- “How an Editor Will Make You a Better Writer,” by Margot Atwell
- “The Changing Media Landscape:Bad News for Authors and Book Publicists?,” by Dan Smith
- Start Planning for Your Book to be Noticed in 2014 with Combined Book Exhibit
- Visit Smith Publicity Staff at Upcoming Book Industry Events this Fall
By Margot Atwell, President of Em Dash & Co. Literary Services
Everyone knows what editors do…or do they? Most authors understand that editors find mistakes in a manuscript, but a good editor does a lot more than that! No matter how much a manuscript has been edited by the author or how flawless the author thinks the manuscript is, working with an editor is always worthwhile. Many of the best books would be unrecognizable without the help of their editors.
A good editor improves a manuscript through objectivity and experience and is an invaluable asset for any writer. A quality editorial process can make a big difference in the ultimate success of the book.
An editor will draw on her years of experience to examine the structure of a manuscript, its tone and contents, the way the information flows, what is included—and even what isn’t included—and assess how all those elements work together to inform, educate, and entertain a reader. A good editor will not only tell an author what is and isn’t working in the manuscript, but will also provide concrete suggestions about how to fix those issues.
How do you know what kind of editor you need? There are several different levels of editing, each of which will produce a different result.
Developmental and content. Developmental and content editing is what shapes the book into a cohesive unit. This stage focuses on structure, overall style, and the big picture content. Does the voice shift from a disciplined teacher to a joking peer? Does the structure follow the natural train of thought? Is there an aspect of the subject missing that leaves questions unanswered? If the manuscript is fiction, does the main character’s personality remain consistent? These are just some of the questions that might be addressed in developmental editing. An editor’s feedback is helpful in this stage, because the author may be too close to the work to see the big-picture problems.
Line editing. Line editing is slightly more specific than developmental editing. In this stage, the editor will make sure that every word on the page matches its intent, is the appropriate reading level for the audience, is consistent in style and voice, transitions effectively, and reads smoothly. The line editor is more focused on style while the developmental editor is more focused on story or content.
Copyediting. Copyediting adds another level of specificity, and is usually the final step before the manuscript is set into type. The copy editor is responsible for correcting all grammar, spelling, and usage errors, as well as making sure the style is consistent. In this case, style refers to a style methodology, like The Chicago Manual of Style, which dictates how words, phrases, and typographical elements are used. A good copyeditor is also on the lookout for any phrasing or consistency issues that the line editor may have missed.
Proofreading. The proofreader steps in once the manuscript has been typeset. Since it becomes costly to make changes once already in the typeset form, the proofreader is purely responsible for correcting any lingering grammar and spelling errors as well as typographical errors. Usually the proofreader is also responsible for noting the correct page numbers in the table of contents, and double checking that all footnotes and endnotes are in the right place.
The best way to find a capable editor is by asking other authors or agents or taking a look at some similar books to see if an editor is listed in the acknowledgments. Freelance editors abound, it’s just a matter of finding the right one. Authors can also learn about and stay connected to the publishing industry through the many industry websites and blogs, such as Mediabistro, Bookjobs.com, PW Daily, Publishers Marketplace, and others. Finally, there are a few companies, such as Gotham Ghostwriters, that exist to help authors find ghostwriters and editors.
When you find an editor, make sure to talk to him or her about what types of books he or she has worked on in the past, and get samples if possible. Also, definitely don’t be afraid to call an editor’s references. That holds true for any freelancer you are considering hiring. It’s important to make sure that the person chosen does quality work on the schedule he or she puts forth and within the estimate he or she presents for the work. Speaking to people who have worked with the editor under consideration is a good way to ensure that the right person is found for this important job.
If you aren’t sure what kind of edit your manuscript requires, you can ask an editor for his or her opinion. A good editor should be honest and realistic about the strengths and weaknesses of a manuscript, and provide a realistic assessment of how much work the project needs and what that will cost. Just be sure that you are open to hearing your editor’s advice if you request it!
Margot Atwell is an editor and publishing consultant with over a decade of publishing experience, including editing and publishing multiple New York Times bestsellers. She is the President of Em Dash & Co. Literary Services (www.emdashandco.com). This article is adapted from her first book, The Insider’s Guide to Book Publishing Success.
By Dan Smith, Founder/CEO of Smith Publicity, Inc.
Many believe the printed newspaper is dying a slow, painful, inevitable death. Since 2008, the presses at hundreds of newspapers have stopped forever. Many venerable print magazines have closed their doors. After 32 years of publishing Southern Accents, Time. Inc. shut it down. Ziff Davis stopped publishing PC Magazine after 27 years, and Conde Nast closed the doors on Gourmet Magazine, published since 1941. Additionally, start-up publications routinely shut down before they print their third issue. In the broadcast world, the Los Angeles Times reported that the Disney/ABC TV group just recently eliminated 175 positions. Clear Channel, the largest radio station operator in the country, has been trimming staff and eliminating positions since 2012. Websites have emerged to chronicle the ongoing collapse of traditional media:www.MagazineDeathPool.com,www.NewspaperDeathWatch.com are just a few examples.Times are indeed changing in the media world. The Digital Revolution has turned the media landscape into a new, vastly different one. For authors and book marketers, the question is: What does this change mean? Is it good or bad for authors seeking exposure? For book publicists, does it make our jobs easier or harder?A shrinking traditional media would seem to be bad news for authors and the publicists promoting their books. Fewer outlets equates to fewer opportunities for coverage. It’s only common sense.
However, the fact is, most of the changes in the media are actually good for book marketing agencies and authors alike. Consider the trimmed-down staffs at print outlets; this presents a great opportunity for authors to get publicity. Smaller staffs mean outlets have fewer writers, and therefore need more pre-packaged publicity material to help do their jobs. For example, at Smith Publicity, we’ve had tremendous success pitching byline articles to newspapers and magazines.These articles, written by the author of a particular book, are ready-to-go informational and how-to pieces with great content. They are not promotional, but include the author’s book information and website, etc. at the end of the piece. The short-staffed print outlet gets great material, and the author gets publicity.
Radio and TV show producers, operating with fewer support staff, are readily accepting well-
crafted and professionally presented pitches from book publicists. The “art of the pitch” has evolved so we provide exactly what a producer is looking for, and present show/interview ideas. Less research is required by producers, and again, book publicists help them do their job.There’s another reason why the news is good. The shrinking traditional media has given rise to a huge boom in online media and news oriented websites, creating enormous opportunities. Some magazines have shut down their print versions, but remain online. After 80 years, Newsweek published its last print issue in December 2012, switching to an online only format, according to The Independent. Many news-oriented sites have emerged as powerful tools for authors looking for exposure. We routinely have our authors covered on online news websites including book promotion Huffington Post, Forbes.com and TheStreet.com. Online, there are no space limitations. Instead of a major print magazine limited to a few feature stories, there’s far greater flexibility online—and the content is searchable and therefore can be more valuable, lasting far longer than a discarded newspaper or magazine.In addition, most newspapers and magazines still in print have online versions of their publications. The online versions include material in the printed versions, and much more, often inviting readers to comment and easily share articles via email and social media.
Publicity has always been about helping media representatives do their jobs by presenting good material for articles, interviews and all types of coverage. It is the classic “you scratch their back …” scenario, and it hasn’t changed.
The media needs publicists and authors more than ever.
National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo is a month-long marathon for writers all of backgrounds to complete a 50,000 word novel during November. Annually about 500,00 people register to write a novel and thanks to a community of support, about 15% of those people write 50,000 word novels. A 50,000 word novel can seem a little daunting but executive director of NanoWriMo, Grant Faulkner has these tips:
1) Go on a time hunt: A lot of people say they just don’t have the time to write a novel in a month, but most of us have more time than we think. Toni Morrison was a single working parent before she was a novelist. After putting her kids to bed, she’d write for 15 minutes each day, even if she was tired, and that was how she completed her first book. Before November, track what you do on a typical day. Figure out what you can give up in order to find the time to write. Cut out TV? Wake up an hour earlier or stay up an hour later? Write during lunch? Write on the subway? All of the above? You have more time than you think. And what will you remember more later in life–the TV shows you watched in November 2013 or the novel you wrote?
2) Build accountability: You can build accountability by signing a blood pact with yourself. Or you can adopt a more effective strategy: risk public shaming. Tell your friends and family that you’re writing a novel in November. Post your word counts on Facebook and Twitter. You don’t want to see people in December and face their questions about your novel if you gave up.
3) Simplify your life. You’re going to have to say no to things in order to accomplish any grand task. You might have to skip that weekend getaway or Saturday night party to hit your word count. Or you might have to order take-out sometimes. Remember: there’s plenty of time to clean your house in December.
4) Reward yourself for milestones: NaNoWriMo might be an endurance test, but it’s also a writing party. Figure out a reward for each 10,000 words you complete. It could be as simple as dancing to your favorite YouTube video. Some treat themselves to banana splits. Others have gotten tattoos. One man bought a boa constrictor. Whatever works for you.
5) Show up: No explanation needed. You might miss one day of writing, but try not to miss two. Remember what Woody Allen said: “90% of success is just showing up.”
6) Write with others: Writing doesn’t have to be a solitary, drudgerous affair. NaNoWriMo has volunteers in more than 500 regions around the world who organize local writing events. Finding a community of encouraging support does wonders for any creative enterprise.
Find more about the goings on in your region on the NaNoWriMo site: http://nanowrimo.org/en/regions
Start Planning for your Book to be Noticed in 2014 with Combined Book Exhibit
If you are looking to generate exposure for your book/ebook(s) at the publishing industry’s most sought after regional, national and international trade shows, Smith Publicity invites you to explore Combined Book Exhibit (CBE) options for 2014.
Smith Publicity is an official reseller of CBE services, one of the most widely recognized and highly respected names in the publishing community. For over 75 years, CBE has been showcaseding published works at national and international book shows and expos, becoming a dependable resource for the publishers it serves, and the librarians and educators who depend on it.
The Smith team will be at three different industry trade shows this fall including:
PubWest, Santa Fe, NM, November 7-9
Self-Publishing Book Expo, New York City, NY, November 9
Miami Book Fair, Miami, FL, November 22-24
Sign up to make and appointment. Visit us for a free consultation to discuss your work and goals!