As I got closer to finishing my novel, editing was always present in the back of my mind. But handing my story over was akin to giving my baby away to the care of a complete stranger—nerve wracking. After I finished writing Pinnacle Lust, I asked friends and family to read and comment on my work. Though it was hard for me to accept their input, I went back and reworked the manuscript.
I wanted to believe that my manuscript was ready to be published but after learning about the publishing process, I clearly had to find an editor. After talking with several editors, obtaining samples, and working with my budget, I chose one—Sherry Wilson.
Working on my novel with Sherry was an eye-opening journey. At times it was overwhelming and very demanding—Sherry brought me to a level that I never knew existed. While working with an editor is a story on its own, the insights from the editor are a stand-alone topic.
I asked Sherry if she would share her views with us. Today I welcome Sherry as a guest on my blog.
I hope you will find her insights interesting and helpful.
How to identify a good editor? What are the key qualities an author should look for in an editor?
There are so many editors out there that it is difficult to decide what is best for sure. Credentials are always nice, but not necessarily indicative of how you will work with a particular editor. The best test is a sample. Ask for a free sample on your work or pay for a first chapter edit. Every writer is different and every editor has a different style of communication. You want someone who will treat your work with respect, but will be merciless with the red pen, pushing you to tell the best story you can.
What are the different levels of editing?
Editors define it in different ways.
There is a developmental, substantive edit where the editor looks at the story as a whole and how it fits together as well as syntax, grammar and punctuation.
Then there is a copyedit, which looks at grammar and syntax and how the sentences flow together within each paragraph.
Then there is proofreading, which looks at sentence structure, spelling, grammar and punctuation.
There are other services that many editors provide but they cross over into the realm of writing.
You can get a ghost edit for your novel, where the editor does the regular, substantive edit, but also rewrites scenes or even extrapolates scenes from bits of summary.
Or you can even have your book ghost written. The editor will take your book concept, develop an outline with you and write the book for you. A lot of professionals go this route, doctors and such, for a non-fiction book. But there are people who want to hold their idea in their hand in a finished novel but don’t have the time or maybe the skills to pull it off.
Can an editor provide help with any genre, or is it important to specialize?
That depends on the editor and his or her interests. I think you should be well read in a genre of the book you want to edit. It helps because you are more familiar with the market and the competition. So I do think it’s good to get an editor who loves to read books in the same genre you like to write.
I will edit in almost any genre. I prefer to stay away from memoires as I don’t really like to read them. I don’t like to work on stories with intense violence, especially toward children, or stories with detailed rape scenes. And while I love a good mystery, I’m not familiar enough with the market to offer great advice. I can make the story work, but can’t offer the marketing advice that many writers want and need.
How can you help make a book better?
Well there are different kinds of editors and different levels of service that some may provide—from proofreading, to copy editing to more detailed, substantive line editing. It depends on what the book needs. But a good editor is a teacher and will bring out the strengths of the book and make it shine. He or she will look at how well the book works as a whole and help to strengthen it. In the process, the writer usually acquires some new skills which benefit future writings as well.
Do you turn away work?
I do turn away work. Sometimes a book is just not the right fit for me or I don’t feel I can contribute anything to the story. When this happens, I turn away work, yes.
Do you prefer an author that is very involved in the process or one that is somewhat removed?
This depends on the project. I want to make the author happy. So it varies. Some like to be involved and that is easier in a way. They see more of the editing throughout the process so you get a feel for whether you are giving them what they need or not. But having the freedom to just do the edit and make it shine is good too. Writers are generally great people and I enjoy working with them on any level.
What’s your favorite part of the job?
Wow, there are a lot of things about my job that I love. But what inspires me to keep going is when I have a student or a client who reads my edit and critique and has one of those eureka moments where something clicks and they just get it. The writing improves dramatically and it’s so much fun to watch someone go over that plateau and rise to the next level.
The 9 to 5 lifestyle: go to the office, do your work; leave the office, leave work behind. In some ways it has its advantages, something I thought I could bring with me when I decided to work for myself.
A while back I found myself able to live my dream of becoming a full time writer. Excited at the possibility of putting my heart and soul into my new position, I created a cozy writing space in my home. I had the best of intentions, and readied my days for long hours of writing and editing, pouring my heart and my inspiration into everything I wrote. Then the challenges began.
I could stare at the screen for hours, never getting more than a word or two out at a time. Yet the moment I would leave my workspace and do something just for me, that’s when true inspiration would find me. Very quickly I realized that as a full time writer, I would never have a 9 to 5 job ever again.
Writing doesn’t work that way. Writing is a process that extends beyond the time you spend behind a computer screen, fingers touching the keys. To become a writer means always thinking about how your words will come together. It means cultivating ideas from every thing I do, watching stories grow and come together in my mind.
I have learned several things in my time as a writer; things that have helped me become more efficient with my writing process.
Limit my writing time
While I need creative time to write each day, its equally important to have time for other things. Health, wellness, relationships – they all have an equal place in my life.
Block time for more purpose
I value the time I spend on each area of my life each day. When its writing time, I write. When I spend time with family, I’m ever present. I believe in blocking my time into chunks for more purpose and more focus.
Build ideas from what inspires you
What inspires me? Travel. Cooking. Being the best I can be. And as I discover myself through all of my activities, I find I become more inspirational as a writer, with more to give to what I do.
Find what has meaning in your life
Some of my happiest times involved places and events that allowed me to discover the best of me. They continue to inspire me today, giving me viewpoints and perspectives that make my writing more real and more vivid.
When I’m on vacation for a week, I can easily go through three or four books as I sit on the beach, sipping a drink and enjoying the sunshine. The books may not stand out as great and thoughtful works of literary fiction, but they do add a lot of enjoyment to my holiday. And while the stories may linger for awhile, I admit I probably wouldn’t go home and immediately review the books that I’ve read. But why is that?
When people are content they don’t generally leave reviews. Reviews have become a powerful tool for selling any product. Yet people generally leave them only when their emotions are running high. With a book, they either loved it and will likely read it over and over again, or they absolutely hated it and will do their best to convince others not to buy it.
Yet if you consider the life of the writer as she struggles to tell her story—the reality never quite living up to the vision in her head—the months of writing and rewriting, of editing and proofreading, of researching and finding an agent and a publisher. She may have critique partners and an editor, but she never really knows how her work will be received until it gets into the hands of the readers. And the only way she has of knowing at all is through sales and reviews.
There is nothing an author loves more than receiving feedback from readers. Good or bad, it’s the only way she really knows what works and what doesn’t. And it is exciting to discover that her work has affected someone’s life, even in some small way. It is the encouraging words from readers that get the author through some of those early morning writing sessions when nothing seems to be working and she is ready to pack it in and take up basket weaving.
But the reviews aren’t just for the writer. In fact, reviews are for the readers. In the current world of electronic publishing where anyone can literally publish a book for next to nothing, it is overwhelming for the reader to look at covers and try to pick something decent. And there is nothing worse than opening a book that you are looking forward to reading and finding it to be of poor quality. Reviews help readers to sort through the titles. If a book gets many good reviews, then it’s probably worth the investment of time and money. If it gets mainly poor reviews, well, there are many more to choose from. Perhaps this is lazy shopping, but it is a quick way to sort through your summer reading list.
I hope you will pick up my book, Pinnacle Lust, to complete your summer reading list. And I’m always eager to hear your thoughts, so don’t forget to leave a review. What books were on your list this summer? Which was your favorite?
No one can deny that ebook sales have changed the way we read. And while ebook sales are significantly less than hardcovers and paperbacks, they still rake in upwards of a half billion dollars a year in business for Amazon alone.
And yet the giant in the industry never sits still.
A year ago Amazon launched Kindle Unlimited, an ebook subscription service where readers pay $9.99 a month for access to hundreds of thousands of titles. Most of these titles come from self-published authors participating in Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select program. As of July 2015, they have made another change which significantly affects the way self-published authors receive royalties.
Before July, Amazon calculated these royalties based on either the number of downloads a book received, or how frequently Kindle Unlimited customers chose a book and read more than 10 percent of it.
As of July 1st, Amazon is switching how it calculates KDP royalties from the current selection of “qualified borrows” to instead paying completely based on the number of pages read.
Amazon’s reasoning is to better align payout with the length of books and how much a customer reads. Under the old system, reaching the 10 percent threshold was much easier and more likely with a short novella with 50 pages or less, when compared to a full length novel with 300 pages or more. This process encouraged writers to shorten their stories and produce more of them, which in effect flooded the ebook market with a heavy share of novellas.
Switching to a method where an author is paid by the number of actual pages read encourages the writer to think first about reader engagement throughout the novel.
While Amazon is not saying how many KDP Select pages are read each month, the pot of funds they are giving back to indie authors is substantial, currently at $11 million for July.
Yet when it comes to the business of writing books, it remains to be seen how authors will be impacted by this change. By their own calculations, Amazon shows how it is more advantageous to write longer books that are of the highest quality.
Will this new direction work? We can only wait and see. What it does prove is that Amazon is the giant in the industry, always thinking, always changing. They aren’t afraid to try new things, risk failure, and learn from their mistakes.
Will Amazon’s new program help or hinder profits for authors? Only time will tell. Yet one thing is certain. As the increasing popularity of ebooks makes self-publishing more common, there will be many more changes to come.
What do you think? How have the changes in Amazon’s program affected you?