The argument for hiring an editor

I remember when I first started writing for the newspaper. I was pretty green at it, and would turn in pieces I thought were flowing with ideas and beautiful language. My editor would look over my work and let go of a good 30% of what I had said by striking out redundant thoughts, simplifying sentences, and deleting all the extra words I liked to use (like “that”, as in “I thought THAT she was going to cry” – and it still slips into my work, even after all these years!).

I learned a lot about writing from this editor, and there soon came a time when her edits consisted of changing a word here or there, and allowing the rest to remain the way it was.

When I decided my very first book, A Symphony of Cicadas, was finished enough to be a published piece, I knew from experience I couldn’t just put it out there without seeing a professional editor first. I figured my many years of writing for the newspaper gave me a little bit of an edge, and she wouldn’t find much to change. I had already gone over my novel several times, and had handed it over to my husband and even my mom (who is very meticulous in proof-reading). I changed all the places they thought needed work or could sound better. By the time I gave it to the editor, that thing, in my eyes, was pretty near perfect.

And boy, was I mistaken.

I found a fabulous editor through WritersMarket.com. We exchanged emails, and she had me send her a sample piece of my work so she could get a sense of my writing style, I could get a sense of her editing style, and we both could decide if this was a good match.

I had her edit my 5th chapter, because that was the one I was most proud of. In it, I had really gone to town with my description and prose, and the characters in that chapter were fully developed. But when she gave it back to me, I saw she had quite a few suggestions for edits. She left her edits marked, and added comments as to why things were changed. She noted where things didn’t “sing” for her, when she couldn’t picture what was going on, or when certain sentences seemed to interrupt the flow. She also mentioned a rule about adverbs I should be aware of – how I should show what’s going on instead of summing it up with “happily” or “morosely” or “softly” . . . you get the point.

(Check out my post on adverbs on my author blog for more.)

I ended up hiring her, and sent her my completed manuscript to edit. I had gone through it one more time to implement some of the suggested changes she’d mentioned. But truth be told, I left many of those adverbs untouched because I still didn’t quite believe her on the adverb rule.

I came to regret this.

When she handed the manuscript back, she changed a few of the adverbs in the beginning to show me how to strengthen a sentence with the “show, don’t tell” rule. But she left the vast majority of them up to me so I could A) learn my lesson and learn it well, and B) keep my voice in the piece when I changed those adverbs into “showing” sentences.

Along with the adverb situation, she also revised many of my sentences so they flowed. Here’s an example):

This sentence started out as:

“…The sarcasm had left her demeanor, replaced with a sense of seriousness I had never experienced from her. I got the sense that she would do her best to answer any questions I had in the moment, but I had so much confusion I didn’t even know where to start.”

It was changed to:

“Her sarcasm was gone, replaced with a seriousness I had never experienced from her. I sensed she would answer any questions I had in the moment, but I was so confused I didn’t even know where to start.”

In the world of self-publishing, it’s tempting to take a few shortcuts to get a novel out there and into the public’s hands. We indie authors are working on a much smaller budget than those with a traditional publishing deal. Everything we do for the novel comes out of our own pockets – cover design, editing, ISBN numbers, marketing, etc. Editing doesn’t run cheap. Depending on the word count, it can cost $800 or more! That’s not chump change, especially when most self-published novels won’t come close to making up the cost of producing a novel.

Some authors get around this by trusting their mom or a friend to do their editing. Or they send it to beta readers and make any suggested changes that come back. There is nothing wrong with utilizing these ways to help edit a book. But if that novel doesn’t see a professional editor as well, I can guarantee your words aren’t going to flow as beautifully as they could.

A good editor is trained to use the red pen without mercy, ensuring your story is going to be told without anything distracting the reader. An editor has the ability to see your work through unbiased eyes. They are not your mother – they don’t love you enough to try not to hurt your feelings. They’ll give you honest corrections of what works and what doesn’t work. And they don’t hold your story so close to their heart they’re unable to let go of certain paragraphs that just aren’t jiving.

Let me put it this way. Stephen King uses an editor. JK Rowling uses an editor. Every great author you have read and loved uses an editor. I think it’s a safe assumption to say you are not a better writer than they are. So how can you expect your story to be told the best way it could without a professional looking it over and making your words sing?

Hire an editor. If it’s too expensive, push back your anticipated pub date and save for an editor. It’s the one expense you can’t afford NOT to spend. Waiting to publish something that’s been properly polished will be far more valuable to you in the long run then rushing to put something out there that could be considered sub-par. If you don’t hire an editor, it will show in your work. You will be judged for what you publish. And in the long run, taking the shortcut of NOT hiring an editor could murder your aspirations of making it big in this business.

Bottom line: HIRE AN EDITOR.

If you’re looking for affordable assistance with formatting, editing, proofreading, or other indie author services, I can help. Visit northcoaststories.com/about for more information. 

Should authors self-publish or seek a traditional publisher?

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It is said that everyone has a book inside them just waiting to get out, and thanks to advances in self-publishing, getting that book out is easier now than ever. Authors who have previously experienced slammed doors from the gatekeepers (agents, editors, publishers, etc.) are skirting around these middlemen by going indie. By doing this, they are experiencing a multitude of benefits. Authors who self-publish can:

– write about whatever they want instead of what a publisher deems marketable.
– own complete control over the book process from start to finish.
– keep up to 70% of their royalties instead of paying the majority of the book’s profits to the gatekeepers.
– can publish as fast or as slow as they want.
– aren’t under contract.

Of course there are plenty of downfalls to being a self-published author, as well. An author who goes indie is in charge of making sure their book is formatted properly, has an enticing cover and title, is professionally edited, and so on. As you can imagine, this process can be quite costly. Producing just one book can cost more than $1,000. On top of that, the majority of self-published authors, especially those just starting out, won’t make back that amount…often not even close. 

Then there’s the purpose of those gatekeepers — there are many self-published books that should be edited and rewritten several times, but are still being published. Don’t get me wrong, there are so many self-published books that are wonderful reads. But there are also many that are, well, NOT. These books are the ones with the bad covers, the odd titles, contain spelling and grammar mistakes, and could probably use a few cuts.

Plus, self-published authors must do all of their own marketing, which is something that’s completely unnatural for writers. Often this can look like “Buy my book!” in a series of Tweets.

Finally, there are those who just believe self-publishing is an insult to the written word, as author Laurie Gough wrote on The Huffington Post in a controversial article that has since been shared thousands of times by irate self-published authors.

So what if you go traditional? The reasons to find a publisher are solid. With the backing of these book professionals, you get the golden stamp of approval that your book is quality. While a few lemons still squeeze by, in general terms, a traditionally published book has a good storyline, is free (or mostly free) of errors, and is an enjoyable read for those in its demographic. A traditionally published author doesn’t have to deal with much more than writing the book, as a team of professionals will edit it, format it, and give it a gorgeous cover. These authors have a straight shot to book stores and libraries, and they also land some pretty awesome speaking gigs, depending on the awesomeness of their agent. They have a team of professionals who want their book to succeed, as they all have a vested interest in this book.

However, traditional authors are not free of some of the harder aspects of the book business — namely, marketing. Both traditional and self-published authors must market their own books, and it’s in their best interest to have a solid platform (mailing list, social media followers, etc.). For traditionally published authors, this is even more important. I’ve heard some publishers refusing to even talk to an author unless they have at least 50,000 fans on Facebook. That’s a hard number just to get in the door, especially for an author who is just trying to get discovered.

A traditionally published author may find they have less control over their books than they want. They may be on contract to write a certain number of books, or to slow down their publishing process. They may be told they can’t write a certain book because it’s in direct competition with one of the publisher’s other authors. They may be told the story needs to lean in a different direction to match the market, even if the author disagrees. They may not even be able to write what they want at all, just to be able to continue working with that publisher.

Finally, there’s the money thing. Sure, there might be an advance, but it’s usually small. Plus, selling enough books to make up that advance is no easy feat. Once the gatekeepers have been paid, there really isn’t much left over for the author.

So which is better? As a self-published author myself, I still lean in that direction. Sure, I’ve yet to hit the big time. However, I love the control I have over my own books, and I can still see the possibilities. If I go traditional, I might make more money. But I just can’t fathom giving up that control.

But maybe I’m wrong. Whether you publish indie or traditional, share your triumphs and gripes in the comments below.

Note: This post is also published at crissilangwell.com.

If you’re looking for help with formatting, editing, proofreading, or other indie author services, I can help. Visit northcoaststories.com/about for more information. 

 

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How will readers find you?

I was searching through Amazon today for an interesting book to read, and came across one with a great cover and intriguing title. I clicked on it and read the description of the book. It sounded good, but I wanted to know what other people thought about this author’s writing. The book had just recently been published, so it still had no reviews, so I clicked on the author’s name to see what other books he had written.

This is where I discovered two things. First, there were a lot of books under this author’s name. Second, this author didn’t have an author page set up on Amazon, so it was unclear how many of these books actually belonged to him, or if they were from another author of the same name.

Still curious, I did a Google search of this author’s name. The only thing that came up was a Goodreads list, and it wasn’t even created by this author. There was no website, no social media, nothing to help a reader find our more about this author and how they can read more books this author wrote.

How are your readers finding you?

Every author needs the following:

Website/blog: This is the part of the internet that you own. Here is where you can create a page for all of your books (complete with what they’re about and where to buy), share a little bit about yourself, and list every place readers can find you on the web. With a blog, you can draw readers in with occasional essays, thoughts, and stories. A blog also makes your website more searchable, and helps new readers to discover you.

Online retailer author page: If you sell your books on Amazon, you must create your own author page there. Same goes for other online retailers where your book is for sale. Readers who enjoy your books are going to want to know a little more about you and what other books you have written. Wouldn’t you like to control the information they find? Creating an online retailer author page is very simple, and is an absolute must.

Goodreads author page: Goodreads is where the readers are. Give them an easy way to find your books, and also to share news about your books to other potential readers by owning your author page and making sure all your correct books are listed under your name.

Social media: Having a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. helps you to brand your name as an author. It’s incredibly important for these social media channels to be under your author name, and not as a book. You are branding your name. You want people to read everything you wrote, not just a particular book. Also, having social media is just one more way for your name to be near the top of online searches. With social media, think about which ones you will honestly update, and go from there. At the very least, you should have a Facebook page, which you should try to update regularly.

What are some ways you’ve made it easy for readers to find you? Leave your suggestions in the comments.

What should you post to Facebook?

FacebookThis post is for authors just starting out with a Facebook page.

Welcome to Facebook Fan Pages! I know it’s a bit daunting to look at that blank page, the status bar telling you to write something, but you don’t know what. It’s especially hard when you don’t have many fans who will even read what you write.

Don’t give in before you’ve even started. I’d like to give you a crash course on using your Facebook page as effectively as you can, even if you feel awkward in the beginning.

First things first, make sure you have a profile picture and a cover photo. Your profile can be you, or it can be your book. On my own author Facebook page, I like to use my own photo most of the time. But when I’m getting ready to release a new book, I will change it to show my book cover. For the cover photo, you can choose scenery, a collage of your books, or anything that gives readers another clue as to who you are. But make sure the cover image is big enough to fit in that space. Nothing looks more unprofessional on a Facebook page than a pixelated image for the cover photo. The exact dimensions are 851X315 pixels.

Next, make sure your Facebook page URL is the exact name you want it to be. In your “About” section, go to Facebook Web Address and change it to the desired name. Otherwise, your URL will add a bunch of numbers to the address, making it look clunky.

Finally, fill out your “About” section with your bio, your website, and anything else you want readers to know about you. This section is checked more often than you think, and can be your readers’ first impression of you.

Now, what to post!

First, the rules.

  • Be authentic. Be yourself.
  • Don’t spam your readers with “buy my book” posts
  • Refrain from politics or hot button issues (unless your books are about politics or hot button issues)
  • Post at least once a day, if possible.
  • But don’t over-post, or you’ll lose readers.

With that out of the way, here are 10 things you can post about on your Facebook page:

  1. A blog post you’ve written.
  2. A quote from your book.
  3. What you’re reading now (NOT your own book).
  4. Something funny that happened today.
  5. Something inspirational that you saw online or in your Facebook newsfeed.
  6. A  quote from another author or influential person. (hint: go to canva.com and  create an image out of it!)
  7. A top 10 list of books your readers would enjoy if they like yours.
  8. News of an event or reading that you’ll be presenting at.
  9. News about your book release, or a sale on your book.
  10. A photo of you writing, living life, or just plain having fun.

Please note, only two of these ten items are about YOUR book. A good rule of thumb is to follow the 80-20 rule: 80% of your posts are NOT about your book, and 20% of your posts are.

Another thing to note: your page views will be small in the beginning. Don’t stress about that number. Keep posting content that people will want to like, comment on, or share, and that number will go up. You just need to   be consistent.

Have questions? Or do you have other ideas on things an author can post to Facebook? Leave a note in the comments!

P.S. Follow me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/northcoaststories.