Are Editors the Next Gatekeepers? Some people want them to be.

The one thing we say most about independent publishing is it has completely taken away the gatekeepers. You can publish anything you want, whenever you want, all you need is a properly (sometimes not!) formatted file and a good cover (sometimes not!). We all know that there are lot of good books that are indie-published every day. We also know there are a lot that aren’t.

I left another FB group the other day. The conversation turned so stressful that I was in a bad headspace all day. It’s hard to shake things off when people attack you for what you believe. What was it I said? I said some indie writers are good enough not to need the whole buffet of editing: development edit, copy edit, line edit, and a proofreader. That’s all I said, and I still stand by that. An author who is on book 30 is not going to need the time and attention an author is going to need publishing her debut novel. They simply aren’t. The craft is there, the skill is there, the experience is there. Two editors took my words the wrong way, or they were just spoiling for a fight, and tore into me.

Of course the conversation turned more ugly when price became a topic because everyone in the industry knows that editing is the most expensive part of publishing–especially if you do need the whole smorgasbord before you put your book out there–and the editors were defensive. I’ve never said an editor shouldn’t be paid what he or she is worth. I’d never devalue an editor’s work like that. You’re paying for a skill that they’ve (hopefully) honed for years. An excellent editor can take your lump of coal book and turn it into a diamond, I get that. On the other hand, not everyone can afford it, and they didn’t seem to understand that.

I agree with the belief that you shouldn’t publish until your book has been edited, at least by SOMEONE, but it’s also discriminatory to say that no one should publish at all if you can’t afford it. That’s gatekeeping all over again.

I didn’t point out in my exit rant that the people saying this were affluent white people who have the disposable cash to hire an editor. I’m white too, but I’m poor. I can’t afford a $2,000 development edit. I simply can’t. That’s three and a half months of rent. I do the best I can with the resources I have, and I will never let anyone insult me for it.

One of the big questions that come up when discussing editing fees is, why do editors cost so much? It’s not because each individual editor is trying to rip you off (though some are better than others, so ALWAYS ask for a sample and make educated choices). There’s an association that offers guidelines as to how much freelance editors should charge their clients. Editors/beta readers like Kimberly Hunt, the paid beta reader I referred to in my feedback blog last week, adheres by this association, and you can look at the pricing structure the Editorial Freelancers Association recommends. She, and many other editors, are charging the standard. Some editors who freelance on the side may charge more depending on where you’ve found them. Professional editors found on Reedsy, for example, are more than I can afford. On the flip side, there are writers and authors who want to start editing and charge a lot less because they are just getting their business going. It would be up to you whether you want to pay less. An editing sweep by a new editor will be better than no editing, but always make informed choices. Don’t just sign with her because you can afford her. And on the flip side of THAT, I wouldn’t pay a new editor the industry standard unless they can provide testimonials and proof that their skills are worth it.

Indie publishing has opened up a whole new world for scammers, and some of them don’t know they’re doing it. (Like the freelance book cover designer who will charge you 50 dollars for ten minutes of time in Canva. They think they’re running a business. I think they’re ripping you off.)

What can you do if you can’t afford an editor?

The obvious thing is to learn your craft inside and out. Learning your craft is a good first step in the editing process. It’s a lot easier to edit a good first draft than it is to tackle a draft that you know has plot holes, flat characters, and verb tense changes throughout. Hone your writing skills.

Then find feedback where you can, and like I said in the feedback blog from last week, listen to that feedback, or you’re just wasting everyone’s time.

And lastly, learn how to self-edit. Put the book in a drawer for a month or two, write something else, then come back to it with fresh eyes.

You can teach yourself to self-edit, and there are a lot of resources out there that will help. You can take editing classes, definitely edit for others (that’s why I do it for free for my friends because it helps me improve) or my favorite (and probably cheaper) way to learn how to edit is reading self-editing books.

Here are my go-tos:

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print by Rennie Browne and Dave King

Intuitive Editing by Tiffany Yates Martin

Cover to Cover: What First-Time Authors Need to Know about Editing (Read this book before you publish your book by Sandra Wendel (Hat tip to Jane Friedman for this find on her blog.)

You also should have a firm grasp on grammar and punctuation. No matter who reads your book, be it a paid beta reader or one of the authors you networked with who said they would give you feedback, make it easier for them to read you by knowing your grammar and punctuation. If you choose to pay a proofreader or a line editor, it will be cheaper if they don’t have so much to wade though.

Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing (Quick & Dirty Tips) by Mignon Fogarty

Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style by Benjamin Dreyer

I have all these books; I’ve read all these books. Self-editing is a different skill than learning and practicing how to write good books, but I think they go hand in hand.

I’m glad I left that group, but I wish I would have asked those snobby women what they do to help the indie publishing industry if they so despise what come out of it. Do they beta read for free? Do they edit pro bono twice a year? How are they making a difference? Complaining about the state of indie publishing is only being part of the problem not part of the solution.

I try to help when I can. Maybe my edits aren’t as good as someone with a real editing degree, but I have a Bachelor’s in English with a concentration in creative writing, and I educate myself all the time. I hope that the authors I’ve edited for have gone away with a better book.

Saying an author shouldn’t publish without a professional edit is shortsighted to say the least. Authors are going to publish without an editor no matter what anyone says because they don’t have the disposable income to afford it. Hell, I’ve read some traditionally published books that have read like they haven’t been edited, either. (See my crabby review of Jasmine Guillory’s The Wedding Date novel.) It’s up to the author to learn what they need to learn if they can’t afford an editor and aren’t willing to sell plasma like Jami Albright to hire one.

Readers will always be the new gatekeepers. You, as an author, need to do what you can to keep your readers happy. In the end it doesn’t matter how you go about doing it, only that you do. And if you don’t, your reviews and sales rank will be proof that you’ll need to start doing better. It will be up to you as to how.


Learning Craft + Feedback

On Monday I had guest author Sarah Krewis on my blog and she talked a little bit about the importance of learning craft so you can put out the best book you can when it is time to publish. She mentioned the Centre of Excellence and the writing modules they offered. In a private message I asked her if an instructor gave out critique and she said not in a way that I would probably want, which led to the topic of feedback.

You can learn the craft all you want, read all the books, take all the online courses you can afford, but at some point you’re going to need feedback on your work. We don’t like to ask for feedback because it hurts when we hear that our writing isn’t as perfect as we want it to be or thought it was. But you have to keep an open mind when people are reading your work and be receptive to the idea that your work needs, well, work.

If you want to see a cute little Venn diagram, an author’s process should probably look like this:

This isn’t the best, spacing it out was a pain, but you get the idea. Feedback and reading are just as important as the writing part of the craft. I know authors who read read read and prefer to hide from their own writing by reading other authors instead. I know writers who write write write but don’t ask for one ounce of feedback. Then there are others who thrive on feedback and implement every single little change, but then that leaves no room for moving on to other projects because they’re looking for perfection they probably aren’t going to find.

I’m not perfect–I don’t read as much as I should, but I am open to feedback and I hired my first professional beta reader this month.

Where you do find feedback? Before the pandemic, looking locally was easy. A call to your public library probably would have hooked you up with some local writers and maybe a NaNoWriMo group that met up at a coffee shop on Thursdays. But since everything has moved online and to Zoom meetings, it might be a little harder for you to find something in person. That might not be a bad thing for us introverts, but putting yourself out there is the price we pay when we said we wanted to be an author.

If you want a professional opinion, hiring a paid beta reader may be the way to go. They will give you more than “It was great!” They dig into story and characters. I’m using Mary Dunbar, and you can find her website here. She doesn’t list beta reading prices because she said she’s just been thinking about adding it to her list of services. Contact her through her website and ask if there is way she can help you with what you need. She’s an editor, too, and she critiques queries. I’ll be blogging about my experience with her in later blog posts. Another paid beta reader that I may use in the future is Kimberly Hunt from Revision Division. I’ve gotten to know her on Facebook and she’s gotten positive reviews. You can find her website here.

But if you’re a newbie writer, you may not be ready for paid services, and that’s okay. That’s where networking and forming relationships with your fellow authors comes in. It’s really important that your beta readers read and write in the genre you’ve written in. That way they can identify the tropes and tell you if you’ve hit the mark or if you’re too far off the path to keep your readers happy. There are a lot of FB groups that you can join and once you get to know a few people you can put it out there and say that you’ll beta read in return. As the diagram above shows, beta reading for someone else can be just as valuable as the the feedback you’ll receive.

What are some tips when it comes to finding and accepting feedback?

  • Know what you want. A beta reader reads your book after it’s finished. Some will point out typos, grammatical errors, etc, but you may not be in a place for that and just want general feedback. Let your beta reader know you want overall feedback like plot holes and character arc opinions and advice. An alpha reader reads as you write it, say chapter by chapter. They make sure you’re steering your ship in the right direction and can catch inconsistencies as you go along ensuring by the end of the book you don’t have a huge plot hole making you scrap half the book. It’s up to you and what your skill level is at and what you feel you need.
  • Remember you don’t have to take everything to heart. If you already know your plot, you don’t have to accept advice that’s different, unless you like it and think it will make your book better. We all have ideas and you can give six writers a writing prompt and come back with six different stories. It’s always going to be your book, but if your beta spots a plot hole and you choose not to fix it, that’s on you.
  • Don’t have too many opinions. Too many cooks spoil the broth and this is true for your book. Find one, two, maybe three betas in your genre that you trust that you know are good writers and listen to what they have to say. You don’t want to be overwhelmed with opinions. On the other hand, if they all have the same problem with the same thing, then you know that’s something you have to pay attention to. I’ve seen some authors confuse beta readers with ARC reviewers. While your beta readers may leave a review down the line, beta readers are not readers who receive an advanced copy of your book solely to leave a review. Two different readers.
  • If the relationship is not working, don’t force the issue. For whatever reason, you may not mesh with your beta reader. That’s fine. I wrote a blog post a long time ago about what to do if your business relationship with a friend goes south. You can try to be amicable about it, but hurt feelings comes with the territory. You never want to burn bridges in this industry because while it seems large, thousands and thousands of authors who publish every day, this is really a small industry and we all know each other. Word gets around and you don’t want to be that person who is known for not getting along with her peers. If the beta is too heavy handed or is too cruel to work with, simply say that you’re going to choose a different route and thank her for her time. An egift card for a coffee shop or 25 dollars to Amazon might ease some ruffled feathers. But be sure that when you beta read for someone that you aren’t the one being heavy handed. We all need kindness when giving our work to other people. It’s fear that keeps us from seeking out feedback in the first place.
  • Keep an open mind. Don’t waste someone else’s time. If you’re not ready to hear criticism, wait until you are. Betas, paid or for free, are giving you their time. Don’t waste it by being in a headspace where you aren’t receptive to their feedback.

If you’re new and don’t know where to look, try Googling writing critique groups. This article by thewritelife.com has a list and you can look at it here.

The Reedsy blog, a blog that I’ve referred to in the past that I trust, also has a list and you can find it here.

In short, writer eduction, feedback, and reading go hand in hand. As Sarah said in her guest blog post, there is no excuse not to keep learning, but you also have to know if you’re applying what you’ve learned correctly otherwise you could actually be unintentionally reinforcing bad habits that can take you years to break.

Good luck!

Where do you find feedback? Let me know!


Got/Get: The laziest words.

I don’t write a lot on craft in this blog. I’ll share editing books I like and tell you over and over again that no matter what you do, ads, graphics, book promotion sites, what have you, if you’re not selling a good book, you’re not going to make it. I don’t mean a well-written book that doesn’t resonate with some readers. You’re not going to please everyone, and that’s just how it is. It’s one of the reasons why I’ve been able to keep going in the past few years of writing. Certain people may not like my stories–I’ve never written a character people hate more than Jax in All of Nothing, but never in any review have I ever read of my work has anyone told me I’m a bad writer. So whether or not people don’t agree with my characters and all their flaws, at least I can hold my head up and know I’m a good writer.

I’m not sure where I was going with that?

Oh, so I don’t offer much craft advice. That really should come from your beta readers, your writing group, your editor. What you choose to take from those people is your own business, and as one editor I know says, “It’s always going to be their book.” So yeah, I don’t like craft advice very much, at least, not giving it.

Lately I’ve been reading more on my Kindle. I pay for a KU subscription and I signed up thinking that I would keep up with my comp authors that way. A lot of romance authors are in KU and it’s always a good thing to keep up with what’s selling. That was my intention anyway, but I paid for a few months of it before I charged up my Kindle and decided I was going to take advantage of my subscription. I read a lot of non-fiction and reading in KU is a lot cheaper than buying paperbacks.

Anyway, so I finished a mystery/thriller the other day. It’s written in first person present, which is why I chose to read it. I’m writing my own stuff in first person present and for me, it’s easier to keep in that POV and tense.

It didn’t take me long to get annoyed. This author really, I mean really, liked the words GOT/GET/GOTTEN. Not short for Game of Thrones, like we associate that word now, but the. . . I guess it’s a verb? . . . got. Gotten. Getting. Get.

She’s got an open black peacoat revealing black slacks and a gray blouse beneath.

When I got in last night, (character name) was in the middle of working on a story.

I need to get to that hospital.

While everyone else has pictures or knickknacks on their desk, she’s got nothing.

I don’t need to do anymore, and it didn’t take me long to find these. The author turns sloppier toward the end of book, like he was tired of writing it and wanted to finish it as quickly as possible.

Maybe it’s just me because that word has already been a pet peeve of mine, but it really turned me off. There are better verbs you can use, and they aren’t hard to reach for–She’s wearing an open black peacoat . . . Even as something simple as changing out GOT for HAS. While everyone else has pictures or knickknacks on their desk, she has nothing. Maybe it’s not any better, creatively speaking, but to me it reads a lot better.

He was able to comb through her devices after we got them from her parents.

It just sounds all around clunky and I’ve hammered it out of my writing. I know how easy it is to slip into easy language, and sometimes that’s all right. But the more you do it the more you can fall into “telling” a story rather than “showing” it. First person is particularly difficult because we’re writing someone’s thoughts, and people’s thoughts are messy and not particularly sophisticated.

And of course, I didn’t tag any dialogue because that’s how how speak. “To make it on time, we have to get going.” “We really gotta go now.” And if you’re speaking to kids, “We really gotta go NOW.”

I’m not blaming this author–I blame her editor for not catching it, or not caring enough to catch the repetitiveness of the word and asking the author to perhaps do a word search of her document and swap out the word where applicable. This wasn’t an indie published book, and unlike some indie where you’re not sure if an editor has gone over the book, this one has. It’s too bad because the word ruined a story I could have enjoyed.

In my own unfinished WIP (67k+) I used GOT 19 times. All but one time is in dialogue. In this particular conversation I used it to express character:

“You got balls, doll, but I guess you’d have to, to lie to so many people for so long. It’s not going to be that easy for you, either, once your secret comes out. What got you into that mess, if you don’t mind me asking?”

Murray Jameson, from an untitled WIP

I can search through that book and find GOT maybe every three pages, and I wanted send out a warning. Words like putting, getting, put, got–those are lazy words and you can do better. If you can’t pull the word you need out of your brain while you’re in the zone, I don’t blame you and you shouldn’t let it derail you. Keep going but make a note, maybe an actual note so you don’t forget, that you’ll need to do a sweep for that word in edits.

I don’t write literary fiction, and I’m not out to be the next Margaret Atwood, but I do want my books to read clean and give the reader a chance to immerse herself into my story. I don’t want sloppy grammar to pull her out.

I got into plenty of trouble after Hannah died.

So easily remedied: I found plenty of trouble after Hannah died.

I know we all have our voices, our own styles, and if you want to use GOT go ahead. There is a time and place for it, and I know that. But too much of a good thing can be bad.

And that is my craft post for the month.

“Got” a pet peeve that you’ve discovered in books? Let me know!


Thursday Musings: Working from home, new processes, and a new book!

Happy Thursday, everyone! We are all on pins and needles waiting for the election results. No matter who you voted for, I hope our president can make 2021 a great year for all of us!


Last week I finished another round of edits for my King’s Crossing Billionaire Series. I wish I could afford to send them off to an editor and wash my hands of them (except for putting in the edits afterward, of course) but I have no idea how a prolific author can afford an editor, even paying for simple proofreading, if the money isn’t coming in yet. I’ve snooped around for pricing, but man. Editors charge a lot. I totally get that, but scraping up the money for project after project, I don’t get how indies can afford it. I mean sure, I understand that eventually you’re going to make money, but if you’re not quite doing that yet, it’s tough to afford editing. Everyone says it’s an investment, and it really is, but you shouldn’t have to choose between putting out a quality book and paying for food. It’s tough. So I’ll be taking a break from those 6 books and come back to them after the New Year with fresh eyes. I”ll listen to them and make more changes and then go ahead and put them out.

Until then, I’ve started a standalone in first person present POV about a man who is tasked to marrying off his boss’s daughter for a share in his boss’s company. He falls in love with her instead, naturally, forfeiting his share of the company for love. Tentatively titled The Contract, it was supposed to be a reader magnet for my newsletter I wanted to get up and going this year. I’m 12,000 words into it already, (I started it Monday of this week) have most of the book outlined, and to be honest, I don’t want to give it away. I think it would be a great first book under my new name for the first person books I’m going to start writing. (I still go back and forth with what that will be. Some derivative of my real name is all I know.) This leaves me in a real jam because I should have my newsletter set up for the back matter of The Contract. I don’t need a reader magnet for organic signups like that, but I should have something which means writing something else in the near future. I just need something simple that will be a novella-length book that I won’t feel bad about giving away. Maybe I can pull something out of a plot generator and take six days to write 30,000 words of…something.


My new project would qualify me to do NaNoWriMo this year, but I’ve never needed the motivation to write quickly. I enjoy the work for what it is, and have enough support on Facebook in some of my groups. I don’t know how long The Contract will turn out to be, but it would be nice if I could hit the 80,000 word mark or so. We’ll see. I always stress about word count–it seems it’s part of my process.

Speaking of processes, starting a new project while working from home is different. When I used to go to work, I only had a notebook and pen, and being I was attached to my call station, I didn’t have any distractions. Working from home is a lot different environment, and sitting with a pad and pen here feels weird. I still need to outline–I’ll never be a good pantser. I need to know where the story is going or I would never be able to write as fast as I do. But not going into work doesn’t give me the downtime that was forced upon me, and I have to actively make time to daydream about my characters, brainstorm plots, and generally imagine the pieces of my book to put them together on paper. It’s definitely a new way of doing things.


I’ve had to pause all my ads because I’m eight dollars in the hole already this month. It would be nice if I could keep my series moving as it’s a winter wedding setting and takes place a couple weeks before Christmas, but this is a bad time of year and I don’t want to pump money into ads if no one is the mood to read. I see lots of that in my FB groups now–how everyone’s ads are dead, no one is buying and is there anything they can do? The answer is no. If there’s no demand, there’s no need for product. If people are worried about the election results, stressing if it’s safe to gather for Thanksgiving, and if the answer is yes, then doing the grocery shopping, Christmas shopping, and whatever else people are busy with this time of year, you can’t make them sit down and read your book. You’re better off forgetting ad maintenance for now and writing something new so you have a new release set up for when all this craziness is over. I know it’s a different story when you depend on your royalties, and I’m not there yet. But spending time tinkering with ads, trying to get them to deliver impressions and clicks is a waste of time.


That’s all I have for you on this Thursday’s author musings. I’m excited to be writing something fresh, and I don’t think it will take me long to get this book done. Hopefully I’m looking at a February release, and then over next spring and summer I can get my 6 book series out. I’m not so down in the dumps as I was a couple of blog posts ago. Life happens, and all you can do is roll with it.

Have a good weekend, and thanks for reading!


Editing: Can you edit too much?

As I look up wrapping up my six book series (I’m at 67k for book five) editing 540,000 words is weighing on my mind. It’s a daunting task. I edit my own books, which people tell me is quite a no-no, and I agree for first-time authors and writers still working on their craft. I use beta readers who hunt for typos and point out murky scenes and I take their opinions to heart and decide if what they say has any validation in my work. (It usually does.)

On the other hand, my betas are writers, too, not only readers, and writers don’t read like readers do. We are pickier, which may or not be a good thing. The problem is, the pickier you are, the more you’re going to nickel and dime your manuscript to death.

So how can you edit without sucking the life out of your story?

  1. Don’t write by committee. I have to thank Kristine Kathryn Rusch for this tip. While critique partners and writing groups can offer valuable tips and suggestions, the end product should always be yours. There is no “best” way to write. Readers read your work because they like your voice. Writing by committee is the fastest way to lose your voice. You simply can’t implement everyone’s suggestions, nor can you make your book “perfect.” There is no such thing. Your book could have a million endings, a million different twists. If what you have chosen gels (meaning no potholes, you have realized character acs, etc) there’s no reason to be swayed by someone else’s opinion if you like what you’ve already got.
  2. Too many cooks ruin the broth. Every beta reader is going to have an opinion and your mind can spin if you try to listen to everyone. Some people think the more beta readers the better, but all that does is give you more opinions to listen to. Maybe you like that. I have one or two trusted betas and that’s it. I wouldn’t even bother with that except it’s not a good idea to publish without another set of eyes just to be sure you’re not missing anything plot-wise.
  3. Too many editing sweeps and you’ll edit the flavor right out of the story. I did this with Wherever He Goes. I wanted my first standalone to sound good, but all I did was make the opening chapters sound bland. It’s difficult to trust your gut, especially if you haven’t been writing for a while and you know your voice and writing style still need a little work. Going over and over your work won’t make it better–it’s already written. Make that particular piece the best it can be with as few editing sweeps as possible and move on to something new.
  4. Trust your instincts. I have already made some changes with my first couple of books in the series that I don’t agree with based on beta suggestions, and I regret them now. In my next editing sweep I’ll put them back. The things she pointed out and I changed were based on her personal dislikes and I should never have listened to her. I liked what I had before I made changes.
  5. Choose beta readers in your genre. I think that was part of my problem with number four above. The person who disliked aspects of my book doesn’t read or write in my genre. Sometimes this can be valuable, but usually having a beta familiar with your genre can help with tropes etc. and tell you if you hit the nail on the head or missed the mark. (Usually if you are an extensive reader in your genre, you’ll know without being told.)
  6. If you’ve been writing for a while, you may not need an editor. Hear me out. You may only need a proofreader so you can publish a clean copy of your work. As you’re writing evolves, you’ll become more confident and you won’t second-guess yourself like I did with Wherever He Goes, or even when I listened to my beta reader with the first couple of books when deep down I didn’t want to.

In closing, I’m not going to go all crazy with the editing of these books. I don’t want to edit my voice out of them. I want my characters to sound like themselves and that is a real risk when you over-edit. You can edit the spirit right out of your characters so they sound like every other character you’ll ever write.

You don’t want to publish a first draft, but you don’t want your editing to take longer than the actual writing either. There’re a lot of stories out there. Go write them.


If you want to hear Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s talk, she spoke at the 20booksto50k conference in Vegas last year. I think I might have referenced this video once before on the blog, but I’ll post it again if you’re curious.

Also, if you’re curious about a couple of good editing books, I just recommended these two to a friend on Twitter:

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers is a fabulous book and it’s highly recommended by a lot of writers, agents, and editors. You can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/Self-Editing-Fiction-Writers-Second-Yourself/dp/0060545690/

Taken from Amazon

And a new editing book that just came on the scene not long ago by Tiffany Yates Martin called Intuitive Editing: A Creative and Practical Guide to Revising Your Writing is fabulous! I heard about it in one of the FB groups I’m in, and it is awesome! I recommend you check it out! https://www.amazon.com/Intuitive-Editing-Creative-Practical-Revising/dp/1950830020/

taken from Amazon

Thanks for stopping in! Until next time! 🙂