Lest any of our authors be confused over my editing marks, I have a cheat sheet…
Lest any of our authors be confused over my editing marks, I have a cheat sheet…
There is a palpable high I get when completing the final hard edit. This is the point where all the commas are nestled properly in their beds, misspellings are given the hatchet job, and rewording is is given a shampoo and set. It’s the point where Ms. Manuscript goes from being a double-spaced bit of a slop to a formatted thing of beauty. All the chapter headings are prettified, the copyright page gets a facelift, and the cover is completed – all in preparation to going in for the final hard read before going to the printer’s for ARCs (Advanced Reader Copy).
I love this part because Ms. Manuscript is transformed. She’s lost about ten pesky pounds and is now sporting a new hairdo with blond highlights. It’s one of my little rituals with every book to look back to the time when Ms. Manuscript first arrived on my desk, and compare her to her current makeover. Where she was a bit tentative and shy, she now shines and struts her stuff with amazing confidence, and yodels, “Heck yah, I’m ready for the marketplace!” Never fails, I squee every time.
And boyo, A CHICK IN THE COCKPIT, written by the achingly talented and hideously indomitable Erika Armstrong, is definitely squee worthy. Every time I finished reading an edited round, I fell in love that much more.
I’ve always been one of those passengers who was afraid to get out of her seat because of the recurring nightmare of spilling my huge glass of water on a passenger’s head. Turbulence. Never been more mortified. Thought the flight attendant was going to laugh up a lung. <shudder>
One of things I love most about our authors is that I always learn something vital that I can apply to my own life.
And Erika’s book really made me think about the choices we make in our professions and the sacrifices we (and our families) make in pursuing our dreams. How many of us become lopsided and only give focus to our job, while ignoring other aspects of our lives that keep us whole and balanced? Guiltily raising my hand here.
It took me a year to write my first novel, and while the book earned awards and such, I’d become little more than part of the dining room furniture (where I’d holed up to write). Upon finishing, I blinked around and wondered when my son sprouted up to six feet and my daughter decided to change her hair color. What else had I missed? Did not get the Mom Award that year.
Living out of balance can ignite subtle changes into great big “Holy Hell!” moments. Taking your eyes off your flight plan can send you crashing to earth. And I needed to hear that. I’m willing to bet a lot of other people need to hear it, too…which is why I’m in squee mode about this book.
So much of Erika’s story is hilarious – I mean, how could it not be when a sweet Midwestern woman is stuck in a cockpit with a bunch of raunchy men for thousands of hours? The idea of taking control of a huge commercial jet and taking hundreds of people from Point A to Point B gives me the willies, but Erika does it with ease and finesse. And a lot of guts. And she takes complete control in her fabulous book, as well.
I hope that come November 10, you’ll, pull away from whatever you’ve been giving an unbalanced amount of focus, fasten your seatbelt, and let Erika take you for one helluva ride.
Yep, I’m still squeeing.
Over the past few months, I’ve had cause to scratch my head at some of these “editing services” crowding cyberspace. For one thing, anyone can hang out a shingle and claim they’re a full-on editing service – ghostwriter, content and copy editor, and this elusive thing called “publishing services”…which I’ve come to learn is fancy schmancy term for “I’ll write and submit your query letter for you.” For a fee, of course. Problem is, these query letters are terrible. Beyond terrible, in fact.
They offer none of the mouth-watery stuff I need to determine whether it’s something I’d be interested in. Here’s an email I just sent to an “editing service” on behalf of their client. You be the judge.
If you’re acting on behalf of XXX, then it would have been helpful to have a stronger query letter that details the need for this particular book – the “gotta have it” aspects. There are numerous books on this particular topic, and the title comps you included in your query show that neither you nor XXX have a working knowledge on the true competition. This Won’t Hurt a Bit by Michelle Au is a wonderful book that already covers these topics. Any of Atul Gawande’s books are also a major go-to for those interested in this topic.
You also don’t provide an author platform, which is vital in nonfiction – especially in this sub-genre. Considering the popularity of Gawande’s books and Michelle’s book, XXX has some stiff competition, so it’s vital that I have this information. So sadly, since your query letter is so underwhelming, I have no choice but to decline to review this further.
So much went so wrong for the author because she trusted her book, query, and checkbook to this “editing service.” A paragraph or two of description does not a mouth-watery query make (channeling Yoda). Insisting the competition in this genre is very limited is query suicide because there is always someone who reads a lot more than you do…and they do this sort of thing for a living.
Platform. If you’re going to write nonfiction, you really need to have some sort of a platform by which we can promote you. This isn’t just me saying this, but every other publisher of nonfiction out there in Book Land. To omit this is also query suicide.
Here’s the thing; “editing services” have no stake in your success. You pay them, and they can be as right or wrong as they want…and they still get paid. That is a fact. In my experience, I’ve found that these “editing services” write some of the worst query letters because they don’t think like a publisher. They don’t understand the hook, or how to reel us in. They simply punch in a formula they think works, and blast it out. Easy money.
This is unforgivable in my opinion. If you’re going to call yourself “professional,” then you damn well better understand how to write a query letter and have a working knowledge of the competition. And these guys don’t. They can’t, because it’s impossible to be an expert in all fields. They can’t expect to know the comp titles for medical nonfiction AND pet grooming…which is why I’m not a fan of these guys.
I also question their editing abilities. For example, I read a manuscript about a woman who used rescued horses to help special needs kids. Fabulous premise. However, the thrust of the manuscript focused on her failing marriage. WHO CARES?? I want to read about the horses she rescues and the kids she works with. The author told me her original manuscript was all about the horses and kids, but her “editing service” suggested her failing marriage was a stronger storyline.
A failing marriage? The marketplace is busting at the seams with those stories, and these books simply don’t sell. However, rescue horses and special-needs kids is big and marketable. This was an “editing dis-service.”
There is no “one size fits all” in indie editing, yet authors pay out tons of money because these “services” are very good at one thing: promoting their services.
Any editorial service should be chosen with great care. Before you fork over money to hear someone make suggestions to change key elements of your book, you need to believe it’s a good idea. Ask yourself whether those changes make your book more marketable. Then again, in order for you to be able to answer that, you need to research your competition.
Remember: Anyone you’re paying has no stake in your success, so choose with great care.
BAHAHA…just saw this on Facebook – that font of all knowledge and truth:
Typochiondriac: Extreme fear of making a spelling mistake.
I’m not sure what’s up with the growing lack of knowing the rudimentary basics of English. It’s a rarity to read a news article that’s error free. Are we, as a nation, being dumbed down? Years ago, a blunder like the pic above would have never happened because the person writing it would have done it right in the first place. Or the person editing would have caught it. Or the printer would have caught it. But now? No one is minding the literary chicken coop.
So while it’s funny and proffers up the expected how-horrible! groans, it’s a symptom of something far worse and pathetic. Really, we should aspire to excellence, right?
So I’m out here in SoCal at the mo visiting friends/family/going to my future d-i-l’s bridal shower – squee! – and cleaning out our house so we can get it ready to rent out. It’s amazing the amount of detritus you hoard over the years. I think the attic alone could appoint several abodes.
There are the trophies the kids won, the drawings and scratching from early years in school…old baby clothes – including one very stained baby USC sweater…it’s hard to let go. There’s so much I want to keep, but I don’t have room for it all. And where would it all go? It’s not like I’d put them out on display – so is my desire to keep them a matter of really needing them or because they’ve wrapped themselves around my heart, even though they serve no purpose? I mean, the stained glass paper art is ripped to shreds, but I remember my son bringing it home, and I hung it on the fridge until it was replaced by another kid’s attempts at Picasso.
Same goes for the old pictures of my daughter’s softball days…a conglomeration of toothy 8-yr-old girls, wearing their uniforms and freckles – ready for battle. It’s a reminder of younger days, where she taught herself to pitch – and proceeded to either strike girls out with the arm of a heat-seeking missile or bean them hard enough so they had to limp to first base. Our motto: If you’re gonna walk ’em, make ’em limp.
How do I throw this stuff out? It’s fecking hard, I tell you. It’s the same for writing. You write brilliant tomes and fall in love with every single word. You send those loving words off to your editor…where those soulless, heartless harbingers of evil rip the snot out of them by saying, “Um, this doesn’t have anything to do with this scene, or the plot, for that matter.”
WHAT?? Kill. Your. Darlings? Unholy mother of banshees…why don’t we editors just run you through with a javelin while we’re at it? Could it be any more painful? Alas, we know it hurts. It hurts ‘cos you wrote it, so we expect the reply: No No No No…not gonna do it! Can’t do it.
Oh. Yes. You. Will. You will because you want your finished product to be strong and beautiful – and your editor has something you don’t: an unbiased eye. Hanging on won’t serve you or your book. Be willing to let go.
There’s also the pain of letting go of your finished manuscript. It’s a test of wills. Your editor wants to get it off to the printer. You want to tweak, rewrite, ponder, and hang on ’til it’s right. By this time, the moon has threatened to fall from the sky. You can’t agonize anymore about whether it’s perfect because, know what? – you’ll never be convinced it’s perfect. If allowed, you’ll continue to rewrite, re-think, rehash every steenkin’ word until your editor sends out a hit team to prep you for cement shoes.
You can’t hang on forever – you gotta let go. And that’s hard – I get it. Your book will be out there for-ev-er, and you don’t want to cringe four years later because that ONE word should have been “belly jelly” instead of “muck.” But like the dust on all the stuff in the attic, you’re gonna sneeze so much that you need to give it up because there simply isn’t enough Kleenex to continue blowing your nose.
I can’t repair the torn up stained glass picture or go back in time to when my kids were 8 and wore braces and skinned knees. I gotta move on, because I need to live in the now. And if you ever want to see your book on the shelves, you gotta move on, too. Listen to the advice of your editor and throw out stuff that no longer serves your manuscript. Let go of the desire to read, re-read, re-re-read, so your editor doesn’t have to pry it from your cold, dead fingers.
Take comfort that it’s not meant to be easy. If it were, then everyone would be a bestselling author.
Okay, I’ll admit that I found the hub’s old letters he sent me before we got married, and he was working in Saudi. I don’t care what anyone says, those puppies are coming home with me.