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Posts tagged with: publishing

Freelance Editor Etiquette

Yesterday’s post showcased freelance editors who are either Rubies or recommended by one of us. Today, I’ll build on that information by discussing some rules I follow in my business relationship with my freelance editor.

Honestly, I cannot write a book without my freelance editor. She’s been the developmental editor (and serious brainstorming partner) for every book I’ve published. Because I appreciate her and the excellent work she does for me, I am motivated to keep Laura happy.  Here are the informal guidelines–Editor Etiquette–that I use with my freelancer.

Crazy Town…Or Should I say “Crazy Business”?

A few weeks ago I as I rolled through the flat, hot backwoods of Louisiana, a song by Jason Aldean came on the radio – “Crazy Town.” Now if you’re a country music fan, you’ve probably heard it. As I listened to the words, it occurred to me that while I don’t live in Nashville, I exist in a pretty crazy, confusing, heartbreaking, soul stirring world of publication.

Now, some of you might not be published yet, and that’s cool because if you’re a smart writer, you’re paying attention to what’s happening every month, week and day in the publishing world. And if you’re smart writer (or even if you’re not so smart) you know that no one can make much sense of how to break into the big leagues anymore than those singer songwriters in Nashville playing night after night wondering why their ship doesn’t crash into the dock…yesterday.

I’ve wasted more time than I care to admit wondering this sort of thing myself. Where’s my ship? When’s it coming in? Do they know what pier I’m on? Cause I’ve been waiting a little while now and…where the hell is it?

As you may sense, I’m not so patient. LOL.

Recently I had the luck of catching the eye of a pretty good writer. She read my book The Sweetest September when it finaled in the Rita Awards a few years back. She was very complimentary, which we all know lifts us a little bit higher off the ground when we walk, and she was kind enough to mention my books to her friends….her writing friends. And they, in turn, read the book. One such writer was one who is known to populate the NYT Bestseller lists, and she reached out to me to ask a bit about my journey, and we’ve formed a friendship. Which is cool, right?

Absolutely.

Because the cool thing about having this accomplished writer as a friend is the invaluable advice I get. I’m telling you guys, I rubbed my hands together, greedily awaiting the magic advice that would get me over the hump, that would thrust me into the next level of the business. My name would be in lights…or at least in the Barnes and Noble, for cripe’s sake. But you know what her advice was?

Be patient.

Yes, be patient.

In a world scrambling to write faster, write more, market more, form a FB group, get a tribe, get a loss leader, run a sale, get a Bookbub, don’t wait to promote, another newsletter, giveaway, giveaway, write a novella….do you have a loss leader???? this writer is telling me to be patient and write good books. That’s her advice. In a nutshell (help! I’m in a nutshell). And you know, it sort of hit me upside the head.

Because I’m always trying to figure out how to do better with my sales. Are you?

I bet you are.

But the thing is, we can chase our tails until we fall out, flat exhausted on the floor, with not much to show for it. See, this writer reminded me of something I’ve always said (that may only make sense to me) but is my motto – the story is the thing.

You’re like, okay, yeah, so, you still gotta do stuff outside of writing a good book. And you’re right, but what I’m advocating is not tossing out your newsletter or running from FB parties, I’m saying that you have to write good books, you have to be patient and you have to be ready for success IF it happens. Because the fact is, for most of us, we won’t be wildly successful. That’s just fact. So all that stuff we panic about, the stuff we wonder if we should be doing, can actually be harmful to the thing that is THE MOST IMPORTANT and that’s the actual writing. 

While my son was at tutoring last week, I picked up a copy of The Naked Writer by Jennifer Probst. Often I browse the romance section and then invariably wander over to the writing section. I love that section. It’s like coming home in one way. I know I belong in that writing section because I’m a writer. Most of the time I don’t buy, but over the past month, I’ve entered this philosophical tough, pissed off girl stage where I’m just mad about my situation. It’s not a bad situation, but still I chafe at the constraints. I can’t make people buy my books, I can’t make my publisher give me promotions, I can’t make myself a success. I just can’t. And that’s pissed me off. Because I should be doing something. Maybe a Goodreads giveaway? Anyway, because I’m in this weird mood, I bought this book. This morning I read the first chapter. Damn, but it was good. It pulls together exactly what it is to be a writer. The story is the thing. And only I can write my story. In my room. By myself. With my computer (and coffee…let’s be real about that).

So what am I telling you? I know you’re wondering. Well, I’m saying you will go through times where you panic because you feel like you can’t keep up. You will go through times where you feel impatient, antsy, pissed off. You will doubt yourself, hate your friends (even though you love them), bow to buying 500 purple pens because surely that will sell more books, but in the end know that this is part of being in a crazy, changing business.  

But when it gets too noisy, chuck the crap and focus on what’s important – the writing.  In the words of Jason Aldean (or whoever wrote the song) “We love it, we hate, it, we’re all just trying to make it. In this crazy town.”

 

A Cautionary Tale

It’s been said that, in a courtroom, the man who represents himself has a fool for a client. Something similar can be said for a writer who does his or her own editing.

StarshipIn an earlier blog, I mentioned fine-tuning my SFR and that it became a cautionary tale in and of itself. Here’s what happened:

Some of you know family obligations made it impossible for Cuz to relocate when his employer chose to move.  With him facing unemployment, we decided to polish a manuscript that, although begun as a writing exercise in the 90s, would not die. Unsure whether those old ideas still had merit, we entered the first chapters into a contest and—Hallelujah!—they did. To ice our little happy cake, while the story sat, SFR emerged as a viable genre. Whoopee!

Reality soon changed whoopee to whoop ass—with mine in its sights. Half the chapters remained in WordPerfect®, the program we had grudgingly abandoned when Word® rose to industry dominance. Some existed only on legal pads. The last handful were doc. and docx. files.

Have you any idea the garbage a story can collect over nigh eighteen years? Upon seeing the merged files, I darn near had a coronary. Over 120,000 words, huge gaps, duplicate scenes, missing scenes, more inconsistencies than I care to enumerate, and despite comprehensive profiles, the characters had morphed. Oh, and no ending. That’s right. At 120+K. It. Was. Not. Finished.

But wait. There’s more. Since we were having so much fun, circumstances added a smidge more crazy.

My CP, who planned to help us navigate indie publishing’s vagaries, announced her impending out-of-state relocation. In a strange twist, although they didn’t know each other, Cuz and her hubby worked for the same outfit.

Yay.

With the deadline approaching and beta-readers waiting, we escalated to panic mode. I settled in to work. I kid you not when I say I gained about fifteen pounds because I did little but sit and type until I sent the story to the readers.

Nobody liked the hero. Too alpha. No evidence of a softer side. The heroine, while likable,  didn’t fare much better. The villain . . . Well, you get the idea.

I returned to my chair and, comments in hand, knuckled down.

Many sleepless nights, pots of coffee, and PB&J sandwiches later, we had something viable but, given its age, realized holes we stood too close to see might yet exist. Both Cuz and I have solid general science backgrounds and experience within specific disciplines. Neither of us can claim more than a basic grasp of physics, however, and we had, of course, ventured there.

Pooling our resources, we hired a developmental Sci-fi editor who, we were assured, had experience with romance.

While he found several oopsies on the physics/space-science front, making him well-worth his hire, his comments and handling of the love story declared ours wasn’t the story he wanted to read. Unfortunately, what he wanted to read, we didn’t want to write.

We thanked him and parted ways.

I’ve done plenty of editing during my life. These days, it’s mostly for my CP, but in years past, I edited publications, ads, form letters—Yeah. Fun stuff—and books that eventually found place in traditional publishing. I could handle this. No sweat.

Thus, without fanfare, I donned motley and joined the fools’ ranks.

More eighteen and twenty-hour days behind the desk followed. My feet swelled. My hips spread. Each tick of the clock, it seemed, claimed another strand of hair.

Somehow, between midnight phone debates, sometimes-grudging compromises, incessant typing, and gritty eyes, time ran out. Cuz and CP made the long trip, squishing into my dinky office to navigate the publishing process.

After an almost nineteen year gestation, the book went live 25 January 2015.

It wasn’t ready. We knew it. We priced it high to discourage buyers, but like proud parents who refuse to believe they created an ugly child, kept the pictures on display. 

People bought it. Our family and friends led the way, but we sold too many for just that forgiving group.

Instant panic—for me.

Cuz moseyed on to Book Two. I couldn’t make him understand Book One of a series carries the weight of every book that follows (we have three gestating), and ours didn’t have the muscle yet. Our developmental editor had become so fixated on the alien pronoun usage several discrepancies and plot holes evaded his detection just as they’d escaped mine—until I read the book in print.

Nightmares had nothing on this mess. The book bled red ink. Depression, a specter most writers battle at times, found a foothold. I republished over and over while fighting the demon (I forget how many print copies I bought. I can’t seem to see this stuff on the computer), enduring Cuz and Hubble’s jokes about how anal I was and their advice to let it be. No argument made either male understand why I persisted. The months that followed proved hellish.

On 1 August 2015, I downloaded The Sword & the Starship for the final—I hope—time, and can, at long last, say I’m proud of it. It’s sixteen pages and several thousand words leaner than its January incarnation. The bits that went nowhere are gone. The timeline issue has been resolved. The hero and heroine boast complete character and emotional arcs. As for the villain? No complaints.

AND (cue Angel Choir) Cuz has finally seen the light.

Here’s what we learned:

1.) Hiring a content or copy editor would have been wise. Despite determined attempts at objectivity, my knowledge of the story and characters led to ill-advised assumptions, skimming, and more reworking than there had to be.

2.) Nothing catches errors quite like the ear. Read the book aloud. Hearing it read works, too—if you can avoid zoning out.

3.) Not all editors are created equal. While grateful for the solid science, we would have been better served by an editor who shared our vision for the story.

4.) Trust yourself. If your inner voice is screaming, listen; it’s probably right.

5.) Chair time is not always time well-spent. Get up. Move. You can’t think very well with your blood cushioning your tush. You’ll accomplish more with it energizing your brain.

6.) Sometimes, in the long run, it costs less to spend. If you work best with print, then print. While shredded paperbacks are excellent soil-enhancers, and pages spread over soil stop weeds, they’re expensive alternatives. Your flowerbeds will be just as happy with computer paper. Better a garden than a landfill. 

7.) Publishing sites have draft modes. Unfortunately, I noticed the option too late. We could have learned what we needed without risking our—or our book’s—reputation. Instead, we went all in, releasing it during its almost-but-not-quite-ready-yet, chrysalis stage—a decision we might yet regret.

So there you have it, my cautionary tale. If you take nothing else from it, take this:

Some things never attain their potential if they’re rushed, so don’t cut the chrysalis. 

Wait for the butterfly. DSCN1118

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Schooled in Publishing

I know what you’re thinking…usually the term “getting schooled” doesn’t have a good connotation. Used on the basketball court or in a competitive game of chess, it means someone totally better than you whipped your butt good and “schooled” you on how things are supposed to go. We’ve all been schooled. Part of living.

But I also think of “schooled” as a good thing…or at least it has been for me over the past two years.

A Who’s Who of Publishers

Sitting in a workshop last week, listening to a panel of Kensington editors, one of them commented (I believe it was Audrey LeFehr, but it might have been Alicia Condon) that she was surprised by how many aspiring authors come to the conferences without doing even the slightest research about publishers.  Those bright eyed hopefuls (us) are trying to sell our books (of course!), but they (okay, we) sometimes have NO IDEA who these editors are, or even who Kensington is.  There are oodles of publisher spotlights at the National conference designed to inform authors of just this, but we’re talking about the most basic primer.  So that’s the goal of today’s post.  A VERY basic (and by no means complete) look at the publishing houses that handle romance.  This can serve as starting point.  A simple frame of reference, so when you’re chatting with Alicia Condon and she says she is a Kensington editor, you don’t give her a blank stare.

And please, if you have corrections or additions (or questions), feel free to add them in the comments.

If you are a member of RWA, you can also refer to their member’s only publisher information.  And Brenda Hiatt’s Show Me the Money site is also a good reference point for a ballpark estimate of what romance authors are making at various houses.

DISCLAIMER: None of this is intended as an endorsement or indictment of any publisher.  Please do research before submitting to any publisher.

Darynda Jones: First Grave on the Right

Today is release day for Darynda Jones’s debut novel, First Grave on the Right!! We’re here to celebrate with virtual applause and confetti, and find out all about Darynda and what makes her tick.

Darynda and I have known each other for years. We belong to the same RWA chapter and have exchanged stories a few times. Nothing earth shattering, just the random, “Does this suck?”

Mine? “Yes.”

Hers? “Heck no!”

*Shea seems to be “projecting” here, as she can write me under the table on her worst day. Blindfolded. With her hands tied behind her back.

Oh, if that were only the case. (sigh) Darynda’s awesomeness surpasses mine by leaps and bounds. Her witty dialogue and paranormal hijinks will have you begging for more.

I’ve been lucky enough to read First Grave on the Right and loved it. I’m cross-my-heart-hope-to-die excited about Darynda’s book — I shall love it and pet it and call it my own, the cover is that pretty — and I’m equally excited about this interview, so let’s not waste any more time!

[If you’re on the Festival site, click the blue title line, above, to read the rest of the interview]

Sisters Who Sold: Our Cluestick Moments

Jamie Michele’s recent blog entry, “Writer, GMC Thyself,” concluded with a question: “Have you ever fought to achieve a goal, only to get it and realize that it wasn’t what you really wanted?”

I mentally edited that question to read, “Have you ever fought to achieve a goal, only to get it and realize that it wasn’t what you really EXPECTED?” and I responded (in part):

“…But I’ve written that book and started another, and sold them. I fought hard to achieve that goal, and I’m still sorting out the ways my expectations have been met – and the ways they haven’t.”

Expectations can be strange things, based upon knowledge, a complete lack thereof, or something in between. It’s the “lack thereof or something in between” – the surprises! – that I’d like to chat about today.

The Latest Comments

  • Autumn Jordon: Is it wrong that you’d want your favorite books buried with you? I have a shelf of books that...
  • Addison Fox: That’s an awesome point, Vivi! Using this from the character’s POV is an incredibly...
  • Addison Fox: Thanks, Diana!!
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  • Vivi Andrews: I love this Addison! I also love the idea of putting it into our books. No one us trying to be the...

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