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Self-Publishing: The Professionals Effect

12 Feb

Over the last couple of weeks some of my fellow self-publishers have been keeping you entertained and inspiring with their self-publishing stories while I sand down my fingerprints finishing my novel. (Or this draft of it, at least.) Today in the penultimate ‘guest post’ installment, The Tour author Jean Grainger shares her self-publishing journey with us. You can read the previous guest posts in this series, 3 Things I Wish I Knew Before Self-Publishing My Novel and Self-Publishing: Do It Your Way by clicking on the links. Welcome, Jean!

Firstly I’d like to thank Catherine for inviting me to guest blog on Catherine, Caffeinated. This blog has been a constant source of advice, information and smiles for me since I started writing so I’m delighted to be here.

My journey into self publishing began when I spotted an advertisement for a one day course in Dublin. The expert speaker was Catherine. Hoping I had written a book that someone other than my mother might regard as a worthwhile way to spend their hard earned cash and time, I took myself off to hear what she had to say.

Of course, like most newcomers to this world I was seduced by the ads online promising that I’d be published in ten minutes, with nothing more than a curled up dusty manuscript needed from myself, or at least the digital equivalent. I had, unfortunately in hindsight, expressed interest in a company in the U.S. through their website who promised to make the whole simple process even simpler for a small fee who were now treating me to daily phone calls explaining how they were going to make me the next big thing.

thetour

It all seemed simple. No need to wait for the elusive nod from the big publishing house, no more torturing myself visualising my hard work on the dreaded ‘slush pile’ going straight from the post bag to the shredder. It seemed like my dream of becoming an author could come true with self-publishing. Still, in the back of my mind I knew there had to be a catch, I just couldn’t figure out what it was.

The day of the course came and as we sat in a lovely hotel overlooking the bay I chatted enthusiastically with my fellow writing hopefuls, some of whom were already published traditionally and who were seeking new ways to breathe life into their careers, or simply monetising their work, others, like myself were total newcomers. It was all very exciting.

With Catherine’s combination of sound advice and humour , she outlined clearly what you needed to do. Ok, you needed a bit of computer savvy, tick. You had to have actually written a half decent book, again, (hopefully) tick. Everything was going great, I was right on track when Catherine dropped the bombshell. You must, and there was no grey area here, you must have your work professionally edited. Obviously, I thought, she doesn’t mean me. You see, I’m an English teacher. My life is spent correcting mistakes, restructuring plot, ensuring  the writing is purposeful ,  coherent, using appropriate and varied language and adhering to the laws of English mechanics. I’ve taught at university, I correct state exams, I don’t need an editor, I am an editor.

Wrong.

I need an editor. Everyone does, I don’t care who you are, what your day job is, you simply cannot edit yourself.

I’d love to say that there and then in that hotel in Dublin I saw the light, but if I’m to be honest I wasn’t convinced. Catherine however, was the expert and I decided just to trust her on it. I parted with the cash, a considerable amount of it, and I got myself an editor. For my first book, I found two editors in fact, one who read the story and looked at structure, plot development, characters and so on, and another, a copy editor to look at the actual prose. If I have learned anything from this process it is this – If I was to look at that manuscript until I was old and grey I would never have seen the glaring inconsistencies the editing process brought to light. I can’t actually believe I thought it was OK, it really, really wasn’t.

My structural editor, the wonderful  Helen Falconer, over lots of tea and biscuits showed me how to make my characters consistent and believable, how to add and subtract from the plot and the result was a much better story. My copy editor seemed to be able to polish my prose so that it still sounded like me, just a better, more articulate me. Words cannot adequately describe the positive impact these professionals had on my work.

This knowledge was liberating when writing my second book. I knew I’d be chopping and dissecting it once it was done so it gave me the confidence just to write, I didn’t worry too much about the finer points. As with the first book, Helen once again worked her magic, and now I have two books of which I’m proud, the alternative is something that makes me shudder. The moral of the tale? Listen to Catherine, she knows her stuff.   [Thanks, Jean! Your fiver's in the post...!]

Find about more about Jean on her website (Jean: is that header image really where you write? I’m jealous! It looks so cosy…). Her books The Tour and So Much Owed are available on Amazon.

I think what’s interesting about Jean’s story is that she held a very common misconception about self-publishing: that she didn’t need an editor. And why wouldn’t she think that? Jean is an English teacher! But after she ‘saw the light’ as she puts it, she met Helen, and I know that Helen has become a big part of her process and not only a box that has to be ticked. So tell us: what is the biggest misconception you had before you self-published? What long-held belief about the process went flying out the window as soon as you started? What’s the hardest lesson you’ve learned? Let us know in the comments below…

I Self-Published: What Next? A Guest Post from Devon Trevarrow Flaherty

8 May

Today we have a guest post from Devon Trevarrow Flaherty, who’s just self-published her first novel, Benevolent, and is feeling the post-publication blues…

‘From last summer, when I officially decided to self-publish my first novel, Benevolent, until now, I have gone through many stages of publishing. You could label these stages logically, like “editing,” “cover creation,” or “launching.” You could also label them emotionally.

The current stage is depressed.

Yeah, yeah; publishing your first book and launching it is exciting. For about a second. Because what happens next, when you self-publish, is almost always going to be a resounding silence. The dreaded yellow light. The I-just-spent-months-getting-bloggers-to-host-me-and-herding-people-to-my-reading-and-even-the-newpaper-featured-me-and-everyone-said-they-love-the-book chasm of what next?. It’s not easy. It makes me want to curl up with tater tots and red wine and all six seasons of Ugly Betty. (Okay, so I do succumb, some.) Who knows what’s calling to you? I’m betting it’s not Irish jigs and flowing bubbly, not anymore.

benevolent

So, really, what next?

In my ideal world, I would spend the next seventy years during the work day sipping tea in my study (I don’t actually have one of those, yet), spending about half of each day promoting my last book and the other half writing the next one. Well, ideally I would be kicking back and just writing away in Tahiti and not giving a fig about promotion, but let’s at least shoot for attainable dreams, okay? And this can happen, as long as some people buy each book along the way. Several thousand, really. And then I have to keep publishing.

Well, I’m willing to keep up my end of the writing-publishing (and even marketing) bargain, as long as a whole lotta someone elses hold up their end of the buying-reading.

The issue is first and foremost one of perspiration. Then one of endurance. (Sounds sporty, doesn’t it?) If you haven’t put your blood, sweat, and tears into your book creating, editing and promoting, you need to move back a step and do that. But now that I have, I am back into the endurance phase. Actually, I never left it and I may never leave the endurance phase, which is why it is called endurance. Every day carries with it the choice to keep working at selling one book and writing another. Let’s face it: on the day of my reading I was too busy celebrating to work. So all emotional phases of writing are wrought with pitfalls.

It is completely normal for a book to lag in sales until it catches one big (or many smaller) wave(s) of interest, somewhere, somehow. In the meantime, you have to keep the book afloat, keep the dream alive. Plenty of days are going to feel like the desert of no- or even negative-feedback. Elongate your perspective and keep on moving, even on the most hopeless of days. If you give up now, it’s true: you’ll never make it. The only way to get to what you want is to thunk one foot down in front of the tentative other, day after day after day.

And here’s what you do next: You continue to be present on the internet, looking for people to try your book or to promote you. You talk about your book, to strangers or to bookstore audiences or to newspaper editors. You do more giveaways, more Tweets, keep blogging. You enter contests, beg for reviews. And you write. That’s what’s at the heart of all this, and that’s what has got me back in the game. I sat down yesterday (trying to ignore the three-star rating that had just blemished my GoodReads reputation), and started in on chapter two of the book I have been waiting to write, all this time. And I loved it! I do love it. That’s why I chose writing as a career. And I’m sure there are a bazillion more times when editing, publishing and marketing are going to feel blah. Thank goodness, then, that I will still have writing.

But love is a tricky word. In my world, love isn’t always a tickly, wonderful feeling. Love is equate-able with commitment. Sure, sometimes you feel warm and fuzzy toward your mom, but most the time you’re just being loyal when you accept her invitation to coffee. That’s love. So you sometimes have writer’s block? You still love writing. You are a writer. Any hey, we’re right back where we were a few paragraphs ago: endurance. Cuz even in-love people get depressed.

Choose each day to be a writer, and you’re already there.’

devonAbout Devon:

Devon is a writer in the Durham, North Carolina area. She is originally from metro Detroit, Michigan. She is a mommy, a wife, a hobby yogi, photographer, painter, and foodie. She has been writing seriously since her very earliest brushes with literature, and has published articles, poems, and photography in literary journals and magazines. She was an assistant editor and freelance editor for 10 years, during which she wrote copy for and contributed to various research materials. She has been blogging since 2008, first with The Green Notebook and then with The Starving Artist. She has started living her dream with the independent release of her first novel, Benevolent.

About Benevolent:

Gaby LeFevre is a suburban, Midwestern firecracker, growing up in the 80s and 90s and looking to save the world one homeless person, centenarian, and orphan at a time. With her crew of twin sister, Annie, smitten Mikhail, frenemy Mel, she’s a pamphlet-wielding humanitarian, tackling a broken world full of heroes and heroines, villains and magical seeds, and saturated with variations of the Northwyth legends.

Beginning with a roadkill-burying nine-year-old and a gas-leak explosion, Benevolent follows Gaby from her formative years; through her awakening (during a soup kitchen stampede); through high school drama; a college career filled with an epic term paper, a building fire, and a protest-gone-bad; to Israel, a land full of romance and mysticism. It all ends back in metro-Detroit with a cataclysmic clash to resolve all good intentions. Accidents abound in Gaby’s life. As does love. And, thankfully, as does mercy.

Meanwhile, Benevolent is woven with tales of The Queen, The Angel, Jaden the Great, and The Sage. Are they figments of John’s and Mercedes’ imaginative stories? Or are they something more? You’ll want to find out for yourself.

Find out more on www.devontrevarrowflaherty.com and www.benevolentthenovel.com.

Thanks Devon!

11 Signs You’re Meant To Be A Writer

1 May

Yes, things have been a little quiet around here lately, but that’s only because, first of all, I was so busy there for a few weeks that I couldn’t even think straight and then, second of all, once the busyness was over, I awarded myself a whole day off—I didn’t even check my e-mails—and instead curled up with Lionel Shriver’s Big Brother, and that felt so good that I gave myself another day off, and then I started feeling light-headed and strange and had to come back here (here being The Desk), and get back to work. So while I play catch-up with the 391 e-mails from people who still don’t seem to understand that I don’t review books, my lovely blogging friend Laura Pepper Wu is going to entertain you with a guest post I’m sure we can all relate to: 11 Signs You’re Meant To Be A Writer. And let’s play a little game: leave the number of things that apply to you in the comments. Welcome, Laura!

laura‘Since you are reading Catherine’s blog, you’ve no doubt accepted by now that you’re a writer. But just in case you haven’t or if you’ve been having doubts of late, here are 11 signs that you truly are meant to be writing – and always have been!

1. You bust out long emails without even flinching, and even your signature is like a paragraph long. Sometimes you start an email with the words “In a bit of a rush, so just a quick reply,” and still manage to bang out enough text for a Kindle Singles essay.

2. You’re the person who buys 10 postcards on holiday and actually delights in writing them. Oh, and each one has a different story on it, because writing the same thing to all 10 of your friends would feel like cheating.

3. You’ve dreamed of sitting in front of a typewriter/ computer and pouring your heart out on to it ever since you can remember. Whether your first inspiration was Clark Kent working at the fast-paced Daily Planet, or Carrie Bradshaw staring longingly out of her window in her knickers and a pair of sparkly earrings, you’ve wanted to do that forever.

4. You work your thoughts out better with a pen and paper than discussing the situation through verbally. If you’re trying to make a decision, make sense of something, or plan ahead for the weekend, it’s that trusty notebook and pen that you make a grab for first.

5. Staying home on a Friday night with a glass of wine and a good book sounds pretty much like you died and went to heaven.

6. You read the back of cereal packets and think about what you would write in place of the current copy (and think to yourself how you’d do a much better job at it).

7. You’re able to articulate and get your point across far better with written words than over the phone. Whenever you’re given a customer service number, your first question is, “is there an email address I can use?”

8. You’ve actually Googled “Can I expense coffee/ tea?” before.

Laura's newest venture, The Write Life magazine.

Laura’s newest venture, The Write Life magazine.

9. You read everything you can get your hands on, including the free leaflets from the supermarket or the book of coupons from the drug store.

10. You can’t walk past a stationery shop without popping in, “just to have a look.”

11. While you couldn’t give a hoot about playing Monopoly or Settlers of Catan, put a box of Scrabble or Scattegories in front of you and you suddenly get very competitive. That dinner party just got way more interesting.

How many did you nod your head along to? Many of us have wondered at one point or another what we need to do or achieve before we can legitimately call ourselves “a writer.” If that sounds remotely like you, stop that. If you truly love writing you probably know it and you always have, and that’s the only permission you need. Okay?’

Thanks, Laura! My number is 8, and it’ll be 9 in a minute after I Google “Can I expense coffee?”. My favorite part of Sex and the City was when Carrie sat at her little desk to write, but alas, my reality of this involves sweatpants, a tiny box room and a view of suburbia. Oh, well. 

Laura Pepper Wu is a writer and the editor for The Write Life Magazine: a lifestyle magazine for those of us who write. Check it out at TheWriteLifeMagazine.com. Laura is also the founder of Ladies Who Critique and 30 Day Books. Outside of her many writing-related ventures, she spends her time walking her spoiled dog in rainy Seattle, checking out local coffee shops, and learning (quite hopelessly) how to sing jazz. Connect with Laura on Twitter @laurapepwu.

Structural Editing For Self-Publishers

4 Apr

Following on from last week’s very popular guest post, Why Hire An Editor?, Robert Doran, editorial director at Kazoo Independent Publishing Services, is back today to tell us about structural editing. While copyediting and proofreading are absolute musts, I don’t think a self-publisher’s money is always put to best use by getting a structural edit for their book. So today Robert gives us some tips on, first of all, what a structural edit is, and secondly, what we can do ourselves to ensure our book is structurally sound. Welcome back, Robert!

firstdraft

Structurally Sound

Structural editing (sometimes called developmental editing or substantive editing) is the most complex and time-consuming stage of the editorial process. As a result it’s also the most expensive. Nevertheless a structural edit is something that most manuscripts can benefit greatly from. So what’s a self-publisher to do?

I know you’re expecting me to say, ‘Hire an editor!’ and if you can afford to do that, it’s probably the best option. But if paying for a structural edit means you won’t be able to afford a copy-edit, you need to consider other solutions. A copy-edit, to my mind, really isn’t optional, and it will always be the most effective way to spend your budget.

We’ll come back to how you can best handle structural editing in a bit, but first let’s look at what it actually is. Structural editing is looking at the big picture. It’s evaluating a manuscript as a whole and analysing how well its constituent parts contribute to the central message or narrative. Whereas the copy-editor takes a micro view, drilling into the detail, the structural editor goes macro and asks, ‘Does this work as a book?’

In fiction, the main areas that a structural editor will address are:

  • Plot: Does the plot make sense? Is it believable? Is it satisfying or does it leave the reader frustrated?
  • Themes: Are the themes effectively handled? Are there so many that the book lacks focus? Do they interfere with the plot or complement it?
  • Characterisation: Are your characters well developed and believable? Are they cast in a role that fits their personality? Do they sometimes behave out of character?
  • Point of view/voice: Is the voice consistent or is it sometimes confused? Is the voice authentic? Are you using too many or too few POVs?
  • Pace: Does the plot move forward at an appropriate pace? Should you cut that preface? Should the action happen sooner or should the tension build more slowly?
  • Dialogue: Do your characters sound real when they speak? Is your dialogue cluttered with adverbs and beats? Do you use clunky dialogue to move the plot forward?
  • Flow: Is the narrative interrupted by dead-ends and tangents? Is there so much back story that the main plot is dwarfed? Are there missing plot points that would give the narrative greater integrity?

In non-fiction, the principle is the same, but the specific issues are slightly different:

  • Thesis: Is your thesis relevant? Is it clearly defined or is it lost among marginal issues?
  • Exposition: Are your arguments clear and cogent? Are they well researched and properly supported? Do they have a clear relationship with your thesis?
  • Content: Are all the necessary topics sufficiently dealt with? Are the chapters weighted correctly? Is there superfluous content?
  • Organisation: Is the information organised logically? Are tables and illustrations used appropriately? How many levels of subheads do you need and how should they be arranged?
  • Tone: Is the tone appropriate for the audience? Do you need to eliminate jargon? Is the text accessible?
  • Pace: Are there passages that are bogged down in detail? Do you spend too long on detail irrelevant to the main thesis? Are there areas that need further exposition lest they be skipped over?

Although a structural editor may do a little copy-editing as they work through your manuscript, that is not what they are being paid to do. Their focus is much broader, and they will return your manuscript marked up with constructive comments and suggested rewrites that will in any case render the corrections pointless.

So, if you’re saving your money for a copy-edit, what do you do about structure?

Leave it alone. Put your manuscript in a drawer for a few weeks and forget about it. When you come back to it you’ll see it with fresh eyes and you’ll be in a much better position to read it critically. Then cut ruthlessly. Strip it out. Spike anything that you think you might use later or rewrite. You’re likely to find that your cuts have resulted in a tighter, more readable, and more enjoyable book.

Join a writing group. Creative-writing groups provide a great forum in which to have your work critiqued by people who are as passionate about writing as you are. Some opinions may be more informed than others, and you may have to sift through some personal prejudices before you get to the useful pointers, but there are bound to be people whose opinion you value. Keep an open mind and always thank people for their feedback, even if it’s unjustified criticism. If you’re seen to react badly, people with a real talent for spotting problems might choose to keep their comments to themselves. Critiquing sites and internet author forums can also be a great source of feedback and support, especially if you’re the sort of writer who doesn’t like to leave the house. Harper Collins set up Authoronomy.com as a novel way of finding new talent, but it’s also a great place to connect with other writers. YouWriteOn.com offers a similar service. You can read about Irish author Bob Burke’s experience with the site here.

Read books on writing. There are hundreds of books out there on writing. There are books on plot, dialogue, point of view, editing, and every other aspect of crafting a good book. The information is there for you to apply to your own manuscript if you’re prepared to spend fifty quid and a couple of weeks studying the texts. It might not be the same as having a fresh pair of eyes tackle your MS, but if you put a bit of distance between you and your work, you should be able to put your new skills to effective use.

Read the competition. It’s great to be original, but unless you’re Joyce or Kafka it’s best not to be too different. Your competition represents a good guide to what’s expected from you. You should aim to produce something better, extra or novel that adds to the canon, but don’t stray too far from the beaten track or your book won’t fit on any shelf. Read books published in your category in as critical a manner as possible. It helps if you’ve read a few books on writing first – you’ll find that issues to which you were previously oblivious suddenly come into sharp relief. Try to deconstruct the books and analyse how plot, characterisation, pace, etc., are handled, chapter by chapter. Many authors in your category will have faced similar dilemmas as you, and it helps to analyse their results.

It’s true that none of this entirely replaces a professional structural edit, but you can bring your manuscript a long way by investing just a few quid and some reading time. After you’ve done all this, it’s worth having a chat with your copy-editor to explain how you’ve edited. If you show them that you’ve put in the effort and, if you’re extra nice to them, they’ll be glad to watch out for any remaining structural issues. They may not deal with the problems in depth, but they’ll flag them, and, with all that reading under your belt, you’ll have no trouble sorting them out.

Robert Doran is Editorial Director at Kazoo Independent Publishing Services (www.kazoopublishing.com), a one-stop shop for indie authors who want to publish industry-standard books. He has nearly twenty years’ experience in bringing books to market and has worked as an editor, project manager, sales manager, and bookseller in Ireland and in the UK. He is a big fan of the Oxford comma. Follow him on Twitter @RobertEdits.

[Catherine’s note: Back in February I got to listen to the lovely Sarah Savitt talk about editing at Faber Academy, and she said, ‘The editor’s job is to ask the questions.’ She gave us some editorial notes to look at, and they were things that would be going through a reader’s head in a few month’s time if Sarah hadn’t raised them. Like: Why would this character forgive him? She’s no reason to, and But two pages back he said he didn’t agree with that! and I don’t understand why she doesn’t leave the car there?? A structural edit means that these questions get asked—and answered—in private (among other improvements!), before the book hits the virtual shelves, and not on Goodreads and Amazon customer reviews. Haven’t we all seen reviews where readers said something like, ‘I just didn’t get why he/she did that’? It’s like an English essay I wrote when I was in Sixth Class (age 12). The teacher, who usually championed my attempts, made me read out my mysterious character-being-chased-through-the-woods-at-night story (I was big into The X-Files then), before saying in front of everyone, ‘Catherine, you are the only one who knows what’s happening in this story.’ It’s a lesson I never forgot!)

Why Hire an Editor?

28 Mar

Let me count the ways I have tried to get the point across that you—yes, YOU—need an editor: I’ve said so in my book, I’ve made a video, I’ve told you why I desperately needed one… I’ve tried it every which way I can. It does seem like the message is sinking in somewhat, but I still meet self-publishers who think they’ll manage fine by themselves and send their book out into the world without it ever passing by the eyes of a professional editor. Which would be fine, if it wasn’t for the price-tag they’ve put on it. So today, my latest attempt is a guest post from Robert Doran, editorial director at Kazoo Independent Publishing Services, on why you should hire an editor. Read right through to the end for some vague hinting at something that’s, potentially, mildly exciting (at best) that starts here on this blog tomorrow. (Oooh, the mystery!)

Take it away, Robert… 

‘Here we go,’ I hear you say, ‘an editor telling us why we can’t do without editors.’ I would say that, wouldn’t I? Well, yes, I would. But I’m not only advocating for the editor here. Your readers deserve to get what they pay for, and your book deserves to be given a chance to compete successfully when you send it out to represent you in a crowded market. Hiring an editor to copy-edit your work is the bare minimum you can do to allow that to happen. But time and again authors decide to skip this step and to publish an unedited manuscript, hoping for the best. Let’s look at why.

typing

Lots of professionally edited books don’t sell. You’re right: having your book edited won’t guarantee you sales. There are thousands of professionally edited books published every year by traditional publishers that sell just a few hundred copies. A quick browse through any bookstore bargain basement will expose the truth that a book can be edited to within an inch of its life and still bomb. But that doesn’t change the fact that readers expect books to be edited in the same way that they expect cars to have wheels and beef burgers to have beef in them. It’s a basic requirement, not a selling point.

It’s not that readers spend much time thinking about the editorial process. They don’t, and that’s as it should be. The editing should be invisible, imperceptible. It’s only when it’s absent or shoddy that it becomes noticeable. And when readers notice it, they like to shout about it – just have a quick browse through a few of the gleeful ‘it was riddled with mistakes’ reviews that litter Amazon. When you open a book you have paid for and begin reading, you expect certain standards to be upheld, just as when you bite into a beef burger, you expect, well, beef. That’s what readers are used to, and they feel cheated when it clearly hasn’t been done.

But it’s expensive. Yes it is. You can reduce the amount of time an editor spends on your manuscript by sorting out as many issues as possible before you hire someone. This will help to keep the cost down. But editors are never going to be cheap, nor should they be. They offer a professional and often highly specialised service. Most editors have spent years studying and honing their skills, and they charge a fair fee based on their experience and expertise. When you get your marked-up manuscript back you’ll understand how much time, effort, and skill went into editing your work.

If you’re going to self-publish, you must, to some extent at least, act like a publisher. This means building the cost of editing, along with the other production costs, into the price of your book. Do you want a horse burger for 10¢ or a beef burger for €1? People do understand that higher standards cost more. Your book doesn’t have to be cheap, but it does have to represent value, and quality adds value to any product.

My friend read it, and she reads a lot. Great. Get as many friends as possible to read your book. Get your GP and your parish priest and Mary next door to read it. Every bit of feedback helps, and you should welcome it all and consider any suggestions your readers make. In particular, I think it’s worth joining a creative-writing group and having your work critiqued by your peers. But beware the nature of these relationships. People generally don’t want to criticise their friend’s work – they’d rather not offend. An editor will always take your feelings into consideration, but you are paying them to help you with your book and that will be the focus of your relationship. Even if your ego gets slightly bruised, your book will benefit, as will your readers.

Also, no matter how well versed your friends are in the rules of grammar, no matter how familiar they are with the vagaries of the English language, only an editor is likely to know and care enough about dangling modifiers, redundancies, hyphenation of compound adjectives, repetition, consistency of punctuation, presentation of numerals, elision, etc., to point them out and suggest appropriate corrections or amendments.

I can edit my own work. Certainly many authors can do a lot of structural editing without the help of an editor, and we’ll talk more about this in the next post. Structural editing can be fun, creative, and rewarding for the author; copy-editing, on the other hand, is essentially a technical task, more suited to those of us of a geekier persuasion. It is nigh on impossible to copy-edit your own work. You’re too close to it to pick up the tiny errors and the stuff that you don’t even know you don’t know. As an editor I have spent a lot of time studying obscure rules, semi-rules, and conventions-that-should-be-followed-unless-you-think-it’s-okay-to-break-them, yet I would never copy-edit my own work; I don’t know an editor in Christendom who would.

I want it to be all my own work. Naturally you want your work to sound like you wrote it. An editor is always conscious of the fact that it is your name that will be on the cover and that it is your work they are editing. They will intervene only as much as you ask them to. The editor’s aim is never to remove the author’s voice but to enhance it and allow it to shine by introducing structure and consistency, and by applying rules. It is when you get these things right that they become invisible to the reader, your message is amplified, and the quality of your writing is appreciated. Good times!

I always find mistakes in edited books. And you always will. Editors are not perfect, neither are proofreaders. The job they do is difficult, and, unfortunately, things will always slip through unless the manuscript is exceptionally clean in the first instance. It’s always worth noting the number of errors that were caught before going crazy over the couple that weren’t. And remember that a copy-editor’s job is much broader than catching typos – but more about that in a couple of weeks.

I’ll just download an editing program and use that. Go on, I dare you! These programs are so rubbish they make me want to cry. They might pick up a few typos but they consistently make odd suggestions on usage and, in my opinion, they serve only to confuse and delay.

Hiring an editor may or may not pay financial dividends: you will never know about the books you might not have sold or the bad reviews you didn’t receive. But the bottom line is that an editor will make your book better, no matter what point you’re starting from. Before you hire one, talk to a few and see who you’re most comfortable with. Ask them to prepare a short sample to give you an idea of what they can do for your manuscript and discuss the level of edit you feel would be appropriate. Ultimately, the author–editor relationship can be very rewarding for you, for the editor, and for your work.

Robert Doran is Editorial Director at Kazoo Independent Publishing Services (www.kazoopublishing.com), a one-stop shop for indie authors who want to publish industry-standard books. He has nearly twenty years’ experience in bringing books to market and has worked as an editor, project manager, sales manager, and bookseller in Ireland and in the UK. He is a big fan of the Oxford comma. Follow him on Twitter @RobertEdits.

The mysterious bit: tomorrow is the three-year anniversary of a very exciting day in my self-publishing adventures, and to mark the occasion I will be (a) showcasing something new and lovely, (b) writing a new post every day for a week and (c) giving YOU the chance the win stuff. Be back here tomorrow with a coffee in hand for the start of… superfluous drumroll please… MOUSETRAPPED MADNESS! 

100 Ways To Combat Writer’s Bottom: An Interview with Jane Wenham-Jones

25 Feb

Jane Wenham-Jones is the author of one of my all-time favorite “how to” writing books, Wannabe a Writer? And since I started writing full-time, my arse has been expanding at a rate that’s in direct proportion to the amount of time I’ve been spending sitting on it. So when I heard that Jane had published a new e-book, 100 Ways To Fight The Flab: The Wannabe Guide to a Better Bottom, it was like all my calorific Christmases had come together, minus the associated post-Christmas binge guilt.

fighttheflab

Today she’s stopping by to tell us how we can all avoid the dreaded Writer’s Bottom. Welcome back to Catherine, Caffeinated, Jane!

Tell us about your experience with Writer’s Bottom, the tragic and devastating condition that led you to write this book.

WELL… First of all, I would like to make it clear that I coined the term—in a hundred years, when it is a recognised medical condition I would like to be remembered as the woman who identified this debilitating syndrome. Actually I don’t feel my own bottom is in too bad a shape (cos I follow my own tips, natch!) but I certainly have had plenty of experience of putting on weight when I have been writing a book. You get to the end of the day, wrung out and emotionally exhausted, feeling as if you’ve run a marathon but of course you haven’t. You’ve been sat on your backside, and probably eating all sorts while you’re at it!

Aside from doing a Hemingway and write standing up, what can writers, generally speaking, do to avoid this? (If anything!)

Follow my tips of course. Eat a chilli a day. Eat dark chocolate. Go for a brisk walk before bed. It’s all in the book…

What are you thoughts on “magic” underwear: yes/no/several constricting layers of it at all times?

Spanx work miracles. No wonder Sara Blakely is now worth a billion dollars.

Is there anything we can do that will both increase our word count and enable us to eat as many crisps (chips, American friends) as we want? Or is that just a pipe dream?

Type sitting on an inflatable exercise ball—you’ll have abs of iron.

Please give us the three tips from 100 Ways To Fight The Flab: The Wannabe Guide to a Better Bottom that will a) instantly transform us into skeletal versions of our former selves and b) ensure that we drop what we’re doing and go straight to Amazon to buy the book.

Here are three tips chosen at random:

Think thin

There is a lot to be said for the power of positive thinking. Have you noticed how skinny people are always twitching about and never sit still? Tell yourself you are a thin person too and start fidgeting now. Walk rapidly instead of waddling along like a fatty, throw the kids’ crusts to the birds instead of hoovering them up (thinnies disdain leftovers) stand tall, think slimline and practise an irritating laugh and trilling: Sometimes you know, I forget to eat altogether…

scales

Cut the carbs

There is no doubt about it, however much you may be 9clinging onto that packet of custard creams, that this works. Eat no rice, potatoes, bread, cakes, pasta etc and you will lose weight. If you don’t drink alcohol either it will fall off. Also, the benefit of the high protein approach – lots of meat, fish, eggs, cheese – with salad or vegetables, is that if you do it properly you won’t feel hungry either. (Bored and deprived maybe but certainly not starving). In fact, after a while, as you rediscover your hip bones and note just the one chin looking back at you from the mirror, you may find you really feel quite energised and jolly. I think it’s the smug feeling of virtue that cheers me up! Opponents of this plan, usually to be identified by the plate of chips in their hands, will whine on about heart disease and cholesterol levels but really they’re just feeling bitter about the lack of biscuits. Useful for a quick fix when you’ve got two weeks to get into the dress you haven’t done up since 2006.

Cut the fat

Doing this is much, much worse. You are condemning yourself to a dreary existence of dry toast, flavourless leaves, bad-temper and hunger (or was that just me?). Yes, a multi-million pound fortune may have been built on the premise that if you give up butter you’ll get thinner legs, but if you’re that desperate to lose ten pounds it is probably less painful to cut a leg off.

Another reason to buy the book is that we are running a FAB competition with it—to win six nights here—which is a wonderful, gorgeous place. More details and full rules can be found on my blog. Get your entries in before April 26th!

(‘Before and after’ pictures and grateful testimonials also especially welcome.)

Now that you’ve written (hugely entertaining!) guides to writing books, selling books and not expanding like a rubber dingy that’s had its cord pulled while you do those things, what’s next for my favourite advice-giver?

I am thinking of some other hundred-tips books…. :-) But my agent is getting very fierce about my writing another novel— so have to get a few chapters of that under my belt first. Prime Time—my last one—has just been shortlisted for the Romantic Comedy category of the RoNas which is very exciting.

Richard and Judy are presenting the awards and I was already down to compere (have done this for last two years). So at present all my energies are directed into sticking to every tip in the book so I can fit into the new frock which was only available in a size too small…. :-)

Thanks so much, Jane!

Find 100 Ways To Fight The Flab: The Wannabe Guide To A Better Bottom on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and other good e-book stores. Visit Jane’s website here or follow her on Twitter here

Guest Post: The Lucky Ones

31 Jan

Today we have a fabulous guest post by Shannon of Duolit who’s stopping by in support of IndiesForward Blog-A-Thon. Welcome back, Shannon! 

“Do you know how lucky we are?

Ten years ago, self-published authors were blindly stumbling across the Internet peddling $20 paperbacks exclusively sold on their self-publisher’s website (with some astronomical shipping fees, yes Lulu, I haven’t forgotten) hoping to recoup the thousands of dollars they spent to get the book published in the first place.

Five years ago, self-published authors were trying to get the hang of Twitter (which had just a million users in March 2008, as compared to 500 million now), learn how to format their own eBooks (for distribution through some new thing called Smashwords, launched in May 2008), and get around the growing package fees of the big self-publishers.

Now, here we are in 2013 with a booming marketing resource in social media (Twitter, Facebook, and an author’s new best friend, GoodReads). Even better, the cost to enter the self-publishing arena has been dramatically reduced by the popularity of eBooks. We can now give our readers instant gratification straight to their cellphones, iPads, Kindles, and Nooks (while earning 70% royalties and accessing a worldwide audience).

Seriously, we have it made.

That’s not to say it’s all peaches-and-cream these days. Indies still have to work hard to make it (the definition of “make it” in this case being “Earn enough money to seriously toy with the idea of quitting our day jobs without subsequently having to live on the streets”) but it’s a much more surmountable objective that it was ten (or even five) years ago.

But the new resources at our fingertips also give us the opportunity to go beyond just selling books. We are now in charge of our own legacy. We can make ourselves into the authors we grew up admiring — the authors who inspired us to fall in love with reading and start writing our own tales.

Truly, we’re so lucky.

(Prepare yourself, grab some tissues, this is about to get a little misty for a moment.)

What if we weren’t so lucky?

Imagine what it would be like if you finally achieve your dreams and publish your first book, but you can’t do anything to promote it. You can’t jump on Twitter, make friends on GoodReads, or post weekly blog updates. You can’t meet with book clubs via Skype and discuss their thoughts. You can’t guest post about your publishing experiences. You can’t control your legacy as an author.

You can’t do any of these things, because your book is a memoir of your last seven months of life with cancer.

cellwarnotebooks

I was introduced to Julie Forward DeMay’s work, Cell War Notebooks, earlier this month, by Julie’s mother. I read through the book in one sitting (it’s actually a compilation of Julie’s blog, which you can still read here) and was genuinely moved by her unbelievable bravery in the face of something we all hope never to face.

It’s a beautifully written book, funny at times and of course heart-breaking at others. You can check out the paperback on Amazon (all the book’s proceeds go to Julie’s nine year-old daughter).

After speaking with Julie’s family and reading her work, I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t shake the idea that Julie could be any of us. We’re so lucky, but with one blink that luck could be gone.

I became determined to take up Julie’s flag and march onward, building the legacy she deserves.

But I quickly realized to make the biggest impact, I needed some help. I need a chain of people wrapped ‘round the world to pass Julie’s flag from blog to blog, telling her story and sharing her book with all of our readers.

indiesforward

Thus we have arrived at today, a very lucky day for Julie, when bloggers all over the globe have come together for the IndiesForward blog-a-thon. A group of us (authors, editors, creative types, moms, dads, sisters, brothers, children, friends) are reaching out, sharing Julie’s story on our own blogs and any others that will have us (Thank you, Catherine, for being one of those generous souls!).

We’d love for you to join the movement as well.

Share something about an inspirational experience in your life and a note about Julie’s story on your blog and spread the word on social media. (We have a pre-made kit at Duolit with all the links, images, and blurb text so all you have to do is copy and paste!)

We’re keeping a running tab of participating blogs on selfpublishingteam.com today, too, so make sure to share your link here.

We are so lucky, and today we just want to share a little of our good fortune with Julie.”

Thanks, Shannon. Check out: 

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