Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Editing – You gotta love it!

I’ve been through my manuscript a number of times. I utilized Prowritingaid software diagnostics, and then addressed the comments/issues my three experienced first readers sent. Before I send the manuscript out to my “second” readers, I need to make sure all the changes I made are correct and the story works.

I’ve learned every time I touch a document, there is the possibility of a typo, leaving a word out, or leaving in an extra word. With that in mind I had a copy run so I could read it from a different point of view – if that makes sense.

In other words, I’ve put aside my “writer” hat and put on my “reader” hat. When writing I tend to be tense, trying too hard to figure out the right way to say something and thinking about consistent formatting. This time I am sitting back, more relaxed, and in that process, with red pen in hand, I am finding all sorts of different ways to phrase what I want to say. I am also deleting sentences that don’t pull their weight, and adding some that will.

Having said that, I learned with the first book that editing can go on forever. There has to be a time when the author says, it’s done, and that is a hard decision to make.

In the meantime, I will continue to color my manuscript red.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Book Covers

There has been a fair amount of discussion recently on the Self Published Authors Yahoo! Group with regard to book covers. Where do you find cover art? Where do you find a graphic artist who can turn a photo into a nice looking cover? Someone who can lead you through the process of just the right back cover synopsis, author bio, and photo. How much should one expect to pay for a cover?

The responses were all over the lot, though there was a consensus that using stock photos was not the way to go. I, along with a number of other self-published authors find a reputable photographer in the location in which the book is set. One response was from a woman whose book is set out west and she found a wonderful photograph in Wyoming. Or you can hire a talented and reasonably priced graphic artist to get just the right images for you, like Susan Brier of

My first two books are set in the Finger Lakes Region of Upstate New York. I was fortunate to find two wonderful, understanding, and supportive photographers that sold me high definition photos for a very reasonable cost.

Remember, you can’t just take photos off the Internet. If you find one that might work for your book, you then have to track down the owner, write to them asking permission, and if granted, get that permission in writing. As I scanned the Internet for photos, before I went any further, I would click on it to see who had ownership. If it wasn’t clear, or some big organization, I kept searching.

And so the option I shared with the Yahoo! Group subscribers was the services of a friend of mine. Susan Brier ( who enjoys working with authors on developing just the right cover for their book. She might have mentioned to me she also does some editing, but don’t quote me on that. If you need help developing your cover art, give Susan a call or email. She’ll be happy to help.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Let’s Talk Marketing

I have to share one of the craziest (and funniest) comments I’ve ever heard. On my way into the first Central Rappahannock Regional Library’s Inklings meetings held at the England Run Library, I was right behind an older, overweight gentleman, who was slowly making his way into the library. As he walked, he said with disgust, “When I’m published I’m not going to sit in the library and sell my books. My publisher will do all the marketing.” My immediate thought was, how arrogant.

I thought the comment a bit premature, but later found it very funny, because during the months I hung in with this dysfunctional group (down to 3 before I left), this man produced not one written piece. A writer wannabe.

Real writers, those who actually produce, know that publishers don’t market. If you are fortunate enough to persevere long enough to be accepted by an agent, that agent then “markets” your book to publishers. If you are lucky enough to be accepted by a publisher, then in a year or so, your book may hit the bookstores. In the meantime, you are hard at work marketing your book.

As a new writer it is up to you to get noticed, to build readership. And that means sitting in the lobbies of libraries, talking to people, and selling your book. You have to have a social media presence like Facebook and Twitter, arrange signings with as many bookstores as you can. Give interesting author presentations, go to writing conferences, set up an author page on Goodreads and Amazon, and find bloggers who will interview you. You could hire a marketing firm, but make sure you research them thoroughly first or it will be throwing your money away. These are just a few ideas – there are many more. After all this work/time getting the word out, who has time to write?

Whether you are self-published or mainstream published, once published, switch your writing hat for your marketing one. And therein is the rub. For many of us, marketing is difficult. I, for one, have a hard time putting myself out there. I hide my candle well, as they say.

So I am determined, once Fatal Dose is published, that I will spend time working on my marketing skills. I write because it is my personal challenge. My next big challenge will be to figure out how to market my books without breaking the bank. “They say” it’s easier when you have at least two books to sell – maybe it means you are a serious writer – I don’t have that answer, but I do feel that whether sitting in the library lobby or at a book fair, I will be considered a more professional writer than I am with just one book.

Comments on marketing ideas will be appreciated. Keep writing!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Should you hire a professional editor?

The answer to this question is: It depends.

At the presentation I attended on Saturday, thriller writer Rick Pullen talked at some length about the editing process, developmental editors, copy editors, and line editors. He shared his trials (and money spent) in finding just the right person for his particular work. He also has his daughters, wife, and ex-girlfriend reading and advising on his manuscript.

It was almost like my Sisters-in-Crime were listening in on that presentation, because this week the SinC Self-Published Authors Yahoo! Group was abuzz with questions/opinions/answers on whether or not one should hire a professional editor, and how much should one pay for those services. The consensus so far was anything from $300 to $1,500, but then, again, we get that word “depends.”  And some made the point – you get what you pay for.

It also depends on which kind of editor you want. They each have a different job and should be done in the appropriate order. Before hiring an editor, do your homework. Know exactly what services each editor performs and decide what kind of editing you need.

To decide whether you need to hire professional help, ask these questions: How good are you at typing, spelling, grammar, style, punctuation, formatting, pacing? How good are your editing skills? Can you find those typos, like “sigh,” when you meant “sign?” Can your eyes pick up extra words or missing words – you know, every author has them. It happens when you are cutting, pasting, moving text around. Can you pick out repeated sentence starts and sentences that are too long? If the answer is yes to most of the above, then you probably don’t need to hire an editor. But you still need experienced proofreaders. There is no way any writer can pick up on all those issues.

Besides having experienced proofreaders, I am also utilizing the website to run my chapters through. That software points out where I might have issues. I say, “might have,” because you, the writer, have the final say. It’s software, after all, not human interaction. I found that some issues the software pointed out where not issues at all. But for the most part, it has helped me tremendously in pointing out overused words, long sentences, grammar and style. It allowed me to send a much cleaner manuscript to my First Readers.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Write Every Day

If you want to be a successful writer, “write every day” was the advice given several times during author Rick Pullen’s presentation yesterday at the England Run Library. After being rejected by agents 39 times, his first book, Naked Ambition, was published by Kindle Scout and sales hit the roof. His trade paperback print version has also sold well. He is serious about writing and works hard to learn the craft. His background as a investigative reporter helps him to come up with excellent story lines, but he admitted, writing nonfiction is very different than writing fiction. Rick is dedicated to producing the best writing he can.

He gave his audience insights into writing, publishing, the real story behind Kindle Scout (hint: reader nominations have little to do with an author securing a contract), how Amazon is setting up brick and mortar stores to capture even more customers (doesn’t make sense to me, but apparently it does to Amazon), and the amount of money needed to be spent in order to get your book noticed.

I went away energized by his presentation, but later felt a little down. I am not in a position to spend thousands of dollars attending writing conferences, hiring several different kinds of editors, and marketing firms, nor do I want to wait a (large) number of years with the hope of finding an agent and getting published.

I had to remind myself why I am writing, what my personal goals are. I write to challenge myself to finish a story that readers will find fun and interesting. I am not writing to be famous or to make money. I don’t want a career – been there; done that.

I encourage every writer to think about what motivates them. Be realistic about publishing goals. Rick was very clear about the skills and time needed to finish a well-crafted book, and to get published – unless you are Lee Child!  (Rick will be publishing his interview with Lee Child in the near future.)

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Fatal Dose is with First Readers!

Bookmarks made by Suzette Young
There are milestones when writing a book, and getting the manuscript finished enough to share is one of those.

A week ago I mailed a bound copy of the manuscript to each of my three first readers. I should have felt a huge relief, but instead, I was in high anxiety. All that work, a year and a half of trying to piece together a readable, enjoyable story – was now out of my hands. What would my first readers think about what I have written?

It is part of the writing process that is nerve wracking, but I thank God every day for my caring and talented friends who offered to take on the job. It is not one to be taken lightly.

A first reader has to take off their “friend” hat and put on their hard core professional one. This is a job. They have to dissect the story. Are the characters developed enough? Is the setting developed to the point where the reader is drawn into the location? Is the plot interesting? Do the story lines come together at the end? Are the questions answered? Does the protagonist change/grow by the end? Does the theme weave through the book?

And then there is formatting, point of view, typos, repeated information, and on and on.

When all this is done, first readers put on their “friend” hat again, and present their findings to the author in a way that doesn’t hurt or discourage, but instead encourages the author to make the story stronger, better, utilizing their suggestions.

I am blessed with first readers that are experts at doing all of the above, and I’m energized by their comments.

Keep writing and enjoy the journey.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

ProWritingAid Editing Tool

Through the Sisters-in-Crime self-published authors' Yahoo! Group, I learned about an editing tool, I am cautious by nature and definitely do not have money to waste, so I checked this site out several times before I decided it might be the right editing tool for me.

The site provides layers of editing. There is no download of software, which I like. Instead, you upload your project onto their site. From there you can run a summary report which tells you things like overused words, how many long sentences, readability level, spelling issues, grammar issues, number of “sticky” sentences, number of same sentence starts, clich├ęs, pacing, and more. When it reports overused words, or adverbs, it tells you the words and by how many you should reduce.

The software prefers smaller amounts of text, as opposed to an entire 81,000 word book, so I uploaded one chapter at a time, ran a summary report, and with split screen, adjusted my manuscript on the spot. I then put the chapters through the various diagnostics, i.e. grammar, style and sticky. I didn’t need to do readability or pacing, as I was in their “green” zone for those. And just to make you feel good, on the areas where they find issues, they’ll tell you how much better you are than the rest of the users! Like, you are 67% better than …

The website allows you to do a free test on a 500 word document. I tried it out on the first couple of chapters of my book, and was amazed at the helpful hints the site provided. I decided to purchase a license from them and for $40 I have use of this site for a year.

I highly recommend this site for all writers - for those who write for newspapers, newsletters, periodicals, magazines, as well as full-length books. I had no idea how many times I used the word “knew.” He knew, she knew, they knew. picked-up on this usage for almost every chapter. I then went through with the Find feature in Word and found those little buggers!