Friday, November 10, 2017

Does Your Book Editor Have a Spirit Animal?

If you have ever gone through the process of getting your book edited, you know it can be pretty vicious. Your precious words strung together as beautiful as a garden, only to be plucked, pruned, chopped down, and uprooted by an editor.  It's painful, but necessary. It's grueling, but worth it. If you haven't gone through the process quite yet, here are some tips for you.

When you are considering a book editor for your project, keep this simple idea in mind. They must be a LION who can oversee the field, guarding the whole thing overall.  They must also be a FIELD MOUSE among the grass, making sure that every tiny thing is in order.

If you are an editor taking on this challenge, know this:  A person who proofs websites or catches typos in a book they are reading is not a book editor. An editor must be able to define and hone a through line for the author. You must be able to look beyond the typos and make sure the book  makes sense as a whole for the author's stated goals and intentions. It is not the same as editing a school paper, or a business plan.  Books are another animal entirely!

Consider the amount of responsibility a book editor is taking on.  You have prepared your story to the best of your ability. Hopefully, by the time you hand it over to an editor, you have exhausted all of your rewriting, and you don't have another thing to add.  That's when your manuscript is in shape for an editor.  As far as the editor goes, this is the most important element of book preparation. You have written a compelling story, but the editor has the job of polishing it up to a high luster.  It's a huge responsibility -- and one that should be reserved for those who have experience with editing books.


  • Not your mom (I know she would be brutally honest -- No, seriously, I know you are totally serious, she would not be nice about it. She would tell you the awful truth no matter what.).  
  • Not your son's wife who works at a bookstore (I know she knows what makes a good book, but her next job could be selling clothes-- and that doesn't mean she is a fashion designer.)
  • Not your professor who is the head of the English department. (Simple, they work in 10 page increments. Not a book.)
  • Not your friend who catches typos in every book she reads. (That's proofing, not editing.)
  • Not your spouse who reads profusely and would tell you the truth. (Not if he doesn't want to sleep on the couch.)
  • Not your sister who is the editor of the town newspaper. (This is dynamic editing that only has to live for a moment. A book is static and will be around for years as is, for the most part.)
  • Not your daughter who is a student in creative writing. (She has her own style and may try to impose it on your book.  Plus, she likely doesn't have the life experience to know what she doesn't know yet.)

But the real reason behind not using those people as your book editor?  Because they love you. They care about how you feel. They fill in blanks they don't even consciously know they are filling in. The subconscious sympathetic reader says, "Oh I know what he meant." And that happens without them even realizing it. But a new reader doesn't know you. They won't know where to fill in blanks, and so things won't make sense and they won't know why. You know what else? When these guys realize the responsibility they have in polishing your book to it's best form, they might not be able to tell you what they need to tell you.

You can hire a qualified book editor. After being involved with nearly 1000 books, we use editors we know and trust and have worked as book editors for years. We interview and interrogate and sample each new editor we consider. It's worth it!

If you are interested in editing someone's book, realize the weight of the responsibility you are undertaking, and make sure you are qualified to take on this important task. Do a few books as an apprentice with a qualified and experienced editor overseeing your work. Ask an author who is using a qualified book editor if you can observe their editorial notes and the whole process so you can see how it is done.

Bottom line, do your due diligence in finding a qualified book editor. And to those who wish to edit books: do your own due diligence, and know what you are getting into.  It's too important to take lightly.

Have a good weekend!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Your Publisher Can See Your Hot Pink Polka Dot Undies!

I often explain to my clients and prospects that during the writing, editing, and publishing process, they may feel as if we are rifling through their underwear drawer -- and it really does feel that way.
I feel it too. I often know way more about a virtual stranger than I want to know, but it is necessary because authors are sharing their inner most thoughts through their writing.

Call it the Bermuda [Shorts] Triangle, if you will.  And if you don't feel like that, well, I say you aren't done with your publisher yet.

Here's a brief explanation ...

On the top tip of the triangle you should ask yourself one or more of these questions whether you are writing fiction, nonfiction or children's books:

Do I know enough about the topic to write this book?
Should I tell this story?
Is this story mine to tell?

This first point is something you will have to analyze from within.  An author questionnaire that goes deep into your platform, your experience, your knowledge and your goals will help you determine the answer.


On the second point, ask this:
Will anyone care?
Will anyone buy my book?

The second point is answered by some good research.  Is there a market for this book outside of your mom reading it and saying she couldn't put it down.


On the third point, it's personal and deeply hidden within from one's third grade teacher's glare. It's the thing that stops a lot of writers in their tracks. Consider these questions:

Am I paralyzed by the fear of using incorrect punctuation?
Will people be surprised/disappointed/judgmental about my grammar?
Will I be embarrassed by my horrible spelling?

This is the one we want you to stop worrying about. If you are hiring a qualified book editor, let them help you. Your job is to drive the car and let the editor be the mechanic. (P.S. We have book editors.)


Now, write your book and realize that you are in the same boat as every other author.

End of my Analogy Salad for today.

Ingram Spark Music-On-Hold

Dear IngramSpark -
If I am taking the time to call you, I'm probably having trouble with something. Your website usually takes care of any issues I need to correct for all of my clients.

However, your Music-on-hold selection plays a couple of notes continuously, and I can feel my blood pressure rising and rising and rising.  And I have consistently good blood pressure.  Please, change it or answer the damn phone.

Thank you,
A customer

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Epitaph for the Epigraph

"The nice thing about quotes is that they give us a nodding acquaintance 
with the originator which is often socially impressive." 

Kenneth Williams, Acid Drops (1980)

What is an epigraph? It's a short statement (a quotation, an idiom, a poem, etc.) that comes at the beginning of text, but the words are written by a different author who is usually cited after the statement.

I am not a big fan of using famous quotes or epigraphs of any kind in books. Why? Because it doesn't do anything to further your voice as the author. It validates the person you quoted, and usually that's about it.

The worst thing that could ever happen to an author is that you get on a fabulous show, the interviewer reads your book, and during the interview says something like, "You quoted Winston Churchill at the beginning of Chapter 2. Tell us about that."


Now you are in the position of telling the interviewer why you chose the Churchill quote, what it means to you, and how it relates to your book. What will the audience remember? The Churchill quote.

Why not use pull quotes (highlighted text pulled from the main body of the text) from your own insightful prose? You have ideas. You have profound thoughts. You have wisdom. Your words are valuable too, and you are the first one who should honor them. Why not celebrate your own wisdom and talk about that when given the chance? After all, you want that interviewer to say, "Mr. Author, at the beginning of Chapter 2, you said something profound. Tell us about that!"


"Craft your thoughts into such profound wisdom that 
future authors will endeavor to quote you in their own books."

Lisa Pelto, CMI-Keyring, 2017


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Would You Let Me Cut Your Hair? Be Your Attorney? Fix Your Car?

In 2004, when I started my business helping people open their own micropublishing houses and publishing books, I had already assisted in the publishing of well over 150 books, audio books, and videos for trade distribution, corporate and non-profit publishers. To this day, 33 years into my publishing career, I strive to learn something new every day -- and my staff does as well.  Publishing changes daily, and there are many options -- one of which is right for a specific author and book. Today, we have advised, published or fixed hundreds and hundreds of books in a myriad of different ways.

Experience, continuous research, connections, respect for the industry and respect for the profession are important to me, and they should be important to you.  Experience and wisdom matter. 

Why am I concerned? I'm hearing and seeing more and more potential for trouble every day...
  • I read an article a while ago that contained publishing advice from one-time authors on how to publish. A library had the authors on a panel to talk to would-be authors. 
  • An illustrator who had never done anything other than illustrate a book stepped in to help a first time author.
  • I found a publishing blog where a first time author was dispensing advice on how to publish before their first book was even on the market. 
  • In a course catalog for a community college, I saw another first time author giving a whole class after uploading one poorly designed and edited ebook, offering it on Kindle's KDP Select free promo where they had 20,000 downloads -- and 500 scathing reviews as a result. 
  • I found another piece where a young professional and recent first-time author himself actually charged thousands of dollars posing as a publishing expert to publish another person's book (very poorly and with dangerous mistakes).  He was eventually sued by the author for incompetence.
The problem: None of these people had actually ever performed the massive number of tasks publishing requires -- they had all used a "self publishing company" or an author services company similar to my firm to get published.

It's like...
I get my hair cut and colored by a trained specialist. 
Doesn't mean I am going to open my own salon.

Or even...
I buy suits, dresses, slacks and tops at a department store. 
Doesn't mean I'm a fashion designer that could whip you up an outfit any time soon.

Or better yet...
I have contracts drawn up for me.
Doesn't mean I am qualified to open up my own law firm.

OK, one more...
I own a car, which I drive every day. 
Doesn't mean I'm qualified to overhaul your engine.

So, what should you do?
There are plenty of experts out there, folks. Do your due diligence when researching publishing and make sure the people you are listening to actually have first hand experience and real knowledge -- and that they have actually published more than just their own book through some POD house (and btw, make sure it is well edited and designed and doesn't look like it was done by their 19 year old first year design student).

And if you are an author dispensing advice, be aware that people may actually be spending real money -- actual hard-earned dollars -- based on what you tell them. Be honest with people and share your own story, but make sure they know that is just your own story and that you had assistance performing the actual publishing part.

Finally...Don't assume that "self publishing" means you have to do everything all by yourself. You don't.  You can hire experts for work you don't know how to do yourself (hint: owning design programs does not make you an expert in them, nor does it make you a designer).  Do your research, and be prepared to pay a fair price for the services. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Is Your SWOT Team Ready?

What are Your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats in Your Publishing Venture?

Putting together a business plan can be daunting, especially for creative types (i.e.: authors). Authors are often perplexed as to the inner workings of a business plan. Over the next few blog posts, I'll explain a few things that can help you dig deeper into the business end, without causing too much pain and anguish.

Here are some examples of SWOT items you'll want to examine:

STRENGTHS (usually in your control): These are things that you currently have that give you a unique selling proposition (an edge over your competition) that you can focus your marketing efforts on. Knowing your strengths helps you deliver a product that your readers and buyers will love. 
  • Your knowledge of subject matter
  • Your platform
  • Ability to adjust timeliness to market
  • Features you are able to include
  • Financial resources
  • Time availability and presentation skills
  • Fans
  • Good distribution strategy

What else makes you and your book special and gives you an edge?

WEAKNESSES (usually in your control): These are things that you either need to overcome or accept. This isn't a job interview where you are going to say "My biggest weakness is that I care too much and work too hard."  Dig down deep to know what weaknesses you currently have in your platform, your marketing, your book, and your businesses. Then figure out what to do about them.
  • Limited resources (time and money)
  • A narrow window to get your book out
  • Limited knowledge (or unknown author)
  • Poor product development
  • Too many book printed or not enough
  • Poor distribution strategy

What do you need to improve to make you and your product or service more viable?

OPPORTUNITIES (usually out of your control): Here, we are looking at what else could possibly affect you. Is your book about a person who could end up in the news? Did you write about how astronomy works when they could discover a new planet? Could your once crazy idea of an adult coloring book suddenly have a new market because some psychologist said it calms people better than valium?
  • Unexpected news pickup for you, your book, or especially, your topic
  • A law change in your favor
  • A celebrity is seen using it
  • Changes in product environment
  • The subject of your book becomes news
  • Sudden market interest and ability to scale

Are you keeping an eye on the world outside of your window for these opportunities?

THREATS (usually out of your control): Finally, have you tied your boat to a moving dock? Can something outside of your control have a significant impact on your success? Is someone else coming out with another book at the same time for the same niche audience (Hint: this could also be an opportunity)? Will the distributor that you are counting on suddenly go out of business with all of your stock in their warehouse?  "Threats" is a hard one because you are testing the unknown, but it is valuable because it forces you to look outside of your own four walls.  Cast a wide net here.
  • Time (election cycle noise during your launch)
  • Disorganized delivery methods for scaling up or down
  • Legislative changes not in your topic's favor
  • Change in the product environment (e.g. a book about a website craze that unexpectedly decides to change platforms a month after your book's release)
  • Financial market catastrophe
  • An endorser commits a heinous crime

Are you building time bombs or other features into your book that may cause early obsolescence? Are outside forces a significant factor?
An entrepreneur should always look at this analysis in depth before going into business, as well as assessing each area continuously. This is a dynamic process, with ebbs and flows; what is a threat today could be gone tomorrow.  What is unseen today, could be an opportunity tomorrow.  

Besides, it's kind of fun.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Favorite Post Replay: Don't Overdirect the Hairdresser!

I am posting this again because it is so relevant now and always.  It originally posted in 2011, but is one of my most visited blogs every year....

Rinse. Repeat.  Don't overdirect the hairdresser.  When you hire a professional to assist you because you have never done something before, listen to them (you are paying them after all).  How do I know this is good advice?  The first time I decided to change my hair color, I sat down and told my stylist exactly what I thought she should do. She suggested otherwise, but I insisted. As she predicted, it looked awful.

Embarrassed, I went to another salon and said "Who's best at short hair techniques?"  They suggested Kimberly.  I told her "I'm hiring you to look at my face, coloring and overall image and do what you think will be best."  Then I trusted her to do it, and I continue to trust her to do what she thinks will look and work best for me, my image, changing hair color techniques, and my lifestyle.

The same holds true for hiring any expert...
Hire people you trust, validate them, and then trust them to do the job you hired them to do.  It's hard sometimes, and the control freak that gets all those other projects done every day may not know everything that is required to do the job at hand.

That is why you hired an expert to help you!

Originally published August 11, 2011