Books for Everyone

Books for Everyone

12/22/14

Professional Editors

You’ve finished your book and are now looking over your options. Should you immediately send this book to your dream publisher? Should you first go over the whole manuscript with a fine tooth comb, searching for those tiny errors that might result in a rejection rather than a contract? Or should you hire an editor to go over your work, and pay someone else to do the boring, hard work?

One of the first things you need to know is that no professional author ever sends out their first draft. The ideal situation is for you to allow that first collection of idea to rest, to take a nap while you reconnect with family and friends. A first draft should never be seen by anyone except yourself.

Now that you’ve moved forward, begun a new book or pounded out a few short stories to keep your mind sharp, it’s time to consider what you’re going to do about your book. Its presence has never really left your mind.

There are other options, albeit ones that won’t finish your book faster than hiring an editor to go over your work. First, though, you have to ask yourself this—Are you prepared to shell out up to three or four thousand dollars to have a professional go over your book to ensure it’s as tight as it can be prior to looking for a publisher, or self-publishing it?

The first thing any writer or author should do once they feel they’re ready to read over their recently completed book is find a group of dedicated beta readers. They should ignore the entreaties of family and friends to do this job, as those people tend to return with glowing praise about how great your book is and how it will soon be topping the most prestigious Best Seller charts. Instead, opt for people who you think can be critical, who can step back from the beautiful prose you’ve created, and be capable of telling you where you need to improve your work.

Another option is to join an online critique group. It can take a while to find the right group, and then you’re faced with the probability that you’ll have to wait months if not years for your book to progress through that process, but it well worth the time for a first time author attempting to find a good publisher.

The least popular option is to spend days and months going over your book with a fine tooth comb. That often becomes a lesson in frustration, as you rewrite many elements of your book numerous times, in an attempt to get rid of a sagging plot point.

Then there is the professional editor. There are many of those available for you to hire, and their prices vary from reasonable to outrageous. You should be wary of any professional editor you hire, no matter how much they charge. Why? Because it doesn’t matter what a professional editor charges, that isn’t an indicator of what the quality of their work is.

The professional editor used to be confined to the major publishing houses located in New York City. Theirs wasn’t a glamorous job, unless they held the top position in their company. Most spent day after day redlining contracted manuscripts with dreams of one day becoming an author themselves. Then publishing changed when we arrived in the twenty-first century. It was slow progress, but the self-published author was beginning to make their presence known. There was a need for good editors in order to make their books saleable.

However, as with every other profession, there were those editors who weren’t as good as they professed. To do this job well, you must not only understand the basics of whatever language your author is writing in, but also have a good grasp of the rules of writing. This is not a job for the faint of heart, nor for someone just starting out to be picky about the jobs they want to take on—you really can’t be turning down the latest blood and gore vampire series, nor can you afford to say erotica isn’t my thing.

That’s not to say you won’t luck onto a good professional editor, but there are a few things to look for. A quick search for “book editors” brought me 63,100,000 hits. The top search produced a company who not only edits, they also proofread, provide indexing, and publishing consulting. That sounds like a self-published author’s dream, everyone they need in one neat package, except for the cover art. What more can one ask for?

First, find their FAQS page. Seek out the cost to you. Some of these editors  charge by word count, others by the number of pages. All good editors will consult with you before deciding on price and what needs to be done. Be ready to work hard once they send our book back to you, and be prepared to fork out anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousand.

Even if you go through this process, there is no guarantee that you’re going to like what the editor has done, or you may find your book is in worse shape. Dig in, dig deep into your internal editor, and clean up what you’ve received back. You can ask for a refund, but don’t expect one.

A word of caution at this point. While you may utilize a professional editor, once you’ve signed a contract, your publisher will in all likelihood assign an editor to you prior to publication. Don’t come back with “Editor so and so, of this online company, has already edited my work. There’s no need for you to  do it again.” That produces a pained wince on the editor in chief’s part. Even though you feel you have the best book in the world, there is always something to fix in it.


One final word on hiring a professional editor—spend the time to learn about the rules of writing. Don’t decide that because someone has said you don’t use certain words much in a book, or you have to use this or that punctuation that you can ignore that advice. You might discover that’s a mistake that can derail your dream of having a book published.

12/15/14

One Simply Does Not Write A Book

“Ah, you’re writing a book. What an easy life you have.”

How many times have you heard that or other comments where the person speaking to you feels that being an author or a writer is the easiest job in the world? Do these types of comments put you on the defensive? Should you fire back with the hours and hours you spend on research? Do the words “you don’t have a clue” spring to mind? Are you always on the defensive, explaining how you don’t spend all day in five star restaurants or on talk shows?

You’re not alone. I can’t count how many times I’ve cringed when I see “that” look on someone’s face. I just know what’s coming next. So, one must ask: “How do I make non-authors understand how much work is involved?”

The first thing you need to say is that one simply does not write a book. Imagine their expression of shock and disbelief when you drop that on them. Most people will tell you that it must not be such a hard job to write a book. After all, thousands of people publish a book daily. Why, you probably knock out a book between the time you wake up and the time you shove the kids out the door to get them to school.

That can’t be further from the truth. Writing a book isn’t just sitting in front of a monitor and pounding out the next Great American novel. Even fiction requires research, both before you start and as you’re progressing through your manuscript. Writing a book requires hours and days of intense concentration. Robert Henilein alluded to the actual process of writing a book in his novel, “The Cat Who Walks Through Walls.”

“There is no way that writers can be tamed or civilized. Or even cured. In a household of more than one person, of which one is a writer, the only solution known to science is to provide the patient with an isolation room, where he can endure the acute stages in private, and where food can be poked in to him with a stick. Because, if you disturb the patient at such times, he may break into tears or become violent. Or he may not hear you at all… and, if you shake him at this stage, he bites.”

Or, as my husband has discovered on several occasions, one does not approach the working writer quietly, out of their line of sight while they are busily pounding away on the keyboard. Such an interruption has always results in a loud shriek and then an angry tirade about disrupting the flow of a major plot point.

Another perception is that authors price their books too high, making it impossible to buy a book, thereby forcing fans to pirate sites in order to pick up the much sought after novel.

In order to put this into perspective, I would challenge all those claiming books are too expensive to think of them as entertainment. How much are you willing to pay for a nice evening out? Will you elect to purchase fast food because the restaurant you’ve been wanting to try out is too expensive? Will you wait for a movie to become available on Netflix instead of seeing it in the theater? Would you tell your children they must endure a flip phone with none of the features they so desire in a smart phone? All of those things are expensive, and yet you fail to apply the purchase of a book to the same reasoning you use to stay top of the line with other luxuries.

Reading a book has always been one of the most sought after relaxation techniques, until society connected via the internet. At a time when publishing is changing every moment, when it’s now possible for an individual to publish their book without an agent or publisher behind them, society has, for some strange reason, decided that reading is no longer an acceptable pastime.

The view of the ordinary person on how a writer exists, however, remains in the era of the 1920s. They see the “glamor” given to greats such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Mark Twain. Most people envision writers as people living in their lonely garret, bent over a keyboard, and who are anti-social, until they must appear on talk shows to talk about their latest novel.

Look around you. Observe the woman reading every label in the grocery store. She could be a writer, reading those labels while she plots out the climax of her latest work. The man mumbling to himself isn’t having a mental breakdown necessarily. He’s figuring how to get male hero hooked up with female who won’t give him the time of day. Authors today often give up time with family. They work late into the night or through the day, deeply immersed in their latest project. A writer may scurry away to social media, posting the strangest updates, in order to see if their latest ideas will attract public attention.

One last bit of advice to remember: Care for the writer or author you know. Treat them with cautions optimism when they bewail the wall called writer’s block. Offer them a smile and chocolate (or their favorite snack) when they stumble out at three in the morning, only to realize they have to make the kids lunches and chase away dust bunnies before they can get back to their novel still in the early stages after having spent a long weekend working on it.

Remember, we as authors or writers have personal lives too. We walk the dog, clean the cat box, make meals, mow the lawn, and mostly, we observe those around us with the idea of working the people we find interesting into our next work. We are as human as you are, and to explain what we do as our chosen profession, one must understand:

One simply does not write a book.


12/8/14

Self Published versus Traditionally Published

Once upon a time, about twenty or thirty years ago, it was rare that you heard about self published authors, and even rarer that one became famous and was accepted by a traditional publisher. Two names immediately come to mind of those who made that leap—John Grisham and Christopher Paolini. Both are still with their major publisher and still release books. What about the ordinary person who didn’t have the same luck as Grisham or Paolini? What chance do they have in this very different world of publishing today.

Today, thousands upon thousands of books are uploaded and published daily. Since the turn of the century, the publishing world has changed so significantly that unless you have kept up with it on a daily basis, it’s almost unrecognizable to those from another era. No longer does a publishing company have a massive staff of people to read prospective authors’ work, to hold their hands through the sometimes arduous, occasionally long, process of having their book published.

Today’s publishing world is more in the control of small publishers or the self published authors. Long gone are the three martini lunches and organized book tours with excessive media exposure on the morning talk shows. Today’s author is expected to put forth the labor or many mules as they promote their recently published book while writing the next book and often holding down a day job, in addition to their responsibilities at home. The successful authors I know often put in eighteen to twenty hour days for what amounts to peanuts, and we always have to be up and ready to talk to our fans, for the fastest way to have your career as an author disappear into the wind is to be rude.

So, now it’s your turn to determine if you’re going to submit your book to a publishing company, be it one of the major publishing conglomerates or to an indie publisher whose offices are often virtual. What are the pros and cons of self publishing versus going with a traditional publisher?

Self Published: First, you get to keep your full royalty, after the sales venue you are using takes their cut. To determine that,, you must learn to understand sometimes complicated formulas that are used to explain why you got what you view as a pittance versus the price of the book.

Of course, before you actually can claim that money as your own, you must also pay several people. There is the plot editor, who helped you set up your book and ensured there were no holes in the plot. A line editor will go over your book with a fine tooth comb and ensure that it’s as perfect as possible. Then you have a proofreader who comes behind the line editor and ensures nothing was missed. Finally, you must deal with a cover artist. The price for one of those can vary from a few hundred dollars to several thousand, depending what you want for your cover art. Once all of those people are satisfied, you can count your royalties as your own. And come to the realization that you didn’t make as much as you thought you would be.

I’m not saying that self publishing isn’t profitable, but there are overhead costs a traditional publisher will pay and not charge you. For some authors, the biggest benefit is that they are in charge of the whole process from beginning to end. They answer to no one but themself.

Is that what you want? Are you ready to work day and night, give up most of your activities outside your day job, to be published? Are you ready for the lower return on a book you’re selling? If so, then this might be the right step for you.

Traditional Publisher: My choice was always to go with a traditional publisher. Yes, I must accept a percentage of the money paid to the publisher by the sales venues, but that amount is spelled out in my contracts. Here are the reasons I believe I’ve made the right choice: the editors, proofreader, cover artist, and then promotion work that I’d have to do by myself would take away from time that I can spend writing. The cost of those items would cut into my wallet in a way that would frustrate me to no end.

The reason for this is that the publishers I’ve selected and who have offered me contracts have been mostly been upfront with what they’ll do and what I’ll get in return. With one exception, I haven’t had any problem getting my royalties and have received great support from my publishers. Not only that, being with a publishing company has one thing no self published author has—a built in support system who will assist you with promotion for the simple repayment of doing the same for them. Instead of having to depend on myself to get the word out about my books, I have close to 500 people willing to do that for me. And they do, along with cheering for my successes and giving me a shoulder to cry on when there’s a failure.


There are benefits and drawbacks to both self publishing and traditional publishing. What decision you make is based on your needs and financial security. Make no mistake, this new world of publishing isn’t for the faint of heart. Those not willing to get out and hawk their books day in and day out will soon find themselves trampled.

12/5/14

Sapphire Blue by Karen King

Blurb

Can love survive death?

“No one has ever walked out of Red. Once the Soul Catchers get you they don’t let you go.” Denny’s words scare me but I have no choice. If Will is in Red that’s where I have to go.
I’ve never really thought what it was like when you died. I’m only 16, too young to worry about that. At least I thought I was. I’ve heard about Heaven and Hell, of course, but it doesn’t look like I’m in either of them. All I know is that Will is here too and I need to find him. I can’t face spending eternity without him.






Sapphire Blue – Extract


Everywhere Will turns all he can see is mist. It’s inside his head too, wrapping around his mind, stopping him from thinking straight.
He tries to shake the mist away, to find a fragment of memory that will tell him who he is, where he is. But there’s nothing. His mind is a complete blank. He can’t even remember his name.
He squints as a shape starts to form in the mist. It’s a man.
The man strides purposefully as if he’s heading somewhere in particular and needs to get there fast.
“You okay, mate?”
Will shakes his head. “I can’t remember anything. Where am I?”
The man pauses and looks around. “No one meeting you?”
Will frowns, trying to remember. Why would someone be meeting him? “I don’t think so,” he stammers. “Should they be?”
“Sometimes they do.” The man’s tone is casual. He shrugs. “You’d better come with me then.”
Will doesn’t know what else to do, so he follows the man. He has to quicken his pace to keep up with this stranger’s long, effortless strides and constantly looks around, trying to get some idea where they are. After a while the mist starts to fade and Will sees that they’re crossing what looks like barren wasteland. Rugged cliffs jut up along each side, gnarled trees and bushes dot the landscape here and there, and a buzzard caws as it flies overhead. It’s eerie. There’s no one around except him and the man yet Will feels like he’s being watched. Stalked almost.
“Where are we going?” he demands, fear making his voice sound shrill. “Who are you and where the hell am I?”
The man turns around. “You really don’t remember, do you?”
Something about the way he says the words sends an icicle of fear down Will’s spine. “Remember what?”
The man holds out his hand, it’s long, thin and bony. “Take my hand.”
Will stares at the outstretched hand not wanting to touch it.
“Take it if you want to remember. Or leave it if you don’t. It’s all the same to me.”
Will hesitates, a terrible feeling of foreboding seizing him. What is it he has to remember? He’s sure it’s something he’s not going to like. But he has to find out. He needs to know who he is, where he is, what he’s doing here. He takes a deep breath, reaches out and grasps the man’s hand.
Immediately, a bright light explodes across his forehead. He gasps and tries to pull his hand away but the man grips it tight, his nails digging into Will’s flesh. The light fades and pictures flash across his mind like a horror slide show. He’s getting in a car, a girl’s singing, a huge tree zooms in so close that he instinctively step back then there’s a big bang. Now the girl’s lying motionless, blood oozing out of a gap in her forehead, her neck bent at an awkward angle, her eyes open, staring. Will draws in his breath, his hand pressing across his forehead as his memory floods back and his heart shatters into jagged smithereens that puncture him inside. The girl is Sapphire, his girlfriend. He’d just passed his driving test and was taking them for a drive when he crashed.
He killed her. He killed Sapphire. 




About the Author
Karen King has had over one hundred children’s books published. She’s written for many children's magazines too including Sindy, Barbie, Winnie the Pooh and Thomas the Tank Engine. She writes for all ages and in all genres; story books, picture books, plays, joke books and non-fiction.  Sapphire Blue is her second YA novel. She also writes romance novels under the name of Kay Harborne.


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12/1/14

Queen Bee ~ King Contrary

Editing has begun. There won’t be much to do. Your work is nearly perfect, if it isn’t actually perfect. You’re smugly dreaming about the editor contacting you, to say your book is going back to the publisher because absolutely  nothing is wrong with it. Visions of becoming your publisher’s number one author dance through your head.

Great dream. Fabulous dream. We all dream this one, but it’s not real. Yes, that’s right. It’s not real.

You will have some time before your editor contacts you. That is time to prepare for the process which can be quick or slow, depending on you and how you accept your edits. There are a few types of authors you should avoid being during this process.

The Control Freak: This is your book. You have sweated buckets, given up family  time and sleep, and now you will control this aspect of the pre-publication process. No one will tell you anything about our book is wrong. Absolutely nobody. They’ll soon learn that you are in charge.

Or you could find yourself having your book released by your publisher. You could have your book edited and presented to you as “this is the way it will be.” One thing you can count on if you take on this persona—you will not receive a contract with this publisher again, and more than likely word will get out that you are hard to work with. Yes, publishers compare notes. Who wants to give their problem child to someone else?

The Queen Bee: You know her. She irritated the life out of you in high school, always buzzing around with everyone hanging on her every word because they were afraid of her acid commentary. Don’t turn into your worst enemy during edits. You’re going through what every author has since editors came into the picture. Your editor is your best friend right now. No matter what you think when you see those edits, your editor will remain your best friend during this time. Their only job is to make your book the best book possible, and they can’t do it if you insist on being the Queen Bee.

Let’s Approve Edits in Committee Princess: You know her. She can’t do anything without the approval of her friends. They must pick apart everything and come up with a better way to edit her book. Nothing the editor says they must do is right. They argue, they whimper, they ignore emails to please get the edits back, so the book can be finished. Ms. Approve Edits in Committee will finally send back round one, having done edits herself that she believes are important, and ignoring what the editor has done, expecting him or her to accept the superior knowledge of her committee. Solution? This is your book, and only yours. You certainly have the right to question an edit, but be prepared to explain why. Oh, about the committee? Meet them for lunch. Talk about your concerns, but when they offer to help, tell them that you have it under control. You’ll be happier in the long run.

Mr. Whine: Very few things raise the hackles on my neck, but whining definitely wins the prize for being number one. Constant emails about “Where is my editor?” “My editor hasn’t contacted me.” and “I hate my editor because they’re mean.” sent within hours of being introduced won’t endear you with the editor in chief. If anything, whenever an email comes in with your name on it, the editor in chief will ignore it until they’ve finished with the rest of their overfull inbox. Whining is not being a professional, and you are now a professional.

King Contrary: No matter what anyone else says, he knows everything about everything. King Contrary has an opinion about any aspect of his book, and he isn’t afraid to voice that opinion. He will make your life miserable, unless you agree that he is the most knowledgeable person on any subject he claims to know. He also wants to control every aspect of pre-publication of his book, since no one else knows as much as he does, even if he doesn’t have a clue.

Mistress I’ve been published by publisher X, Y, and Z, don’t tell me I can’t get what I want: Okay, you’ve been published by several publishers. Your books are on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and a host of smaller sales venues. Nice. Great even. As an editor in chief, I will be looking at your rankings and reviews. I’ll be checking to see how well you promote your work, and I’ll also be searching your name, to see if there is anything important that I need to know. So, your attitude that no one can do it as well as you, or that you know the best editor, cover artist, proofreader, formatter and we either use them or you’ll hire them yourself doesn’t fly. This is Publisher A. We do things our way. We have a certain style we use and certain rules we expect our authors to follow. Your attitude fits and analysis of the people employed by us doesn’t fly.


Have I met these people? Yes, but I’ve also exaggerated their faults. This is just an observation of those I’ve dealt with since taking my position. Do I get frustrated and shout at them? Okay, I’ll admit to the frustration, but my method of dealing with them is more professional and brusque. Remember, the editor in chief works for the publisher not the author. The editor in chief will do as the publisher wants, although if you suggest calmly and professionally that something might work better using method b rather than method a, you might be met with a thoughtful “I’ll look into that.” instead of a “This is the way we do things.”