Tag: writers

My Crazy Author Interview

Having fun in Cabo, Mexico - December 2014
Having fun in Cabo, Mexico – December 2014

I don’t usually post on Saturday. And no, I’m not going to start now.

But I got this great opportunity to be interviewed by a fellow indie author. And her questions are more explosive than lit fireworks.

Think I’m kidding?

Well, maybe you think you know if I’d choose teleportation over telekinesis. You can find out over at H.L. Burke’s blog today.

Just click on this link and you’ll discover my secret superpower wish and what my weapon of choice would be during an alien invasion.

Also, I get to rescue a fictional character from death – find out who.

Just click the blue link already!

A New Library In Town: One Stop For Writers

If there’s one thing all writers agree on, it’s that writing is TOUGH. The road to publication twists and dips as we learn the craft, hone our abilities, create stories we’re passionate about, fight discouragement, educate ourselves about the industry…and then start the process all over again as we realize there’s room to improve. But you know what? If you are like me, you wouldn’t have it any other way.

Yet, sometimes it’s nice to get a helping hand.

Finding a good writing book, a helpful blog, a mentor or critique partner to share the journey with…these things are gems along the writing path.

And guess what? Maybe there’s another resource waiting just up the road called One Stop For Writers.


One Stop For Writers is not writing software, but rather a powerful online library that contains tools, unique description collections, helpful tutorials and much more, brought to you by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi, the authors of The Emotion Thesaurus and Lee Powell, the creator of Scrivener for Windows.

Could One Stop For Writers be the writing partner you’ve been searching for? Visit Writers Helping Writers this week and see, where Angela, Lee and Becca are celebrating their venture with prizes and some pay-it-forward fun.

 

Preparing to Pitch

Prepare to Pitch

In the midst of hosting out-of-state relatives (which I’m super excited about), I’m working on the pitch for my young adult fantasy novel. After all, I’ve paid to pitch it to an agent and an editor next week at Willamette Writer’s Conference.

This isn’t a new subject for me to address. In the past, I have posted about using movie log-lines to help formulate your pitch. After I successfully pitched at last year’s conference, I shared my experiences.

I don’t want to repeat any of those posts, so please click over and read them if you want more information.

Now that I’m experienced in the fine art of pitching a novel (because one successfully pitched novel does an expert make *rolls eyes*), I wanted to share my journey toward preparing this year’s pitch.

Emotionally

Image from www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk
Image from www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk

Last year, I was an emotional wreck for weeks before the conference. I pored over my logline and rewrote my elevator pitch dozens of times.

I practiced the pitch endlessly in front of the mirror (not my favorite, looking at myself is distracting – Is that a wrinkle line above my lips?) until I’m sure I was mumbling my pitch in my sleep.

Am I nervous? Sure. A little bit of nerves makes a performance better. Do I feel like sprinting in the opposite direction of the conference? Not in the least.

The takeaway: pitch. The only way to get better at verbal pitches is to practice. On real agents. With real stakes.

To make a perfect pitch, you have to make a myriad of imperfect pitches.

Mentally

It’s important to familiarize yourself with the details you want to share.

This is what I needed to know about my novel:

  • Title: Doomsday Dragons
  • Genre: YA Fantasy
  • Main character(s): A snarky Chinese teen who sees visions of the future and a geeky surfer dude from Hawaii with the ability to control animals with telepathy
  • Conflict: She must find him so he can awaken a sleeping dragon who can join with the dragon she first meets to defeat the vitriolic dragon bent on destroying everything in sight
  • Antagonist: mainly a fire-breathing dragon whose emerging from his prison in the Earth’s core
  • Stakes: The Earth will be ravaged by the red dragon (but there are also personal stakes involved – which might be better to include in the log-line.

This is the information I used to create my winning log-line and streamline the summary included on the One Sheet.

Review a written copy of your 100-word pitch. I like to rewrite it several times, so it feels natural when I present it.

Another important thing to remember is that the person I’m presenting to is INTERESTED. He or she wants to find good storytellers and help them down the publishing track. That’s their job. How can I show them I would make their job easier?

Love your story. Be able to describe what it resembles (the sarcasm of Rick Riordan combined with the diverse characters of Suzanne Collins).

The takeaway: if you know your story inside and out and believe it has value for the intended audience, you can make the agent believe in it, too.

How about you? How do you prepare for a career-changing interview?

Whose story is it anyway?

In a non-parody of a comedic television show, let’s take a moment to investigate the ownership of a published work. Recently, this author has been pondering this oft-debated issue, and I’ve come up with four possibilities.

One of the co-authors in the romance anthology Accidental Valentine posted on the topic July 16, 2015. Her points made me reconsider this whole notion that a story belongs to any one person.

I hope you’ll take the time to read Wendy Sparrow’s post on this topic, as well as the comments (there were only two at the time of this writing). I won’t attempt to paraphrase what she says because I don’t want to twist her original meaning.

And there is the crux of this issue for me. How can I know Shakespeare’s intended meaning a few hundred years after his death? 

If an author is still living, and of sound mind, I suppose we could interview them to find out what they meant. However, if we assume that words can take on a life of their own when formed into a story, is the original intention even the point?

Those questions are to give you a hint how my brain arrived at the four possible owners of a story. (And I’m not talking about copyright issues because we have laws that clearly govern those.) Once a story is penned, published and consumed, does the story belong to the author, the readers, the literary community at large or the characters?

Perhaps you have a fourth alternative. I hope you’ll share it in the comments.

Author

As an author, it’s no surprise that my first thought of ownership centers on the story’s creator. Surely, the one who created it should be able to say, “That’s my story.”

As Wendy Sparrow says in her post, ” authors pour a little bit of themselves into what they write, so taking the author’s opinion away from the work might strip it of some of its value.”

I would say authors pour heart and soul into whatever piece of fiction they’re working on. And creative non-fiction based on personal experiences takes an even bigger chunk. If the author holds back, the writing lacks authenticity.

Like Hemingway said, “It is easy to write. Just sit in front of your typewriter and bleed.” (Read more on the debate of the true origination of this quote here.)

However, I can’t take full credit for any of the stories I’ve created. Something in the real world sparked the idea in my brain. It originated from that little seed. To grow it, I just kept expanding on the idea, asking “what if” until I had a solid story line.

Readers

I agree with Sparrow in that I am a reader first. I love to write. I live to write (or is that I write for a living?), but my first love is reading.

Once an author releases a story into the world through publishing, it settles into the hearts and minds of readers. Some stories are in the mind only as long as it takes to read them. Others embed themselves deep in the heart, offering up reminders of characters whose attitudes and experiences shaped my own worldview.

Do I write for readers? Yes. My stories are as much for them as it is for me. If I didn’t want to share it with someone, I wouldn’t.

Does that mean I’ve relinquished ownership to them?

What does that mean? Ownership, according to dictionary.com is “the state or fact of being a person who has or holds” some object. Ownership implies possession. If I possess it, it is mine.

Once I publish the story, I have consented to share its ownership. By making it available for public consumption, I’m sharing my creation. It’s like baking a cake. Everyone who consumes a part of the cake becomes owner of its deliciousness. I can’t take it back. It’s in them.

The same with written words. Once they are consumed, they become part of the consumer. That story is now part of the reader. It might go out as quickly as the cake. Or it might stay around for awhile (like the fat on my waistline from all the cake I’ve consumed over the years).

Sparrow says it well: “Authors want readers to invest in their stories…to become so involved that they care what happens to the characters. In some ways, we want to pass on ownership of our vision to the reader so that they immerse themselves in reading. It’s the only way a book becomes more than just text and becomes a journey.”

Literary Community

Once a book is published, it’s fodder for the public. One major voice in this realm is the literary community. You know who I mean, the professors at universities and English teachers at every level.

We’ve all suffered through a lecture on symbolism in some classic story or another. We were told the blue walls represented the author’s depression. The sword was a euphemism for death or power or kingship. (How can it be all three at once?)

In her post, Sparrow cited some literary figure and his theory on “The Death of an Author” (read more here if you’re interested). He’s one of many who believes if an author didn’t infer or state something in the text, it shouldn’t be later implied to be there.

Can we hear professors of literature everywhere sobbing?

Let’s face it, stories – especially fiction – are subjective. Each of us interpret the text through the stained glass of our own experiences. And the author did the same while they wrote it.

Can a story mean more than one thing? Certainly. It can live a thousand lives in the heart or mind of anyone who reads it and gleans meaning from it.

As an author, I want people to find themselves in my stories. I want them to relate to characters who are like them and find compassion for those who are completely contrary. Some of my writing is purely for entertainment, but even a short romance story I wrote had a deeper message: “breaking free from expectations takes determination.”

Characters

This is where my mind went after I read Sparrow’s post.

I might have birthed the story. In fact, I know I labored hard to perfect it on the page. It’s my baby. Or, I should say, it’s about a bunch of my babies. I’ve given them life by writing their story down and sharing it with others.

“Dream Architect” is whose story? Ashlin’s and Dylan’s. I told their story and submitted it to a publisher. The publisher liked it and bought the first American publishing rights to it. (So maybe the publisher is the owner of the story-for three years anyway.) Readers consumed the story.

But the story is about Ashlin and Dylan. It belongs to them. They lived it (as much as a fictional character can). They experienced the accidental encounter and the turmoil that followed. I wrote their experiences down and readers learned about them through reading, but the story is Ashlin’s and Dylan’s.

What do you think? Does a story have a single owner (possessor)? Do all of these people share in ownership of a story?

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?

What to Write Next: Blues Writer Style

Writing Blues

I’ve got the blues. Since sending my two fiction books to beta readers in late January, I have been floundering for true writing direction. Fiction or nonfiction? That is the question.

Let’s face it, most people who dream of writing, dream of writing a knock-out, impossible-to-put-down novel. They want to weave the perfect story with stellar prose, memorable characters and gripping plot.

Most people don’t think, “I know how to strip wooden floors. I should write a book about that.” (By the way, I don’t know how to do that – even though I have done it before. I call it selective memory.)

If you claim to be an author, people don’t expect you to list nonfiction titles when they ask what you’ve written. Nonfiction is so stuffy and boring. Why would anyone volunteer to write a textbook?

Sure, only a few nonfiction titles have achieved amazing notoriety. “Who Moved my Cheese?” is one little pamphlet that comes to mind. Although, everyone is familiar with the line of “for Dummies” books.

I have steered clear of nonfiction because of the research involved. I finished my Bachelor’s degree in July of 2013. Long before that day, I reached my research quota. And I’m not really anxious to dig in again.

However, I do have several book ideas that would be classified as nonfiction. If you dare, take a peek into my brain to see what other ideas I have.

Things I have considered in the past twelve months

  • A Bible study on women’s ministries – as in wife, mother, sister, teacher
  • A collection of short stories
  • A series for young adults set in a post-apocalyptic setting
  • Dragons from another realm falling into our modern world
  • A memoir-style self-help book about grieving
  • A shifter romance for an anthology call
  • An alien-cowboy story
  • A romance involving an invisible boyfriend
  • Dark Biblical tales for young adults
  • A journal from the perspective of Mary, mother of Jesus
  • Magic as an allegory for Spiritual gifts
  • How to dispose of a body (for a short story written during NaNo)
  • Focusing on New Adult romance
  • Writing for an interesting fantasy collection called The Legend
  • Writing only fantasy
  • If writing for young adults is the right path
  • A short story about betrayal
  • A story about one poor choice ruining a lifetime dream
  • Poems for the blog
  • Story lines for a young adult romance
  • And a million other things – that I can’t remember just now because it’s making my head throb

Things I have started in the past six months

  • A series for young adults set in a post-apocalyptic setting
  • A short story about betrayal
  • A story about one poor choice ruining a lifetime dream
  • A memoir-style self-help book about grieving
  • An alien-cowboy story
  • A romance involving an invisible boyfriend
  • Dark Biblical tales for young adults
  • Brainstorming plots and characters for four different stories or novels
  • A novel based on a short story written during NaNo

Things I have finished (sort of) since January 1, 2015

  • A journal from the perspective of Mary, mother of Jesus
  • An alien-cowboy story
  • A dark Biblical tale about a demon possession
  • A beta draft about dragons and teenagers with special abilities
  • 60 blog posts

Things I need to focus on NOW

  • Editing the dark Biblical tale which will be published in October
  • Finishing the romance involving the invisible boyfriend (it will make sense, I promise)
  • My next project

What should my next project be? You’ve seen the list. What do you think would be a good investment of my time – AND find a market with my readers?

Road to Self- Published – Promoting your Release Date

release date

This whole “promoting” thing just isn’t my thing. It feels like tooting my own horn. Or going door-to-door with a case of encyclopedias.

Sure, I mentioned every stage of writing this book on my Facebook page. I posted about my release date on social media forums, but it felt superficial.

How do you promote your release date? What do the pros have to say about it?

The most important thing to do, they say, is build up an email address list. When they time is right, blast these people with information about your new work in well-timed increments. Sounds so easy, doesn’t it?

Or not.

As of this writing, I have seventeen addresses on my email list. Yes, as in NOT EVEN TWENTY.

And I’ve done everything the experts recommend except create a pop-up for every visit to my site. (I hate pop-ups. Don’t you? I don’t want to be that person.)

Creating an Email List

Every page of your website should have a prominent display for signing up for a newsletter.

I can check that off. Except…I fear I may have confused people because I have a space to follow my blog posts (and 200 people do follow it) right above the newsletter sign-up.

Whoops!

The newsletter sign-up is a relatively new addition to the site. I’m getting ready to mail out only my second newsletter this Friday. It announces – you guessed it – the upcoming release. And offers links to my site and the purchase pages.

The logic behind collecting email addresses is that people are asking YOU for something. They WANT to hear about your upcoming books and events. You aren’t spamming them with information they never asked for in the first place.

Social Media

I hear mixed things about using social media to promote your book’s release date.

First of all, you should have a presence on your media sites of choice BEFORE you start slamming everyone with requests to purchase your book. Show up and talk to people about things that interest you.

Share their Tweets. Like their posts and pages. Be authentic.

When you’re ready to release your book, don’t hammer your feed with the same link over and over again. I’m aiming for once per day for ten days leading up to the release. Then once per day for the first week.

After that, I hope people will be Tweeting or posting reviews about my book. Then I can share their comments, keeping the subject alive without looking like all I ever do is shove my book in people’s faces.

There might be a science to this, but I don’t know it.

Street Team

Okay, I failed at this.

I tried to find some people – even friends and family – who would willingly read an advanced copy of my book and post a review of it.

My sister and three of my writing friends signed up. I don’t know if any of them will actually finish the book (well, my sister did), or write a review once the book is up on Amazon and Goodreads (which it should be tomorrow or Monday, April 27).

I sent them an email offering a link to a private page on my website that listed simple things they could post each day on the social media venue of their choice. I tried to keep these blurb-ish statements short enough for Twitter. Most of them include links to the order page or my website.

Image by Tim Grahl timgrahl.com

The truth is – I don’t want to promote Reflections from a Pondering Heart. It doesn’t feel like the story belongs to me.

It is an important story, though. I want people to read it. I pray it helps them gain a better perspective of people from the Bible we often ideal-ize.

They can’t read it if they don’t know it exists. They won’t know it exists unless the word gets out. Somehow.

Aren’t there some Book Promo Brownies who take care of this sort of thing?

What would you add to this discussion? What do you feel is the best way to promote your book’s release date?

Additional Resource: Book Publishing Guide

Road to Self-Published – Part 2 – Careful Cover Construction

“Don’t judge a book by its cover” might be a popular saying, but in the publishing world, people do it all the time. This is a major reason it’s imperative to have a professional cover for your independently published book.

I envisioned the perfect cover when I first started writing this book. I could see it in my mind’s eye. The thing had mystery and clean lines. It was beautiful.

And describing it became difficult. What? Don’t you use words to describe all the time? Certainly, but even specific words create differing pictures in the minds of those who hear them. Yes, based on their own knowledge and perceptions, another person might visualize something that looks like nothing I imagined I described to a tee.

Whatever file you use for keeping notes on your projects needs to have a page for cover images. Mine is called “Covers I Like.” When something strikes you, click the copy button and paste it into your notes.

CoversILike

Researching your Genre

All this means is heading over to Amazon and typing in the keywords for your genre. For me, I typed “Biblical fiction.” That’s it, and I had 100 pages to thumb through.

Scroll through the pretty thumbnails. When you find one you like, click on it to make it bigger. If it still sings to you, copy that sucker into the aforementioned file.

After I had ten lovely covers, I ranked them in the order of appeal. I might suggest noting what you like about them if it is early and you don’t have an appointment scheduled with your cover designer in the near future.

Resources from other Independent Authors

I personally know two people who are qualified to design my covers. I’m not talking about a friend who thinks they’re a wiz with Photoshop. These people are professional designers with a portfolio of work samples.

If you do not have personal knowledge, this is when you should milk your network of writing friends for information. They will gladly refer people who have served them well in the past. And steer you clear of the ones who were less than desirable to work with.

Here is a list of links that might help with this process:

A Meeting of the Minds

Let’s face it, having control over what the cover on your book looks like is important. Authors want the cover to reflect the contents, and who knows the contents better than the person who poured their soul into them? And then pored over them through multiple drafts?

For me, I wanted the cover artist to consider my thoughts and ideas before jumping off on their own creative path. Maybe other writers are less controlling about the cover.

Cover artists are artists. The photographer/graphic designer that I used is deeply concerned about the originality and perception of his work. Which is great – until it interferes with my own ideals.

If you find your cover artist offering up samples that are nothing like you envisioned (and though you communicated to him), it might be time to find another artist. Don’t wait too late, though, or your project could be in jeopardy of releasing on schedule.

Don’t skimp on your cover. It will cost a few thousand pennies to get the collection of digital files you need for the different platforms. Pay the piper. Your sales will thank you.

Additional Resources:

Book Publishing Guide

What resources have you found for designing covers? Are there other steps in the process I’ve overlooked?

Road to Self-Published – Finding your Perfect Editor – Part 2

everyone-needs-a-good-editor2

This is the second part to a serial post describing my search for a freelance editor. Read part 1 here if you missed it last week.

The first half of the post talked about how I started my search for an editor and the overload of information I needed to sift through before I could contact some editors. Now, what did I ask them? How did I pick one?

What I wish I knew first

Don’t be afraid to ask for a sample edit. Both of the editors I corresponded with happily edited a few pages of my manuscript. It truly gave me insight into their styles and what I might expect when I got the copy back.

Copy editors follow the Chicago Manual of Style. If you don’t know what that is, follow this link to get more information. One of them clung to this more strictly and changed the sentence fragments I used in my writing.

In fiction, fragment have become increasingly accepted. Authors use them to emphasize or make a character’s succinct voice come through more clearly. If this editor intended to correct them all, my manuscript would be a mess of red.

When I asked her about it, she said she would NOT change them if that was my preference. My preference is that they have impact. If they don’t, then they should conform to grammatical rules.

Ask about a time frame. Apparently, many editors are booked as far as three months in advance. I wanted someone to look at my manuscript in 30 days. Luckily, since it is a novella, both of these editors were able to squeeze the estimated 14-hour job into their schedule.

If you’re interested in copy editing, book formatting, proofreading and help writing marketing text, most of the editors I previewed had experience with all these things. Yes, you can get this assistance – for a price.

Both of the editors I worked with offered discounts for bundling copy editing and proofreading. I was amazed at the price for the proofreading service since I figured the manuscript should be squeaky clean after the copy edit.

Apparently, things like spelling and punctuation aren’t priorities during a copy edit. This surprised me. How can you make a sentence grammatically correct and clear without altering faulty punctuation and spelling? That must be the English geek in me that connects these two things.

My Final Criteria

The samples and conversations with both Kristen (Kristen Corrects, Inc.) and Lindsey (Lindsey Alexander Editorial) pleased me. I felt both of them would make my manuscript better – ready to face the public.

Both of them seemed happy to go “the extra mile” with me and answer questions not clearly related to the service I was buying from them. Lindsey even spoke with me for fifteen minutes on the phone before I signed any contract.

In the end, I based the decision on experience. Lindsey had been involved in publishing and editing in a more direct way for several years longer than Kristen. In fact, her freelancing business was seven years older than Kristen’s.

I would highly recommend either of these editors. I hope you’ll take the time to click through to all four of the editorial websites I’ve linked to this post. Research is your best avenue for finding the right editor. Your project might fit more easily with someone other than Lindsey.

It’s true, I haven’t seen more than just a few pages of work from Lindsey Alexander. Her willingness to speak to me on the phone and answer a host of questions that had little to do with copy editing – and much to do with my insecurities about being my own publisher – added a ton of bricks in her favor.

Have you hired an editor? Do you have advice to add? What other information would you like to know on this subject?