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