Learn more about the publishing process and what you need to make a great book – between the covers and out in the world!
***First published in Louise Wise’s Wise Words – Book Blogger, Revised and Updated***
When I tell people I’m a book editor, they generally reply: “Wow, you must be a great speller!” Well, the thing is, I’m an exceptional editor, but not the best speller. Gasp! How can that be? Keep reading, because I’m going to get into all the aspects of editing and, most importantly, why you cannot, cannot, CANNOT put your work out there without passing it under a set of editorial eyes–or several even. Even if you are able to spell antidisestablishmentarianism without looking it up. Or spellcheck. (And yeah, I needed both for that.)
First, the WHY.
It’s an important part of the process to self-edit, but in all truthfulness, you cannot successfully edit your own book unless you are a robot. It’s impossible for us as human beings to regard ourselves with complete objectivity. I’m serious. You can’t pour out something from your head and your heart onto a page and decide whether it’s good or not. You can feel it, for sure, and some people are very good at that. But our heads and hearts are not reliable and they will also trick us into thinking and feeling that what they believe is good is actually good. (Remember these are the two jokers responsible for your last bad relationship. Still want to trust them completely?) An editor is objective, and that’s essential. (Unless it’s your mom. Don’t ask your mom to edit your book.)
As wonderful as you are (and you are wonderful), you know it is impossible for a single human being to know everything. (Many, including my husband will disagree with me about this, but, look, it is what it is.) And hey, even if you do know everything, consider this: You may know too much! That saturation of knowledge of yours could very well affect how you present it, and you can drown your reader in confusion without even realizing it. Sometimes it’s an editor’s task to pare down, to tell you when to rein it the freak in. But sometimes an editor also must let you know what’s missing. What lacks development and exposition and what sorely needs it in order to communicate effectively with readers–scientific essay or love story or whatever you’ve written.And finally,
The most obvious reason to work with editors is…the more you see, the less you see. The mind (remember that joker from before who made you suffer that “good-on-paper” guy you wasted the better half of a year dating?) enjoys sabotage, and gets off on tripping up even the most eagle-eyed among us. Especially when the mind is tired, and cranky, and frankly bored to death reading and re-reading the same material over and over again (no matter how genius that material may be). Look, you are always going to miss something. Deal with it. And work with an editor, whose mind (unlike yours) doesn’t care to play tricks on you, and who will see glaring boo-boos you’ve read over ten thousand times and never seen.
And Now: The HOW.
Editors come in all shapes and skill sets. Here’s a rundown.
Acquiring (commissioning) editor.
May be considered more “marketing” then “editorial.” These are the guys that scan P&Ls to decide what’s going to work for their lists. They read your stuff, but not with the depth of someone who’s actually going to work on your stuff. If you’re indie, they don’t really matter to you.
Like a beta reader, but trained. Work with a developmental editor after you’ve completed a draft of your book–before you’ve spiffied up and polished things. The developmental editor lets you know what’s working and what isn’t, and for what isn’t, advises how to make it work. (“Kill Charlie, he’s useless!” or “Save the hot washing-machine sex scene for later in the book, after we get a chance to get to know Fred and Marva and their feelings about laundry”) Once you have this great OBJECTIVE insight, you can use those suggestions to revise and rework. And now you can polish.
These guys have a knack for writing a good sentence and a good grasp on grammar, and make sure that your chosen words are relaying your meaning correctly. And they suggest new words to use if you’re not quite hitting it. The line editor will not (should not!) re-write your book. Rather, he or she will clean up phrases that don’t make sense, help slice out redundancies, and make comments where appropriate (“AU: Fred and Marva and the washing machine…you explain on page 40 that he’s five-foot-four. Wouldn’t he need to be standing on something here?” A good example from my last book: “AU: Peonies don’t bloom in the Northeast in September.” Who knew? Not me. But the line editor did!) Line editors hone in on the details so easy to miss in when you’re all caught up in the throes of the rhythm and the music of the writing of a story (which, as the writer of the story, is where you should be, BTW).
A copyeditor’s raison d’etre is to get your grammar right. Like specially trained soldiers, “SEALS” if you will, copyeditors annihilate misspellings, missed words, wrong words, and other dumb crap, and can shame even the most confident grammarian. That’s okay. If you’re telling a story, your crisp command of grammar should not be the part you’re most focused on.
To recap: No matter how Type A you may think you are, if you’re writing, working with an editor is a good idea. Remember: Your heart and your mind are mischievous little beasts who want you to look bad on paper. A good editor is your best defense!
Many editorial professionals offer indie rates. If you think you can’t afford an editor, think again. Your work can’t afford not to have one! I, and all the professionals on my team, offer competitive indie rates. Contact me today for a quote: firstname.lastname@example.org.
FRANCINE LASALA has written nonfiction on every topic imaginable, from circus freaks to sex, and edited New York Times bestselling authors of all genres, fiction and nonfiction, for clients including Eileen Goudge, Patti Callahan Henry, and others. She is now actively taking on clients for manuscript evaluations, editing services, and more, and offers reasonable indie rates. Contact her today: email@example.com
It’s sort of a universal truth for authors… We can knock out 60, 80, 100 thousand awesome words of story. But when it comes down to writing our cover blurbs, generally around 150 words, we feel overwhelmed, uninspired, even intimidated. Heck, as a professional copywriter, even I struggle with writing my own blurbs!
There’s more than one reason for this, and it has nothing to do with not being able to write. The main issue with blurbbing (we’re hereby making that a word) is that it’s almost impossible for any of us to create the kind of emotional distance from our work needed to see those elements that will most appeal to the would-be reader–who’s deciding to chose our books over a million others. We know why we love our books, but why should others love them?
Here are a few tips to help you craft a killer blurb:
Use a headline, or start with a question. As a separate element from your blurb, here’s an opportunity to catch a reader’s eye. People like to answer questions. They like to see if they know things. Pose a question and chances are they’re going to want to answer it.
Grab your reader from the first line. Even if you use a headline, you still need to hit the ground running. If a reader doesn’t feel compelled to read beyond the first sentence of your blurb, there just isn’t any way she or he is going to want to read the first page of your book.
Keep sentences short and succinct. No one should ever feel like they have to read your blurb more than once to understand it. Don’t pack sentences with too many words. No matter how gorgeously constructed, if you have a sentence that’s running 3 or more lines long, break it up!
Be careful of adjectives. Yes, you want to use sexy, fancy words to decorate your blurb, but use too many and all you’ve got is fluff.
Weave in choice words from early reviews. Are you collecting review quotes from beta readers and others? Why not take some choice words and make them part of your blurb. Like this:
A hilarious, heartwarming story that will “keep you laughing
till the last delightful page!” (Publishers Weekly–LOL).
Leave off on a note that makes readers want more. Don’t give away your whole story. Don’t spoil your blurb with spoilers. Give your reader just enough to go on to want to, well, go on to reading.
Ask readers for opinions. And don’t ignore these opinions. You can also post a blurb on your author page or on your blog. Just make sure what you’re posting isn’t what just popped out of your head. If you’re going to go public for opinions, be sure others have read your blurbs first. You don’t want to turn off your readers with writing that’s too raw.
If you feel you’re still not hitting your mark, hire a professional. You want your product to go out there looking its best. It won’t matter how amazing it looks on the inside if you can’t get potential readers to crack (or click) open your book in the first place.
FRANCINE LASALA has worked as a professional copywriter for more than 20 years, for clients including Simon and Schuster, Perseus Book Group, Broadway Books, Kensington Books, Hachette, Publishers Clearing House, plus various book clubs including the Literary Guild, Rhapsody, and Black Expressions. She is currently taking on clients for copywriting, and offers reasonable indie rates. Contact her today: firstname.lastname@example.org