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Many authors are now hybrids, using both traditional and indie forms of publishing for different projects. Whether you go with traditional publishing or indie publishing or a combination of the two, you have more options than ever when it comes to publishing your novel.

Traditional Publishing

Traditional publishing is the established system of getting a book deal. This system requires that the writer submit their manuscripts through their agent to publishers and receive numerous rejections and then if they are lucky, are eventually accepted and a contract is signed. The book will then go through more edits and is eventually be published.

Why Traditionally Publish?

Almost every author I ever met (including me!)  suffer from self-doubt and wonder if their work is any good. By making it through the process of getting an agent and then a publisher, the approval of these gatekeepers validates your work as good enough for publication. Even if the book doesn’t sell well, somebody thought it had value. If your definition of success requires a traditional deal, Indie publishing is not for you!

Print distribution in bookstores is easier. Traditional publishing excels at this and  their model is primarily designed to facilitate print distribution to bookstores and even libraries. Salespeople go around the stores and make it very easy for book buyers to choose books and the publisher minus any returns. Books are usually in the store for a month and only remain if they are perennial sellers. (Few books reach this perennial status.)

Authors expect traditional publishing to include editors, cover designers, formatters and marketing to help provide as part of the contract. Marketing effort is usually related to how much is invested in the project, and marketing for publishing companies is usually to booksellers rather than to individual consumers. You should receive a sales team to take books to bookstores. If you’re one of those authors who say you “only want to write,” and let the publisher handle the rest, traditional publishing would be your best option.

If you are asked for money, then it is NOT a traditional publishing deal. It’s likely to be a vanity publisher and you should be very careful. With traditional publishing, you have no upfront financial costs, and you’ll usually get some kind of advance against royalties. The typical advance for a first novel is $5000. The typical advance for later novels, after a typical number of 5-7 years and 5-7 books is $12,500. Having an agent at any point increases your advance. If you get an advance of $5,000, you then have to earn more than $5,000 out of your royalty rate on book sales before you get any more money.

Literary prizes and critical acclaim are more likely through traditional publishing, and many literary prizes aren’t even open to indie authors

You’re more likely to become a brand-name author if you go with traditional publishing.

The Downside of Traditional Publishing

Writing and editing will be the same regardless of how you want to publish. After that, you will need about a year or two to find your agent. After that, it might take you another year or two to get a publishing deal. Once you have a publishing deal it might take another two years or more to get your book launched. (If you self-publish, once your book is edited, your book will be up on Amazon within a few hours and you can get your first check 60 days later.)

Once you sign a contract with your publisher, you’ll loss of creative control. I have heard horror stories about authors whose books have titles, covers and marketing angles that aren’t to their liking. You may disagree with an editor, and not be able to do anything about those changes that you dislike.

You’ll find that you have low royalty rates. Royalty rates are a percentage of the sale of the book. They’re likely to be net, so all the discounts, returns, marketing costs and overheads are taken off the total before your percentage can calculated. Royalty rates for traditional publishing will usually range between 7% and 25%, with the latter on the unusually generous end. The rates will also differ per format (e-book, hardcover, paperback, audio). Royalty reports may come every six months for a specific period of sales and many authors say those reports are difficult to understand. What you get in your bank account may not agree with those reports, so you won’t know until you see the money in your account what you’re actually getting.  

More often than not, authors have to do their own marketing and agents will often seek out authors who have a ‘platform’ or at least an email list of readers. If you do want a traditional publishing deal, make sure you ask them what is included for marketing and that your book is not just a part of their bookstore catalog.

Potentially prohibitive contract clauses are also a problem. You might find an agent who is willing to represent you, but their contract might insist that they get a percentage of everything you write even if they didn’t negotiate the contract (including self-published work). If you come across that keep looking until you find an agency who really will help you build your brand and not just skim off the top of your earnings.

Don’t agree to ever allow the publisher to take World English rights in all formats.  Your agent’s job is to keep as many rights as possible when you’re doing a deal so you can exploit them in other ways. For example, you could just sell the US and Canada rights and then self-publish in the rest of the world. Be careful with formats as well, especially audio books. Many publishers take audio rights as part of a contract and then they don’t actually end up recording it. You don’t want that to happen. Either keep audio rights or specify a length of time the publisher can keep rights before they revert back to you.

Look at the term of the contract and the rights reversion clause. It used to be that there was an out of print clause. However, because of print on demand and e-books, a book never goes out of print. You have to consider when you want to get your rights back.

Once you sign a contract for your book, the book may legally belong to the publisher for the life of copyright which is the life of the author plus 70 years after you die. You should also look at the do not compete clause, because this may stop you publishing during the term of the contract under the same name, in the same world, or with the same characters.

You have to really consider whether the money for the contract is worth it. This is where many authors think, “Perhaps this will be the only contract I’ll ever be offered and might just lose out.” These authors will sign deals because they’re grateful to be offered anything. They don’t value their own work. They don’t realize that publishers are there to make a profit. They are not doing you a favor by publishing your book. They are businesses and they want to make money. What they are offering you is simply that an offer. You have to determine for yourself what you’re worth. Don’t under-value yourself. If they don’t offer you a better contract, take your manuscript to someone who will or go out on your own.  Your publishing choice is more a question of the outcome that you want to achieve and your definition of success. Don’t let the publisher think they have the upper hand. You have more control over the situation than you realize.

The difference Between a Self-publisher and an Indie Author

Some people like to differentiate between a self-publisher and an Indie Author. They believe that self-publishing implies that you do everything yourself and you do it as a hobby. On the other hand, they believe that being an indie author or Independent author is a person who has decided that he or she was in charge of the process and that the indie author is a freelance professional who creates a quality product for their business.

I personally don’t create a distinction between self-publishing and being an indie author. I see myself as a publisher who determines how my book is published. I determine who edits, who designs the cover, I determine my bio and my book description, I even determine how my book will be formatted. However, that doesn’t mean that I do all of the work myself.

I didn’t become an Indie author or self-publisher as a last resort because I couldn’t find a publisher either. I chose to be an Indie author because I like the control that I have over my own creative process and the end product.

Pros and Cons of Being an Indie Author

As I mentioned before, I personally am an Indie author because I have complete creative control over content and design of my book. Many authors who were in traditional publishing and are now in self-publishing talk about how painful it was to have a cover or title they hated, or to have editorial choices imposed on them whether they liked them or not. As an indie, you can work with freelancers of your choice and you can choose the ultimate look and feel of your product. If you don’t like a freelancer’s work, you can choose to go with someone else. If you title a book or get a cover design that you decide you don’t like, you can retitle or redesign the cover. Just upload another file. The start-up mentality that mistakes are how we learn. Failure is just a step along the way makes this easier for us indies. Print on demand and e-books make it so we don’t even have to have a warehouse of books lying around.

Being an Indie Author gives us a sense of power that traditionally published authors don’t have.  Many traditionally published authors feel insecure and downtrodden by the publishing process. They feel they can’t make a decision alone or take action to improve their situation. It doesn’t matter that they are the creative individuals who created the stories in the first place.

After signing a contract, traditionally published authors have no control over anything about their books from the creative process to how the book is marketed. Indies, on the other hand, have a locus of control making them happier and empowered. The Indie Author can learn new skills, work with other professionals, make mistakes and learn from those mistakes. You don’t have to ask for permission, you’re the one in charge.

As an Indie author you are able to get your book to market much more quickly.  Once the writing time and editing are finished, you are ready to publish your novel to Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Draft2Digital, Smashwords and any other stores. Your e-book is usually for sale within 4-72 hours. You’re paid 60 days after the end of the month of sale. If you’re doing print on demand, you can get that up within 24 hours if you approve the formatting online. Next you get a copy of it and look it over to be sure that the book is as perfect as you think it is and then you can order books to sell or give away to reviewers

Indie authors get higher royalties. If you price your book between $2.99 and $9.99 (on Amazon), you can get a 70% royalty. Traditional royalty rates usually fit in the 7-25% bracket, averaging 10%. It’s clear that you need to sell far fewer books in order to make the same amount of money with self-publishing. However, don’t think that you’ll get rich overnight.  You can’t guarantee that you’re going to make as many sales as you would’ve done with a traditional publisher, or indeed, any sales. That is more to do with genre, investment in marketing and sometimes pure luck. An author doesn’t build a business on luck. You have to learn about marketing. However, you have to learn that anyway no matter if you do it independently or if you’re working with a traditional publisher.

You can sell in any format, in any global market because you own the rights. You could even sell movie rights. Many traditionally published authors have sold World English rights for all formats and yet have barely sold outside the usual country markets because their books aren’t even available in most places in the world. Many have also sold audiobook rights. but the books have not been produced. If you’re in this situation, revisit your contract. What do you have the rights for? You can self-publish in countries where you haven’t sold the rights.

Indie authors can reach significant audiences with their niche books that traditional companies will never take. Publishing houses expect a certain number of sales so if you’re writing a niche book on a particular style of business, for example, then you might find the market is too small for a major publisher. However, the market size may well be enough for you to satisfy your own definition of success with smaller sales and lower income. You can also price as you like because your book will appeal to a very particular reader who might pay higher prices for this rare information.

You can use indie publishing to get you into publishing in general. If you self-publish and do well, agents and publishers will come to you. You don’t have to beg and plead for attention. The power balance is reversed, and as an empowered indie you’ll get much better deals than a first-time author with no book sales history.

Those the Positives, but What are the Negatives?

One problem is that you need to do it all yourself or find suitable professionals to help. As with any new skill, it’s a steep learning curve. You still obviously have to do the writing and marketing, but you also have to do the publishing. You have to find an editor (or two would be better! One for content and the other for proofreading) and a cover designer. Then you need to work with them, determine the title, get your work formatted into e-book, print and any other format you want. It does pay to find suitable professionals to help. If being in control is your definition of success and you need to run all aspects of the business isn’t something that you want to do, then going the indie route might not be your best route. You have to love all aspects of the writing business. You have to love everything from idea generation to creating words on the page, to the technical side of things and everything in between.

You’ll get no prestige, kudos or validation by the industry. Though the stigma lessens every day, success is still connected with traditional publishing. If it hurts your feelings to be considered inferior, then maybe you should not consider going indie.  

For professional results, you’ll need to pay for supporting services upfront. If you’re any kind of writer, you’ll need to spend some money on professional money anyway before submitting to an agent and spend money on writing books and courses.  So even if you intend to go with a traditional company, you will need a budget upfront.

It’s difficult for a self-published book to get print distribution in bookstores. It’s certainly not impossible and if you care about print distribution then take a look at Ingram Spark. However, you’re much more likely to get bookstore distribution with a traditional publisher, as that’s essentially their business model, has been, and probably will be for a long time. They are the experts for printing and distributing physical products. My personal choice is to use Print on Demand through Lulu.com so my print books are available on most online bookstores.

Most literary prizes don’t accept indie books and most literary critics for mainstream media won’t review them. If your definition of success is literary acclaim, the traditional route is your best option.


Now that your story is ready to put out there, if you are still planning to get your book into a traditional publishing company, the only way you are going to get your book in front of one is through your query letter.

What is the Difference Between a Query Letter and a Book Proposal?

A query letter is a request for a publisher to read your proposal for reading your fiction book and a book proposal is a proposal for reading your nonfiction book. A query letter is usually written after a fiction book is written and a book proposal is often written before the book is written.

The Novel Query

According to the NY Book Editors Website, This one page document of about three hundred words is most important, and in some ways even more important to than the actual book This letter is sent to literary agents (and some publishers directly) to woo them into checking out your book.

Don’t put your query on pastel paper with stamped roses, it won’t get you further than the trash can. Instead, follow this tried and trusted formula.

Format with your address at the top of the page, right justified. Next, type the agent’s address, this time left justified.

Use a personalized greeting where you acknowledge the agent by name.

Keep the body of your query letter from three to five paragraphs.

In paragraph one, you hook the literary agent. Share any connection you have with the agent. Did you meet this person at a conference or know someone in common? At least be able to mention that you’re a fan of specific authors that this person represents. The job of this first paragraph is to get the agent reading.

After you hook the agent, share the title and genre of your book and your book’s word count.

Now that you’ve hooked the agent, summarize your story in paragraph two. Discuss your main characters, what happens, and what choice they must make now. But don’t give away the entire plot. Leave the agent wanting more by structuring this paragraph in a cliffhanger.

In the next paragraph, add your bio, but make sure it’s relevant to writing. Impress your agent with writing awards and credibility or related writing experience. Limit your bio to no more than two sentences.

Use short paragraphs and short sentences, when possible. Imagine this: your letter is one of hundreds that your potential agent must read through this week. (It probably is). Make it as easy as possible for them to skim through your letter.

Write in a tone similar to your novel’s narrative. Your query letter should evoke the same tone as your novel. If your book is funny, make your query letter funny. Is it ornate? Use elegant but not remember not to be wordy.

Always Follow Submission Guidelines

Before sending any letter, be sure to follow any submission guidelines. Not every agent wants the same information, so don’t think one form of query fits all. Some may only accept email submissions while others accept both.

Address each agent specifically. Never use “to whom it may concern” if you want anyone to actually request your novel.

If possible, let the agent know why you are pitching your book to him/her. Again, if you love a specific author that this agent represents in a related genre yours, let the agent know that you would love to have the same agent as THAT author.  

Give Credit Where Credit is Due 

Mention that your book has been edited by a professional editor. Agents love a polished manuscript. They notice writers who’ve taken the extra step of getting their manuscript edited by a professional. By doing this, you as the writer appear more professional and serious. This will add more weight to your query letter.

Remember that querying agents is a hit or miss proposition even when you have done your homework on the agent. To find the right agent at the right time, you often need to send out numerous query letters. If you follow these recommendations, you still may not be picked up by a specific agent. There are many reasons why an agent doesn’t pick you up and it probably doesn’t have anything to do with you personally so don’t take it personally. Just keep sending out either written or emailed queries and soon someone will ask to see your novel.


One of the biggest roadblocks new writers face, especially if they are writing about something personal and important to them, is the fear of writing their own book biography or bio. Putting yourself on paper, and exposing your story to the world, can certainly be intimidating because it takes a lot of courage to bring your experiences and narrative to a broad audience.

Don’t worry. Every writer goes through this, and you can too! Just keep the following in mind when these apprehensions arise, so you can continue to move forward, and add your own unique voice to the literary world.

It’s Your Story

When your story is in print, it will linger well after you have sent your final draft to your partner publisher. Your story is something you can share with friends, family members, loved ones, and the world as a whole), and is a piece of you that will truly last a lifetime. So lay your fears to rest, and leave your mark on this world, by getting your words in print so they can resonate for years to come!

It’s Therapeutic

Many people don’t know this, but just before I determined that I was going to focus on writing my novels, I was going through severe depression. Over the course of a year I lost my job. My Husband lost his job. We lost our car, and we lost our home. I went to two psychologists who suggested that I journal my anxieties.

For me, writing isn’t just a relaxing activity. It was a healing exercise that brought me peace. Writing helped me work through my own issues and allowed me to explore the ideas that I had for writing my novels and nonfiction stories.

By writing down my experiences and thoughts and putting into words any coinciding emotions that popped into my mind, I was able to solidify those thoughts into print both into fiction and into nonfiction.

The Power to Connect with Others

Once I had my first book done, I realized that I had to create a bio for that book. Because I had to deal with depression and anxiety, I was hesitant of putting who I thought that I really was out there to my readers. I had what I realize now is what is called “the imposter syndrome.”

What I hadn’t realized was that countless people have had similar experiences to my own. They don’t see themselves as worthy of calling themselves an author. This is especially true with authors who are writing their first novels. What do you write? How do you write anything that will impress the readers? Who cares if you have three kids, a cat and two dogs? Who cares which part of the country you reside? Who cares that you graduated from a now defunct college?

Who cares? Well, if your potential reader has children, pets, or lives in your part of the country, that reader might just identify with you. If the same person identifies because he or she went to the same college, this person might also identify with you because they see you as human.   

Remember that you have the ability to bring comfort, camaraderie, and joy to a large audience. Your audience identifies with you. If your audience has any inkling of wanting to purchase your book, your bio just might be what convinces they should read this book.

What Should Be Included in Your Bio?

Be prepared to write three different versions of your bio. Write about yourself in the third person. Write a lengthy bio for your website, proposals, interview sheets and media kits. Write a medium length bio for your queries (more about this in next week’s blog post!), guest spots on other websites and shorter marketing material. Finally write a short bio to include in your signature line and limited character social media sites.

The easiest place to begin writing your bio is with a draft of your longest bio. Start with your longest writing accomplishments. Write down everything you can think of that you have ever written especially if this is your first book. Include that poem that you wrote for the third grade and the writing prize you won as a young author in middle school. Include the inspiration of how and why you started writing fiction. If you have written previous books and you are including them in your bio, be sure to put the titles in italics rather than in quotes. If you get any writing awards (or awards related to your subject matter), be sure to include them as well. Put your demographics at the end of your bio after you’ve established yourself as a writer. If you have a degree, be sure to include your level of education. With each subsequent book or editions, be sure to update your bio to include that information.

How Should You Write Your Bio?

Before editing your long bio, be sure to look over the bios of other authors and emulate the ones you like. In addition, in writing your shorter bios, look at those written by others for creative ideas especially in your genre of ways they write their bios.

When you have finished your bio, read it out loud and if possible, have another author in your genre read over your bio to look for ways you can improve your bio.

Now we are ready for the next part step in the marketing process if you’re writing to an agent or publisher. We’ll cover that next week.


The Difference Between a Query Letter and a Book Proposal

Before you write to either a publisher or to an agent, it is important to know the difference between a query letter and a book proposal.

A query letter is a request for a publisher to read your proposal for a request for reading your fiction book and a book proposal is a proposal for a request for reading your nonfiction book. A query letter is usually written after a fiction book is written and a book proposal is often written before the book is written. Since you have written a book of fiction, if you are going the traditional publishing route, you will be writing a query letter.

Of course, you no longer have to go the traditional publishing route. Many people are self-publishing or going through small press publishers or even doing what is called hybrid publishing which is a cross between traditional publishing or self-publishing. This post, however, is about how to contact a publisher or agent.

What is the difference between a publisher, an editor, and an agent?

A publisher can refer to an organization or the individual in charge of an organization which releases books. However, an editor is an individual who works with authors directly. In cases where the publisher refers to an organization, it simply means the publishing company as a whole which employs many editors. Editors are the people who work to adapt your book to the publisher’s audiences.

A literary agent (also known as book agents or publishing agents) act as authors’ representatives for the sale and/or licensing of their books with large domestic publishers. As well as smaller domestic publishers. These individuals work to connect you with the publisher and then help negotiate the contract between you and the publisher.

To secure either the services of a publisher or an agent, you can’t just call them up and ask them if you if they will accept you and your book. You have to write a query and send it to them.

It used to be that in order to send a query letter, you had to mail it in and wait weeks for a reply. Now days, contacting literary agents and publishers are usually done via e-mail. You send the query letter and then they let you know whether they want you to submit your manuscript. They may also want to do it some other way. The best way to find out how they want you to submit your manuscript would be by reading their submission guidelines.

Look at a publisher or agent’s website before submitting a query letter or your manuscript.

Study the publisher or agent’s website and learn everything you can about what this person accepts and doesn’t accept. If this agent focuses on selling science fiction, don’t try to get this agent to represent you if you write historical romances. If a publisher doesn’t publish horror, don’t think that that publisher is going to change for you!

The better you’re known by the publisher or agent, the more likely they are to represent you. However, even if they do represent your genre, don’t think that harassing them is going to make them represent you. Calling them on the phone and asking to speak to someone in charge could be a nail in your authorship coffin.

So how do you meet a publisher or an agent? You might go to an event where publishers or agents are present and get to know them at a writer’s conference.

It is also possible that you could get to know them through someone you already know. If you know another author who has published through a specific publisher or has been represented by a specific agent, that person might just be the connection you need.

Whether you’re contacting a publisher or an agent, your query letter should be perfectly written, but that will be a message for another blog post.  First, before writing the query letter, you’ll need to work on dressing up your bio. That will be the topic of next week’s post.


Where to find a Good Editor

Some of us are lucky in that we know people who make good editors for your work. However, not everyone is that lucky, but there is a solution if you’re willing to look around for the right person for your editing job. Hundreds of websites exist where you can find literally thousands of editors. Some of the top sites include:

Upwork.com

Guru.com

freelancer.com

Choose a Freelancing Site to Post Your Job

Upwork is the biggest website in the world created specifically to connect freelance contractors with small businesses, entrepreneurs, authors and artists. registered with the site. Guru.com and Freelancer.com are both much smaller.

Now that you have figured out where you want to post your job, it’s time to post your job so that freelancers can apply to do the work for you.

You may not find an exact match for the type of work you’re looking to find, but you should do your best to make sure you pick the most relevant category so you can find the most experienced freelancers to help with your project.

Naming the Job Posting

When you name your job posting, make sure to be as specific as possible so that you can attract the right freelancers and automatically weed out contractors who are not a good fit for your project. Posting something generic like “Looking for an editor for my book” is a bad idea because you will end up getting tons of freelancers applying who may edit fiction when you have a non-fiction book, or vice versa.

Try to include as much detail as you can when selecting a name for your job. For instance, if you write historical fiction, you would want to be as specific as possible. If it were me, I would write something like: Looking for a freelancer who specializes in Early American Historical Fiction.

Writing the Job Description

Next, it’s time to write a job description to clearly explain what kind of work you need done and what kind of freelancer would be a good fit for your project.

Ask for information like the individuals experience and background as an editor, a list of titles that person has edited, preferably with links to Amazon or another retailer so you can review his or her work. Be sure to ask for a list of references. Also ask for a description of the kind of editing where this person feels that he or she would most excel.

Include in your job description the type of experience level you require for the job. Tell them what kind of editing skills you are requiring. If you’ve utilized good beta readers before looking for your editor, you might just want to find someone who just proofreads. Make sure only to include skills here that are absolutely necessary for the job. The more exact the description of what type of editor you want, the easier you can eliminate those who would be inappropriate.

How to Pay Freelancers

You want to determine how you’ll pay your freelance editor. You’ll either hire them at an hourly rate or a fixed price per project. I recommend a fixed price for most projects so that you can estimate your exact costs ahead of time, rather than paying an hourly rate and not knowing how much it’s actually going to cost you until the work is done.

Invite the Best Editors to Your Job Posting

Once you’ve filled out all the information above and posted your job listing, you’ll be able to invite top freelance editors to edit your work. Go through and invite at least 5-10 top contractors who you think would be a good fit for your job. The best of the best usually never apply for jobs. They only consider work they have been invited to do. So, if you want to work with the best editors and freelancers, you need to invite them to work with you!

Review Job Proposals from Editors

Once you have posted your job and invited a few top freelancers, you should start seeing editors applying to work with you within 24 hours.

What to Consider when Reviewing Editor Applications

Job Success Rate

Work Experience

A Well-written Profile Essay

Their Work History

Send a Message Test

If everything checks out, send a message test. Send the editor a quick note.

Send an email to test if they respond quickly and to take the conversation to your email inbox where you can easily exchange phone numbers or Skype details and schedule a call.

Schedule a Phone Interview with the Editor

If the editor responds to and passes the Message Test, send an email to schedule a time to interview the editor over the phone.

During the Call

During the call, determine if you get along with this person. If they are argumentative, talk too much, don’t listen or are rude, you can immediately tell it’s not a good fit and move on.

Do they show up on time for the appointment?

Are they really interested in you and your book? If the editor doesn’t ask questions about you and your book, they probably aren’t interested enough in editing books to do great work.

Interview Questions

Tell me about your editing experience…

How long have you been working as an editor?

What do you love most about being an editor?

What kind of editing work are you most experienced with?

Do you mostly edit fiction or non-fiction?

What are the most common mistakes you see authors of books like mine making?

What does your typical editing process look like for a book like mine?

How quickly can you turn around my manuscript if it is 80,000 words in length?

How do you normally charge for work like this?

After you’ve asked all these questions and any other questions you’d like to ask, give them time to ask more questions about you and your work.

If you can tell right away it’s not going to be a good fit, feel free to let them know and move on to interviewing another editor so you can find a good fit.

I recommend interviewing at least 3-5 editors before trying to select the best one for you. This will ensure you get as much experience as possible and can see what options are out there. Hiring the first editor you talk to is usually a good recipe for spending too much and not getting the right editor for the job.

After you’ve conducted your interviews, it’s time for one last step: the sample edit.

Get a Sample Edit

After your interviews, you’ll want to ask each editor you’re still considering working with for a sample edit. A sample edit is a free edit for about 1,500 to 2,000 words of your book so that the editor can show you their skills and the kind of comments and suggestions you should expect if you hire them to edit your entire book.

If you’re a first-time author and have never hired an editor before, don’t hire an editor without first getting a sample edit. An editor can have a great resume and speak eloquently on the phone, but the real test of their skills is how they edit your book, and the sample edit is a quick, free way to find out.

Remember Self-Editing

Before you send your book to the editor, do at least one extra round of edits by yourself. The more you can hone your manuscript, fix typos and grammatical errors and improve your book, the more time your editor can spend on important edits and suggestions and the less it will cost you overall.

Hiring Your Editor

After the interviews and sample edits, it’s time to hire your editor. You will definitely want to create and have both parties sign a legal contract that clearly states the editing services being provided, the amount you will pay, how much time the editor has to perform the work, and other basic information.

Working with Your Editor

After your editor sends back the edited manuscript with tracked changes and comments, the first thing you’ll want to do is read through all the edits and comments and accept or reject any changes. After you read through the edits and make a few updates, schedule a call with the editor to discuss the book.

Proofreading

After you’ve gone through the editing process, hire another person as a proofreader or have your editor do that final proofreading.

Now your manuscript is ready to send out to agents or publishers or to format for self-publishing.

Get Your Copy of The Comprehensive Novel Editing Checklist

If you have a first draft that you would love to publish this year, be sure to pick up a copy of my novel editing checklist and if you haven’t already, sign up to make sure that you never miss a post of this editing series. 


“You’re not done with a book until you pass it to another reader.” Donalyn Miller

We spend so much time on our own manuscripts that we can’t see them objectively — no matter how diligently we self-edit. We create anticipation or an expectation early in the book but forget to deliver on it. We describe events in a way that is clear to us. However, they are not necessarily clear to a reader who can’t see the pictures in our head. We leave out vital steps in an explanation and don’t realize it, because we know what we mean. The characters in our books are not convincing, because we know them so well. We simply don’t always realize we haven’t developed them as thoroughly as we thought when we committed them to paper.

Why Do We Need a Beta Reader (or ten)?

This is why we need a beta reader. A beta reader is someone who gives you feedback on your finished manuscript. This person lets you know how you can adjust your manuscript before you set it loose on the world.

The beta reader’s report cuts through this noise. A beta reader will read your entire manuscript and respond personally to it. They are uninfluenced by the opinions of others. The thing I particularly like about this is that reading is generally a solitary pursuit, and books ‘happen’ in the mind of the reader. So, it’s an authentic way to encounter your book.

A beta reader will tell you if your story seems plausible or if your work has numerous obvious proofreading errors. Sometimes your beta reader might even see content errors. This happened to me. One of my beta readers was reading A Coward’s Solace when she discovered that I had written that George Washington was riding a “white roan”. She said that there was no such horse. I therefore had to research further and learned there actually is such a thing as a “white roan, but that George Washington’s horse was not a white roan, just an ordinary white horse. A white roan is a horse that is born white and is always white whereas an ordinary white horse is born gray and turns white as he ages.

The best beta reports are not always the ones you pay for. In fact, most people get beta reads by an exchange of favors with other writers.

The best beta readers will give you a written report on their responses (which could be several pages long), and they often also will make notes in the text, to show their reaction to specific sections of the book. A beta reader can tell you if a sub-plot is too involved and it overwhelms the main story. You can trust a good beta reader to tell you more was expected from your secondary story line and that it didn’t do much for the story. If they wonder why it was even there, your sub-plot needs work.

Beta readers might have trouble explaining a problem with a secondary plot that’s too detailed or that overshadows the main plot. Yet if several readers tell you they like a secondary character more than your protagonist or that a second bad guy makes a better antagonist, you’ve probably invested your sub-plot with more compelling events or dialogue than your main plot.

Seeking a beta reader is a professional move, not an amateur one. Although they weren’t called that by publishers, publishers have used beta readers for years. The concept of getting another opinion about a manuscript is almost as old as a Gutenberg printing press.

Get Your Copy of The Comprehensive Novel Editing Checklist

If you have a first draft that you would love to publish this year, be sure to pick up a copy of my novel editing checklist and if you haven’t already, sign up to make sure that you never miss a post of this editing series. 

 FREE EDITING CHECKLIST WITH SUBSCRIPTION TO THIS BLOG


You’re Ready for One Last Go Over of Your Novel

You’ve finished the writing, the rewriting, the editing and the polishing. What’s next?

You’ve been through your manuscript front to back and back to front and weeded out and added in.

You’ve straightened out your characters and tightened the plot and you’ve proofed for every conceivable error you’ve ever read about.

Both protagonist and antagonist get what they deserve and what they’ve earned and what your readers will love.

You’ve got conflict and chapter-ending hooks and emotion-evoking phrases.

You’ve got an opening that delights, a middle without sag, and an ending that satisfies.

You’ve got ups and downs and breathing space and breathless action. You’ve included emotional responses for characters that are guaranteed to touch the reader as well.

The number of modifiers—both adverbs and adjectives—doesn’t overwhelm.

Dialogue is strong. Setting is clear and works for the story. Characters are unique. Style is consistent.

Your favorite unusual sentence construction. The unusual gets noticed. Don’t overplay those touches that stand out.

Your favorite words. We all have them, and they sneak in despite our desire to keep them out. Can you cut one or two more instances of each?

The overuse of character names, especially in dialogue. People just don’t call each other by name when they talk to them.

The opening line and opening page. Do they accomplish all that they can? Does the opening set up the story arc, get the plot rolling, introduce your protagonist, introduce tone and/or setting?

The ending. Does it address the story opening and the character’s problem? Does it finish the several hundred pages that come before it? Is the last line a memorable one?

Do you find any words that don’t fit?

If you’ve changed a character’s name, make sure you’ve not left any instances of the former name.

Space holders. If you use space holders for unsure elements—asterisks, blank lines, hash tags—be sure you’ve filled in the blanks and be sure to remove them.

Words used too often. They might not even be favorite words, but their use and overuse can weaken your scenes. However, remember not to include so many synonyms that it aggravates the reader.

That one scene that niggles at you, the one that still doesn’t seem quite perfect.  Yes, make the time for one more try to fix it. If it bothers you, it’s going to bother the reader.

Chapter breaks. Make sure chapters begin on new pages. Make sure chapter numbers are sequential.

Manuscript format. Before submitting, format your manuscript in the proper format. Don’t forget page numbers and the correct info for the headers. Check for consistency with scene breaks—have you used asterisks or hash marks or simple line spacing?

Spelling. Remember you can’t depend on spell checker, but run your story through spellchecker one last time, especially. If you make any changes during this go round.as a final step in your cleanup. And repeat as many times as necessary if you continue to make changes.

This is not an editing checklist, but a helpful last step before you submit your manuscript whoever you choose for your next step.

When Is It Time to Let Your Story Go?

These suggestions are not meant as a tool for procrastination: please don’t hesitate to submit when your story is ready. Do what’s necessary for making both story and manuscript error-free and then let the story go. Start your next project or complete another story you’ve begun. Put an end to this one.

Trust me as someone who has been through it many times. A few errors are likely to slip through even with your best proofreading. However, as a writing aficionado, you want to do your best with this final draft. A few simple errors will not be what keeps your story from being accepted or if you are a self-publisher, may keep readers from reading your next book. Submit your manuscripts when you get to the point where you just can’t edit any longer.

Get Your Copy of The Comprehensive Novel Editing Checklist

If you have a first draft that you would love to publish this year, be sure to pick up a copy of my novel editing checklist and if you haven’t already, sign up to make sure that you never miss a post of this editing series. 

 FREE EDITING CHECKLIST WITH SUBSCRIPTION TO THIS BLOG

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