Episode 95 – Editing, Shelfari, and Pinching Pennies

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Question of the Week: Do you have experience with either peer groups or a professional editor? If so, what are the pros and cons of each?

Alida Winternheimer dropped by the show today to fill in for Bryan as she and Jim took on the top tips and news of the week. After giving props to this week’s featured patron, P.G. Kassel and his book Black Shadow Moon ( http://www.pgkassel.com ), they took a stab at tips related to editing, finances, and marketing methods worth modeling. The subjects of the news stories included Shelfari, today’s marketing trends, finding your voice, Amazon’s new two-tier quality control system, and Hugh Howey’s advice on how to be a writer.
What You’ll Learn: 
  • The three crucial stages of editing you need
  • How to save up for the publishing lifestyle
  • Five strategic marketing methods you should model
  • How Amazon is changing the social media landscape for readers
  • Seven important marketing trends for authors
  • Why you need an editor
  • How Amazon’s quality control initiative will affect you
  • Hugh Howey’s rules for author success

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  • Spider McGee

    I have it on good authority that Bryan is at Leprechaun Fantasy Camp, and he’s the tallest person there.

    • Bryan

      The first rule of Leprechaun Fantasy Camp…

      • Spider McGee

        Yeah, if you want to believe what Seamus O’Durden says.

  • Crissy Moss

    For the Amazon story… If I understand it correctly they are trying to get rid of the really horrible books, like the books that just download web pages, or scan in paperbacks and don’t actually fix the problems that come with it. They aren’t talking about minor things (like the typos that are in almost every book) but the really bad books that are bad for Amazon’s image.

    If they implement this right it won’t go away because this will just give more credibility for Amazon’s market place, self and trade published alike. This is a good thing for all of us.

    I use to be part of a few writers workshops and critique groups when I was starting out as a writer. They were invaluable in getting me to pay attention to what I was writing, what words I used, and how I used them. Also, critiquing someone else’s work seems to be the very best way to learn grammar. The more you do it the easier it is to self edit when writing.

    I’ve also worked with pro editors. They have been fantastic at taking what I’ve managed to accomplish and polishing it. I still don’t think my books are perfect, but they wouldn’t be as good as they are without the editors help.

    Main point: Peer groups are wonderful ways for a beginning writer to learn to craft their words. Pro editors are there to help polish what the peer group helped you start.

    • Connie B. Dowell

      I totally agree on the QOTW. I love my critique group and the experiences I’ve had with pro-editors. Both of them are invaluable. Even experienced writers can learn a lot from peers, but a pro-polish is needed before publication.

  • Thomas Diehl

    About Amazon’s quality warning: I actually got an email a week back warning me about one book that will get a warning on it if not improved upon. The stuff they listed as examples of errors found in the book consisted of OCR errors, almost all of them misplaced spaces in the middle of words. It did mention there were complaints, though it mystifies me why Amazon never thought to forward those to me before.
    They clearly do check beyond having a spellcheck going over the books, because none of my other books got a warning, despite often containing either made-up words (fantasy/sf books) or words typically not recognized by spellcheck software (like the names of most dinosaur species in my books on evolution).

  • QOTW: Finding my copy editor was one of the best things I did for my publishing process. I’ve worked with him on 3 books now. He brings so much value to the table with cleaning up not only technical matters such as adherence to Chicago style, he also advises on some issues of story and the clarity of the writing. On my end, I front-load as much cleanup as I can before I pay someone, so by the time my editor gets the MS he’s fixing the problems that I’m too close to the text to catch.

    PROS: Chicago style familiarity, technical expertise, eye for story, and a specializing in my genre (he does lots of fantasy and science fiction work). Responds promptly to questions and charges a fair rate.

    CONS: He lives in another state, so I can’t take him out for a beer.

  • Chris Shumate

    I have worked with 3 professional editors–two of which are good friends of the SMBS podcast. I have had great experience with the 3 professionals I have used. I’m planning to hire these editors again and again, especially as I outline my next stories–that is if they’ll have me again. I have used other editors in the past, but notice that I said professional editors in my first sentence, so the others don’t really count.

    I am currently in an overly large group for picture book authors. There has been a little bit of helpful advice, but just little. One of the problems is the trad pub authors don’t offer much help or insight on posts from nonpublished or even self-published folks. So far I don’t view the peer group as successful, for me at least. The professional critique people aren’t able to get to every story at least once because of the volume of posts in the group. It’s a paid community too. Maybe I’m a little narcissistic, but in a paid group I’d like to get what I pay for, ya know?

    And @bryandavidcohen:disqus, I hope you’re not writing in Ireland, especially given the fact that you don’t wash underwear the whole time you write. I’d hate to sit beside you on the plane. 🙂

    • Bryan

      My underwear is always fresh, despite what people may say :).

  • I’ve worked with several editors for my non-fiction, and finding one that got my sense of humor was hard. They often attempt to cut my jokes because they are ‘superfluous words,’ they don’t think jokes belong in non-fiction, or because they don’t get the joke (I’m only assuming).

    That being said, I’ve had only positive experiences when they’ve helped me with overall book structure. …and sometimes my jokes really are terrible.

  • Spider McGee

    I for one welcome an Amazon e-mail threatening to pull my books for errors, for then they will be forced to admit that my books are on their site, and that they exist. Judging by my sales, I can’t independently confirm this to be the case.

  • QOTW:
    With non-paid critiques I always manage to get good advice on chapter 1, but very little on the later chapters. People seem to have a lot less motivation to see a project through if they don’t receive continuous payment. that may be why the 1-chapter-at-a-time rule is used on some sites.
    I still have some sifting to do to find my ‘best’ paid editor, but I have improved incredibly by receiving unvarnished criticism. The ones that make me the most angry are usually the best, because they poke at your true weak points. The more permanent lessons you can learn from an editor, the less you will need one in the future (though at least one professional edit is always necessary: absolute power corrupts absolutely).

  • I agree with Alida’s comments, though I would suggest that peer critique is AS valuable as hiring an editor. I’ve learnt more about writing from peer critique than from anything else, including creative writing courses! I’ve found online critique groups especially to be the most helpful way for me to improve my writing. Online groups offer a sense of ‘distance’ that face-to-face cannot, and therefore allow for more robust critique, in my opinion. Fellow writers are very good at pinpointing specific areas for improvement. I have also hired an editor for all of my published novels – I have found my editor helps me to learn about inconsistencies, technical errors or bad habits, as well as pointing out some of the big picture weaknesses in plot or characterisation. I personally find peer groups and professional editors equally invaluable for my writing.

  • htmljenn

    I’ve been wondering something about the warnings that Amazon is considering adding. I wondered whether the reports of typos that you can do in the Kindle were sent to the authors so they could fix them. So, with an air of experimentation I submitted every typo I found in a friend’s book. I then waited about 3 months and finally couldn’t stand it and asked him if he’d seen any reports from Amazon about typos.

    His answer: nope. nothing.

    So I now do not EVER submit any typo I find. I don’t want Amazon to put warning labels on a book because of a typo (or 10) I reported. I am not interested in messing up some other author’s efforts if Amazon will put a warning on a book without giving the author the reports that generated the warning. I’m glad to read Thomas Diehl’s post below that Amazon actually gave him a warning that the warning might be added. But getting the list of errors that people have found and flagged would be so much more useful.

    Don’t get me wrong, I do agree that professional editing is important. But I found this episode to be a bit disingenuous that nearly every item talked about revolved around the idea that we should pay for professional editing, and …. oh by the way…. our guest host is a professional editor. Editing is important, but that’s not all there is to selling more books. I hope next week’s episode has a broader subject reach than just helping Ms. Winternheimer attract more clients. I don’t begrudge her clients at all, I just wish it wasn’t at the expense of turning this very useful and interesting podcast into an infomercial.

    • Bryan

      Hey Jen. Sorry you felt things got a little infomercial-esque. Personally, I feel as though it was very helpful, since a lot of authors struggle to find an editorial process that works well for them. But either way, we appreciate the input :).

      • htmljenn

        Don’t get me wrong. I do think finding a good editor is very important. I was just frustrated when most of the topics covered this week revolved around that and only that. And then when it ended with her offering a limited time “deal” for listeners, well that’s when infomercial really snapped into my head. 🙂

        And why are you answering comments? aren’t you supposed to be on vacation? 😀

        • Bryan

          just got back ;).