Authors and Beta Readers

Authors and Beta Readers

Sorry writers.

My PA, Mariah Wilson, recently posed something interesting about authors and beta readers. Here is her exact quote:

Authors also have to protect themselves. Beta reading for just anyone isn’t a good idea once you get published…why? Because if you publish something that even remotely resembles a shred of an idea that was in a book you beta read 10 years ago…that person can try to sue you. Best to B-read for peeps you know. That’s why authors like Koontz and King won’t read ANYTHING you send them, unless it’s published. It’s for their own protection.

Plus it IS time consuming and it’s not like I would not have returned the favor…but I cant’ drive 2 hours to go to a lousy writers group. (I used to be part of a writer’s group, until, for some reason, we were expected to pay? But I never attended the writer’s critique circle. Too time consuming to read for others. Too many expectations in a writer’s group.)

I’ve been wanting to seek out a few beta readers for a contemporary fantasy I am working on, but when Mariah sent this to me during a Facebook conversation we were having, I immediately realized this was a bad idea. Mariah has been my only beta reader. She’s fantastic, but it also doesn’t hurt to receive another perspective. Now I am going to bring on a second beta reader because she is a part of my lit magazine and loved When Stars Die. Not only that, but she has actual editorial experience to boot, but I’m not expecting her to fully edit it. I don’t want her to. A beta reader’s job is not to do that.

I originally wanted to hire an affordable editor for this contemporary fantasy. Before Mariah, I had nothing but bad experiences with beta readers. I would look at their novels and provide actual editorial feedback in exchange for their reading mine, but they never finished, or suddenly found themselves too busy. This was frustrating for me. I gave them valuable feedback, and I never got anything in return.

If you have been following my blog since it’s inception, you’ll also know I stumbled across Georgia McBride, who basically showed me that past feedback I had been receiving for The Stars Are Infinite actually wasn’t as good as I thought it was. Even though I had completely changed the book from its original draft, she told me it wasn’t ready for beta readers. But that in itself is frustrating. It basically says that writers need to retreat to freelance editors first before finding beta readers. So I concluded that the beta readers I had weren’t that experienced in the first place. But they still provided actual feedback. They were honest, but apparently it’s not the feedback that my book needed.

How are you supposed to know that though?

This is when I lost my trust in beta readers. Georgia McBride taught me a lot about structural editing. Because of her, I had been going to affordable freelance editors for my books. All I had to do was pay them, and it was a guarantee they’d get back to me. Plus, I wasn’t expected to return anything other than money.

Even so, that’s not ideal, especially because I’m not seeking to self-publish my work. I just wanted a guarantee that my book would receive feedback in an appropriate amount of time, with no expectations of returning a beta read.

I posed a question on my Facebook page. How many beta readers do writers normally have? Here are some of their responses:

Elizabeth Guizzetti: Other Systems had 2, The Light Side of the Moon had 1 before it went to the publishers. The Martlet so far has had 3, plus a few people who helped me with specific scenes. So 5?  I guess the answer to your question is as many as I need.

Ryan Attard: Personally it’s between none, one or maximum 2. Including the people at the publishing house. But that may say more about my paranoia than it does about writing
Mariah Wilson (she had more to say): That’s precisely the reason I don’t beta for many people. Time. I hate promising something, then never going through with it. I only take on projects that I’m confident I can return in a timely fashion. Why? Because it’s infuriating to send a book to betas and never hear from them again.

And now that I’ve been a beta reader for awhile, and a writer for awhile, I think that the best beta readers are ones who you have established a relationship with. I think that there should be some form of trust. Trust not only that you will do what you say you will, WHEN You say you will, but trust that you will put forth your best effort and your unabridged honesty. If you offer anything less, you are useless as a beta reader. If I want someone to candy coat it and tell me how awesome I am, that’s what I have family and close (non writer) friends for.

As for me, I’m sticking with Mariah and this other beta reader. I don’t think I’m going to retreat to freelance editors, unless I feel it’s absolutely necessary. I’m not bringing on anyone else, though, and I won’t beta read, unless it’s authors tied to my publisher(s), and their books fit my particular tastes–and Mariah and the other one. Especially Mariah. She’ll actually receive full, free editorial services from me whenever she thinks her first novel is ready for it. Otherwise, I’m going to charge people who want me to look at their books.
Writers, how many beta readers do you use?
Being Published Sometimes Sucks: Why It’s Sometimes Worse to be Published Than Not

Being Published Sometimes Sucks: Why It’s Sometimes Worse to be Published Than Not

untitled (16)I found this post on Tumblr a few days ago, and I had been meaning to write an article in response to it for a few days. Sometimes, however, you come across something else to talk about that takes more precedence–or that needs to take precedence. But the basic gist of this post is that readers–and I’m not sure if this is an ‘on average’ thing–have this notion that once you’re an author, it’s a gold-colored mountain you don’t even have to climb. You just have to take the stairs, because writing is hard work, but you’ll only keep going up, never once stumbling to publish that next book. That mountain just keeps spitting golden dollars at you, and you’re suddenly a celebrity, be it micro or what, when that’s far from the truth.

(I’m excluding self-published authors from this post because the above article doesn’t seem to include them. Even so, self-published authors can relate to some of the fears present within the linked post.)

In any case, I implore you to read the post before continuing on with mine, as I basically want to touch upon this one point:

Published authors deal with all of the same fears that unpublished authors do, and most of them are magnified by a factor of ten. The fear of the blank page, the fear of not meeting publisher/editor/agent/audience expectations, the fear of embarrassing yourself. These fears can be absolutely crippling. They can prevent the books you want to read from being written at all. I guarantee you, the author in question is a lot more upset about this than you are, no matter how much you love their books.

The above quote is so real for me.

So for those who have never been published, it sucks getting those rejection letters, right? You start to question if your writing will ever be good enough, or if you’re even cut out for the field of publishing. And if you answer both those questions, and you realize you’re not, well, then, at least you have an answer. Yeah, you can definitely self-publish that book, but not a lot of people have the money to do so, or the ability and skill to market and promote said book; thus, that book goes on to collect dust. You may never put your fingers to the keyboard again, but at least you have an answer. Then there are some who persist, and that persistence comes with rewards, but publication doesn’t alleviate the fears that unpublished authors have. As the quote states above, they are heightened.

Imagine already having a book under your belt as a traditional author, be it with a small or big press. Imagine that the reviews are rolling in. They’re good at first, but then bad review after bad review after bad review just starts killing all those other reviews. Your confidence is suddenly shaken worse than those rejection letters, I can promise you that. You wonder if your publisher made a mistake on you, because publishers sometimes do make mistakes on books. Either the books don’t sell well at all, or they sell well, but the horrible reviews start to kill those sales. That sort of a guarantees that the publisher will not take on any future projects of yours, even if you have a literary agent–and it can guarantee that you’ve just lost a great deal of your audience. Even if you’re close to your publisher, have a relationship with said publisher that isn’t so formal, don’t be deluded. It’s still business at the end or the day.

In fact, the author (Jordan Locke) of The Only Boy, has a literary agent, but that agent could not find a publisher willing to take him on because the dystopian hype is waning. He went on to self-publish it, and I’m grateful he did, because I loved the book. At the same time, he didn’t have to sink that much money into it, if any at all. He and his agent had already edited the book to death, and he is a graphics artist, so he was able to create the cover art himself. He probably formatted the book himself, too.

When Stars Die has 61 ratings. Currently it shows 55 reviews on Goodreads at a 4.42 average, so I’m not sure what the real average would be if you added in those 6 other ones. It tends to jostle between 4.37 and 4.47. I have more 5 star reviews than any other star reviews. Even so, as time goes by, I expect that those ratings will pick up in intensity, and when they do, will they be continuously okay to great reviews (3 , 4, 5 star), or will they start dragging my book down the proverbial mountain?

I have an author acquaintance whose ratings started out great, probably more than the 61 I have right now, but as time went on, the ratings grew worse and worse. Her rating is dangerously teetering, and any more bad reviews could push it into the 2 point something range. I loved the book, but I find it’s more of a literary dystopian than a commercial one. Most people lack the necessary analytical skills to truly understand a book that is literary in nature, so books like that are often more difficult to understand than books that are commercial–unless you’re John Green, who might actually be more commercial than literary.

It’s a very real fear I have, that my book will eventually plummet into horrible-rating land. Sometimes I wish the book had never been published. It’s totally irrational, and that could be my anxiety disorder speaking, because publication has always been my dream. Even so, let me point out to those who haven’t been published yet, if you’ve already been published and only see rejection letters for your next book, those rejection letters will sting 10x as hard. After all, you’ve published once. Why wouldn’t you be published again? Or are you just going to be a one-hit wonder, and that’s it?

Once you’ve published a book traditionally, your expectations of publication grow more than someone who has never published a book. You basically expect that your current publisher, who loved your previous book and would most likely enjoy the next because it fits with their tastes, will take on your next project. And when they don’t, you feel more lost than ever before. Which brings me to my next point.

When Stars Die went off without a hitch. It was a relatively easy book to write, and a relatively easy book to find publication for. High expectations were met, and, admittedly, those met expectations made me preen. But then I started going into the second book, and I began to realize that it was much harder to write than the first, and I think any author should expect that with a sequel. Libba Bray did. I worked my butt off on it. I even had two professional editors (one who did it for free, and even edited books for mainstream publishers), edit about 20 chapters of the book before the mainstream one and I had to part ways because I couldn’t intern for her anymore–although I will admit her fact-checking skills were lacking. However, her comments were phenomenal for TSAI. Her comments are the reason When Stars Die is the way it is today–and why it was so easy to write.

Then the other editor, now-turned author and a former pupil of hers, enjoyed it, even though I knew there needed to be a first book, as there was a lot of information given in the beginning that needed to be broken up; thus, When Stars Die needed to be written. She did a copy edit of the book. She seemed to believe no structural changes were necessary. I still made structural changes, though, after having been away from it for a few years. Doesn’t mean she was wrong. Just means I thought up a better path for the book to take.

So I was confident when I sent this book off, unable to find anymore more that needed to be done with it. Mariah had some great criticism, which is more than I can say for previous beta readers I’ve had with initial drafts of the book years ago, that initial draft being a terrible piece of garbage, so entirely different from The Stars Are Infinite, the current book I sent off.

Even so, this sudden dark pall overtook me, especially yesterday. Those high expectations for the first book hadn’t been met with the second, and even though I knew it would need work (what sequel doesn’t?), I didn’t expect that I’d begin to feel like a failure.

Your ultimate fear is that you will not meet your agent/editor/publisher/audience’s expectations. They adored your first book, but then you feel like you’ve disappointed them when your second book can’t compare to your first. Your publisher’s opinion is what matters most, though, and if it seems like you’ve disappointed them, you begin to question whether or not subsequent books you write are even worthy of publication, or even worth writing. You yourself might love the story, but you might only ever be the one, until you start hating it because it doesn’t meet anyone’s expectations.

So it doesn’t matter that you have one book published. Not one bit. Yeah, you defied all odds, but now you have to keep up that success, and when you can’t, you spiral into this temporary depression. Sometimes it’s not temporary. Sometimes that book you want to send off to your current publisher goes unwritten for a few days, thus forcing you to lower your expectations further over when you’ll get it finished.

Now that you’re an author, people are going to expect that you will keep publishing. You’re going to expect that you’ll keep publishing. And when those expectations aren’t met, you wonder if you were ever good to begin with.

I’m writing All Shattered Ones right now, because I can’t outline the third book in the stars trilogy until I know just how much work TSAI will actually need. I don’t write all three books in a trilogy at once before sending the first book off. A lot of authors don’t. It’s why it sometimes takes two years for the sequel to come out.

So I’m writing ASO, this contemporary fantasy, wanting it to be my next book to keep my readers fed, so to speak. It’s not in The Stars Trilogy. It’s a standalone. While I know exactly what work it needs when I go through to revise it after I’m done writing it, my biggest fear is that even when I work my butt off on it, my publisher won’t take it. Then I’ll feel completely lost. Yep, I can totally sub it to other publishers. You don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket, but I already have in mind that I’m going to seek a lit agent for a contemporary book I’m going to write once The Stars Trilogy has been completed. As it stands, I can’t do anything with A Collisions of Stars, until I have the edits complete for TSAI.

As you can tell, I feel like a complete and utter failure, despite what others have said. When I can’t meet someone’s expectations, I feel like I’ve failed that person, that I disappointed said person. Sure, I can handle edits and criticism just fine, or else When Stars Die wouldn’t exist. If I meet someone’s expectations, even if there is still a lot of work to be done, I can feel comfortable knowing I didn’t disappoint that person.

I suppose it’s a fault in me. I’m a people pleaser. When I can’t please people, that feeling of total failure sets in. I feel like I’ve studied for hours for a particular test, took the test, only for that test to be handed back to me with a 63. It didn’t matter how hard I studied. I still got a 63, and only I can come back from that. No amount of reassurance can take back the fact that I got a 63 after all the hard work I put into studying (and, yes, this mostly happens to me in history-related classes, but it’s the essays and projects that always made up for the tests).

All in all, only I can come back from feeling like a failure. No one else can do that for me.

How to Treat Your Freelance Editor (And What to Expect From Me)

How to Treat Your Freelance Editor (And What to Expect From Me)

untitled (6)As a disclaimer, I will not talk about any of my editorial clients in the future. I simply wanted to use this one as an example of what you should expect from an editor and how you should react.

Before diving into the nitty gritty of this post, click on this article to learn some more about we freelance editors, and what some will not tell you because we assume it’s the obvious. However, I have learned that it is not, which is why I’m going to create a contract future clients will sign, as well as putting a disclaimer on my website.

Continuing on, I want to first preface this by saying that I know not all of my clients are going to be wonderful, pretty snowflakes that I want to catch in my hand and hope they don’t melt. However, the last experience I had with a client was horrible. It was made even worse because I met him in public, which I am no longer going to do with local clients. Overall, this client could not handle criticism, but I am going to use examples from what happened to show you what to expect when hiring a freelance editor–and overall how you should actually be treating freelance editors, who are treating you and your manuscript with respect, not the ones who aren’t.

  1. Be clear and specific about what you want. I will take some responsibility, as I do not have specific prices for each type of editing I do. In the future, if a client asks for a proofread, that is all I will do, even if it needs so much more because the manuscript is a train wreck–but more on that later. But it’s your responsibility to be sure that you are ready for that. However, my client told me he wanted me to clean up the manuscript for grammar, but he also asked me to tell me if it was publishable, which basically gave me permission to tear the manuscript apart to unearth that publishable potential. When I sent the editorial letter and we talked on the phone that same day, he seemed like he appreciated my feedback. However, he was an angry bear in public, claiming he only wanted me to check on grammar, that he already knew that he needed to re-write the novel before handing it off to me, which brings me to my next point.
  2. Re-write the manuscript until you cannot see what more you can fix before sending it off to a freelance editor. My client should not have sent his manuscript off to me if he knew it needed to be re-written. What is the point of me fixing grammar and then asking if it’s publishable if he already knew he wanted to re-write it? Grammar would then have to be fixed again. I didn’t understand this logic. Wanting me to check for grammar when you know it needs a lot more is wasting not only your time but my time as well. Sure, I’ll get paid either way, but I want to HELP you. I want you to succeed, not out of vanity, but because I want you to fall in love with your own book and keep going at it. I always try to unearth the potential in every manuscript, no matter what state it is in. I am not perfect, but I will try to be.
  3. Freelance editors are human, and we will make mistakes and miss things. My client literally yelled at me in a public space, which was in a respectable bookstore called The Book Tavern. He kept shouting, “Attention to detail! Attention to detail!” because I accidentally called his agent character a scouter. Whoops. But it was so minor that I didn’t even bother standing up for myself. I just let him vent while apologizing that he didn’t like my work, even though I know I am a competent editor because I was trained by the very best, Georgia McBride, who has been hired by the Big 5 as a freelance editor when they were swamped with client submissions. She was impressed with my ability to help someone unearth the potential in their work, though she had to really train me on how to approach giving criticism to someone without sounding vicious–which I never intentionally do, but everyone reacts differently to everything, so I really try to find that delicate balance that won’t offend MOST of my clients. All of her apprentices, so to speak, have gone on to become competent freelance editors, as well as published authors. Without her, When Stars Die would have been difficult to edit on my own to make it submission ready. Am I the best editor out there? No, because I am still learning, but am I competent? Yes.
  4. Sample edits. I will now be doing sample edits not only to give you a taste of my editing style, but to also let you decide what type of editing you want me to tackle in your book. However, a sample edit is not always representative of the rest of the book, so you need to decide carefully what you want. For example, if you simply want a proofread, make sure you are not shortchanging yourself (you need to get plenty of feedback first before sending it off to me), because if you send your manuscript off to a bunch of in-house editors who reject it because it is not structurally sound, I can guarantee you the blame will fall back on me, even though you were the one who told me what type of editing you wanted me to do. What you do with my feedback is your responsibility from there, and having a book professionally edited in no way guarantees publication. I did a sample edit for my client, which basically showed him that I did a structural edit, so he knew what he was getting himself into when hiring me. Yet, at the bookstore, he yelled at me for deconstructing his book, even though he had approved my sample edit. He acted like I had destroyed it, that he needed to undo my destruction, even though, hopefully, he had the original, unedited version on his computer.
  5. Our job is to make it the best book it can be. Since my client should have known I was going to make structural changes, he shouldn’t have blown up on me and told me that I didn’t get the story. Frankly, there was nothing to get. He spent little time in the perspective of his protagonist and had ten different perspectives, right down to peripheral characters, you know the ones that need to be there, because, well, people exist, but they’re not important to the overall story. You just need to say, ‘There were a lot of soldiers in this group, from the bright to the dull,” but I do not want a POV of any of those soldiers, not when they aren’t major or at least secondary characters, ESPECIALLY NOT NEAR THE END OF THE BOOK. So throughout the manuscript, I pointed out things, and then told him the story basically ended a quarter of the way through the book because he in no way at least hinted at where the book was truly going. However, I took all elements of his book since I knew what story he wanted, and tried to piece them together in the letter I sent him so that he could have this one thing, as well as the war part, which he felt was the most important aspect of his book that I did not think he weaved well into the story. But, as I said, I wanted to make it the best book it could be in a way that kept all of the elements that he wanted. But he still blew up on me in spite of the fact that I told him I wasn’t telling him what to do, but merely advising what he could do to make it the story he wanted, so that all elements fit together nicely to create a strong story. I did see potential in that book, and I am only sorry that he didn’t think that, even though I repeatedly told him that I did see potential. This isn’t to say I was perfect with his book. Maybe I wasn’t compatible with this book. I will never know, but I have had satisfied clients in the past, so I do know I’m doing something right.
  6. You don’t have to agree with the editor. It’s going to sting me, yeah, because I genuinely want to help you find the potential in your book. If I haven’t, please let me know in a polite manner and at least thank me for taking the time out of my day to do so. Also, if you don’t agree with my edits, I will be happy to have a lengthy discussion with you so I can justify why I did what I did in order to help you better understand with the idea that you will at least consider my feedback, even if you disagree with it. I didn’t agree with all of my publisher’s feedback, but I did consider why he felt that way, and guess what, I made the changes because he is an outside perspective and I am not, and I am glad I did because I’m confident they made the book better. Also, not every editor can bring out the true potential in every book we edit. Some editors at publishing houses reject books because they know they will not be able to make the best it can be, not because the book is bad and has no potential. The difference with freelance editors is that we are not editing to publish your book. We are editing to see what we can find in your book, hoping that you will look at our feedback and try to strengthen what we found with your own ideas. Ultimately, we freelance editors want to make you a better writer. I think freelance editors exist to be teachers, not editors preparing your book for publication, unless you’re actively getting multiple editors on board to prep your book for self-publication. My client, on the other hand, at the bookstore, refused to listen to me when I told him his plot had de-railed–and it had. He kept positing I didn’t understand the story, and he was extremely rude when doing so. He would not even consider why I did what I did, and I never even got to justify anything. The hilarious thing is that the day before, when I talked to him over the phone, there was this implication that he had read my feedback and basically told me that the feedback suggested the book would need a lot of work, so he thanked me. But in the bookstore, he didn’t thank me and turned away after giving me my money, which he felt was wasted on me, even going so far as to telling me he will never use my services again. If your freelance editor is treating you with respect, do the same in return, even if you are not happy with the work, even if you don’t want to work with that person again, or think that person will work better with another book of yours, especially if you were pleased with the sample edit. Not all of my clients are going to be compatible with me, and I am okay with that. There are multiple editors in publishing houses for a reason, not just so they can keep up with clients’ manuscripts, but so those manuscripts can find editors they’d be compatible with.
  7. Don’t tell an editor one thing and then say something different after the fact. My client specifically told me the novel I was editing was for young readers, so I treated it as such, much of my feedback pointing out that this is how he should do it to make it enjoyable for young readers. However, when we met in the bookstore, he turned on me and asked me where I got the idea that it was a book for young readers (I have the e-mail as proof that he told me it was for young readers). He told me it was a book he was trying to write for adults, and that he didn’t want to dumb down his writing. I didn’t say anything about this at all. I was speechless, not only because he was oblivious to what he had told me, but because he implied the writing in books for young readers is “dumbed down.” It is not. The best children’s books are those that can be read and enjoyed by many. The writing in these books is sharp and intelligent. The stories themselves are what categorize the book as being middle grade or young adult or whatever, not the writing, usually, unless you’re talking about a book for a first-time reader where the writing has to be simple.
  8. Don’t attack your editor. What I mean by this is that my client attacked me as a person, not just as an editor. This is what made me angry. Before I was hurt, but his attack on me as a human being is what did me in, but I stood there and took it because I knew fighting back would do no good and would offend the establishment we were in. Not only was I at The Book Tavern to represent myself as a freelance editor, but I was also there representing AEC Stellar because I gave that bookstore my publisher’s info to see about getting the book stocked there. In any case, he used my age against me. I am 23 years old. I have a lot of editorial experience behind me through internships, and have been writing seriously since I was 14, not just writing, but also actively seeking criticism and revising, revising, revising, which I think is the stage where you learn the most from. I received the best education from Georgia McBride, and I consider her a teacher that taught me a creative writing degree’s worth of education. I have a book published with pretty good reviews so far. I didn’t shove this in his face when he told me he had been writing since he was 20-years-old. He has never sought out publication for any of his works, which is why I didn’t feel like having a book under my belt mattered. There are people out there who are probably better writers than me who have never sought out publication. But it seemed like I was the first person he ever sought feedback from, because he certainly didn’t act like he was used to it. He looks to be about my dad’s age, and my dad is in his 50s. So I will let you draw your conclusions from there about his experience with writing.
  9. If you are meeting your editor face-to-face in a public space, do not blow up. As you’ve read so far, my client did. I had to personally call The Book Tavern and apologize on both of our behalves because I wanted to show the bookstore that I respected their establishment and that I did not intend for our meeting to go down as it did. I was really excited to meet my client, because I love meeting new people. Even so, the manager even had to tell us to take it outside–it got that bad between my client and I, though I was pretty much a bunny facing a bear. I was just flabbergasted, unable to stand up for myself because I had no experience in dealing with this, but I can tell you I wasn’t rude at all, though I did find a point in our conversation where I was about to be, but I shut myself up. Because of this, I am never meeting local clients anywhere again. If I do, I am bringing a third party, plus the contract said client signed, to hopefully keep the peace between us and establish some rational ground. All in all, I was sorry my client didn’t like his experience with me, but he told me not to apologize in a way that said I called him a bad name, then apologized after the fact, and if I were really sorry, I would not have called him that bad name in the first place.
  10. The editor has the right to drop your book if the sample edit is not representative of the rest of the book. Now hopefully there is a contract with a clause stating this so no legal action can be taken, because many editors do ask for half the payment upfront for labor, and if they decide to drop the project, the client shouldn’t have to pay the other half. For example, if I do a sample edit of a section that only needs proofreading, then my assumption is that this is all the book will need. However, if I go through the book and discover that proofreading is impossible because of the large amount of errors present that don’t align with what proofreading actually is, I can feel free to drop that book until the client is willing to clean the book up so I can do proofreading, which is simply looking for little errors that the author was unable to see, not re-writing sentences due to grammatical errors, like misplaced modifiers. I will drop the book so that I don’t have to change the total price I gave you in the beginning, which can understandably upset clients who were told one price, then that price suddenly had to be changed because the editor had to put more labor into the work than what was originally expected. Now my client had a right to be upset about this, because I did change the price after the fact, but I am still trying to get the business side of things together, and I think my experience with him has finalized how I want to do things, so I suppose a bad experience with him wasn’t a total waste. Of course, my client didn’t sound upset over the phone that I had to raise the price, but he sure raised Cane in the bookstore.

Overall, this was a learning experience for me, and the one good thing it did was finalize the business side of things for me, so I will be updating my website, adding a disclaimer, and creating a contract that I will post on the website so you know what you’re getting into before you request my services. The one promise I can make is that I will do everything in my power to help you see the potential in your book. I want you to learn to be a better writer so that way you can go on to be published to inspire and entertain people with the beauty that came from your heart, that beauty being your story.

Advice to Aspiring Writers

Advice to Aspiring Writers

For one, being Edgar Allen Poe is a must.
I’ve been seeing this post circulating around WordPress. I assume it’s a prompt, but I have no idea where to link it back to, so I’m not even going to worry about that. In any case, I don’t want to spout off the same things everyone else has, like keep writing, or keep reading. Those should be no brainers, even for newbie writers. My advice is going to be given with the assumption that these aspiring writers, whoever this group is, want to be published.

1. Don’t just start sending out your manuscript once you’re done with it. You need to research the publishing industry right down to the period. There are scams out there, and people will take advantage of you. You need to know what an agent is, what traditional publishing is, independent publishing, and self-publishing. You need to know all the nuances of these before you start submitting. Know your query letters, book synopses, and book proposals. There is a girl in my dance class falling in the trap of hysterically searching for a company because she desperately wants people to read her work. She knows nothing about publishing and claims a company already called her. I don’t know if she’s lying or not, but I fear if she isn’t, she’s landing herself in a nasty trap, especially because she has only just written this book. I did my best to arm her with information, but the publishing bug is tempting, especially for a young teen.

2. As a newbie writer, don’t expect your first manuscript to be the one you’ll start subbing. You’re still developing your craft, and both your writing and storytelling skills are likely going to improve from book to book–as in very noticeable improvements. It’s rare for the first book to be it, but it does happen. When Stars Die is my fourth book, and it took me about 1,000,000 words later to have my writing of publishable quality. Now you’re going to keep improving even after, but the point is is that you want to bring everything to publishable standards. The only way you’re going to know this is through beta readers, possibly having experts look at it through webinars and book conferences, or getting a freelance editor. You’ll also develop a gut instinct as a writer that will signal to you when something is still severely wrong.

3. Don’t expect to make bank. Most authors are mid-listers in the traditional field, and they’re increasingly drowning because the current model is no longer designed to help them but those that are potential bestsellers. Your advance will not be that great compared to the blood, sweat, and tears you poured into it, but keep trying. You can also go the independent house route, where your money is based of royalties alone, or self-publishing, where you’ll have to spend money to make money.

4. Expect rejection. Rejection slips can average about 50-100 before you get an acceptance. I know someone who received 500 rejection slips, and it wasn’t that her book wasn’t good because it was. They just didn’t think it was marketable. I know another who received 100 before finally getting an agent. So don’t get discouraged on the 10th rejection because, on average, it will happen. I got lucky and got an acceptance on my first try to the only publisher I sent my manuscript to (it was on a total whim). But my short stories are a different story.

5. Last, write for yourself first, then edit for your readers. The story comes from you and so when drafting, let it flow from only you and no one else. Then once you get revising, you have to start doing it with readers in mind because who will be reading it? Readers of course. They’re why publishing even exists. When you do your final read through, you’ve got to do it from a reader’s perspective: is this sentence too long winded, is this character melodramatic, are there any noticeable plot holes that would confuse readers on a quick read through?

There is a lot more advice that I’d give, but I don’t like to do really long posts, so I think this is a good enough list.

The Importance of Learning How to Self-Edit

The Importance of Learning How to Self-Edit

I’m not going to claim to be an expert self-editor. All I know is that I did a really good job at content editing part of my book and the synopsis, and all I had was one beta reader (I seriously took a huge leap of faith going for AEC Stellar, didn’t I?). I also want to mention that when I refer to self-editing, I am referring to being able to edit your own content so that way all you need afterward is beta readers that you do not have to go back to fifteen million times, or a freelance editor you don’t have to keep paying thousands of dollars for.

Beta readers can become time consuming, especially if you have your manuscript out to several of them at once and they all have entire tomes of flaws pointed out to you. Then you have to fix it and re-send it to them again, where they whittle their complaints down to entire notebook-fulls; then you have to send out again, then again. Granted, this process probably only applies to beginning writers, but that is why I stressed the importance of freelance editors in a previous post of mine. You want to learn from them once (or twice) so you don’t have to keep going back to them or your beta readers. But if you have to keep going back to your beta readers for the content of your story before even getting to the nitty gritty sentence structure, then you’re not learning what you should be learning and finishing that manuscript is going to become ridiculously time consuming.

Freelance editors can be ridiculously expensive. Some charge $4 a page for one service and $6 a page for another, so that’s thousands of dollars right there. There are ones who are cheaper, but you often want those ones recommended to you. Granted, they are worth it the first time and some offer to read it again for half off or free of charge, but if you haven’t learned from them and have to keep going back for every book you write, you’re wasting money. You only want to have to pay them for your first book and first book only–if your beta readers aren’t sufficient enough, that is. A good freelance editor will function as a teacher to teach you how to self-edit so that you can bring yourself to the point where you only need beta readers to wipe away excess dirt instead of them having constantly point out major flaws in your writing that will take whole re-writes to fix.

Never undermine the importance of being able to edit the major stuff yourself: plot holes that take entire re-writes to fix, being able to edit the pacing of the book yourself, character development, plot and sub-plot development, making sure something develops in every chapter, being able to know what your gut is telling you when something is wrong. These are things that you want to learn how to self-edit on your own that way when you get to beta readers you find your novel doesn’t need an entire overhaul to fix what they point out. Or so you’re not spending monstrous amounts of money on a freelance editor.

But how do you know that you’ve learned to self-edit? If your beta readers, assuming you have good ones, aren’t tearing your next manuscript apart. Or the freelance editor you decided to hire for your next book isn’t charging you so much because said editor discovered it doesn’t need as much work as your previous one. Or if your gut isn’t sending you alarm bells. For some, self-editing is a gift, and for others it is an acquired skill through experience. The point being is that you want to eventually bring yourself to the point where you are a strong self-editor not having to heavily rely on beta readers or freelance editors–as Georgia McBride taught me.

The Maddening Choice of Publication

The Maddening Choice of Publication

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Which route should you choose?

As writers, we have so many choices nowadays as to how we want to go about publication. With the advent of the e-reader, our choices have broadened, and some of us are left wondering what direction we should go. Should we go traditional, indie, or should we self-publish? I’m going to break it down by using personality traits to explain each route. Hopefully these trait-explained routes will make it easier for you to choose which direction you want to go.

Let’s start with traditional. The traditional route is for those who crave affirmation by experts, first from the agent, then from the publisher they sign up with. They feel that by overcoming these barriers, they’ve proven they do have what it takes to make it in the publication field. They also do not mind giving over control to the experts because, well, they’re experts for a reason. These people do not mind negotiating with editors on changes to be made to the book, and they do not mind having little control over the cover because they themselves may not have the prowess to create a book cover. I mean, many writers aren’t cover designers, after all. These people also may find marketing daunting and want professional help from a publicist. Or, if they don’t have a publicist, they want to be told how to market because, frankly, marketing is both a daunting and painful process. They also want their books in the bookstores and want physical copies of their books they can do book signings with.  These people want big names behind them because big names are in bookstore, where their books will be much easier to search for than online. They also want advances, sure money, and don’t want to take too many risks.

Now indie. Indie people crave affirmation by experts as well, but they also want some power in the process. They want their copyrights, so that way should their books not do so well, they can at least self-publish to give their books a second chance. They also have books that are more niche and likely wouldn’t fit with a big publisher, but their books still have a place in the market. While they may not get advances, they want bigger royalties for each book, for their hard-earned work. They may not want to dive into marketing alone, but want to have some control with a safety net. They want to work on a team with other writers to help market each other’s work. They want an editor’s help, but they also want some say in the changes made to the book. They fear the big publishing brands due to corporatism and want to support smaller houses because they believe with indie, it is not all about the money.

Lastly, self-publishing. These people want total control, over their book, brand, marketing, editing, cover designing, and all aspects of the publication process. With freelance editors, they can choose what changes to keep and which to ignore. They can design their own covers or hire a cover designer with a design in mind. They want full control of marketing because they have the money and the know-how. They don’t want anyone to take their money, save for the websites selling their work. They do not need affirmation from experts, but readers. They do not care about the romantic aspects of publication. They only care that their stories are out there being read by people who enjoy what they write–while making money to earn more than what they spent on self-publication. These people are masters of their own domain and do not want anyone intruding upon their territory, save for those they invite.

I suppose I'm a master of my own domain, but I don't mind guests.
I suppose I’m a master of my own domain, but I don’t mind guests.

Hopefully this helps you decide which route you want to go. I already have my route down. What about you?

The Importance of Freelance Editors

The Importance of Freelance Editors

I mentioned in my post on expectations for self-publishing how essential freelance editors are before you actually decide to publish your manuscript. I’m not going to reiterate the obvious reasons. Instead, I’m going to point out an essential reason why many writers, not just those going the self-publishing route, should hire a freelance editor.

I tend to chase my clients with a scythe in an effort to get them to understand. I don't think it quite works.
I tend to chase my clients with a scythe in an effort to get them to understand. I don’t think it quite works.

Freelance editors can function as writing tutors and will give you an enormous boost in your writing skills that can take years to gain from beta readers alone. Georgia McBride was my first freelance editor ever, and she worked on the sequel to When Stars Die (which was originally going to be the first book). It was called Witch Tourniquet, and while she only got through half the book before I decided to shelve it in favor of making it a sequel, I gained textbookfuls of knowledge from her services alone. Yes, I’ve learned from beta readers in the past, from reading and writing, but I was stunned at the enormous boost I gained in my storytelling skills–and the majority of it came from the first chapter alone.

Freelance editors will give you legitimate ideas on how to make your book better. They simply won’t point out what’s wrong and tell you to fix it. They will give you strong ideas, and that is what Georgia did. My first chapter changed dramatically from her advice. It went from a third person narrative of a girl simply travelling to a safe house, to a first person narrative of a girl contemplating ending her own life because she was slated to be burned due to witchcraft. I was able to nail this chapter on my first re-write because of the enormous lesson I learned from Georgia’s critique. She even told me that not many of her clients are able to do this. For many, it takes several re-writes, especially because the first chapter is so essential due to its hooking (or lack thereof) properties. A poor first chapter can lead to loss of reader interest.

In any case, the job of an EXCELLENT freelance editor should be to teach you how to edit on your own (which, for self-publishers, does not mean bypassing a freelance editor. This just simply means you need to learn how to take care of the major issues on your own before hiring someone to polish it). For those going the traditional path, you want to learn this on your own because you don’t want to have to depend on a freelance editor to solidify your skills. This makes you look bad and makes agents and editors wonder just what your writing skills are. For those going the self-publishing route, this will keep you from having to spend enormous amounts for editing. By learning how to take care of the big stuff on your own, you will simply need an editor to help you polish it and you hopefully won’t need that editor more than once.

But they are invaluable as learning opportunities. I would argue one critique for a manuscript is worth an entire novel prose-length writing class (with the assumption there aren’t other writing classes on novels)–and possibly more, considering the one at my uni only expects one chapter for the entire semester.

As a freelance editor myself, my job is to teach you how to edit so you will not continuously need my services; however, this takes work on your part because you need to choose to learn from my critique. This is a gift in itself, considering not everyone wants to learn from their mistakes and improve from the advice of others.

Now will everyone going the traditional route need a freelance editor? No. Some grow from beta readers just fine, if they’re lucky to find strong ones. I never was, but Georgia did my manuscript for free because I interned for her. There was no monetary loss on my part, but I did hire her previous intern, and she helped me polish my copyediting skills so that way I could learn to fix structural problems on my own.

It is your job as a writer to judge just what kind of growth you need.