7 Must-Ask Questions to Find Your Perfect Book Editor – Part II

 I hope you haven’t been holding your breath for a week waiting for the second part of Kristen’s post on finding the perfect editor for your book. Waiting with bated breath is good. Holding your breath for a week? Not so much.

Now here’s Kristen with the rest of the questions that will help you in your editor search.

Go for it Kristen:

Last week I shared four of seven questions every author must ask to find the perfect editor for your manuscript. The first four questions are easy, focusing on narrowing your search to editors who offer the type of editing you need, who specialize in your genre, who have experience, and who have a portfolio and testimonials for you to look over.

Now, we’re getting into the serious stuff. By the end of this, you’ll have found the editor that’s right for you.

5. What is the editor’s attitude?

Real talk: There are too many editors to settle for one that doesn’t contribute to a healthy author-editor relationship. When you make first contact with an editor, pay attention to how they communicate.

  • Do they have time to talk to you on the phone about your project?
  • Is conversation with them easy, and do you see eye-to-eye with your plans for the book?
  • When you ask about their experience, are they open and communicative?
  • Do they seem excited about your project?

The author-editor relationship is famously collaborative, meaning if you don’t feel your editor is onboard 100%, move on to the next option. Your manuscript is understandably an important project—and usually a major part of your life. It deserves the respect of an engaged, enthusiastic editor.

6. Does the editor offer sample edits?

As you narrow your search for an editor, you may find several editors that may be a good fit for your project. Getting a sample edit is often the only way to know for sure which editor is right for you. Most editors will be happy to do a sample edit of 500-1000 words on your manuscript—just ask! Once you get the sample edit back, ask yourself:

  • Did the editor’s sample edit make a difference in your novel’s excerpt?
  • Do you feel that the edited material reads better than the original?
  • Pay attention to the editor’s stylistic choices, such as using em dashes (—), semicolons (;), and italics. Do you like their style? Do you feel like it’s right for your book?

The best editor will be able to match your writing style, so all editing changes will be seamless to your original writing. The final result will be a beautifully polished book, highlighting your skills as an author. 

7. What about contracts and pricing?

Before making the final decision, pay attention to two more important elements: if the editor offers a contract or written agreement, and if the price is reasonable.

As a book editor, I require a contract with every project, which provides the details of any editing project in writing, including the payments, editing services provided, and a confidentiality agreement. At the very least, protect yourself and ask the editor to provide a written agreement prior to you submitting payment or your manuscript.

Finally, the old adage “you get what you pay for” is true when it comes to selecting a book editor. The Editorial Freelancer’s Association’s Editorial Rates Chart is the gold standard for how much editing should cost, so make sure your editor falls in the ballpark. Generally, more experienced editors will charge more, while less experienced editors will charge less. You get what you pay for.

BONUS: Editing company or freelance editor?

Your search may turn up freelance editors, or editing companies—big difference between the two. Editing companies can have five or more editors on staff, several of whom will be working on your manuscript. Although multiple eyes on a document can be a good thing, conflicting editing styles and an inability to communicate freely with your editor may turn some authors off.

Generally, freelance editors own their own companies, take on fewer projects, and are the sole editor of your manuscript, meaning you’ll be working with one person (the editor) throughout the entire process. You’ll get to speak directly with the editor you’re working with and form a personal connection with her. That personal connection I make with the author is why I will always be a freelancer. Maybe I’m just biased. 😉

When you hire an editor, you’re paying them thousands of dollars and giving them the power to improve or destroy your work. Choose wisely!

Book manuscript editor Kristen Hamilton is the owner and sole employee of Kristen Corrects, Inc. , which provides manuscript editing services. Working independently allows Kristen the opportunity to interact with clients and provide them personalized service. There is nothing better than communication and friendliness in a business world that is slowly becoming less focused on people. 

Kristen is included in the 2014 Guide to Self-Publishing and the 2015 Guide to Self-Publishing, both published by the prestigious Writer’s Digest. She is also part of the credible Writer’s Market, Publishers Marketplace, and Editorial Freelancers Association and plays a pivotal role as senior editor at Modern Gladiator magazine.

Reading is Kristen’s passion, so when the workday is over, she can usually be found curled up with a good book (alongside her three cats, Sophie, Charlie, and Jack). She loves pizza, cat videos, watching The Bachelor, and traveling, and is likely planning her next vacation. She lives outside of Boise, Idaho.

What are your personal experiences in working with editors? What advice can you offer readers?

7 Must-Ask Questions to Find Your Perfect Book Editor – Part I

Today’s post is written by my friend, a book editor, Kristen Hamilton.  She’s going to enlighten us on how to find a perfect editor for our book.

Here’s Kristen…

Imagine this: You’ve finished writing and self-editing your manuscript and are ready to hire an editor. You type in manuscript editor on Google and are overwhelmed by the results—over 95 million. You e-mail several book editors, not really knowing what you’re looking for, and choose one at random, possibly the cheapest one or the one who has the best looking website. Then, after spending thousands of dollars, you’re unhappy with your book and, discouraged and disenchanted, you shelve your book and never publish it.

Just as the market is saturated with books, it’s also saturated with book editors—some good, some not so good. Although every editor has something positive to bring to an author-editor relationship, some editors will undoubtedly be a better fit for your manuscript.

How do you find the right book editor for your manuscript? You just need to ask yourself the right questions.

1. What type of editor are you looking for?

Are you happy with your book’s overall structure? Do you feel like something’s missing in the storyline? Do the sentences have good rhythm and flow? Most books require three distinct stages of editing:

  • Substantive or developmental editing focuses on the big picture of your novel: addressing character development, pacing, plot holes, and loose ends.
  • Line editing looks for improving sentence structure, readability and flow, consistency and clarity, and logic and sense of scenes.
  • Proofreading is the last check for surface errors including spelling, punctuation, grammar, word choice, and syntax.

Some editors only provide one or two of these services, while others are specialized in all three. Of course, each editing service will be a separate pass through your manuscript. The more times your editor goes over your manuscript, the more errors that will be caught. A good editor will be able to guide you to choose which editing services are right for your book.

2. Does the editor specialize in your genre?

Once you find a competent developmental editor, line editor, and/or proofreader, narrow down the results a bit more by genre.

Most editors specialize in a specific genre. Cookbooks, crime thrillers, general fiction, or memoirs are all highly different types of books, and need different elements to succeed. Naturally, the more experience the editor has with that specific genre and type of editing, the better hands your book is in. And while there are no guarantees that your perfect editor will transform your book into a bestseller, an adequate and competent editor will certainly improve your manuscript.

3. What is the editor’s experience?

Once you’ve narrowed the pool of editors to a select few who offer the type of editing you need, check that the editor is qualified with a degree in English, writing, or a related field. While years of on-the-job experience will help hone an editor’s skills, nothing can replace the specialized learning that comes with earning a degree in the field. Any qualified editor will also be a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association, and you can search the database of editors here.

Unfortunately, uninformed authors can easily choose a really, really terrible editor. Beware of editors who don’t have a lot of experience, who have extremely low prices, or who are just plain…sketchy. There have been countless times I’ve accepted a new client who was burned by their previous “editor,” where the editor took their money, did minimal edits, and left a very dissatisfied author and an incomplete manuscript. Yikes.

4. Does the editor have a portfolio and testimonials?

This one’s easy. Check out the editor’s portfolio and testimonials from previous clients—a reputable editor will have these clearly listed on their website.

Take it a step further and read reviews on the books they have edited. If there are complaints of misspelled words, poor editing, or a confusing storyline, move on to the next editor. Your book is too important to put it in the hands of a sloppy editor. If possible, ask to contact an editor’s previous clients. Were they happy with the editor’s work? Would they hire them again? Previous clients’ testimonials are one of the best ways to vet your future editor.

This is just scratching the surface of what you need to do to find the perfect book editor for your manuscript. Check back next Thursday, where the final three questions will be addressed, helping you to find the perfect editor for your book.

Book manuscript editor Kristen Hamilton is the owner and sole employee of Kristen Corrects, Inc. , which provides manuscript editing services. Working independently allows Kristen the opportunity to interact with clients and provide them personalized service. There is nothing better than communication and friendliness in a business world that is slowly becoming less focused on people.

 Kristen is included in the 2014 Guide to Self-Publishing and the 2015 Guide to Self-Publishing, both published by the prestigious Writer’s Digest. She is also part of the credible Writer’s Market, Publishers Marketplace, and Editorial Freelancers Association and plays a pivotal role as senior editor at Modern Gladiator magazine.

Reading is Kristen’s passion, so when the workday is over, she can usually be found curled up with a good book (alongside her three cats, Sophie, Charlie, and Jack). She loves pizza, cat videos, watching The Bachelor, and traveling, and is likely planning her next vacation. She lives outside of Boise, Idaho.

What questions do you have about finding an editor?

I love my job but I hate this part

I love my job. Writing stories and articles and study books delights and excites me.

    But…

Don’t you hate when people say something good and then ruin it with a but?

I like your hair, but…it looks like you’re stuck in the 80s
Your dog is so pretty, but…he has no manners at all.

You know what I’m talking about. People do this all the time. WE do this several times during any conversation.
Because the truth of the matter is ugly hard to swallow unimaginable depressing.

Nothing in life is without its flaws and drawbacks.

(Sorry, honey. I know I tell you and everyone else that you’re perfect, but that’s just not the case. You’re perfect in my eyes only…and when you don’t leave the toilet seat up.)

I’m a full-time, professional author. To earn a paycheck, I substitute teach at the local middle and high schools.
I enjoy teaching. I believe it’s one of my secondary strengths (which is why I write Bible study books and teach women and teenagers at my church).

But writing is my soul food.

When I’m in the groove, churning words directly from my heart and mind onto paper (or a computer screen), it’s Heaven-on-Earth.
Why? Because I believe I was created to do this “writing thing.”

What I Love

I love when I get a new idea. It sparkles and gleams. Every cast of light reveals another dimension.

I enjoy sketching out the plot. I do this with a ton of “what if” questions. And I only hammer in the major plot points before I begin to write. I like to give my characters just enough rope to jerk them into an uncomfortable position.

I adore setting up the scenes in Scrivener, color coding them so I can keep track of things like narrator or timeline.

I don’t even fear the blank page.

I crank out the first scene. I don’t sweat it too much. It will get rewritten more than any other scene in the novel. I accept this and pound out the words.


I bite my lip as I write the last scene. Where do I think my characters will end up? How do I end this?
Believe me, I come up with some incredible last lines.

Then they get edited out of the final manuscript.

I write. There’s no fear of blank screens and blinking cursors.

If I’m not “feeling” a scene, I skip to where my characters are begging to go. I can fill in the blanks later. In fact, those blanks might be better scenes if I don’t force them when I’m not emotionally engaged in writing them.

The whole fast draft and first draft process makes me feel euphoric.

Not that I Hate This

Okay, actually, I pretty much despise everything that comes after writing the first draft of a novel.

As for shorter projects, I don’t mind making several editing passes and polishing the manuscript to a shine. I can do it in relatively the same amount of hours I invested in creating the original draft.

Novels? Not so much.

There’s no way to comb through 70,000 plus words in three weeks (the average time it takes me to write that at the rate of 1,000 words per hour).

And every manuscript needs multiple “passes” before it’s ready to be seen by someone I want to buy it.

I think I’ve written about my process before here and here, so I’m not going to bore you with those details again.

The problem is that the words start to all sound the same after my sixth pass through a manuscript. I can’t discern what works and what doesn’t.

I’m done. I hate this stupid thing. Can I throw it away now?

Some writers talk about coming to love their stories the more they work on it. I get there after the publisher’s editor takes a fine tooth comb to it, pointing out all the weak points and helping me strengthen them.

But while I’m working on the pre-published manuscript? I come to despise it.

Sometimes, when I pick it up months later (on a break from my most recent revision nightmare), I decide it’s not such a bad story. That character is pretty witty. That fight scene gives me palpitations.

But when I’m in the middle of trying to polish it, hoping to convince a publisher to take a risk on me?

I get to the point where I can’t stand the sight of it.

Why would anyone want this if you hate it so much?

Who cares? I just want to get it out of my sight.

What things do you love about your job? What makes you groan with dread?

If this post appealed to you, you might like Hero Delivery. It’s a bulletin with deals and specials from Sharon Hughson. It can be on the way to your inbox in a few clicks.

Check out Finding Focus and my other books. You’re sure to find something worth reading.
Already read one or more? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. That’s like the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.

The Three Stages of Editing – And why you shouldn’t try them all at once

When it rains, it pours. Manuscripts in need of editing, that is. Each in a different stage of editing: developmental, line and copy edits, oh my. It’s a three-layer parfait.

Of doom.

The work in progress novel must be ready for submission by the beginning of May. And it’s rough. It’s missing crucial elements. It needs developmental edits galore.

About the time I’m reaching the three-quarter point on that project, I get a manuscript I haven’t looked at since December back from an editor. I haven’t given it a thought since then. Back when I made the developmental changes to it.

Now, the second editor is making a few line edit suggestions that require actual rewriting. Mostly additions, to flesh out a few things added in during the developmental stage.

You know, things that will deepen the story, make the characters more believable and ultimately engage the reader.

And every author wants to ensnare the reader and make them forget they’re even reading. Lasso them into the story realm and hold them hostage until they reach the last page.

“I’ll finish the novel edits first,” I decide. “Then I’ll delve into this other story.”

Meanwhile, the short story I wrote in December and polished in January was sold in February. It’s slated for a June release.

So, of course, I got the first round of edits from the editor. Because I had nothing else on my plate.

Why did I think it was a good idea to have so many projects going at one time?

Oh right, because writers write. And when writers sell their writing, it means they must revisit that story world over and over.

Which is something I enjoy because my story gets better and more enchanting with each round of edits.

The publisher who purchased said short story has never made developmental editing suggestions. I’d like to think it’s because my stories are well-written, but I have a feeling it has more to do with budget and short publishing timelines.

The edits for the story were line edits. A few commas, questionable word choice, repetitions pointed out. All of it a quick fix.

So that should be a simple turnaround, right?

Uh, have you met me?

I will read through the entire story again and tighten every sentence I can. In fact, I deleted two sentences in the second scene, deciding they made my male protagonist look too eager.

So, I have a 14,000-word manuscript to line and copy edit. The second-round edits are mostly line edits, too, but involve some additions. That’s a 20,000-word manuscript.

And the ugly developmental edits on the revised first draft of the novel are getting into the heart and heat of the story. When everything blows up. When my characters enter the crucible and come out the other side as different people.

How do I prioritize this?

My gut says to finish the novel because it needs to get input from alpha readers and my editor. Then it may very well require extensive rewrites before it’s ready to enter the polishing phase.

After all, it’s not even on its way to a publisher yet. It needs to be honed to a shining jewel before I submit it, in hopes the publisher will love it. Will make an offer on it.

And then it will come back again. For developmental edits and then line edits and finally for minor copy tweaks.

Lucky me, though, I can enjoy all three stages of editing today. Right this very moment. With three separate projects.

Rewrite, Revise, Repeat…Is it Done Yet?

Rewrite_revise_repeatGood writing is rewriting. I’m not the originator of that wisdom. It seems like I might be a poster child for it, though.

When did I finish this young adult fantasy novel again? Oh, right, before NaNoWriMo last year.

It was ready for a little polish and then off to the beta readers.

Or so I thought. Until I got a critique on the first 20,000 words from the amazing Jami Gold.

It had major character arc issues.

So, I spent December tweaking things, getting a little feedback on the opening from my online critique group.

In January, I went through it all again, trying to spiff it up slightly. I don’t like sending mediocre writing out to readers.

Off it went to four beta readers in February.

And only one of them loved it.

The non-genre readers had issues with some of the fantastical happenings (it is a FANTASY after all), but thought the characters read fairly well. He wasn’t impressed with the ending.

The fantasy genre read-aholic thought the premise was great. He didn’t think the characters arced very much. Everything happened for them too easily – even though the stakes couldn’t get much higher.

Months later, the soon-to-be-published YA Fantasy writer returned the manuscript. Shredded. (No need to mention my writing confidence was also ripped apart. But that’s part of becoming a professional writer.)

Much of the stuff she address was tight writing, which I address most in my editing and polishing phases (which happen once all the revision and rewriting is finished).

The story had so much potential but was weighed down by wishy-washy characters and too few moments of accelerating tension.

So, I spent the next two weeks slicing and dicing the beta manuscript.

Here are a few examples:

  • The first scene was completely scratched and rewritten (for like the fourth or fifth time)
  • The order of the first two scenes was switched (suggestion from my target audience beta group)
  • Several scenes were tossed into the “cut scenes” file (making it a hefty 15,000 words)
  • A few new scenes were added
  • Nearly every scene was intensified with more emotions (teenagers = drama)
  • The end was completely rewritten (for the second time)

In short, anyone who read the original story probably wouldn’t recognize it in the pages of the rewritten story.

Next stop, revision with a red pen.

I print out my manuscript and read it aloud. Every sentence comes under fire.

I’ll address grammar issues if I find them. Obvious word repetition will fall beneath my sharpened editor’s blade.

But mostly, I’m cleaning up the language. Clarifying meaning. Focusing on the individual voice of each passage.

Does that SOUND like something my seventeen-year-old heroine would say? Would a fifteen-year-old surfing science geek think or talk that way?

good writing meme

After that, the manuscript will get two more rounds of edits. It’s during these final polishing rounds that I will search for obvious areas of “telling” rather than “showing.” Major word repetition will be rooted out.

After that, will it finally be done?

Nope, but it will be ready for marketing to agents, editors and publishers. Once they buy it, it will go through several more rounds of editing.

Because every writer knows – a story is never done.

Beta Readers: Bane or Boon?

betareaderblissThis spring, I’ve had my second – and third – encounter with a group of beta readers. Even as my stinging ego debates whether they are the bane of my existence or a boon to my career, I can’t deny they are essential.

If you’re a writer, you need beta readers. Further, you need beta readers who are willing to tell you what they think, regardless of how much your feelings might be hurt (and I mean demolished – picture me curled in a fetal position sobbing).

What are beta readers?

In my mind, a beta reader is like a software program’s beta tester. They take the product for a ride and find everything that’s wrong with it.

In the case of books, much of the beta feedback is subjective – as a reader’s preferences are varied and unique. Some people adore Shakespeare. I despise reading him, but I’m all about watching his work performed on stage.

In any case, betas are the first real readers of a manuscript. Sure, Aunt June may have seen your first draft and raved about it becoming a best seller. This isn’t the same as having an objective reader give feedback.

Beta readers read your rewritten and lightly edited second draft. They read it as if it’s a book they picked up off the shelf. The only difference: every time they see something they don’t understand or  something they dislike, they comment on it.

What I expect from my beta readers?

Unlike beta testers for software, beta readers might be expected to look for different things by the author. Software programs are meant to work a certain way, and the betas are supposed to find the bugs, so the code can be repaired before the program is marketed.

In a similar manner, beta readers are expected to see if a story works. Does the plot progress in a sensible fashion? Do the characters grow and change? Is there an obvious story problem that is resolved before the book ends?

Of course, my idea of what makes a story satisfying could be different than yours. This is where the subjectivity comes into the picture.

As far as expectations go, I send a detailed checklist to my beta readers. I generally ask about story structure, setting, believability and character likability and growth.

I consider every comment from beta readers, but that doesn’t mean I always change the things thy find problematic. After all, I’m the author.

Bane

Two types of readers tend to be the bane of my existence when it comes to betas: non-genre and published writers.

First of all, having readers who don’t generally read your genre take your manuscript for a test drive is an excellent idea. They are going to be more critical of story elements and plot holes. If you can suck them into the story, great. It’s more likely that they are going to be on the outside noticing all the things they don’t like.

Remember, I don’t change everything they suggest. This is especially true for non-genre readers. However, I do take their thoughts on plot and character seriously to heart. After all, if they can’t relate to my characters, I’ve done something wrong.

Published authors – especially if they are in your genre – are harsh. And, I’ll be honest, it hurts to have someone you respect dissect your story. It feels like being gutted alive.

Once you stop bleeding, however, you’ll be able to sort through all those comments – meant to help not scald – and use them to make your story better.

Boon

I always make sure I have some avid readers of my genre and some members of my focus audience read my early manuscript. These people are going to be a boon to my story.

Avid readers know what works. They’ve read so many books, they can predict outcomes and wade through poor prose without losing touch with the story.

This makes it sound like they aren’t going to be helpful. Not true. They will be able to spot a plot hole a mile away. If your plot is too predictable, you can be sure you’ll hear about it. And, they can tell you if the character you’ve chosen works in the story.

Since my novels are aimed at a young adult audience, it’s essential that some of my betas are in this group. It can be difficult to find young readers who can give helpful feedback.

Luckily for me, I have connections at the local middle school. Further, I can interview the readers in person, thus tailoring my questions based on the answers they give me.

Time consuming? Without a doubt.

However, I’ve discovered problems with character consistency, magic systems, weak resolutions and plot progression from my target audience. The investment is worth the outcome.

In the end, books are meant to be read. As the author, I’m too close to the work to determine if the story is clear. I know my characters so well, I might miss the fact that on paper they don’t appear at all like they do in my head.

This is why authors need beta readers. Without unbiased reader feedback, a novel will never reach its fullest story potential.

Bane or boon, if you’re a writer, get your manuscript to beta readers – before you send it to agents, editors, publishers or -worst of all – publish it yourself.

Road to Published – Polishing your Manuscript

Write. Rewrite. Edit. Revise. Edit. Polish. Repeat.

Any writer worth reading after will tell you the creative process of writing is more often about the concerted effort of perfecting previously written words.

To that end, I have a library of books on the subject. I follow blogs of respected authors who address pitfalls. If you’re a writer, you should do the same thing.

If you’re just a reader, wanting to ogle a writer in their native surroundings, you don’t care about that stuff. You want to know about my process.

One of Many

PlotA gaggle of books have been written on this topic. (Did I mention I own an entire book case of tomes on writing craft?) My process isn’t the only way to take a manuscript from first draft to saleable pages.

My method is derived from the process James Scott Bell describes in his book Plot & Structure. I’ve detailed that in an earlier post.

I use several books to help me make each pass through my manuscript count. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers and Mastering Showing and Telling are two of these books.

Self-Editing devotes a chapter to the most common problems found in fiction manuscripts. There are exercises at the end of each to help you hone your editing skills.

Marcy Kennedy’s book gives a list of search terms to use in MS Word during the revision phase. When they show up in your manuscript, it’s a good indicator you’ve entered the realm of telling.  And we all know readers want us to show them what happens.

Start at the Beginning

Regardless of the process you choose, you’ll need to start at the beginning. You’ll need to face the fact that this revision, editing and polishing process is going to take longer than the actual writing.

Top three pages - the other 18 look just as lovely
Top three pages – the other 18 look just as lovely

That shouldn’t discourage you. In fact, experience writers tend to have a different view. After they’ve learned to effectively polish their manuscript, it helps them write a cleaner first draft.

Someday, you might write a cleaner draft, too. I know I haven’t reached that place with my novels, but when I wrote three short stories back-to-back, the third one had the cleanest of all first drafts.

I begin by printing out the entire manuscript. I read through it, line by line – aloud. I replace weak words using my thesaurus. Sentences that are clunky on my tongue get rewritten.

Those pages look like a mass of lines and scribbles. At the end of a chapter (or three), I take the cluttered pages back to my computer and enter the revisions while they are fresh in my mind. Sometimes, I revise these as I’m typing along.

Once I finish this, a minimum of three full days of work, I compile from Scrivener into a Word document. And let the searches begin.

I’m looking for all “to be” verbs and exchanging them for strong action verbs when possible. I’m eliminating adverbs and tightening all sentences to their barest.

After this stage, I usually walk away from the manuscript for at least a week. When I return, I can use the search function to eliminate repeated words. One of my published author idols tells how to do this in one of her posts. I recommend reading her whole “Gold Mine Manuscript” series.

When you’re finished – you’re NOT

Whew! All done.

Wrong.

Now, it’s time to reprint the manuscript. Read it aloud. Line by line.

Some people recommend starting from the end. I haven’t tried that yet, but if you’re already sick of your story, this might be a way to see it from a fresh perspective.

More scribbles appear on your crisp pages. Each day of grueling editing work is followed by the data entry aspect.

Eyes burn. Words swim across your vision. A woodpecker takes up residence inside your skull – rapping out a message in the middle of your forehead.

If you can convince someone else to proofread the manuscript once you finish this “polishing run,” your manuscript will be better for it.

Otherwise, plan to take at least a week away from it between the final red-pen pass and the proofing stage.

Write. Rewrite. Edit. Polish. This mantra repeats over and over for every story, article, and book I breathe into existence.

Publishing isn’t just vomiting a story onto the page and sending it out to be loved. Writing takes work.

Before your story is ready to step onto the stage of being marketed to agents or editors, or be independently published, you will never want to read it again.

I’m serious.

What is your favorite step in this process? Least favorite? Does anything in my process surprise you?

Road to Self-Published – Finding your Perfect Editor – Part 1

This blog is meant to attract readers for my published works. You know, people who like young adult fantasy or Biblical fictionalizations, or maybe even a little romance. Yet, here I am discussing my journey to being self-published.

Self-publishing still sounds like a dirty word to some people. However, in the past two years, Amazon and the popularity of eBooks has begun to alter that perception.

It’s a slow thing – change. Especially when people have rock-hard opinions in place. The number of independent (i.e. self-published) authors who manage to make a decent living writing and publishing quality books rises with each survey.

For me, I am seeking the traditional path with my young adult manuscript – for now. The Biblical fictionalization, however, appears in my mind as something that isn’t about profit. Why shouldn’t I self-publish it then?

Earlier, I posted about the necessity of hiring an editor if you’re a beginning writer. (Yes, you might be in your 40s with no publishing credits and still be a beginning writer.) In this post, I speak directly about the process I used to find a copy-editor for the manuscript I intend to independently publish in May.

Where I started

As a member of WANA Tribe, I started there. After all, I had superior luck finding beta readers by posting to those boards.

everyone-needs-a-good-editor2Specifically, I posted on the Christian Authors tribe’s board. I asked for referrals to any editors who had experience with Biblical fictionalizations. In my mind, I felt that the two super editors I know (Jami Gold and Marcy Kennedy) were experts in fantasy and paranormal romance. I wanted someone with a little bit of knowledge about this much different market.

With only a single response from that forum, I headed over to the Editorial Freelance Association website. A search narrowed the pool to 121 members. It took plenty of clicking through to learn the information I wanted, but I found two editors to email for more information.

What I found

The list of members on the ERA site is staggering. It can feel overwhelming at first.

Is my method of reading through the bios and checking out sites scientific? Not hardly. It did lead me to an editor I feel comfortable with, however.

I emailed the first two choices and asked for quotes. It was here I learned that many editors don’t call a line edit a line edit. If an editor offers to copy-edit your manuscript, that’s the same thing (they say, although Marcy Kennedy defines the difference on her site). One of the editors quoted me between 8 and 12 cents per word, based on how clean my manuscript started. The other quoted $45/ per hour.

At the ERA site, there is a list of appropriate prices for services. This is the editorial rates chart from that site: Editorialrates

As you can see, both of these first two quotes are above the specified guidelines. Even though I had corresponded several times with one of these editors, I went back to my search list to see if I could find someone closer to the suggested range.

On my next search, I only emailed one editor. Her rates were clearly listed on her clean and user-friendly website. At 1.4 cents per word, her estimate worked out to a rate that was at the high end of the recommended charges.

Check back next Friday to see how I finally found the editor for my self-published manuscript.

I will be running a series of posts on Fridays for the next two months (give or take) about my progress toward publishing – both the self-published track and the traditional path (since I have manuscripts in both).

Why Every (Newbie) Author Needs an Editor

I’m a newbie novice when it comes to writing novels. Not an ounce of shame taints this admission. If I send sub-par work into the world of readers because I don’t see the need for an editor, that’s when I’ll be ashamed.

In the past fifteen months, I have completed five first drafts. This amounts to about 350,000 words. I should be getting the hang of this writing thing after all that, shouldn’t I?

If I compare the first novel with the last, the improvement is easily identifiable. To me, anyway. A professional editor might see things differently. This is the reason you should hire one before you publish your “masterpiece.”

Lucky me, I won a 25,000 word critique from the amazing Jami Gold. As full-time writer who has not sold a single story, I appreciated this windfall more than a winning Lotto ticket. After experiencing Jami’s professional white glove treatment, I can recommend her services.

What I expected

  • A thorough critique of the manuscript – written within the document so examples of the flaws were showcased
  • Advice about my characters
  • Analysis of my story structure: the first turning point at least
  • Identification of recurring writing weaknesses
  • Discussion of my overall writing voice and its effectiveness
  • Confirmation that my story premise worked
  • Discussion of the story problem and stakes

What she delivered

  • A thorough critique of the manuscript. Besides lengthy notations within the manuscript, Jami provided four pages of explanation about the larger issues – good and bad – in the story
  • Advice about my characters. She analyzed the character arc of both protagonists, discussed their shortfalls, remarked about how to improve them. In short, I saw my characters in a different spotlight after reading her comments.
  • Analysis of my story structure. Jami identified the story problem but couldn’t pinpoint my character’s driving needs. Because of this, she didn’t see the first turning point the way I had when I wrote the story. Obviously, this is an issue – with my writing, not her editing.
  • Identification of recurring writing weaknesses. Do I really need to list these? Suffice it to say that I’m still doing more telling than showing. My descriptions are over the top (quite surprising) and often unrealistically delivered. Too many participles. Not enough strong verbs. Even a grammar issue (when to use ‘the’ rather than ‘a.’)
  • Discussion of my overall writing voice and its effectiveness. My third person POV didn’t go deep enough. My characters could be heard loud and clear in only a few sentences. If I want my readers to buy in, I need to delve more deeply into the psyche of these people who tell this story.
  • Confirmation that my story premise worked. Right off the bat, Jami raved about how well I nailed this. My thanks to Larry Brooks and Kristen Lamb. I learned the importance of this from them. Looks like it penetrated my thick skull and became a part of my writing arsenal.
  • Discussion of the story problem and stakes. Again, I managed to strike it rich. Of course, the lack in my characters rubs off on the overall story problem. Since their motivations are unclear, it holds readers at arm’s length.

My revised opinion

I have seen recommendations from authors who are traditionally published. They tell you not to spend the money on an editor for your manuscript before shopping it with agents and editors. I sighed hugely when I read this advice.

Now I’m going to refute it. Time to face facts: you won’t hook an agent or editor with a manuscript that doesn’t shine. No matter how great of a writer you are or how many degrees you possess, you aren’t the best critic for your written work.

I can slash in red with the best of them (ask my sons who have experienced my unforgiving editing for more than a decade). With a critical eye, I can spot plot holes, weak characterization, telling passages and other major flaws.

No matter how much I squint, I’m too close to my own story to recognize most of these shortcomings. I know what I meant. The characters are my intimate friends so I read between the lines. I see subtext that doesn’t exist. Caricatures are the invisible woman.

If you’ve shopped your story and no one is biting, take the plunge. Spend the money on a developmental edit to ensure your manuscript is sound of structure. Look at it as an investment in your career – like workshops, craft books and conferences.

In the end, your manuscript will shine. You will learn how to write a stronger story. Best of all, your name will appear on the cover of the book you’ve envisioned. And you’ll be proud to have people read your work.

Have I convinced you? Great.

One more thing. Do you have an extra $1000 I can borrow? Really, my friend. Help me get a much-needed developmental edit on my manuscript.

What are your thoughts on critique groups, beta readers and professional edits? Do they all serve the same purpose? Do you believe spending money on an editor is a waste if you’re a newbie seeking traditional publishing?

How I was forced into doing NaNoWriMo

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The ink on my blog post detailing why I wouldn’t be participating in National Novel Writing Month hadn’t dried. My writing friend and I met at the library, and she insisted I participate in the insanity. I said no. She cajoled.

I signed up the next day. *sighs*

I thought I was stronger than this. My calendar for November is flooded with rewrite obligations. There are beta readers expecting that novel in December. Wouldn’t want to disappoint them.

“But you’re writing short stories anyway,” my friend argues.

True. I have scheduled seven days in the first three weeks of the month to work on some new stories. I’m trying to improve my market reach. A few publishing credits can only make my queries stronger.

I figured the creation process would be a nice way to give my brain a break during the grueling work of rewriting (which is minor compared to the brain strain of editing). I’m wondering if I can work on two or more different projects at a time – and do them both justice.

“I don’t have time. I’m doing a rewrite.”

“You should still sign up.” (Is someone paying her for all the people she convinces to participate? Is that what being a Municipal Liaison means?)

I have no one to blame but myself. Who clicked on the NaNo website? *raises hand* Who typed in a description of a short story collection for their 2014 project? *looks away*

The voice of reason (my husband), “I thought you weren’t doing that this year.”

Yeah, I thought so too. Why did I want to be friends with writers again? Why did I go with this woman to a writer’s conference? Why do we have regular lunch meetings?

We’re “helping” each other. I’m not feeling especially encouraged at the moment. The stress of writing 50,000 words in 30 days is making my head pound.

What are writing friends for? Apparently, to push me out of my comfort zone. And in front of a speeding NaNoWriMo truck.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? What crazy things have your friends convinced you to do? Were you later appreciative of their interference? (Please say yes. I really like this person.)