Editors & Endings

I read a great book this weekend that would have been much better with a little help from an editor. As I started to read the novel, I was thinking “This person is so good. Why is s/he not traditionally published? Why isn’t there a movie deal on the table?” Sure, there were a few typos, maybe ten in the entire book. An editor would have caught those, but okay, the story is so good, I just read on.

And then I reached the end. Reader, it wasn’t good. It didn’t give that sense of completion a great ending always strives to achieve. It was like this person just stopped typing. And I felt really bad for that author, because an editor would have helped improve the weak conclusion. My editor at The Wild Rose Press spotted the sloppy ending of Blue Heaven, my soon to be released novel, right away. It was the first comment she offered me. And when she said it, I knew she was right. I scrapped 50 or so pages and got back to work.

As much as I love the indie community, everyone in it should have an editor. I have two degrees in English literature, taught writing to college students for almost two decades and worked as a staff reviewer in  two top trade magazines. I’ve read widely and have given editing advice to thousands of college freshmen. And I still need my editor to get my novel right.

About those college freshman…by far the most common problem I see in their essays is not grammar or usage issues, it’s the conclusion. College students can’t wait for the assignment to be over, so many of them dash off a weak conclusion. Novelists can’t afford to do that. Our endings should wrap up the story, but more, they should offer one last special something for the reader. Brilliant endings are just as important as fabulous openings. Conclusions can make or break a book. If the ending doesn’t work, that’s likely all a reader will remember. If an ending is special in some way, readers will remember that, too. And they’ll buy your next book.

Galley Edits & Gratitude

As a book reviewer, I learned that “galleys” were the final manuscript, set in print, before publication. Galleys were what we mostly read. They had plain covers and came with an info-packed publicity note. We were always told that we should not quote from galleys unless the publicist agreed. I found that it was okay to quote good stuff but not bad, as it might be fixed in galley edit.

Both author and editor do one final read, and what we are looking for are typos, homonyms, spell check errors, grammar issues. My publisher really does not encourage any other kinds of changes in galley. Glaring oops, yes. Cutting and revising a paragraph or even a sentence, no.

Before I was published, I longed for the day when I would have my own galley edits to proofread. And now I do. I can’t remember doing this on my last book! The Paris Notebook had a different editor, still I’m sure I must have done.

But then, I was not in the middle of organizing a major moving of house. Now I am and I feel the pressure. It may be an insider secret, but after about 25 or so reads of a novel, this writer at least, starts to get bored. Really intensely bored. How ungrateful!

I plan to start my galley edits today, finally, after being distracted by furniture shopping, picking out new towels, and begging the window shade installers to come out with what part of my very large order they have. They said, not exactly no, but “We can be there next Wednesday at ten am to install everything” so I had to say yes. And the furniture, or the greater part of it, will be here Tuesday. I have a new-sized bed. I have not bought the sheets yet, although my pal Ali sent me lots of great stuff online. Great prices too.

See, every time I start to write about the process of writing, it segues into house talk. I have such abundance in my life right now, both with the writing and the new home, that I am simply grateful. And since it’s Sunday, I’m giving even more thanks for this life of mine.

Everything Changes

Had to update my status, as we say on Facebook. After a two day pity party, I’m writing again. And no sugar today. Yet.

Recently received my publishing contract for Blue Heaven. Same publisher, different contract. Not many changes, but the ones I noted were important enough for me to do some negotiating. I’m happy with the way things went and sent the new signed contract in today. Which means, I will be getting edits soon.

I love working with editors. Almost everything they suggest makes my books better and my characters stronger. I’m even starting to think a little bit like an editor. That’s good. The less editing my editor has to do, the better writer I am becoming.

There’s another big change in my life these days: after 27 years in the same house, my husband and I are moving. We’re going from a house to a condo. We’re going from no basement tri-level, to split ranch with a basement. (But also with a first floor laundry.) We’re going from a well-used and much loved home to a brand new (even a little bit bigger) place that we can button up with confidence and leave for extended travel.

My plan is to keep writing through the move. I’ve got a deadline and the clock starts ticking soon.

Indie or ePub?

Congratulations to my publisher The Wild Rose Press for winning “Best ePublisher” five years in a row here. Being with a #1 ePublisher feels good. About the same time I signed a contract with TWRP for The Paris Notebook, I self-published my first indie novel Sister Issues on Kindle. I thought it would be interesting to see the differences between doing it myself and having a publisher. I can now report that:

1. Money: the money I earned on each book so far is about the same. Quarterly earnings in 3 figures. Low 3 figures. Don’t let that discourage you. Other authors earn much more. They promote their work more effectively, write more books, write sexier books, paranormals, series.

Another money issue, if you go indie, you’ll probably have out-of-pocket expenses. Nothing like what a vanity press would charge. (Many people think indie publishing and vanity presses are the same but they are not. A vanity press will take thousands of your dollars and not even edit your masterpiece. Not even a spell check!) But a couple of hundred bucks if you hire out any of the hard stuff. With TWRP the author pays nothing and the publisher does everything.

2. Content Control: Going indie means I have complete control of content. It also means your book will need an editor unless you have two degrees in English and a super smart critique group, like I do. Freelance editors charge fees as low as $100 but some are much higher. Going indie, you’ll need to do your homework here. Ask indie authors you’ve read and enjoyed who edited their books. With TWRP, I worked closely with an editor.

My TWRP editor advised I cut a subplot and add a consummation scene. I really loved that subplot so I turned it into the free short story “Sarah’s Survival Guide” on my website. I paid a friend who is good with graphic design $100 to make a cover. I think the book would have been better with the subplot but it would not have been a romance.

As for the consummation scene, this is a personal decision. TWRP does have a “sweet” line of books for people who want to be sure they are reading “G” rated material. My book was not sweet, even without the consummation scene. I had four letter words and lots of sexy foreplay. So I wrote the scene.

3. Covers: As an indie, I had to find a cover that looked professional or hire someone to do it. After a long time of trying to stage a cover myself, I got permission from my daughter-in-law to use a pic of her and her sister. I paid them peanuts, but I think anyone who gives permissions like that should be paid. At TWRP I got a great professional cover by one of their artists. Didn’t have to pay a dime or do a thing but fill out an art-fact sheet.

4. Print: As an indie, I knew it would cost a little more ($100 working with Amazon’s Create Space) to have Sister Issues available in print. I decided not to do that. Yet. With TWRP, if you write 65,000 words or more, your book goes to print. That was a thrill!!

5. Format: As an indie, I had to find someone to format my Word document into KDP (Mobi). I tried several times and could not get it to work right. I found someone to help with that for $100. Turn around time was less than 24 hours and my book looks great. TWRP does all that for you:)

6. Marketing: As an indie, you are on your own. I read up on self-promotion and did what I could with the time I have. I want to write, not market my work. But with indies, self-promotion is essential. TWRP has a marketing department. They send galleys to all kinds of review sites and I pulled in a few reviews that way. They chat up your books on Twitter and Facebook. They ask you for ideas to partner with them to promote your book. I’ve done a bit of that, too.

7. Distribution: Most stores that sell books do not sell indie books. If you live by an indie bookstore, lucky you! But you need to make first contact. TWRP handles distribution. That is huge.  Everything TWRP does for me is huge. I want no part of making covers, formatting, or distributing my books. So the clear winner, at least for me, is The Wild Rose Press.