Why do writers need editors?

editing-apps-800x600Before you say, “Duh!” please remember that some people have lots of self-confidence. Others can crawl off into a mental state and ignore the world around them, which can be considered a skill in the writing biz, but conformity is comforting to readers. Other writers seem to think that the rules don’t apply to them, like ee cummings. A few insist on ignoring the red and green squiggles that the word processor uses to offer help in eliminating common mistakes. Writers suffer from any of those problems, or have other idiosyncrasies that make editing necessary. Yes, I considered dealing with editors to be something of a pain, because I am self confident and not afraid to break a few rules.

However, I have learned quite a lot from writing teachers and editors. Friends and family will offer a few tips, but if those friends really like you, brutal honesty is off the table. Sometimes the distance combined with authority that goes along with having an editor is transformative. My first novel was a hot mess when it finally got a full length reading at the micro press that ultimately put it through line editing. My second novel was better, but still needed a lot of work in the editorial phase, beginning at conceptual, then line by line, and finally, proofreading. At that time, WCP did not pay proofreaders, instead relying upon volunteers, which was a bad business decision. My work suffered from that lack, as a few errors made it into the printed work, and sales were less than optimal.

Publishers seldom take on a fiction manuscript that isn’t complete, which leaves out the project development phase. Once the novel is finished, most writers will attempt to put it into the hands of either an agent or a publisher. Problems with style or continuity may crop up at this stage, but if the work is compelling, those can be addressed. What most people consider editing is copy or line editing, which is a line by line examination of grammar, spelling, mechanics, and style. Any “big changes” in the manuscript probably occur at this stage. The back and forth over details can be annoying or even funny, but most problems in the work are solved at this phase. Once, an editor challenged me on a detail where I described a man wearing a glen plaid suit. I thought it descriptive, but she thought it was a weird description that no reader would understand. Ultimately, the description remained, but that is the kind of thing that comes up in line edits.

Before printing comes proofreading, when any style or content changes have been addressed—so what’s left is a last look at spelling, capital letters, and adjustments to make the page layout work. I remember the copy editor at Whiskey Creek Press had to substantially change one sentence to avoid a page with a single word on it, and I was okay with her changes.

A good editor makes printed work better—by questioning, suggesting changes, and insisting on being absolutely correct. Real editing makes the author’s work shine, without the distractions of mistakes or inconsistencies. Nowadays, many people think that word processors have made editors obsolete. Unfortunately, that is simply wrong, and writing is suffering mightily. Errors abound, and the solution is a great editor who reads and corrects. Technology is advancing, but it cannot replace editorial expertise.

So you want to be a successful author—

book and moneyWhile I am pretty sure I don’t qualify as successful in the author department, I made enough mistakes to write (or rant) about the topic. Here are some tips, in no certain order, for those who are writing with the intent to publish a book, or for those who have published but are lacking in sales.

First, write the best book you possibly can. Yes, that should go without saying, but writing is like photography or cooking in that no matter how good you have done it, you can get better. There is no such thing as perfect in any of those endeavors. However, don’t publish unless it is really ready. Mistakes in print are embarrassing!

Next, find a real publisher if you can. Not necessarily one of the big companies (although if that happens for you, whoo hoo!) There are a lot of small and micro presses that can get a book into print and into at least some distribution channels, which leaves more time for the author to help with promotional activities and keep writing. A small company, Whiskey Creek Press, published my second novel, and while my sales were low, any money I spent on promotion was voluntary. My debut novel was initially accepted by a micro press, but when it failed, I ended up using a self-publisher called Booklocker.

Third, if you end up self-publishing, do so at minimal cost. Many authors have published via the Amazon Kindle Direct program, which is free. Yep, that’s right, free. I published the second edition of Trinity on Tylos via KDP, and my only expense was a fancy new cover by Dawn Seewer (which was entirely optional.) I disliked the first cover, which was done by an artist at Whiskey Creek Press, and I thought the book deserved a better effort, and Dawn did a great job for me. Another self publishing program that I am considering is Smashwords, which offers many free services. For most self published authors, the distribution channels associated with Smashwords are fantastic.

Fourth, once the book is ready to debut, get the marketing plan in motion. There are lots of books on this topic, as well as a gazillion websites. I’ve had some success with using Facebook groups, such as Ebook Rave, Kindle Book Authors, and Sci Fi and Fantasy Authors . Those have worked well in conjunction with sales and freebie promos, but bear in mind that I have low cost Kindle titles. Under “links of interest” on this site I have a few other spots that I’ve used for promotion, including “Book Goodies” and “Goodreads.” Having an author page on such sites is not necessary, of course, but doing so usually offers links for anyone who “googles” your author name.

Finally, the most important pillar in promotion is reviews, and lots of them.  If friends and family will write a review on a vendor site, such as Amazon or Barnes and Noble, that’s great, but most of us don’t have that many friends. Also, such reviews don’t carry as much cashé as a professional or semi-professional site. Do send your books to as many of those as you can find and afford. Don’t ever pay for a review, beyond giving a copy of the book. Paying for reviews is wrong on both sides of the equation. If the author pays for a review, then there’s a bias that makes the review worthless for the reader. Unless the book is an eBook only, then there is some expense in distribution of the ARC (that’s advanced reading copy) or published book, so it is best to send the book(s) to appropriate sites, because some sites only review certain genres. There are any number of review sites, and these do come and go fairly frequently. My first novel, The Gift Horse, had several reviews online within a year or two of publication, but apart from those on Amazon and one archived on The Midwest Book Review, they are gone! Therefore, if you get an online review, don’t just save the link, but archive the content, too!

When I first published The Gift Horse, I was invited to do some speeches to local clubs, and I sold a few books via that avenue, but as publishing and self-publishing became more common place, those opportunities dried up faster than blackberries in late August. I also got a book signing at a book store after Trinity on Tylos came out, but it was a very lonely afternoon. If those opportunities come your way, enjoy them, but books and eBooks must be purchased via online vendors in order to make any real money, and that means social media marketing. If you are here, clearly you know what a blog is, of course, and having an author website is usually a good idea. Marketing is an ever changing field, but as of this post, you must get to know Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and other modern means of communication in order to build an audience for your books.

Oh, and as footnote to “finally” when readers like a book, they usually look for another book by the same author, so you’d best be writing another book, too.


A few books on marketing:

How to Market a Book

Guerrilla Marketing for Writers

The Frugal Book Promoter

Book Marketing 411 for Authors

And a couple on having a book worth the effort:

Don’t Sabotage Your Submission

Writing the Breakout Novel

Free for Three promo

For those who prefer to shop at home on Black Friday, here’s an unbeatable deal—my science fiction novel, Trinity on Tylos, is free for three days. Why run it for free? That’s simple, really. More readers should mean more reviews and some word of mouth testimonial. So, here’s a link to the novel, which is free on November 29, 30, and December 1.

Trinity on Tylos, Mulberry River Publishing edition

ToT_cover_final_webLGAfter six years, Trinity on Tylos is going to be available for  I’ve priced it at $2.99, the same price as my debut novel, The Gift Horse. For this new version, I went through a copy of the eBook and made every effort to eliminate some of the errors in the original. However, there are no substantial changes, as I was fairly content with it, apart from the proofreading, which was a problem with the original publisher.

The new cover was designed by Dawn Seewer, who did the cover for The Gift Horse. The background depicts the landscape of Tylos IV, with the ships in the sky. The models in the foreground are Venice and Azareel, and I think the artist did a good job. A few of the readers of the original printed novel told me that the cover didn’t really convey the serious nature of the novel, so I hope that this new cover touches the bases.

For those who haven’t read it, here is the original synopsis that I used when shopping the manuscript:

What sacrifices must an officer make to save her shipmates from certain doom? Venice Dylenski, the young security chief of the colonizing ship, Excalibur, is faced with this dilemma after her captain makes a critical error in judgement in an encounter with an alien with superior fire power and a hidden agenda.

Trinity on Tylos begins as Venice experiences an embarrassing moment on a survey mission, one which rules out yet another planet as a hospitable home for their colony. While continuing its search, the Excalibur encounters the Archeons, an alien race characterized by gray-blue skin and a facility for language. The interchange results in Venice and a crewmate, Alathea Duke, being taken captive by the mysterious Archeon captain, Azareel. In short order, he informs them that they will play a critical role in revitalizing his dying race, that of surrogate mothers to genetically engineered Archeon offspring.

Venice, reluctant “to be the next Archeon soccer mom,” strives to escape, but her companion seems all too willing to cooperate with their captor. Thus the stage is set for multiple conflicts between human and Archeon, human and human, and humanoids verses the hostile environment of their new planetary home in the Tylos star system.

Trinity on Tylos has the elements of a good space opera: complex characters faced with myriad problems to solve, set in a future where man may have escaped the bounds of his solar system, but not the bonds of human emotions.

 

 

Going, going, almost gone

TrinitycoversmThe Whiskey Creek Press version of Trinity on Tylos is about to become a bit of a collector’s item. When it was first published, I was mostly pleased, although the final edits were rushed and far too many mistakes made it into the print copy. The paperback was not of the best quality, either. The ebook, at least the one I got from the now defunct Fictionwise, was far worse. What few royalty reports I received indicated low sales, and even lower royalties. At one point, I was getting seventeen cents per ebook sale, and a typical quarterly check was about five bucks.

When the book came out, in 2006, I sought out speaking engagements, author-guest slots at science fiction conventions, and I did quite a bit of internet promotional activity, hoping to help Trinity find an audience, and to do my part to help sell the book for WCP. By 2007, I realized that the sales were not going be as good as my self-published debut novel, so I spent far less time promoting it. But, WCP continued to be a disappointment, too. Just to get Amazon to list it, WCP required that I purchase two copies at full price; then, initially, the title was misspelled on Amazon’s website. Eventually, the print book was listed correctly, and I did have a couple of very good reviews on Amazon, as well as several from other sources. When Amazon’s Kindle format began to take on increasing importance, WCP indicated that eventually all of their titles would be available for the Kindle. While Trinity on Tylos was available for the Nook, it was never converted to Kindle format. My original contract was for two years, but I did not ask for my rights back, in part because I hoped WCP would eventually pay me more royalties, and that they would support the book. And, to be honest, I was very busy with my adjunct instructor job, as well as being mom to teenagers, so I didn’t push either promotion or accountability from WCP.

After years and years of zero communications regarding sales, I can only conclude that either there were no sales or WCP kept all of the royalties. I will never know which. I’ve maintained a website, with promotional materials, links to vendors, and so forth, at my expense, and I finally came to the conclusion that WCP was never going to pay me anything ever again. Anyway, I did ask to have my rights back at the end of last year, via email, and there was no response. I asked again recently, via snail mail, and while I still have not heard a word from WCP, I noticed today that Trinity on Tylos is no longer listed for sale by Whiskey Creek Press nor by Barnes and Noble. Amazon still has it for sale, but they list the one lonely copy, and I do remember that I paid for it in 2006. I’ll bet it is quite shopworn by now!

Fellow WCP authors are in a bit of an uproar, because WCP has been sold to a New York firm, Start Media. Some of those other authors have suggested that I self-publish it, as they are doing with their own books, and I have talked with Booklocker about doing the formatting and cover. Since I don’t have a clean copy of the manuscript, I’ll be doing some editing before doing anything else.

In the meantime, Whiskey Creek Press is going, going, soon to be gone. Various interent sites have chronicled the demise of this small press, and much of the dirt is recorded here. For whatever reasons, I’m sad, which is illogical, because the publisher hasn’t been paying me or even bothering to respond to email. And there is little solace in knowing that I am not the only author that they deemed not worth a simple email.

Online, Typos Never Die

I’ve been an English teacher for more than thirty years. That’s scary. And, during most of those years, I have tried to help students make their writing better. Or, as my current supervisor says of her own career, “For years I thought I was combating ignorance; then I realized I was just documenting it.” Yes, we English teachers spend a great deal of time looking for mistakes.

Whenever I do web design, one of the wonderful things about it is that electrons are ephemeral. I can correct mistakes and the problems go to some cyber-heaven. However, once words are online, other entities copy those words, usually without credit or permission, and typos just keep on turning up.

Periodically, I use a search engine to keep me abreast of online use of my novel titles. Seldom does any reference to “The Gift Horse” have anything to do with me, since the phrase is widely used. “Trinity on Tylos” seems to be unique, however, so any use of those three words in that order should refer back to my science fiction novel. Recently, a Google search for “Trinity on Tylos” led me to a site called Vampire Raves. Someone posted my novel’s back cover blurb on the site, but the source was apparently Amazon, rather than the book itself. How do I know that? Here’s the story—

When the publisher’s printing partner, Paw Prints POD, first posted it on Amazon, the title was Trinity on Trylos. It took me quite a while to correct that. But the description, which is that back cover blurb, misspells the main character’s name. One of my teacher friends from long ago often mentioned a colleague, Venice. I wanted an exotic, yet human name for my futuristic character, so I swiped it. Quite frankly, I stole the last name from the social pages of the Athens, Georgia newspaper, so the main character is Venice Dylenski. However, Amazon’s page, which was created in part by someone from PawPrints, called the character Benice Dylenski.

Indeed, a search for that name yielded ten results, and none of them are Vampire Raves, so there are undoubtedly other sites which have this same error. Just how many sites have posted this incorrect copy from Amazon? I have no idea, but it does illustrate that one mistake can go a very long way online.

There is something even more scary about that.