Editing: What it is, why you need it, and where you can find help.

Editing your novel can vary in cost. You can pay nothing if you can find someone to swap with, or it can cost you in the thousands if you pay for all the things.

The types of editing vary, too, and it’s wise to figure out what you need before you look for an editor.

Types of editing:

  1. Proofreading. This is a sweep looking for typos. This is probably the cheapest and easiest editing job you can hire out. Even a beta reader could probably do this for you if you give out copies of your final draft.
  2. Line Edits. This goes a lot deeper. These editors look for punctuation, grammar, incorrect word usage, syntax, repetition, subject/verb agreement. If you don’t have a strong grasp of grammar, punctuation, or have a weak vocabulary and you often use an incorrect word, then a line edit is probably mandatory so you don’t look like an ass.
  3. Developmental Editing. Developmental editors read your whole book and make notes on plot holes and incomplete character arcs. They point out pacing, passages that don’t bring anything to the story or doesn’t make sense. If you wrote yourself into a corner and pulled a deus ex machina to get yourself out, they will call you on it. Developmental editors are good for writers who haven’t finished a book and need help getting there, or for a writer who is trying to stretch their writing wings and may need guidance with a more complicated plot. Book coaches or book doulas aren’t exactly the same thing, so research who/what/when/where before you hire anyone.

As an indie, you must decide what kind of editor you need. Because also, as an indie, you aren’t going to be able to afford all three–though some of the big indies who “have made it” pay for a combination of the three because they can.

What’s an indie to do if you can’t/doesn’t want to shell out the cash?

Let’s start with the developmental edit.
Look for places online that offer a critique partner match-up. On Twitter that’s #CPmatch. If you’re part of the #amwriting crowd you could probably just tweet you’re looking for a critique partner for your new novel in your genre. But the problem with this kind of service is the expectation of reciprocation. If you’re not willing to help someone else, don’t bother to look online for someone to help you for free. Expect to pay out. You could pay a beta reader for some feedback, but I doubt they would go as deep as a developmental editor. Betas maybe will give you a sense of what’s working and what’s not–but developmental editors can tell you how to fix your issues. There are also a gazillion writing groups on Facebook. Join a couple and ask if anyone would be willing to work with you. But this kind of situation is the same as Twitter–be prepared to reciprocate in some way in the future. And be prepared to wait. Not everyone will get back to you when you’d like them to.

Join a local writing group. People will be more than happy to tell you what’s wrong with your work. If you can develop a thick skin, and admit you need help, a writing group critique can be valuable. But people have the propensity to be cruel whether online or in person. So if you really need help of this nature, it may behoove you to pay out. At least the editor will be professional about it and actually tell you what you need to know to fix your book. I’ve spoken with people who have gotten such cruel feedback from writing groups they’ve stopped writing. I don’t want this for you.

Can you be your own developmental editor? You may need to write a few books before you can get your plot points, backstory building, saggy middles, and character arcs under control. Read up on plotting and building character arcs. If you want to avoid tons of rewriting and backing yourself into a corner only a deus ex machina could get you out of, then maybe learn to plot out your books. Pantsing is okay if you know where you want to go, but just letting your mind and your characters run wild may open you up to forgotten side characters, saggy middles where no one is doing anything, and plot holes that may take forever to fix.

One of the best ways you can learn developmental editing is to chart out a book you read that you enjoyed. Write out chapter by chapter what happened (mini-cliffhangers), paying special attention to the first part of the book (what drew you in), the middle (what kept the plot moving), the couple chapters toward the end (what made you keep reading to the last page). This is why it’s important to read in your genre. Eventually, you’ll learn the rhythm and feel of your genre and it will show in what you write.

Line editing.
If you really need this kind of help, there aren’t many places you can find this type of editing for free. I line edit, and it’s time-consuming. Pointing out grammar, punctuation, syntax, incorrect word usage, and repetition takes a lot of concentration. I do “look and finds” a lot. “You used ‘walked’ 300 times. ‘Looked’ 250. ‘Saw’ 600.” Whoever line edits for you needs to be able to point out comma splices, tell you when a word like saturated is better than lingered when it comes to a scent (or did you mean smell?). Did you mean waive instead of wave? Waist instead of waste? Or if it’s April second in your novel and you wrote there was a full moon, but at that time of year, the moon would actually have been a quarter? This attention to detail that a line editor gives you cannot be produced for free. It’s just too much work. Did you mean Kleenex or tissue? Because if you’re referring to the brand, you better capitalize it. Same with Jell-O or gelatin. Does your main male character watch sports center or SportsCenter? Because only one of them is correct, and I bet you can see which one it is.

The good news is you can teach yourself a lot. Read grammar books. Self-editing books. You need to train yourself to pay attention to detail. Look up words if you don’t know their exact meanings. The best way to learn is to read a lot of fiction and non-fiction books. In time, you’ll get better. But until then, are you talking about karat, or carat when you describe your FMC’s engagement ring? If you don’t understand, or you don’t know what you don’t know, you’re going to have to find, and probably pay, someone to tell you.

Proofreading.
Proofreading is the cheapest form of editing. Don’t give your book to someone to proofread unless you are done.

Done.

Because when you go through your book fixing things, sometimes you can fix in a mistake right along with it. Your proofreader will be your last set of eyes. So don’t decide to rewrite chapter one after your proofreader has done her job. That wastes everyone’s time.

There are some software programs that can help–but a software program can’t take the place of human eyes, so take their suggestions with a (huge) grain of salt.

Grammarly. Grammarly is okay. But they are comma crazy. They are also hyphen crazy. I stopped running my manuscripts through it. You’re better off knowing your stuff and reading your MS line by line with a ruler. In my experience, no help is better than their help. **I do have Grammarly installed on my laptop, and though I don’t use it for my books anymore, it’s great for blog posts, tweets, and FB posts. I appreciate their assistance when I’m blogging, as for non-fiction, it’s an accurate help.

Hemingway Editor. The Hemingway app gives you a free sample online. Just copy and past part of your manuscript into the program and see if it would be beneficial to you. It’s only $20.00. I have it, but I don’t use it.

ProWriting Aid. I’ve used the free sample online, and it’s similar to Hemingway. They have different levels of pay (per time usage), so see what’s best for you if you like the online sample. My friend Aila loves it and wrote a great blog post about it (but please note the giveaway is over), and she’s an affiliate with them. If you decide to buy the program, I would appreciate it if you bought it from her affiliate link.

If you have trouble with syntax, natural-sounding dialogue or if you have slow areas that affect your pacing, you may want to try having your computer read to you. I love doing this–especially if you ever think you’ll turn your books into audio. The voice isn’t perfect, but it’s better than nothing. Some people read their manuscripts aloud, but because you know what you want it to say, you may miss things.

Here is a list of my favorite editing books:

Writing Deep POV

Self-Editing On a Penny: A Comprehensive Guide

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print

VOICE: The Secret Power of Great Writing

Fix Your Damn Book!: A Self-Editing Guide for Authors: How to Painlessly Self-Edit Your Novels & Stories

Mastering Showing and Telling in Your Fiction (Busy Writer’s Guides) (Volume 4)

Structuring Your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing an Outstanding Story

Creating Character Arcs: The Masterful Author’s Guide to Uniting Story Structure (Helping Writers Become Authors) (Volume 7)

That should be enough to get you going. I’ve read all of these and they are my favorites.

If you hire an editor, always be sure to send a sample first. Some editors charge you for this, but if you hire them, they’ll put that fee toward your book. Give them as clean a draft as possible, because if your sample is a mess, they will quote you higher. They’ll think your book will take them a lot of time.

Writers are not always good editors, and editors don’t always make good writers. Writing and editing are different skill sets and they are not inclusive of each other.

Know what you’re getting into before forking out the cash.

Where to look for an editor:

Join Alli, the Alliance for Independent Authors. They have a great list of resources for indies. They take a stance on putting out supremely professional work though, so don’t be surprised if their resources are expensive. Unfortunately, you can’t gain access to their resources without becoming a member.

Joanna Penn makes her resources available for free. But be careful. Someone’s best fit won’t necessarily be yours.

Reedsy. Create an account and you will have their resources at your disposal. Vetted for skill and professionalism, you’ll get what you pay for. They have a lot of different freelancers for the different kinds of editing you’d be interested in.

reedsy editors

Start looking for an editor quite some time before you wish to publish. You’ll be put at the end of the queue. While you wait for them to edit your book, you can work on something else, get your author platform going, go on vacation, what have you. But you won’t be working on your timetable anymore.

I hope this blog post and resources have helped you a bit.

Next up is formatting! Fun times!

Thanks for reading!

How Free is Self-Publishing?

It costs absolutely nothing to publish a book. Nothing.

free

There are free word processing programs like Google Docs. You can use a library’s internet and computer. Platforms like Draft2Digital and Amazon’s KDP will provide you with some kind of book identification number so you don’t have to buy ISBNs for your books.

All you need to do is write, make a cover in Canva using their free website, use a free for commercial use picture from Pixabay, Pexels, or Unsplash, and you are a published author. All for free.

But when isn’t that a good idea?

Do you know Amazon has over 7 billion books in their Kindle store? And writers publish more every day.

So not only are you competing with everyone you know on Writer Twitter, you are competing with writers who are not on Twitter, big time indies who don’t have much time for social media. You’re competing with traditionally published authors, and those authors range from anywhere between The Big Five to tiny university presses.

You’re competing with writers from the US, Canada, (do you know how many writers I know who live in London, Ontario? A lot!) the UK, Australia, and many other countries.

Over 7 billion books.

Okay. What what is this blog post really about now that I’ve made you feel like crap?

Spending money.

Self-publishing is free.

Until it isn’t.

I do everything myself. For my trilogy, and Wherever He Goes, I wrote them, edited them. I formatted them and did the covers. The orangy hue on the third is my fault. I didn’t have the skill to fix it. It doesn’t look bad on screen, but the paperback could look better. That’s just the way it is, and I accept that.

What can you pay for when you self-publish?

  • Editing
  • Formatting
  • Cover

Those are the three big ones. But we can go further:

  • Beta Readers/Critique Partners/Book Coaches/Book Doulas
  • Blurb writing
  • Reviews/Arc review services like NetGalley
  • Advertising, ie, Facebook ads, Amazon ads, Promotions
  • ISBNs
  • Paperbacks for giveaways
  • Giveaway fees like on Goodreads

No one is saying you have to pay for all of that–or any of it.

It’s up to your discretion how much money you want to pump into your books.

See, this is the problem. No one wants to admit that they publish their books to sell them. Which leads an author not spending one dime on their books.

They are publishing for themselves. I repeat this over and over again like a broken record:

If you only publish for yourself you have no right to complain if your books do not sell.

But if you can admit you want people to pay to read your work then you have to take a hard look at your book.

Is the cover you made yourself doing the job?

Is your blurb up to snuff or is it confusing and off-putting?

Are there typos in the first few pages of the Look Inside?

If you can’t put out quality work yourself, then you’re going to need help.

It’s that simple.

And that difficult because saying you need help is a lot easier than being able to afford said help.

That being said, you can teach yourself how to do these things.

If you just shut down on me, it’s because you don’t want to take the time to learn. That’s okay. I wear clothes every day. That doesn’t mean I want to learn how to sew.

But what I’m trying to tell you is that you must find a happy medium between doing things for yourself and hiring out the help you need to make your book desirable to readers.

Because remember, readers have 7 billion choices.

Listen, my books aren’t pretty. Use the look Inside Feature for any of my books and you’ll see basic formatting. The embellishments are non-existent.

That’s fine. I taught myself enough to get by, and that’s good enough for me.

Readers aren’t going to care if you have fancy chapter headings if your story sucks.

So, being I’ve published a few things, I can suggest where you should put your money–if you have any, or where you should ask for favors from friends–if you have any. Just kidding!

  1. Editing. If you’re a newbie writer, this means a developmental edit as well as a line edit and proofing. Plot holes, flat characters. Developmental editing can be more of a job for a critique partner or someone from your writing group. Ask someone who reads your genre so they have a handle on the tropes and feel for the type of genre your book is in. Once you have a stellar story and a solid look inside sample, you need a good cover.
  2. Cover. Canva.com offers design classes. You need to train your eye and learn what makes a good cover. It can make or break your book. Plus, if you push your book in any way, ads, promos, giveaways, your cover will be the selling point. Look at your genre on Amazon. Look at templates. Try to duplicate them yourself in Canva. You may need to spring for a photo, but that’s not as expensive as you might think. I buy mine on canstockphoto.com for seven dollars apiece. Photos are even cheaper if you buy a credit package.

    A word of warning though. I write romance, and slapping some text onto a smiling couple is a lot different than making a cover for an Urban Fantasy novel. Fantasy, of any kind, requires a certain kind of cover. Negotiating a price with someone on Fiverr is a lot better than publishing a book that does not have an appropriate cover. Your sales will stop before they even start. I’m sorry, but that’s just the way it is.

    Sometimes you can find a pre-made template that’s cheap.

    Sometimes you can even find a photo on a photo site that is already doctored to how you need/want it to be. Set aside hours, days, if not weeks, to click through pictures. I’m barely 20,000 words into my next book and I’m already looking at photos.

  3. Formatting. Formatting for Kindle takes five minutes. All you need to do is set the options in Word so when you upload it into KDP it converts correctly. If you go wide and you use Draft2Digital, you don’t even have to do that. (Smashwords is a different story, and your Word file has to be formatted correctly or it won’t convert through their “meatgrinder” and they won’t publish your book.) Draft2Digital seems easier to work with, but I’m in KDP Select and haven’t used either of those services.

 

What is the cost of self-publishing? It can cost as much or as little as you want to put into it.

Someone opening a business always needs to invest. Paying for services is investing in your book business.

I used to think that I didn’t want to invest in my books because I may never get that money back. But that was incorrect thinking.

If my books are well-written, have a nice cover, and are formatted as to not turn anyone off from reading it, eventually, I will see that money returned to me by way of sales.

My books will be sold for years and years.  As I slowly make a name for myself, my sales will increase. It will take time, but I’m in it for the long haul, and I have patience.

I’ve put money toward my books by way of taking the time to learn how to do things for myself. I read lots of editing books. I read tons of blog posts about what makes a good cover. I’ve practiced making covers. I’ve learned to format my files. It took time. But time is money. I’ll eventually see dividends on the time I invested in my books.

time is money

It’s a personal choice.


This blog post begins a self-publishing series about how you can do most of these things by yourself if you want, and where to look if you don’t. I’ll give you the resources I used to learn and you can decide for yourself if it’s easier for you to hire out, or if you can’t afford it, where you can spend time learning things on your own.

Look for my next blog post about editing resources.

Thanks for reading!

 

Thoughts on the RWA

rwa header

I’m a member of the Romance Writers of America. I like being part of a group of people with similar interests. I was especially proud to belong when they stepped up to bat during #cockygate. (For those interested in following along with the hashtag on Twitter, look here.) I feel it’s an organization that has my best interests at heart as a writer and author and wants to help me succeed. In fact, I’ve been a member for a while now, and I haven’t even started to explore all the resources they offer their members.

I was listening to the Sell More Books Show and they featured a blog post by Allison Brennan who left the RWA because she felt like the organization operated more for indie writers than traditionally published romance authors.

While I don’t have a problem with the RWA operating this way because I am an indie author, I did notice this, too, as I paged through the Romance Writers Report. I’ve read articles about marketing, discoverability. How to work with editors and book cover designers. These articles are written with the self-publishing author in mind (trad-pubbed authors don’t have to worry about editing their own books, or hiring their own cover designer). Even in the June issue I have on hand, some of the articles include:

  • Romance Law School is Now in Session: How to include law in your fiction in a realistic manner.
  • Fifty Ways to Show the Spark without the Heat
  • Proofreading Hats

I’m not saying traditionally published authors don’t need how-to articles like these, but I am saying that indie or new writers could find more value in them. I suppose a veteran writer could use the Fifty Ways article for writing prompts, or read the Romance Law School is Now in Session article for ideas on how to write a new series featuring a lawyer. But the Report also features ads, and they are geared to the indie writer–lots of editing, proofreading, and formatting ads no traditional published author is going to need.

So the question is, is this the right move for the RWA?

They want to support all their members, and if indie membership outweighs traditionally published author membership, then perhaps it is a good direction for them to take.

However, it feels like there are more organizations aimed at supporting indie writers than ever before. The Alliance for Independent Authors is very supportive offering an array of services from podcasts to a services directory where an author can find professional editors, cover designers, and formatting professionals. There are other organizations as well, such as the Independent Book Publishers Association.

There is support for us indies. So does Allison have a point? Where do traditionally published authors go for support if they find RWA lacking? Do they even need support? After all, they are where a lot of us hope to be someday. Is the RWA pushing them from the nest because they are ready to fly? Do traditionally published authors get enough writing and publishing support from their publishing houses and their agents? Where do they go for networking opportunities if they are slowly being ousted from the organization?

Allison does make a good point, too: if all the traditionally published authors leave the RWA because they don’t feel RWA has anything more to offer, what becomes of us who look up the traditionally-published authors? Who would judge the RWA contests? Who would be our mentors? Who would be our professional critique partners and our chapter leaders?

But let’s be honest, here, too. If the RWA wants to support writers, and by support, I mean, help them make (more) money, then self-publishing is a viable way to go. At least for romance. (If you want to read about indie romance authors dominating the self-publishing industry, click here.)

To me, it makes a lot of sense for RWA to shift. After all, the distinction between traditional and indie publishing is blurring more and more every day. And a lot of traditionally published authors are still the ones who do a lot for their books: marketing, platform building. Some authors have to set up blog tours, book signings, that kind of thing.

Being a traditionally published author today doesn’t even guarantee you’ll end up on a bookshelf. Maybe a virtual bookshelf, but the chances of seeing your book at Barnes and Noble shrink every day. I took a quick peek at Harlequin’s mail service, and if you subscribed to every line and subscribed to the maximum they mailed you in that line every month, you would receive 86 books a month. It isn’t possible that every book would find shelf space, even for just four weeks.

So what does it mean to be traditionally published? To pass the gatekeepers? Is this Allison’s main guff with RWA supporting indies? Perhaps she wants the RWA to nurture us to being published traditionally. But not one way is going to be the right way for everyone.

The publishing landscape is changing. Maybe Allison Brennan doesn’t want to see it. Maybe she sees indies as her competition, not her colleagues. Maybe she sees herself as better because she’s traditionally published. The problem is, that way of thinking divides indies from the traditionally published authors, and that’s just not the way things are anymore.

One day traditional publishing won’t give Allison what she needs, and then she’ll need the RWA to help her gain her footing in a constantly changing publishing landscape that she’s refused to acknowledge.

rwa missionRomance writers are all the same. We all want the same thing. To write quality books and make a reader swoon over a happily ever after. And the RWA supports that, no matter how those stories are published.

Issues like #cockygate affect all of us, and we all need an organization like RWA to have our backs.

I’m proud to belong.

The Scary World of Amazon Marketing Services

Writers need to get their books out there. Twitter doesn’t sell books. Neither does Facebook–at least not on your personal profile. There are only so many copies Aunt Edna wants. And she’s not going to pay your bills. (If she is, that’s no one’s business but yours.)

So what is an author to do? Well, you can write more books. You should be anyway. What else? Instagram the shit out of your life hoping to draw some attention to your fabulous #writerslife.

What else?

Pay for promos, maybe. I’m assuming I’m still getting some KU page reads from a Freebooksy promo I did a few months ago. (To read about that, click here.)

I’ve come to the conclusion after a few years on Twitter, the only way to find readers is to write books and tell people (who aren’t on Twitter) about them (you know, actual readers). I’ve decided to dip my toes into the world of Amazon ads.

amazon adsNow, lots of people have told me that they don’t work. I bought Brian Meeks’ book, and he tells me they do. But you gotta be smart, and you gotta be patient, and you gotta test. Test and Test. And Test.

Oh, by the way, you have to have a decent book, good cover, good blurb. Because if you don’t have a quality book, no amount of advertising will sell your POS. (Sometimes people forget about that part.)

So, I’ve been running ads for a couple of weeks. Brian says this isn’t hardly any time at all, and I agree. Buying and running ads on Amazon isn’t the magic trick to selling books and getting famous. You need to have patience, and you need to know what you’re doing.

At first, I bid low (like Brian advised–he walks you through the entire process), and piecing together information from other sources, I realized this was way too low. I write contemporary romance, and it’s a highly competitive market.

The thing with Amazon ads is you need to bid high enough that Amazon will show your ads, but not so high that if someone clicks on your ad but doesn’t buy, you don’t go broke paying for clicks that don’t turn into sales.

It’s called a sweet spot, and from what I can tell, few people have the patience to get there. Or they are too scared they are going to waste a lot of money trying.

I’ve been running ads for 13 days, and this is what I have so far:

ams ads so far june 18

Remember, 13 days isn’t hardly any time at all. But for anyone scared to run ads, take a look: I have 12 ads running right now, and I’ve spent 35 cents. Not dollars, cents. None of the ads are doing particularly well, and I assume it’s because I’ve bid too low. The ad for Don’t Run Away that has over 3,000 impressions, hasn’t cost me anything. But those impressions could have given me a few page reads in KU if someone saw the ad, but didn’t click and just decided to try the book in KU anyway. Where and when someone decides to read your book if it’s enrolled in KU will always be a mystery.

Here are my KU page reads for DRA. I took this screenshot on June 18th. The same day I took the screenshot of my ad dashboard.

sales and ku reads for dra

Nope, I don’t have any sales yet. But I haven’t gone broke trying, either.

So anyone who is wanting to try this but is afraid of losing money can err on the side of caution, figure a few things out, and go from there.

I’m surprised that DRA is getting impressions, as the second set of ads I did for Wherever He Goes is a higher cost per click (which you would think would buy me more exposure), and I think the cover for WHG is better than DRA. But maybe the blurb is better written, or the characters resonate better with readers.

So where do I go from here? I plan to bid a bit more for WHG, and see if I can’t get some impressions, at least. Maybe I could even do another set of ads for DRA at a higher bid, and see if that doesn’t ramp up my impressions even more and hope those turn into clicks. Or I could do nothing, and wait to see what happens, because 13 days of ads is hardly any time at all.

But I’ll keep an eye on it. I just wanted to let you know a high daily limit doesn’t have to scare you.

And if you take anything away from this it’s this: if your ads are successful, and you are getting a ton of clicks but they aren’t turning into sales–you need to look at your book. You need to look at your cover. Your Look Inside pages. Your blurb. Don’t pay for ads for a crappy book. Make it better.

I’ll keep you posted!

Beach Reads Giveaway Coming Soon!

Super fun beach reads giveaway!

 

Even though I said I wouldn’t do many giveaways anymore, it’s SUMMER and that means an opportunity to do a beach reads giveaway!

Let’s break out the beach towels, hit the beach, or the pool, or even the backyard and the sprinkler, and pull out those books while you bake out your brains and try to banish those hold-over winter blues!

I’m in the process of putting together a fabulous giveaway. Need a beach towel–I’ve got you covered. Hypo-allergenic sunscreen? Check! Pool-safe beverage container? Check! Cooler? Check! And most importantly, books.

domenico-daniele-411075-unsplash

Did someone say SHARK????

Lots and lots of books!

I’ve got my fellow author friends sending me books–all the books! And that means an awesome assortment for you to try your luck at winning.

Mystery/thriller, Women’s Fiction, Romantic Tragedy, and Contemporary Romance are just a few of the genres that will be included in the giveaway!

I’ll post a link soon, so keep an eye out for more information!

Until then, enjoy the weather, and keep reading!

 

 

 

Photos by Unsplash

 

The Wedding Date–A crabby book review

the wedding dateWhen I saw The Wedding Date at Target, I picked it up. The premise was a trope I have always enjoyed–a fake date that turns into a real relationship.

When Alexa meets Drew, it’s in a hotel elevator that has stalled. Drew is there to be a groomsman at his ex’s wedding. Alexa is at the hotel visiting her sister. They get to talking; sparks fly.  That she is black and he is white does nothing to the story. In fact, because the author does not use the character’s skin color as neither a negative or positive plot device, I forgot by the middle of the book they are even different in that way. I didn’t care, anyway.

Drew and Alexa are from different California cities, and throughout most of the book, they are flying back and forth to see each other on the weekends.

Drew is a pediatric doctor, and Alexa is the chief of staff for her city’s mayor. Their occupations are thrown into the plot as little side bits in an attempt to deepen their character arcs, and it doesn’t work that well. (More on that later!)

As most long-distance relationships go, there are disagreements and misunderstandings, and I have to admit by the middle of the book I started to skim.

The book ended how I would assume a romance would–happily ever after. And no, she didn’t relocate–he did. As a romance writer, I can appreciate the author made her male main character give a little, as a lot of times in books it is the woman who makes the compromises to keep the relationship going.

But also, as an indie writer and self-published author, I have to ask, “How the F did this get published?”

This is probably one of the most annoying things about traditional publishing. Traditional publishers can publish crap, while good indie writers can’t get an agent to save their lives.

I’m not saying this book is crap or didn’t deserve to be published–but I am saying this book could have used a lot more editing.

One thing that turned me off almost from the start was the use of repetitive words and phrases. As an indie, we’re taught word needs space–but this also includes phrasing. Can your female main character look up at your male main character 10 times a page?

Yes.

Does it read well?

No.

I would have loved to get ahold of her Word document and do a search for a list of “naughty” words.

Someone needed to because Drew kept putting his arm around Alexa’s waist, and every time I read it, it made me itch.

The story itself began to grow repetitive and mundane, and like I said, about the middle of the book I began to skim. There were only so many times I could read about them flying back and forth, having sex (that mostly faded to black, so I didn’t even have the sex scenes to look forward to) and taking the texts they sent each other when they weren’t together in the wrong way.

The ending came out the way I expected, but Alexa’s job, her sister’s backstory, and a kid with cancer made the plot some kind of soupy mess.

I want to be clear here. I am not blaming the author. She had a good premise, and she put forth a good effort.

Who I am blaming is her publishing house and the editing they failed to give her.

There are a few reasons for this:.

  1. They wanted to push the book out for marketing reasons or to catch a trend.
  2. Maybe the editor who acquired the book left the publishing house and little attention was paid to the book after that. (After listening to podcasts about the publishing industry I am surprised at how often this happens, and how much this hurts the author and the book.)
  3. The editor the author was stuck with was new or had too much on his or her plate.

No matter what the reason, however, it is frustrating for an indie author to buy a traditionally published book full of mistakes we are told to stop doing in our own work.

And it’s frustrating to know an author can get a book deal when indies who have stellar books in their possession can’t find agents.

There are probably reasons for this, too. She knew someone in the industry and she used her connections. She may have won a contest. Or simply, she just got lucky.

But that won’t give me my $13 back plus tax.

And I suppose the one thing that makes me the most upset is that the midlist is shrinking. Big publishers go for the big books, the books that will bring in millions like James Patterson’s and Bill Clinton’s The President is Missing.

Few midlist books are printed every year. In fact, there are imprints who publish digital only books like Carina Press. This is disappointing to an author who hopes to see their book on a shelf. Any shelf.  Even Target. Maybe especially Target. It’s not an accident the book section is across the aisle from Toys.

What can a writer hoping to query and publish a book take from all this?

That the publishing industry is broken?

We knew that already.

It says to me I may never want to be a part of a traditional publishing industry.

Because I expect that if Roxane Gay, who is a New York Times bestselling author, would be willing to blurb a book, and that book is a Target Club Pick, it’s going to be good and worth my money.

And again, this isn’t a blast on the debut novelist. It’s a blast on the publishing industry that would publish a book that needed so much more work.

I know books aren’t for everyone and this particular book, or perhaps even author because I’ll never read her again, just wasn’t my cup of tea. (I drink coffee anyway.)

But a scan of reviews on Amazon told me it wasn’t a cup of tea for others as well. (Who also may only drink coffee.)

Even someone reading The Wedding Date as a reader and not a writer can still say a book grated on their nerves even if they can’t pinpoint why.

I don’t expect to like every book I read–that’s a given. But with the resources of a large publishing house–this book was published by Jove, an imprint of Penguin–I shouldn’t dislike a book because of the editing or lack thereof.

jasmine guilloryI wish the best to Jasmine Guillory.  I hope she can come into her own as a writer without help or she seeks it out on her own (if she happens to read reviews) because her publishing house certainly isn’t going to give her any assistance.

What do you think of the plight of a first-time querying author? Do we have a chance, or should we just give up?

Let me know!

How Do You Create Well-Rounded Characters?

From time to time I’ll read a book written by an indie author. I like to see what’s going on in the world of self-publishing and what my competition friends are writing. But I’ve happened upon a common theme–new authors don’t understand the concept of three-dimensional characters. Or if they do, they can’t correctly express it on the page.

What do we mean when we say readers want a well-rounded character?

When you read editing books, (and shame on you if you aren’t!) you’ll read a section on show, not tell. Show me your Female Main Character is tough, don’t just tell me she is.

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This is so much harder than it sounds because you need to begin your character-building from page one and continue the building through the entire book.

Say your FMC is moving, and she drops a box on her foot. Or she’s hanging a picture and she slams her thumb with a hammer. She doesn’t cry. She’s tough. You’ve shown us she can hurt and not give in to tears.

So what?

That means nothing to the reader. We want to know why. Why is she tough?

Did her father beat her mother whenever she cried, so your FMC has trained herself not to cry? Maybe her father beat your FMC for being weak. (Gotta love some horrific backstory, right?)

This makes your character tough. Now we have a reason. How does that tie in with the story? Because it always has to tie in. Your characters’ traits need to blend into the internal conflict and external conflict.

Your characters’ traits are involved in your characters’ emotional growth. And your characters’ emotional growth is propelled forward by the plot.

Readers need the emotional arc to care and invest in your characters, their lives, and their problems.

Let’s have a quick example:

Felicity is starting a new life. She’s tough–life has made her that way. She grew up watching her father beat her mother. Her new apartment in a new city is a fresh start.

She clicks with a mover who delivers her new furniture. He has a temper, and after dating she realizes he has anger management issues. He reminds Felicity of her father. She gets scared of him, though he would never hurt her, or anyone, for that matter.

We have some fabulous internal conflict now:

  1. Felicity is tough on the outside, but as you write her backstory and weave it into the plot, we’ll see she’s actually vulnerable on the inside.
  2. The man she falls in love with brings her back to fearful and unhappy times.
  3. He loves her, but can’t control his rage enough to make her feel safe around him.
  4. She needs to learn that not every man she meets is like her father.
  5. He needs to learn he has to calm down and get help or they have no future.

This isn’t enough for a full plot, of course. Maybe someone is after her (she’s running from something/someone) and she has to trust him despite being scared of him.

Maybe he already knows who she is, and he was assigned to protect her–but he knows if he can’t control his temper, she won’t trust him and he won’t be able to do his job.

At any rate, we have reasons and backstory. (I focused on Felicity, but we see that our MMC has issues as well, and you could make up a fabulous backstory for him, too.) We have an explanation as to why they behave the way they do.

Your characters are people who have traits that have been cultivated by events in their lives.

For your reader, it’s not enough to make your FMC a bitch, or moody, or pissy. Readers need reasons tied to backstory and internal conflict, or all they have is an unlikeable main character.

Even your villains need reasons for being evil. Some of the best villains are characters readers feel sorry for, even relate to.

Jaime Lannister is a good example. Everyone despised him for pushing Bran out the window in A Song of Fire and Ice. But when his hand was cut off in A Storm of Swords, we almost feel sorry for him. And, possibly, everyone wanted a romantic relationship to develop between him and Brienne. Even though there wasn’t a character less deserving. (Oh, that was only me? Sorry. Must be my romantic coming out in me, again.)

Make your character a bitch, and all she is is a bitch. Make your character a bitch with reasons, feelings, and a desire to change, or she’ll lose what matters most, and you have internal conflict and a character growth arc.

The best books are both plot-driven and character-driven.

Readers want change–to go on a journey with your characters. They need internal/emotional growth while going with your characters from point A to point B.

Some of the writers I’ve read have the plot down, but haven’t yet perfected revealing backstory, explaining why the characters behave the way they do.

Sometimes this can be easily solved by getting to know your characters better. Spend time with them. What are their hopes, fears, ambitions, and flaws?

An author will have a difficult time introducing their characters if they don’t know who their own characters are. And if the writer doesn’t know, the reader sure as hell won’t.

Traits, negative or otherwise, does not a well-rounded character make.

For more tips on writing a well-rounded character check out WRITERS HELPING WRITERS®. The assortment of books for traits and emotions can go a long way to helping you figure out who your characters are and how to write them in a way readers can understand and empathize with.

 

Creating Character Arcs is another good book written by KM Weiland. Check out her blog here. She dishes out fantastic tips on writing, and I own all of her nonfiction books.  Happy writing!
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