Your Relationship with Your Editor

Author’s note: I currently have three posts ready to go, but all of them are somewhat controversial, and I’m having trouble finding the courage to hit the publish button, so I thought I’d write this one as my second book, The Blood Mage, is headed to the editor on January 30th (11 days, eek!)


In the end, what makes a book valuable is not the paper it’s printed on, but the thousands of hours of work by dozens of people who are dedicated to creating the best possible reading experience for you.

~ John Green

I’ve written about the importance of professional editing before. Recently, however, as I slog my way through edits for my second book, I’ve come to appreciate the relationship I have with my editor much, much more.

You see, as I did some quick research for this post, which was originally set to be a piece on why professional editing is so important for indie authors, I came to realize a lot of writers have a contentious relationship with editors. Some of the things writers have said about editors is… less than kind.

I can’t help but wonder if this uneasy relationship is created more by the writer or by the publishing house. I do understand it’s difficult to have your work critiqued (you can check out a short retelling of the temper tantrum I threw when my manuscript came back from the editor in the blog I linked to above). But I also have to wonder if some of this unease comes from the traditionally published author being forced by his publishing house to work with an editor he doesn’t click with.

Not every professional relationship in your life needs to be the perfect fit. It doesn’t matter so much if you like your accountant, for example. It helps, to be sure, but as long as everything is done properly, there doesn’t really need to be chemistry. There are some professional relationships, however, where chemistry is extremely important. Editors fall into this second category (therapists, doctors, and teachers also come to mind).

And I’m not talking about chemistry in terms of you and your editor are BFFs, although some writers do share that relationship with their editors. I’m talking about professional chemistry which, in my experience, is premised upon mutual respect and, most importantly, trust.

Trust, especially in the self-publishing world, is incredibly important, because let’s be honest, there are a lot of people out there trying to scam indie authors (and succeeding at it). We don’t have publishing houses behind us to protect us from these people. A lot of us don’t even have agents. Publishing houses and agents will protect traditionally published authors because it’s in their best interests to do so. But, as in all things indie, we must fill that void and step up to protect our own interests, which means finding an editor we can trust not only with our money, but also with our writing.

All this leads me to a few bullet points which are indicative of a good relationship with your editor:

  • Your editor is enthusiastic about your work. If your editor isn’t proud to put his or her name on your book, something is wrong. My editor was as excited about my book launch as I was. She shared my book on her social media platforms and put it in her newsletter. If she hadn’t been excited to put her name on it, I would have been very, very worried. Your book is not only a reflection of you but also your editor, and if your editor doesn’t want to claim it, you might have a problem.
  • Your editor takes time to listen to your concerns and questions surrounding her suggestions. The editing process should be a collaboration. We are indie authors for a reason. This is not the way it used to be where editors in publishing houses were handed the manuscript and a red pen, and the author was handed a blindfold and handcuffs. All right, this is an exaggeration, but you get where I’m going. One of the nice things about being an indie author is increased creative control. This means that your editor should never be steamrolling you. Improving your manuscript should be a conversation, and your editor should be happy to participate. My editor is very intuitive about my characters and my writing, so to be honest, I don’t usually have a ton of questions for her, but when I do, her responses are always thoughtful, and most of the time, I end up coming up with something that is a combination of my vision and hers that works better than either of our original ideas.
  • Your editor is interested in your long-term success as an author. This actually is just good business sense. Your editor should want you to be successful so you keep coming back. Also, the more successful you are, the more their reputation grows. An editor interested in maintaining long-term relationships with clients is an editor who is vested in the success of their clients. My editor helped me answer questions related not only to writing, but also to the industry. When she didn’t have the answers, she would point me in the direction of someone who did. She wants me to succeed, because it will help her succeed. This should always be a symbiotic relationship. An editor who couldn’t care less when your next book is coming out, is an editor who isn’t invested in you or your career and by extension, your writing.

If you have these three things in an editor, you’re probably well on your way to a good relationship. And trust me, in this industry, you’re going to need it.

For a list of editors to consider, I will refer you to Joanna Penn’s: http://www.thecreativepenn.com/editors/

For information on my editor, the fabulous Katie McCoach, visit her site here: http://katiemccoach.com/

Have any other advice for a happy and healthy relationship with an editor? Add it to the comments!

Happy editing everyone!

❤ Aimee

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I shared this on my Facebook the other day and thought it was appropriate for this post. I’m so proud to have published my debut novel with an all female team. Girl power, y’all.

 

Step by Painful Step

I recently shared with you how and where The Wheel Mages was born. Now, I want to share with you the more technical aspects of how 238 handwritten pages became an eBook and a print. This is only a skeleton of what went into the launch of The Wheel Mages and some things were not successful or how other authors would do them. I learned from the launch of my first book as most authors do and hopefully you’ll find some help in those failures.

Step One (May, 2016): Beta Readers

In May, 2016, I started soliciting beta readers for The Wheel Mages. I’ve read recently that some authors don’t use beta readers, but for me, this was a crucial step. Beta readers will help you save money on editing costs and will immensely improve the quality of your work. When you send your manuscript to your editor, you want to send the best possible version. You want to hand your editor something that you feel confident you could publish tomorrow. That way, when the editor gets it, he or she will be able to dig deep into the work and help guide you to the next level, beyond even your own expectations.

I found my beta readers by putting out a call on Facebook. I posted a brief synopsis of my manuscript and asked if anyone was interested in reading it for me to tell me what he or she thought. I was fortunate to get a lot of great feedback and interest. Not only did this call help me find beta readers, it also helped me gauge interest and potential target market. The people who responded to my call were the people who were most likely to become future readers.

I intend to write an entire post on beta readers in the future, so I’ll leave you with this: don’t expect your beta readers to blow smoke up your ass. If you’re looking for someone to tell you your work is perfect and not to change a thing, you’re not ready to publish yet.

Step Two (May, 2016): Cover Art

I did this a little bit out of order. For the second book in my series, I intend to send my book to the content editor (see Step Three) before I hook back up with my designer for cover art. The reason I did the cover art for The Wheel Mages before I did anything else was to give myself a little bit of encouragement. Once I paid that invoice, there was no going back. As soon as there was a book cover with my name on the front, I was committed. It helped give me a little bit of bravery I needed.

My cover art and all the graphics for my website, Facebook page, Twitter, etc. were done by Fiona Jayde Media. I found Fiona through Google research. I viewed the portfolios of dozens of artists before I settled on her. It’s important to note that finding a cover artist who works in your genre is important. People do judge your book by its cover. Make sure you pick an artist who not only creates a breathtaking cover but also understands your market and target audience. Remember: I write because I have to, I publish to make money. To make money, you have to create something appealing to your audience, not you. If you find the right designer, you’ll hopefully end up with both, but if your designer tells you that your idea for a cover isn’t right for the market—listen. They know what they’re doing, that’s why you’re paying them.

Step Three (July, 2016): Content Editor

In July, after I’d overhauled my manuscript based on the great insights provided to me by my beta readers, I decided it was ready for a content editor. This step is important. I cannot stress enough how crucial it is for your manuscript to be reviewed by an editor before it’s published. A book coming out of a publishing house would never be sent to print without being reviewed by editors (plural). In order to compete with the publishing houses, your book has to be a professional product, which means it has to be handled by editors. My editor, Katie McCoach, has a great blog on this explaining it from an editor’s perspective which you can read here.

If you’re serious about writing, you’re also serious about the process. Editors are arguably the biggest part of the process (perhaps even bigger than writing the dang thing). A good editor will better not only the manuscript in front of them, but your future writing as well. They’ll help you evolve as an artist. They’re expensive, there’s really no way around that, but they’re worth every penny.

I found my editor on a list provided by the fabulously successful indie author and fierce advocate for self-publishing, Joanna Penn. Joanna’s insights are incredibly helpful and I highly recommend reading her blog, following her on Facebook, and listening to her podcasts. She is a wealth of FREE knowledge.

Step Four (August, 2016): Re-Read 

After I received my manuscript back from Katie, my content editor, I spent a few days mulling over her critique. I think as artists our gut instinct is to go on the defensive when receiving critique, even when it’s handled well. The reason I find Katie to be such a fantastic editor is because she tells me what I’m doing right as often as she tells me what I’m doing wrong. Both are important.

Still, receiving feedback is never easy. It feels like a gut punch to the soul. Let me be completely honest with you here. When I received Katie’s first critique of The Wheel Mages, I was an angry, snarling beast. I was like a toddler throwing a temper tantrum. She didn’t GET it. She didn’t UNDERSTAND. She was blind to MY VISION. I couldn’t believe I’d paid her so much money.

I received her report on Friday, August 5th. On Monday, August 8th, after I’d had time to settle down and think, I re-read the critique and realized she did, in fact, get it. She wasn’t blind. She had her eyes wide open. I was the blind one. I was the one who didn’t understand she was trying to make my vision more accessible to the reader. She’d done everything I’d asked her to do and more. It was time to suck it up and stop being a petulant child because there was work to be done. I sent her an email on August 8th and fibbed a little (Katie: If you happen to read this, sorry!). I didn’t feel the need to share my gut reaction because the gut reaction wasn’t helpful to anyone. Instead, I told her my new truth—her critique was insightful, well thought out, professionally presented and, most importantly, helpful.

Then, I got to work making revisions. Shortly thereafter, I sent her a revised version of the manuscript for a re-read.

Step Five (October, 2016): Copy Edit

After the re-read and more revisions, I felt like I was ready for a copy edit. I chose to work with a copy editor that works with Katie. By that point, I knew Katie well, I was pleased with her work, and wanted to stick with people she recommended. A side note, it’s pretty important to trust your editor. If you feel like you’re being taken advantage of, you probably need to find a new editor. The copy editor Katie suggested was a little bit more expensive than I had originally budgeted, but when I saw a sample of her work, I decided it was worth it.

Step Six (November, 2016): Publishing

In November, after my book came back from the copy editor, and I’d reviewed and made decisions on her changes, I started to shore up the last pieces of the puzzle. I worked on formatting (formatting for print is the absolute worst, by the way), I launched my website, started an author Facebook page, got myself a Twitter and an Instagram, filled out tax information on the platforms I’d decided on, purchased ISBNs, and spent an incredible amount of time floundering around like a fish out of water. Here’s a brief overview of what services I used and how I’d fix errors I made:

ISBN Numbers: There’s only one place you can purchase ISBN numbers in the United States and that’s from Bowker. It’s really important to know that you need a different ISBN number for every single version of your book so if you’re going to sell a print version and an eBook, you’ll need at least two ISBN numbers. Smashwords, which is a distributor for indie authors, says you need a separate ISBN number for every online retailer as well, so if you distribute your eBook to Amazon and Apple, you need two distinct ISBN numbers. This advice seems to be somewhat different depending on who you talk to and Smashwords appears to be taking the most cautious approach. Regardless, it makes the most sense to purchase 10 ISBN numbers at the very least.

Website: WordPress. I actually started working on my website in the late summer. This was a great idea and for those who aren’t technologically savvy like me, I recommend it. Working with websites is hard on me. I get frustrated easily when it comes to technology, so having lots of time where I’m not pressed up against a deadline worked in my favor. Website designers are super expensive, so if you don’t have a limitless amount of money in your budget, this is probably something you’ll do on your own. Be patient with yourself.

Social Media: I have a Twitter, a Facebook and an Instagram. I briefly dabbled with the idea of launching a Snapchat but I don’t understand Snapchat and running a blog and three social media accounts while working full time, editing my second and third books, working on a fourth, taking care of three animals, and trying to maintain a home is already probably too much.

eBook Formatting: To format my eBook, I used Vellum. Vellum is an Apple-only product (sorry PC users) and it was a Godsend. All I had to do was plug in my Microsoft Word file, choose a format I liked, and Vellum created all the file formats I’d need for publishing. It. Was. Awesome. And all for the low, low price of $29.99.

eBook Platforms: My book is currently directly uploaded on Amazon and iBooks. It’s also registered with Smashwords where it’s distributed to a bunch of other smaller retailers, including Barnes & Noble.

Printer: To create a print on demand version of my book, I used CreateSpace. For me, preparing the book for print was the most painful part of the process and the one I made the most mistakes with. First of all, in hindsight, this would be the very first part I prepare. If I could do it all over again, I would’ve set the print up weeks in advance. This was by far and away my biggest failure with the book launch, so I’m not about to give you any advice on it except to tell you CreateSpace is the way most indie authors do it and warn you to learn about the process in advance. Way in advance.

Whew. Okay, this blog is already 2,000(ish) words, so I’m going to cut it off there. Keep your eyes peeled for a future blog containing more detailed information regarding the above and some things I didn’t do and why.

❤ Aimee

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Editing: 5 Words to Purge

The first draft of anything is shit.

~Ernest Hemingway

There’s no rest for the weary when it comes to writing. Yesterday, in between tweets, Facebook posts, nervous jitters, and somewhat obsessive checking of Kindle Direct Publishing and iBooks (side note: not recommended), I worked on finishing the third round of edits for my second book in the Changing Tides series. That book, working title of The Blood Mage, is set to head to the content editor on January 20th.

If this process has taught me anything, it’s that precision in language is an oft talked about but highly underrated concept. Every author has words he or she uses too frequently. These are your “crutch” words. Some are common to almost all writers (and people in general). For example, one of my crutch words is “so”. When I got The Wheel Mages back from the copy editor, I was informed there had been 495 instances of the word “so” in the manuscript. The final word count for the version that went to the copy editor was 104,117 words, meaning I used the word “so” about once every 210 words. It doesn’t seem like a ton but it is. In the final version, there were approximately 300 instances of the word (or once every 350 words or SO).

“So” wasn’t my only problem, though—not by a long shot. The following is a short compilation of my most commonly overused crutch words. I hope it helps!

1. Just:

An interesting note about “just”: I know we think we know what it means but it’s used incorrectly all the time.

“Just” as an adjective means: “based on or behaving according to what is morally right and fair.” This is the form of the word used correctly (mostly).

“Just” as an adverb is the form I often use incorrectly. It means: “exactly” or “very recently; in the immediate past.” Often, I use “just” to mean “simply” or “only”. Think of the phrase: “I just don’t want to do [x or y thing]”. We don’t mean, “I exactly don’t want to do” or, “I very recently don’t want to do” we tend to mean, “I simply don’t want to.”

Ex: “A knock on the door made me jump but she just sighed.” This can be revised to say: “A knock on the door made me jump but she simply sighed.”

“Simply” is actually what I mean. That’s not to say “just” can’t be used in an incorrect or colloquial way it JUST means if it can be avoided for more precise language, it should be.

2. That:

This is a filler too often used. Most of the time, “that” isn’t necessary at all and can simply be removed. My most common use of the word “that” precedes a verb.

Ex: “…the odor of mold that seeped from the walls.” This can be revised to say: “…the odor of mold seeping from the walls.”

Less words are always better. It strengthens your writing and your wallet (many editors charge by the word).

3. And:

This might be unique to me but I have a tendency to enjoy conjunctions. I like compound sentences. There’s something about them that flows better in my mind when I’m writing. By the time I get to editing, however, it’s time to cut the shit as Hemingway so eloquently put it. Oftentimes, an “and” can be eliminated by a simple period.

Ex: “They were narrowed with suspicion, and I couldn’t blame her.” This can be revised to say: “They were narrowed with suspicion. I couldn’t blame her.”

I think I use the “and” to join the two thoughts in my head but it isn’t necessary. The second thought comes directly after the first without a paragraph break in between so they are joined without the need of the unnecessary word.

4. Then:

“Then” was a killer with me with my copy edit as well. It was my second most overused word. I think this probably relates back to my love of long sentences. For some reason, short sentences sound jarring in my mind the first time I read them. Therefore, I tend to avoid them. Interestingly, “then” can be replaced with “and” in many instances (at least in my writing) so if you’re overusing “and” replace it with a period and use some of those extra ands you’re gaining to replace thens!

Ex: “I threw a ball of water into the air, then pulled my hands apart to break it into rain.” This can be revised to say: “I threw a ball of water into the air and pulled my hands apart to break it into rain.” 

Neither the word count nor the meaning of the sentence changed much but if “then” has been overused in your manuscript (as it was in mine) this is a handy trick.

5. Very:

I don’t think this one requires VERY much discussion. It’s almost always on these lists. It’s unnecessary fluff in almost all instances. Treat “very” like an exclamation mark. It will have a greater impact when it’s used sparingly.

Bonus Word(s):

Was + Verb(ing) This is common in my writing and I’ve seen it used a ton. A much stronger action combination is the simple past tense of the verb.

Ex: “His anger was eating away at him.” This can be revised to say: “His anger ate away at him.” 

Think of “was” as the flimsy word propping up another flimsy word. Instead of two weak words, combine them to create one strong word!

Double Bonus:

Could + Verb is something I use frequently as well and the advice is the same as my advice for was + verb. “Could feel” is my most common error and can be replaced by “felt”.

Happy writing!

Aimee

The Magic of Self-Editing

Since I’m in the middle of an editing extravaganza (T-minus 13 days until the second book is due to the editor), I thought maybe now would be the time to publish this article that was half written regarding my editing process. The title is tongue in cheek, by the way, there is absolutely no magic to be found in editing, just hard work and practice that can sometimes seem like magic.

For clarity, this post will focus on self-editing, but that isn’t the only kind of editing I do. I will discuss how I choose beta readers, content editors and copy editors in other posts down the line. These folks are a crucial part of the process, and I wouldn’t want to undervalue them because I’m worried about word count.

Now… because I like lists, Ima make one!

1. Writing

As I’ve said, a large majority of my writing/editing happens in the bathtub, with coffee. I write everything by hand before I type it. I do this for a few reasons, 2/3 of which are silly. First, I write in the bathtub and that’s not an awesome place for a computer. Second, I think it’s romantic. Third, and this is the only one that really matters, it slows me down and helps me cut words, which is a big deal for me. Before I adopted this method, I was writing ridiculous 150,000 word monstrosities (not good). Note: Word count is not everything, and of course there are tons of books with high word counts that everyone loves, but it is a good indication you might have some unnecessary fluff going on in your work.

While writing, I let my bad habits run rampant. I used to try to perfect my work in draft form but that level of care led to burn out. Advice: Fill the page. Be creative and have fun, leave the perfectionist at home and get words down. You can go back and give yourself a hard time later.

Writing is the fun part. It’s why I keep doing this. I love creating. If I could make a living off sitting in the bathtub, drinking coffee and throwing words onto a page, I would totally do it. But I can’t. I don’t even think J.K. Rowling can. It’s simply not how it works. Part of being an author (a bigger part than writing, IMHO) is editing.

2. Draft One

Once I have smoothed out all the wrinkled legal pad pages and transcribed them onto a computer, I have a draft, a manuscript, if you will. At this point in my process, my manuscript doesn’t look anything like a finished book. It’s basically a bunch of characters sighing and rolling their eyes while I vomit adverbs all over the page. Here’s a 430 word sample (so less than 2 book pages at 250 words industry standard). I know I’m taking a risk in publishing this bare bones format, but hey, if I can publish my sales to the world I can publish this, too. Please note, however, the following excerpts are NOT representative of a finished product, they’re simply stepping stones. Bonus, this is from the new book! It doesn’t give anything big away, so no spoiler alerts necessary (I hope), but it does involve an interaction between two new characters (Lukas and Odeth) oh and check it, Celine is back y’all!

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sample-1-2

I do perform some minor self-editing when I’m going from the handwritten version to the typed version, another plus about handwriting first, a free editing opportunity (yay).

3. Editing Draft One (By Hand)

Okay, so now I have this manuscript. What next? Well, I turn it back into paper (sorry, trees). I print out what I have, double-sided and smaller margins, so I can at least try to be less of a jerk to the forest, and I take that back with me to the bathtub. After I’ve made some coffee.

On this first edit, I’m not looking for perfection. I’m looking for glaring errors (including glaring grammar errors), anything that doesn’t make sense and elimination of my personal writing vices (I see you, adverbs and gerunds). I read dialogue aloud to see if it sounds right. I rewrite awkward sentences. I tell my characters to STFU and stop sighing. They might be trying to prevent chaos, but at least they’re not editing.

Eventually, I end up with this:

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4. Editing Draft One (Typed)

I edit about five chapters before I make changes in Word. Any more than that is too much for me. I also take breaks between editing sprees. During these breaks, I work on something new to recharge my emotional batteries and to remind myself I really do like writing.

I make changes in red-line. A lot of people don’t like red-line, but for me, red-line makes me feel accomplished. I like to go through a manuscript and see it all marked up. Every time I see red, I see an improvement. This attitude took time to craft, but it’s served me well.

Below is the same excerpt in red-line. I’ve added comments outlining the reasoning behind each edit. These comments are not reflective of a long thought process. At this point, most of my first draft editing is instinctual, but that’s only made possible through practice. It was a really fun exercise to ask myself why I do what I do and go back to basics. I think this little piece about editing will make me a better writer, so that’s cool!  As a side note, there are 73 edits in this 430 word excerpt.

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5. Rinse and Repeat

What you see above is only the first round of edits for the first draft of this one scene. Right now, I’m on my fourth draft. For me, the biggest edits happen after the manuscript comes back from the beta readers and then again when it comes back from the content editor (for the first time). For this one 430 word scene (which looks totally different now), there have been 148 edits before it’s even been to the editor. There will be more, so many more the amount of edits will probably at some point exceed the word count. And when it’s finally published, I’ll probably wish I’d had more time and made more edits.

Advice: Edit until you’re proud of your work, then edit again. Edit until you want to rip your hair out, then keep going. Edit until you want to burn the damn thing. Edit until you think you’re making it worse. Take breaks, but don’t let the breaks last too long. Keep pushing. Reward yourself. Remind yourself that this is hard, but it’s okay. Allow yourself to feel frustrated and angry, but don’t allow those feelings to overwhelm you into giving up. Journal. Eat Panera broccoli cheddar soup, but get back to work. Creating is painful. It’s okay, we’ve all been there, and you’ll get through it.

But also be conscious of a stopping point, because it’s never going to be perfect. When you start flipping words back and forth, or you are no longer connected to your characters, it’s time for a new set of eyes. I gauge my need for a new set of eyes based on the excitement I feel for my characters. When I was writing The Wheel Mages, I sent the manuscript out to beta readers too soon. I was still super pumped on my characters and wanted to share them with the world, but they weren’t ready to be shared.

After my manuscript came back from the beta readers, I realized my mistake, and I edited until I was sick of my characters. I hated everyone, especially Alena. But it made my book stronger, because by the time my content editor received it, I had taken it to its limits (at that point). A good editor will re-energize you. Take advantage of that and edit until you’re just about to lose interest in your work, then send it.

Take a deep breath. Let it out. It’s going to be okay. Now, go edit.

❤ Aimee