Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Get Ready for Your Own Super Bowl at the Ask the Editor Free-For-All

You may or may not be rooting for one of the teams in the Super Bowl on Sunday, but you should be rooting for yourself. Get ready for your own Super Bowl of writing, whichever may be your choice: finishing a manuscript, submitting one to an editor or agent, or perhaps self-publishing.

You don't have to do it alone. Our Editors are all ready to assist and keep you from fumbling.

Here's how we do it:

Today, and every first Tuesday of the month, The Blood-Red Pencil hosts Ask the Editor Free-For-All.  I send out e-mail invations to various e-groups, Facebook, social networks, blogs, and anyone else I can think of, to come on over and ask our Editors questions. You'll receive valuable tips about submitting  manuscripts, publishing on Kindle, e-books, self-publishing in various formats, along with writing basics.

Don't be bashful. No question is to dumb. We all start somewhere.

And, if Editor here can't supply an answer, we'll recommend someone who does.

To Submit A Question, Follow These Steps:

Leave a comment in the comment section below. Be sure to include your name and blog url or website, not only for promo, but also so we know you’re a real person. (One link only, please!)

One or more of our Editors will drop by today and answer your question in the comment section. If it seems your question may need a longer explanation, the Editor may later devote an entire blog post on your topic. If that's the case, you'll be fortunate enough to get extra promotion, along with the possibity of forwarding your profile and book cover jpegs and buy links.

It's not required, but helpful if you leave an e-mail address along with your comment. It also doesn't hurt to mention where you've heard about our Ask the Editor Free-For-All.

Since others will be asking questions which you may also like to know about, you're invited to check back to see what shows up later. Since some of you are on e-group Digests, questions and answers might carry over through Wednesday or Thursday.

That's how the game is played. Now, get ready for your Super Bowl. Ask a question and get an answer.

----------------------------------------------------




Morgan Mandel
http://morganmandel.blogspot.com
Killer Career 99 cents on Kindle
and Smashwords


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43 comments :

  1. I realize these questions are for editors but I'm interested in the current thoughts about the onrush of e-books, and how soon you think they'll overtake printed books?

    Books for Boys Blog http://booksandboys.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. If you're interested in getting into editing, does it matter what type of writing you have experience in editing when you are starting off? Is all experience good experience or should you be a bit more choosy about which direction you're trying to take your career in (say fiction editing for example). Any hints for those starting out?

    [Insert suitably snappy title here...]
    http://kathmeista.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  3. What is the best way to pick someone, (an editor) to edited your book and one that won't change the meaning of your work?

    JD Holiday
    http://www.bookgardenpublishing.net

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  4. At what point, as a indy and self-published author,have you sold enough copies of your books that a traditional publisher and agent might be interested in offering a contract or representation? 5,000 copies? 2,000?

    Celia Hayes
    www.celiahayes.com

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  5. How difficult is it, as an editor, to balance house style with the author's style? As an author, I know those changes are difficult to make sometimes, but I also realize the house style is there to protect the publisher's branding. Just curious about the editor's perspective :)

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  6. Apart from blogging and Facebook, how can indie authors of eBooks market their work?

    http://www.truemiracleswithgenealogy.com
    xtrafam at yahoo dot com

    ReplyDelete
  7. As a writer with a few novels published, I do occasional editing for friends. I sometimes worry that I am being too picky. (I was tough enough to accept criticism from a string of paid editors) I don't want to put the writer off but on the other hand neither do I want his (or her) manuscript rejected. Apart from points of grammar which are easily corrected, and presentation, which is usually assisted by publishers' guidelines, there is the question of POV. Sometimes to correct this, can mean a radical rewrite. Likewise if there is too much telling rather than showing, and author's hand is too much in evidence. I'm inclined to state the problem and say 'It's up to you.' Just how perfect must a manuscript be for it to get accepted? If the storyline is 'different' and publishable would in-house editing be done? Alternately, would the manuscript be accepted with the proviso that the author make the revisions? OR would the manuscript simply be rejected?
    I have no idea how original this particular story is. I am wondering if it might be worthwhile if he sent a couple of chapters and a synopsis for appraisal somewhere. Being told a project is feasible, even if in need of reworking, would make further effort worthwhile. Whereas, to spend much time reworking a dud, can bring about misery with repeated rejections.
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=g+b+hobson&x=19&y=19

    ReplyDelete
  8. Max, I haven't checked the sales data lately, but eBook sales are increasing rapidly as more and more folks give in and buy a Kindle, Nook or other reader. And since folks can also download free Kindle and Nook apps for their PCs, and most of the eBooks are cheaper than their print versions, it's a pretty attractive option. I think there will always be print books, and I continue to enjoy the best of both worlds for reading and for publishing.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I had several novels published by a now-defunct small press, and would like to submit them to large houses, but I heard that once a book is published, other publishers don't want to look at them. But my former agent, now retired, said if they were published as trade books, I can send them to mass market publishers; all they require is past sales figures, proof I have my rights back, etc.
    Which is correct?

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  10. Hi Celia -- there are too many variables in that one. 2,000 copies in two days is different from 2,000 copies in five years. Smaller publishers might be interested sooner than large publishers. One agent or editor may like the book enough to take it on as a personal project.

    The key here is to get a buzz going in whatever promotional venue you can...so it's going to depend a lot on your own marketing plan.

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  11. Anne -- I've just put a book out for Kindle and Nook and am exploring that same question.

    In addition to my blog and Facebook, I use Twitter a lot. If your book is an out of print coming to life again as an ebook, check out: http://www.facebook.com/BacklistEbooks

    Those authors I know who've self-published are using the traditional promo methods, including blog book tours.

    ReplyDelete
  12. That's a great question, Kathmeista. Why? While many great editors are out there (both freelancers and employees of various publishing houses and printing companies), many who call themselves editors are, in fact, not qualified to transform a needy manuscript into a well-written story or book.

    The Editorial Freelancers Association lists the following kinds of editors: copy editors, substantive/line editors, developmental editors, and proofreaders. Some sites on the Web offer variations of these and include other categories. Each of these requires different skills, and none of us can do them all with equal competency.

    So let's look at qualifications. Excellent grammar skills should be a priority. A potential editor should be a reader and should possess good writing skills. It helps to be a writer because this establishes a connection with the client that is crucial to a collaboration that produces an excellent book. A fiction editor doesn't need to be a novelist, for example, but he/she must read; have a powerful sense of story; and be able to identify the weaknesses and strengths in plot and character development, dialogue, flow, continuity, effectiveness of scenes/details in moving the story forward; etc.

    I suggest that an editor starting out should contact a competent freelancer and explore the possibility of an apprenticeship, perhaps beginning as a proofreader for a professional who is willing to teach the skills needed to be a great editor. I have worked with fledgling editors to help them develop their skills and prepare them for flight into the world of editing. Actually, it's a good arrangement for both editor and student.

    Be honest with yourself. What are your skills? your interests? your strengths and weaknesses? Do you love fiction? Or is nonfiction your preference? Editing is intense work and can be as trying as it is exciting. Not all editors and writers are a good match; you need to "click" to make the project shine. Also, not all writers are amenable to changes; they're married to their words. This creates a challenging situation that may not be resolved in a way that benefits the book.

    More questions? Feel free to contact me or any of the other editors here. We're always glad to help.

    ReplyDelete
  13. FYI, I'm leaving the editing questions for the editors...they'll be along shortly, I hope, although at least one is already shoveling snow and others are hunkering down before the blizzard hits. I'm in Northern Colorado where we got very little snow this round but a whole lot of cold.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Hi Anon -- I don't know the answer, but would tend to listen to the agent's advice and give it a try.

    ReplyDelete
  15. JD,

    A competent editor will never change your voice or the meaning of your work. One good way to find out whether an editor is right for you is an interview. Ask questions. Request references. Send a short excerpt from your work (preferably the beginning) for a free sample edit.

    Then listen to your gut feeling. Are you compatible with this person? Does he or she listen to your concerns and fully answer your questions? Does she insist on doing it "her way" or encourage you to rewrite, perhaps even giving you a example of what needs to be done? Do you feel comfortable with the person, or does he/she seem to talk down to you? Again, go with the gut. It's seldom wrong.

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  16. Anonymous, who owns the rights? Who holds the copyright? You need to know.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Cindy, I'm a freelance editor, so I don't typically need to help my clients meet the criteria of a certain house style. If this is an issue for you, perhaps you should study the style of the house you're writing for…and be sure that house is willing to accept your finished manuscript for publication. Otherwise, you may have to rewrite to suit the style of a different house.

    Personal opinion: a great manuscript can be submitted to a competent agent who handles your genre and who will choose the house(s) that your style and topic fit. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. Perhaps this is why so many writers choose to self-publish or go with a small house/press.

    ReplyDelete
  18. JD, one of the best ways to choose an editor is to talk to him/her, either in person, via email, Skype, or submit a sample for them to look at. A lot of editors will edit the first ten pages as a sample. Find several editors you're interested in and have them all look at the same pages. Then you look at what they caught, what they thought was important for you to work on, who guided you and who rewrote your work, who explained why they were marking certain things.

    Do a test drive.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Anne, authors of e-books are discovering new ways to promote. You're right, blogging and Facebook are two of the ways. Also look at Twitter and some of the other networking sites. LinkedIn is now offering opportunities through groups, although promotion there is done more subtly. And virtual book tours, even for e-books, are very popular now. The founder of Blood-Red Pencil, Dani Greer, offers classes on conducting virtual book tours where you learn how to find the right blogs to host your tour. A lot of people are combining their blog with their website. I'm still a fan of a standalone website.

    Don't forget to get your readers/friends to review your e-book on the sites where it's sold. Reviews can influence potential readers. If GoodReads covers e-books, there's another avenue for you. Talk to other authors of e-books and find out what they're doing.

    It's great that you're looking for those opportunities.

    ReplyDelete
  20. If one editor at a publishing house rejects your manuscript, can you send it to another editor there?
    Thank you,
    Diana Rubino

    ReplyDelete
  21. I would like to follow along this lines of choosing an editor. I've done some copy editing in the past, but what if you're a writer who doesn't have a solid handle on grammar? How would you know which editor to choose? It's easy to say you're an editor, but if a writer doesn't have a firm grasp on some of the essentials, they could be paying for something and not getting the right advice.

    Thanks for considering my question.

    Cheryl

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  22. I may be prejudiced, but I don't believe you'd go wrong choosing any of the editors here!

    Morgan Mandel
    http://morganmandel.blogspot.com

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  23. Gladys: I have never once in my editing life worried about making too much revision work for an author. I specialize in developmental editing, so if something doesn't work, I help brainstorm fixes--but wriiting and revision is ALWAYS work, and if the author isn't willing to put in the time to make the book the best it can be, they WILL NOT MAKE IT in this industry. The must love the process and much as the product, in my opinion.

    Yet. The concept of "perfection" is elusive in creative writing, since style and voice, and every little twist and turn and flower planted along the way, can be called into question. The main thing I try to do, as a developmental editor, is point out what elements pop me from the story. You mentioned POV errors--that's a good one. I say, mark 'em! Why leave in there anything that is a detriment to the telling of the story?

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  24. Diana, most agents and editors say no. That's because any editor or agent who chooses to reject a project will pass it along to another member of her firm if she feels the manuscript would be of interest.

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  25. Diane:
    If I were you, I'd ask. I have heard that you get one shot with a house, and that submissions are computerized with name and title so that "no" is a final "no." But heaven help you if you take that advice when you could have had another shot! If you know it has gone as far as a committee decision, and the next editor is part of that same acquisitions committee at the same imprint, then I think you've reached the end of the road. But you may have a shot at another imprint. It never hurts to ask!

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  26. Diana: Since Patricia opened the topic of agents, I do happen to know that all agencies are not created equal in this regard. Some agencies support the founder's vision, and its agents work like a committee--a no from one is a no from them all. But other agencies are places where individual agents work alongside one another--Writer's House is one--and you can submit to multiple agents there. This is often at the website--but when in doubt, ask.

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  27. Cindy: House style versus author style shouldn't be much of an issue, either for the editor or for the author. House styles are in place to keep a consistency within manuscripts and across books by that publisher. But the details—which numbers are spelled, serial comma or not, proper formatting for em dashes, etc.—should not affect the author's voice or story and should not be personal to the editor.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Cheryl, this is why you go for the sample edit. And if you still aren't sure, run the edit by a former English teacher or professor or another person you know to be proficient in the use of grammar and punctuation.

    As for other considerations in the manuscript, you likely will recognize yourself whether the flow is improved, POV sharpened, etc.

    Morgan Mandel mentioned that the editors here are all competent. I agree wholeheartedly with that statement. If you want to contact one or more personally, please feel free to do so.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Cindy, L.J. Sellers noted that style does not affect voice or story. She's absolutely right. Still, it is good to know whether a house prefers the Chicago Manual, AP, some other style, or has one of its own. This can save you a lot of time in making a piece stylistically acceptable to a publisher if you are targeting one in particular.

    If you're not trying to please a specific house, then just be sure you are consistent in the style you use (Chicago, AP, or whatever.)

    ReplyDelete
  30. Cheryl: Unfortunately, getting bad advice is a problem in every industry, whether automotive, medical, or editorial. You can't avoid it, because what one person might say is great advice another will contradict.

    So to keep it real, what I'm going to say conflicts a bit with what my fellow grammarian at this site, Linda Lane, just wrote. Certainly an editor should know how to wield the twin swords of grammar and syntax, and be sensitive to misuses that might confuse the reader. But authors toy with grammar rules all the time in creative writing, sometimes quite effectively (ack--did she start that sentence with a preposition?). It is my humble opinion that many an effective sentence has been bastardized in the interest of "correcting grammar" by rigid editors--often former schoolteachers--who don't see the big picture.

    I do think a sample edit is a great idea. A personal recommendation from an author who used that editor is also a good way to go.

    Even if you came to me asking for a grammar edit, I would start with a developmental edit. I just don't see the point in polishing up a story that is ineffective at its core. I think a good editor would tell you that.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Cheryl, Kathryn's quite right about grammar. Every good editor needs to know the rules--and so should writers--but when one's writing indicates that the rules are known, then occasional deviations from those rules (not only in spoken and internal dialogue, but also other places) can be very effective. We don't always speak in complete sentences, for example, nor do we think in them. And we can start a sentence with a preposition or a conjunction. Overuse, however, can negate effectiveness and slip into poor writing style.

    So absolutely, yes, there are exceptions to the rules that make our writing even better if we use them judiciously.

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  32. I'd like to comment on a couple of statements. You really can't go wrong using the Chicago Manual of Style. That doesn't mean a publishing house will use it - many, like Berkley, have their own style rules - but the CMS is the industry standard and using it won't get your manuscript rejected, that's guaranteed.

    I also agree with Kathryn that an edit starts at the developmental level. If the bones aren't straight, everything else in the book will grow crookedly. That first 50 pages is crucial and just paying an editor to read your beginning can make a difference.

    I'll be in and out as I can - winter storms and power outages in my stretch of the middle!

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  33. Max, I hope LJ comments about e-books since she's garnered great success there. I think e-books will outsell print books (maybe already have) this year, and it's undoubtedly the future of reading. That's not just my opinion, but common speculation.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Do you consider sentences like this to be passive writing:

    Hope hummed through him.

    Heat steamed up her colloar.

    Her curiosity flared.

    ...just wondering ...

    Maggie Toussaint
    www.maggietoussaint.com
    maggietoussaint at darientel dot net

    ReplyDelete
  35. Max: On Amazon, for new releases, e-books are already outselling print books. For midlist authors who can't get space in bookstores, e-books are already outselling print books. When Borders closes the rest of its stores, e-books will experience another surge.

    As an author, I've stopped focusing on promotional efforts to bookstores and for my print books in general. I still sell some print books, but they're an afterthought. I keep my books available in print only because they will always be some holdouts to the digital revolution.

    If you're an author, it's time to get your work out into the digital world.

    ReplyDelete
  36. To J.D. and all who asked about how to pick an editor who won't change your meaning, or style or voice, I would encourage you to get a sample edit from a prospective editor. I offer a free 10 page edit, so clients can see how I work. I would also check references. As some of the editors have already said, it is not our place to change style or anything else, it is to help the writer perfect that.

    ReplyDelete
  37. I am interested most in being a writer, not in being an author. My blog is one step on that path. What are other ways to satisfy the itch to write, without the flow into publishers, editors and the like? I want to be read, want to enjoy the process of writing and sharing what I write, but not interested (or not ready!) for a published book type effort...
    www.readerwoman.wordpress.com/

    ReplyDelete
  38. Maggie asked: Do you consider sentences like this to be passive writing:

    Hope hummed through him.

    Heat steamed up her collar.

    Her curiosity flared.

    It is passive in the sense that the reader is being told something, as opposed to seeing how it is happening. How does the reader know hope is humming through him, or her curiosity flared. What were they doing to convey that.

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  39. ReaderWoman, I have two questions for you. 1. What do you like to write and 2. why do you like to write? If you're writing non-fiction because you want to influence public opinion, then online articles on blogs and websites, as well as notes on Facebook will get you an audience. If you like reading books and writing reviews about them, then you could contribute to book review sites. If you like to write fiction, then contests might be a good starting point for you. Do you see the different venues in the above scenarios?

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  40. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  41. For years, I considered the Chicago Manual of Style (956 pages) and Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (1622 pages) indispensable when I was editing mostly magazine articles and nonfiction books. However, the last few years I've been editing mostly fiction, so I place a lot more importance on the writer's unique voice and style.

    Now, although I still want the "mechanics" to be correct, (grammar, spelling, punctuation), I find I'm often trying to help fiction writers get away from too-formal, too-perfect writing and relax their prose a bit, to suit their story world.

    Who wants to read a novel that reads like it was written by a professor or a PhD student? Give me one that reads like Huckleberry Finn or Janet Evanovich any time! And of course there are many, many other examples of fiction writers who have learned to loosen up their too-correct diction and lengthy, erudite sentences to "cut to the chase" and capture the mindset of their characters and immerse us in their story world!

    ReplyDelete
  42. As for looking for an editor who won't mess with your voice or style, yes, get a sample edit first, as the other editors here have suggested. Also, make sure the editor enjoys and reads your genre.

    I offer prospective clients a sample edit of about 10 pages, and if I think their writing is nowhere near the copyediting stage, I'll offer some advice or suggest they take advantage of one of my initial critique packages. Then they can use the info and advice given on the first 20-50 pages of their manuscript to rework the rest, fixing the opening, point of view, pacing, characterization, dialogue, etc., etc.

    I won't do a manuscript critique or an edit of a ms in a genre I don't read myself, as I don't feel qualified to give "big-picture" or style advice on, say, horror or sci-fi.

    On the other hand, I feel much more comfortable giving advice on genres I enjoy and read a lot, like thrillers, romantic suspense, mysteries and YA fiction. I know what sells in these genres, as I devour the bestsellers myself.

    ReplyDelete
  43. Thanks so much ladies. I appreciate your insight.

    Cheryl

    ReplyDelete

The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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