishing: The publisher pays for the full costs of the publication process.
Self-Publishing: The author is on the hook for approximately $10,000 worth of services, assuming they do it properly.

Creative Control

Traditional Publishing: It varies from publisher-to-publisher, though the publisher retains final say over creative decisions as well as over editing.
Self-Publishing: For better or for worse, the author has full control over every aspect of their work. This means they will, in theory, be able to get the exact cover they want and not have to adjust any of their work they do not want to.

Distribution

Traditional Publishing: The publisher handles distribution of the book to bookstores and through online outlets. Brick-and-mortar bookstores are more likely to work with a corporate entity.
Self-Publishing: Authors will have to woo bookstores and find their way through distribution on their own. This means they will be able to choose where their book is sold, but brick-and-mortar bookstores are often hesitant to work with unrepresented authors.

Profits

Traditional Publishing: Authors may expect to receive 7-15% royalties on print book and 40-55% royalties on print book. This may be off list (the price it’s listed at through booksellers) or net (the amount the publisher receives after the distribution channels take their bite).
Self-Publishing: Authors receive 100% of their profits. This is one of the driving forces in why many authors choose self-publishing. I may write a blog post on this later because it’s not as pretty a number as you might expect a lot of the time.

Marketing

Traditional Publishing: The publisher takes full advantage of all industry marketing channels it has access to and often coaches the author through things like building an author website and how to handle social media to their best advantage. They also approach and pay for services like BookBub (which is expensive). They may also design and provide marketing materials like bookmarks, postcards, fliers, mailers, and other pieces of promotional material.
Self-Publishing: Authors must learn how to market their book on their own and pay for all services associated with it. Some outlets will be skeptical of self-represented authors because of the amount of contact they receive from authors on a daily basis.
NOTE: Authors MUST be an active part of their promotional team. No one will promote their book with more passion and excitement, and readers these days are hungry to interact with their favorite authors. A publisher can provide tools for authors to promote their book, but authors still must do legwork. 

Access To Experts

Traditional Publishing: The people helping you along the way with your manuscript have been vetted by the publisher and are experts in their field. They can be trusted to do what is best for your book and know the industry in and out.
Self-Publishing: The author must use their own judgment to decide whether or not the person they are looking to hire is going to best represent their book or do the desired task.

Rights

Traditional Publishing: The author must give up certain rights to the publisher to enable them to put those rights to best use as well as make a profit for the publisher.
Self-Publishing: The author retains all rights to the book.

Perceived Validity

Traditional Publishing: The author is seen as an author and someone who is an authority in their field or at least someone worthy of paying attention to. This can help an author stand out a little from the crowd.
Self-Publishing: Self-representing authors often struggle against the idea that they self-published because they were unable to gain the interest of a publisher. Many channels of marketing and distribution channels will be closed to them as a result.
Note: This stigma will linger as long as poor-quality books are churned out by the thousands every day by self-published “authors”. Amazon is working to establish quality control on their books, but with the sheer volume it is almost impossible. Yes, there are poor-quality books produced by publishers, and indie publishers struggle to throw off the stigma as well. As much as we might not like it, however, the stigma that indie authors are less valid than traditional authors is a very real part of the industry.

As you can see, there are a number of factors authors should weigh before jumping into the publishing process, and all of these are valid factors. I know the rights and royalty part of the equation leaves a lot of writers feeling like they’re on the short end of the stick, and I addressed that in a previous post. However, the benefits of traditionally publishing are considerable.

However, in my opinion there is a distinct line between who should self-publish and who should traditionally publish.

If the author has good business savvy and has researched the industry enough to understand what they need to do, and they have the money to do it properly, then I would suggest that person self-publish. At that point they are able to provide for themselves almost everything a publisher can, and they can make good decisions on the direction of their book.

Conversely, if the author does not have a strong head for business, marketing, or other aspects of the book together, or they don’t have the money to invest in the book to make it the best it can possibly be, I recommend considering traditional publishing. Having a publisher guide them through the steps, adopt the financial burden, and help them ensure their book’s success in the broad market.

There are probably more areas that I have not mentioned or discussed, and if you feel I missed something please let me know in the comments! I would be happy to amend and add to this to explain things folks are struggling with.

Traditional vs. Self Publishing Part I

Traditional vs. Self Publishing Part I

There are lines in the sand, and authors everywhere are examining the decision of how to publish differently than ever before. The change in the modern landscape of the industry is a significant one, and with the rise of e-books and outlets like Amazon and Smashwords authors have unprecedented access to tools only publishers possessed less than a decade ago.

With the option of self-publishing, you’ll hear a great deal of argument over which method is superior to the other, but that’s the wrong way to view the decision. One isn’t empirically better than the other for all authors in all situations. Each author must weigh their individual needs and wants and select the path that best suits them.

Let me say that again: Each author must consider his or her different needs and wants and make an educated decision.

What I mean by “educated decision” isn’t just reading a bunch of opinion blogs and rolling from there. Study the industry and know what is required to get a book to print. Understanding the process, and the inherent costs, will do a great deal to help you make the correct choice for you.

This post is going to be a two-parter because of the amount of information inherent in making this decision. I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much at once, so let’s start by looking at the process of publishing a book and the steps required to get it from manuscript to print.

  1. Editing
    After the manuscript is, ostensibly, in its final form, it should pass by at least one if not two sets of eyes. This may mean hiring an editor freelance or working with an in-house editor if you have found a publishing company. The editing process may happen in several rounds including the final proofread where everyone combs the manuscript for any typos or errors found.
  2. Typesetting
    After editing, the book goes to a typesetter. This process is different depending on whether the book is being put into print or e-book or both. The different formats have different requirements that must be met by the person doing the formatting. This process may also include interior design. If you are producing a non-fiction this may be the time when you add photos, asides, graphs, and other images to your work if this applies.
  3. Cover Art
    This is pretty straightforward, though I will say in the strongest manner possible do NOT make your own cover unless you are a designer. So many authors fall flat on this part of book design because they either do not want to pay the money to hire a professional or they are convinced that they are able to put together something that is “good enough”. In the cutthroat world of publishing “good enough” isn’t. Readers are jaded, and your cover art must stand out in the crowd in a good way.
  4. Printing
    After the book has been assembled, a print book must be sent to a printer. The most common printers for indie presses and authors these days are LSI/Ingram and CreateSpace. Both are good options, and have guidelines for uploads. Ingram is a more professional printer designed to accommodate offset print runs for large orders (1,000 books or more), but it costs money to upload revisions to your document.  Ingram also has a superior bookstore distribution system to CreateSpace, so that is something you will want to consider.
  5. Marketing
    The least fun part of the whole process, marketing is a necessary evil to make sure your readers discover you. I could write volumes about marketing and its importance, but I’m not going to dig into it here. Suffice to say it is an important part of writing a book.

All of these steps, as you may realize, cost money. Paying editors, cover designers, interior designers (if needed), typesetters, and then doing marketing are not a cheap collection of professionals. According to the venerable Dan Poynter, and my own experience, the cost of producing a book rests around $10,000. While you may be able to skirt by on some of these steps by doing it yourself, it is not advisable to try and cut corners too much or else you end up with poor quality books that will not please readers, display your skill and talent to your best advantage, or sell copies.

Looking at the process–regardless of whether you are self-publishing or traditionally publishing– should give you a better perspective to approach the effort of publishing your book. Most authors, when they begin the process of writing, don’t have the end product in their head beyond a nebulous idea of a title on a shelf at a bookstore. That’s not a bad thing, but when you come to the end of the writing/editing process and have your finished copy in your hand the “well now what?” question is the most often one I encounter.

Now that you know more about the steps you have to take to go from manuscript to print, we can begin the conversation (tomorrow) about where the real differences between self-publishing and traditional publishing lie.

 

Why I am a Punctuation Snob

Why I am a Punctuation Snob

I have a good friend who teases me often about my rigid adherence to Strunk and White and what is considered correct, if stuffy, punctuation (if I said grammar he’d slap me). I considered the question over months of good-natured ribbing and came to a conclusion regarding why I am so careful about how I write. Since the decision was largely made in my gut, it took me awhile to pull it apart and understand it, but the answer ended up far simpler than expected.

I am a professional writer, editor, and publisher. This means a lot to me, and in today’s world I have people scrutinizing my grammar and word choices everywhere I write. Friends pick on me about misspellings or typos in my social media posts (and I don’t mind), clients read my blogs and judge whether or not I am a good fit for them, and my editing is evaluated by readers who are often so jaded by the state of the publishing industry that they are looking for problems.

While I could, and often do in personal correspondence, loosen my grip on the rigid structure of “proper” punctuation, I feel I cannot do so anywhere more public for exactly the reasons I stated above. With so many hacks out there I could easily be lumped into that category if I were to loosen my stranglehold on what is known to be proper. We writers come under such intense scrutiny because these days any idiot with a word processor can call themselves an author. I don’t say that to belittle the strides toward fair treatment and personal control of one’s books, but with those victories come costs.

In this environment of critical eyes and minds, writers are under more scrutiny than I think we ever have been. Our audiences are bigger than ever, but with that comes a constant state of being audited for our ability to wield the language. We are weighed, judged, and if we are found wanting the court of public opinion is not gentle. Particularly for those of us who are publishers and editors because the expectation (and not wrongfully so) is that we should have a higher quality grammar, punctuation, syntax, and word choice than others when we write.

Overall, I recommend anyone who looks at writing as a vocation, or even just a pastime, consider the importance of presentation. Every blog or post on social media we make (yes, those count) is judged by our friends, our family, and potential readers. With that in mind, we must consider our use of language. It might make the difference between success and failure.

Upcoming Changes

First thing I want to do is thank everyone that has followed, read, and shared my blog! You have all been great, and I hope to continue sharing in your writing journey.

There are some changes coming that will be adjusting how this blog is run. First of all, as I have posted about before, I am currently helping manage Eat Sleep Write (www.eatsleepwrite.net). It’s an awesome writing community I hope I can encourage you all to be part of. All my blog posts are available on ESW, and I am writing there regularly.

The second major change is I am going to be turning my focus toward writing on ESW. I will still be providing the same “how to” blog posts (and more!) and giving insights and writing pieces to anyone and everyone! I will be responding to comments, emails, and thoughts. However, this means I will only be updating this blog once a month from here on out. I can’t keep double posting because it is driving ESW’s SEO plugin absolutely nutty which means I have to rewrite things twice to get them up (which is a pain). SO! I will, henceforth, be updating almost exclusively on ESW.

The good news is that with me moving over to ESW I will be posting more frequently, be more accessible (please shoot me an email at beth@eatsleepwrite.net!) and will be able to offer more content as I launch my Q&A series and continue my usual fare of thoughts and insights into writing. I will also be posting my personal writing on ESW.

The first Q&A blog post is available here: http://eatsleepwrite.net/qa1. The Copy Desk on ESW is my personal blog where I will be updating posts and information far more than once a week.

I look forward to seeing all of my familiar faces there and having you all join me on my new page!

Guest Blog: Writers and Editors, Friends and Foes by Kimberly Klemm

Thank you and welcome to Kimberly Klemm ( http://www.kimberlymckenzie.com )!

 

I have worked in the Technical Writing industry for eight plus years as both a contributing writer and a Senior editor.  The relationship between writers and editors can be likened unto a romance, a terminal illness, and a business partnership.  Writers and editors can be both friends and foes, and usually everyone is happy if a satisfying product is produced.  From my own experience there are a few tips for both writers and editors that can assist the process of producing written works and that may help keep the metaphorical daggers off of the table.

Writers:

When working with editors:

  •   Always send your best version of a “clean” copy.
  •  Draft, draft, and revise BEFORE the editor sees your work.
  •  DO NOT take edits personally.
  •  Refuse edits you do not agree with, sometimes you will be correct.
  •  Negotiate your refusals; DO NOT dictate.
  •  Show appreciation for those who increase the value of your work.

Editors:

When working with writers:

  • Remember you are working with a writer and not just copy on the pages.
  •  ADMIT to occasionally making a mistake.
  • STAND YOUR GROUND; you are an authority.
  • Never re-write work that belongs to another writer (unless asked and agreed to).
  •  CHECK YOUR FACTS.
  •  Edit more than once.

These are just some of the tips that, put into practice, can ease the strain between creating and crafting.  Wearing both the writer’s hat and the editor’s eraser, I have come to respect both roles as necessary together for truly top-notch writing.