Friday, October 30, 2020

Quitting Writing?

This topic came up in a group discussion. A writer who had worked for many years and has a ton of great published genre books admitted that he was seriously about to hang it up. It really had to do with lack of sales. I generally reserve my writer advocate articles for my blog: Guerrilla Warfare For Writers. Yet, I just might let this one go in my YA fantasy website, even though my Word Press audience is a bit more sensitive and non-responsive. When I see a defeatist attitude in writing, wild horses cannot keep me away. I'll tone down the swear words and rhetoric, I promise.

(Author), you're good writer and I've read many of your first pages. I'm about ready to clobber you for thinking like this. I'm as depressed and cynical as you most of the time about this slanted industry, only you come right out and express those feelings all the time. Not a thing wrong with that. Writers have got to get each other's Six. I hold back because I don't want to appear like a Danny Downer. But I will tell you this, I run Guerrilla Warfare for Writers and I can make Harlan Ellison reel back in shock. I'm a straight-up writer advocate and industry watchdog, and I've always been no BS about the way things are. I've been published since 1987, but started writing in '74. I sure the heck have watched the changes in this industry and taken voluminous notes. Talk about typewriters, Xerox copies and 4th Class special book? Do you even know what that means?

 Provided we have the perfect, or near perfect presentation of our books on our Amazon page, we (or most of us) are in the worst sales and review slump I've seen in the history of literature. I've heard every excuse in the book as to why this is happening  "Nobody reads anymore." "People are financially stressed, especially during this pandemic." "We are glutted to the gunwales with books and the surge is never-ending."Supply has run-over demand." "You've targeted the wrong audience." "Your book is too niche." "You don't advertise." "You're too new." "You're washed up." (The Harry Potter days are gone." Fill in the blank.

Remember that I said ALL ducks are in a row for the book? Now lets says it's a little multi-award winner, priced @ 99 cents (for 1.5 years) has great reviews, tons of spiking sales that's gotten it into the top 100 lists multiple times, has been featured or appeared with 15 solid marketing companies at the expense of hundreds and hundreds of dollars, and now Hollywood is ever so softly knocking on its door, AND THE DANG BOOK IS STILL NOT SELLING!

My fourth full refund from the heavy marketers, Booksy (this time), just wrote to me this morning and told me they were refunding me for under-performance. They apologized. I won't name the others. One of two things: Nobody is buying any books or I'm waaaay over-marketed. No sales.

Want to hear a real horror story? Starting eighteen months ago I sent out 2,750 personalized, individual review pitches (for said above book). That means I read their bios, guidelines and mission statements, to the letter and always went email instead of form when I could. This allowed me to paste the cover in the email (no attachments). Over that early span of time I got 525 requests for the book. They said the premise was so extraordinary, and the letter was so polite, they couldn't resist it.

At this time I have 33 reviews for that book. I got about 50 letters of "so sorry I'm late, I still haven't read your first one", second one, fill in the blank.

The next in the series got 495 pitches sent out. 90 acceptances. I have 12 reviews

Last in the trilogy--250 sent out. 12 acceptances. 1 review.

I cannot stress to you how many thousands of person-hours went into marketing, promoting and pitching this series. The last submission I sent out was four months ago for the last book. I haven't even started a new book because all my strength went into the review campaign.

Having a monstrous social media presence has done nothing. You can interact in 15 to 20 FB sub-groups and comment to no end and, no matter how interesting, educational or complimentary, it will NOT sell books. Free display sites will not sell books. Everywhere you go, you're archived deep in the stacks. FB non-ad announcements won't sell books. Twitter mentions do not sell books. You realize that the only organic sales that you've gotten came from family, friends and fans at the very beginning. BTW, as a side note, during my review submissions, I noticed that about 35% to 40% of the reviewers refused to take on Indie books. I'm a hybrid so this kind of irked me a bit. I asked a handful of them why they had this rule. It was the same answer--"lack of editing." You can make of that what you will.

My point in all this: you are not alone. Not by a long shot. My last two publishers are quite large for small presses. I have been taking 20 minutes out of the day to check on all the most recent (within about nine months) book sales and reviews. I'm talking about a total of about 30 to 50 titles here. I'm heartbroken to see that 80% of them have little to no sales, and a huge majority of them have zero numbers on both accounts. I felt so sorry for about four of them, I just flat bought their books to get them on the board. I don't know if I'll ever read or have the time to review them.

Going viral, (world of mouth), BookBub feature, AMs and maybe a few other guaranteed marketing companies might be the only way to sell books today. My agent told me last night that three or four major Big-5 imprints have bitten the dust. She has a death grip on my espionage thriller that she's been trying to sell for seven years. We've sold seven books in the past six years. The Big houses are primarily signing their stable, A-list authors, or celebs where they can project a huge ROI. But they are so [euphemism]ed up that they continuously lose huge chunks of advance money on losers.

It's not You! You are so intelligent, (Author), you should know this. We had it rough enough before the pandemic. But the rumor that everyone would be buying books because of interior lock-down was/is total untruth. The books that are selling right now are HEA Christmas romances, memoirs, non-fic inspirational and children's picture book. There are some outliers that are doing well in the present climate. God bless you outliers; you're the lucky ones. But I sympathize with the newbie writers out there right now that are clicking their heels because they're holding their very own first book in their hands. I hope, like you, they do not throw in the towel.

Me? I'm critically ill (up-graded from terminal), dragging an oxygen hose around with me everywhere I go, and eating morphine-strength meds. I not long for this world, God knows, but I'll be [euphemism]ing destined to hell if I even think about giving up right now. Story-telling is all I know and all I love. And it is with you too, dear (Author) because you wear that Passion all over you. I see that drive, that concern and that fright in you. And that is what a writer is--an emotional overload, because that is part of our up and down nature. We are told "NO" 99% of the time. We're in the entertainment industry anyway you cut it. We are the toughest souls on this planet. Now straighten yourself out and get back to writing.

It's about time I read-shift outta here.....  

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Are Debut Authors Getting Publishing Deals?

 I found this question in a thread in one of my writing groups. (I love this group--they really hit on the pertinent subjects). There were a lot of answers, but I noticed that the majority of them answered by saying that there were big six and seven-figure deals that had currently been made, and they cited the names of the authors. I think I saw a total of three. Obviously, these posters and the OP were thinking about the Big-5 houses since you rarely see any advances in the small and independent presses. I know that my agent has had to go after my small press deals with a knife in one hand and a money bag in the other. Most small presses won't bend for an advance, but some will, depending upon how badly they want your book. If the agent doesn't get the amount they're looking for they usually write-in much higher royalty rates and retain more rights. My agent is a magician when it comes to amending or rewriting contracts in our favor.

I only have the free addition of Publisher's Market Place, which does list recent deals, and some of them include debut authors. Yet I continually see the deals announced as "New Your Times Best Seller List" and "USA Best-Selling Author" inks deal with so and so for this much, repped by big-name agent. I do not see that many debut deals announced. I sure haven't seen tons in the past three years or so, or especially recently in the past six months as a result of this pandemic. I'm not saying it doesn't happen, and the posters were correct in answering in the positive. But I know for sure it's happening less and less. 

This was my answer:

I just know that all my small press and independent publishers are suffering. Many authors are without sales or reviews--they're not even on the boards. Myself and a few others are doing better but we're in poor shape compared to what we used to do. Really poor shape. Yet I will support my small press publishers with my last dying breath. Their task is a labor of love, with a wish that they can stay alive and profitable so they can bring new talent and great books to the masses. 

I still believe the Big-5 are ambulance chasers when they seek out and buy debut authors. Wool, Twilight, 50 Shades had huge appeal and readers before the big houses woke up and smelt the coffee. New authors might be grabbing the golden tickets, but you have to admit that they are far, few and in between. More than ever, I'm researching these huge author deals and discovering the histories of these authors and these books. In one form or another, they have appeal with some kind of track record or platform behind them. Suzy ala The Hunger Games, was already connected up in the industry before she hit it big--and yes, admittedly a great book/series. Look at the story behind The Martian.

It's not the editors or CEO of the publishing house who determines a purchase. It's the marketing department, and they nearly, singularly run the entire show. The exception would be a totally breakout novel sold by an A-list agent, where the author had no credits, no fan base, virtually no footprint or platform in the industry. A book that gets six and seven figure deals without that type of support is an extreme outlier. Or all the galaxies are inline in their favor!

My agent is having difficulty getting responses from the Big 5, and it's been one of her, and her fellow agents, biggest complaints. A-list and celebrity authors are dominating and filling the slots, especially with on-going series that seem to have no end. Those are marketing department decisions--strictly business. Admittedly, there are a hell of a lot of goofs with lofty advances and tepid sales, but the vast majority of the "in-house" best-sellers keep the lights on. Again, marketing. Again, business. Which  =  math and numbers, sell-through, production costs, advertising and distribution. 

These debut block-busting authors MUST appeal in some way (other than a great tome)--they have something else going for them, because the authors themselves are a selling point. That's why name branding is so important. Age, gender, race, religion, topical/political stance and such things, all play into the package. Case in point--Eragon. Heavens! Christopher was More marketable than the book! If that book had NO campaign (launched by the help of his parents BTW) do you think that book would have ever had a chance or gotten the deal that it did? Marketing saw that one coming like a freight train. Kid writes epic fantasy, dresses up the part and visits schools to do readings! The AP wires caught on fire. Marketing (of big name publishing house) realized that half of their job had already been done. It was only necessary to shove the kid and his book to the moon--he was already in the stratosphere.

The (cited) article mentions an uptick in reading and increased sales. Oh yeah? Maybe for Random House, and maybe for certain categories and genres, but how about a huge poll that involves all other publishers great and small? Lets include all trad publishers other than the monsters and see how they stand on that issue. She (CEO Random House) says that people are tiring of Netflix and resorting to books, whereas I see the opposite across the wider spectrum. Huge movie and game-streaming. Are people really reading more now?

Not to be a Danny Downer here; just saying that there is so, so much more in bringing a book to break-out/best-seller status than just exceptional words on a page. Whenever I hear the old adage, "Write a great book that everyone will want to read and it will sell", I cringe. And I believe  this forum knows what I'm talking about more than any other. Our true masterpieces, our hard-gained brilliance, even, has been squashed so many times it's a wonder we haven't all had massive strokes from elevated blood pressure. When they say that this business is 99.999% rejection, they had us in mind.

That was my contribution to the discussion. That was my take on what I was seeing. I really hadn't said anything new. 

Slots are also filled seasonally. Although there are no strict adherence guidelines, you can just about guess which season a debut author who writes like King or Cartland might end up in.

Fall: August or September through November.
Winter: December through March.
Spring/Summer: April through July or August.

Liz S, Editor-in-Chief at Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan, states:

"The Obvious (with a few caveats): This is all about promotional opportunities surrounding holidays and other special events. Books about Back to School and Halloween should pub in the Fall season, right? Not so fast – most retailers want those books to ship in July, so they’re in stock for promotions that now begin in August (school) and September (Halloween). Books about Christmas can pub in the Fall months, but no later than October so they are in-store and on promotion early in the season. Black History Month and Presidents Day should pub no later than December (Winter season); ditto Valentine’s Day."

There is also the difficulty in pushing a new/debut author into and under the limelight. Whereas a standard brand-name author has a solid fan base already installed, a newbie is going to need a publicity campaign bordering on the size of a presidential election. This can make the PR people run for the Tums and anti-depressant meds.It is no small task: literally making somebody out of nobody. I know that for my first major TV appearances, I had to be groomed, tailored and tutored by a Disney PR person, no less. 

So is there any wonder why there are not as many debut authors as we'd like to think? The ones we see are huge media grabbers, and they are meant to appear that way. And just between you and me, nearly all claims of these huge dollar figure advances are over-inflated or outright bogus. The true declarations will pan out--read about King, Rowling and Rice for some accurate advances and deals. 

So how do you up your chances to become one of the elite authors who make the big time? A couple of suggestions: if you are a self-published author, write terrific books and develop a huge fan base. Get viral. The ambulance chasers will come skidding up to your door. For the traditional or "legacy" route, get yourself a top-gun agent that has more pull than a locomotive. It doesn't hurt if your galaxies are aligned, either.

Red-shifting outta here...



Monday, May 18, 2020

The Lows of High Book Price

 A thousand pardons if I come off like a rant. I'm a mashup between J.A. Konrath and Harlan Ellison. I'm a writer advocate and defender of the written word. I also watch the industry like a stealthy Sasquatch. These articles are always meant for Guerrilla Warfare for Writers, my down and dirty blog. There is no BS here. Maybe some inaccuracies. I don't even like posting these articles to my YA website--no one reads me there anyway. I hope you suffer me well. 

First and foremost, if you are a celebrity author you don't need to be reading this. If you are an A-list author, pass on by. If you are a very popular author with a huge reader fan base and have a enormous mailing list that draws purchasing customers in like flies, audios. If you have a break-out or bestseller, you can kindly leave by through back door. There will also be some outlier exceptions. This article is not a call to arms for you. You are profitable, consistent and probably comfortably set in the mighty realm of book sales.

If you are new to writing with a minimum number of releases, an old-time mid-lister like me with a ton of books out there, or a new writer launching your first book, I think you better read this and make some grave determinations. It's unlikely a publisher is going to read this, but I've been with and seen too many that need to know what is working and what is not as far as ad pricing. This warning goes double for authors who just don't care that their e-book prices are going to be placed high regardless. It goes triple (as of this writing) because of the corona virus and the financially stressed atmosphere it has created.  People are buying essentials. As far as entertainment, they are streaming movies and playing games. Who started the the rumor that they were buying books hand over fist? Do you remember when this news was sent out on the wings of doves at the very beginning of the pandemic spread?

I would like you to read three paragraphs (below) which come straight from the keys of most of the advertisers I know and have dealt with. The wording might not be the same but the implications all point to the same conclusion. They don't want your high-priced book. They want rock-bottom cover prices and freebies. The reason is twofold; Shoppers want bargains, plain and simple. That's why W-Mart and Amazon rule the nest. Yet the second reason is that the company itself doesn't want to lose a potential customer. That means you won't be coming back for seconds if there are flat sales. They are also competing with other promotion and marketing sites that have the same mindset policies.

Here's my statistics for two YA fantasy/thrillers that had excellent covers and blurbs. Both of these ads were run before and during a Halloween special (the horror factor was quite evident).. Both books were priced at $2.99.

Book one ran for 15 days on a $45 budget. It received 5,391 impressions; total clicks--5--and a CTR of 0.09%

Book two ran for seven days on a $100 budget. It received 10,195 impressions; total clicks --13 and a CTR of  0.13%.

I don't think I have to do the math for you. Except for the takeaway, which was $145.00 from me and some wide-eyed experience. I later changed companies, dropped the e-book price to .99 cents, and still fell flat--no sales. We could argue all day long about what I did wrong with these two companies. I did not stop there. I enlisted in seven of the companies listed below, with very low, rock-bottom prices. Please excuse my spelling on the names.

Just Kindle Books
Fussy Librarian
E-book Hounds
Robin Reads
Kindlebook Review
Book Barbarian
Ereader IQ
Book Reader Magazine
Pretty Hot books.

Out of my promotions, I received three apologies and full refunds. I think I sold two books from Ent. That was it. I won't go into which seven, but I did do my research beforehand. They were my best picks. 

Have you ever heard that it wasn't the gold miners who made money off their digs, but the merchants who sold them the supplies, tools, products and other services? We basically have the same thing going on here, with grandiose claims of the promotion and marketing companies talking about going to the top of the sales charts, breakouts, unlimited exposure and guaranteed results. Results. Not sales. Impressions and clicks are a normal state of business and you'll see them. What you won't see are voluminous click-throughs--buys, sales, mullah.

There are many Indie writers who are exceptions to this rule because they have targeted outfits that payoff for them. Might be some trade published out there too. This comes from a lot of trial and error--R & D--and it NEVER ends because the books can go through an insufferable amount of tweaking to fine-tune the results. This happens when an author watches his/her ups, downs and in betweens--the stats that govern peak sales. Self-published authors also get a larger percentage cut of the royalties than the small trade-house authors. Many of the elite Indie authors pay thousands for ads a months, but they reaps thousands plus in return. So it is a revolving door for them--huge investments that garner huge profits. You want to make money, you have to spend it. That's not my quote, lol.

Look, all I'm saying is be wise and careful with your expenditures. You are going to see, if you already haven't, self-proclaimed experts that can do all forms of editing, covers, formatting, book tours, pod-casts, trailers, page ads, listings, book-to-movie deals, screenwriting, agent introductions, publisher submissions, blurbs, illustrations, writing courses, query letters, one-on-one instruction, translations, ghostwriting, expedited (paid) reviews, synopsis's, proof reading, evaluations and all other manner of Internet blasting services. Can you pay for some of these services without losing your shirt or blouse? Sure you can! It's up to you. But be aware, unless you really need and believe in any of them, you'll lose out every time. 

I often wonder if we are just giving our books away because the sea is awash with them. So many tens of thousands of books are published each year that the numbers keeps compounding and burying the authors under tons of pixels. Nobody can find you, lest you post on FB that you will commit suicide if somebody, anybody doesn't buy one of your books before you take that leap. Well, if it goes viral and you were bluffing, it would work. I think you get the idea. Dear gawd, I've often entertained the idea.

1. Your deal price should be as competitive as possible (This is a company motto BTW).

"We promise our subscribers the best deals available. The better the deal, the more appealing it is to our subscribers, and therefore the more likely it is to be selected by our editors/readers. We rarely feature books priced above $2.99, and even $2.99 is an unusually high price for many of our categories.(I JUST LOVE IT WHEN THEY SAY $2.99 IS UNUSUALLY HIGH).

"While your deal price should be based on your book marketing goals, pricing as low as possible will entice more readers to download your book. The lower the price, the higher the conversion rate of a Deal. Knowing this, our editors prefer books that are competitively priced, since those will drive a higher volume of reader engagement. They’re also able to select a higher percentage of discounted books. If you’re not selected for a deal between $0.99 and $3.99, consider resubmitting your book for a free promotion, as this can be a really effective way to increase your chances of getting selected.

"Keep in mind that the competitiveness of your price depends on your category. While it’s normal to see a higher priced book in Cooking, for example, prices are usually lower in the Mysteries or Romance categories (THOSE TWO ARE THE BEST-SELLING GENRES, BTW).. Browse through books in your category to see what’s competitive in your own genre. Again, if your book is not selected at one price, try resubmitting at a lower price or for free. Your chances of being selected will be higher."

Note the last sentence. They are going to select you in accordance with how profitable they think you can be.Sounds to me if you don't go low enough to suit them, they'll politely blow you off.

I've heard some positive news about AMS, BookBub featured ads, and in a blue moon, FB and Twitter boosters. I've used all but the grand daddy feature ad. While these might still show some profit, they certainly aren't working like they used to. Profit has measurably declined, and I mean this in a general sense.

What does my crystal ball tell me for the future? I can only take a wild stab at it and say that the heavy visual sites like Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr and others are driving a wedge between the other competitors. They could be the wave for future book exposure. I know their swords are drawn against Amazon

Anybody have any solutions or ideas about gaining some profitability in this industry? I'd love to hear it. Or any promo/marketing site that has fulfilled your dreams. BTW, just like FB put the whammy on My Space, do you see another FB type site in the future? I dooooo,

Blessed wishes, please stay safe and healthy.

Chris and Christy.  

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Quarantine Writers

Covid. It's not all fame, friends and eight-by-tens for us writers during these trying times. It's no fun for anybody, for that matter. The physical entertainment industry is shut down at the moment, and that includes film production, but development is purported to be moving right along. Book stores are still closed, as of this writing.

There are so many conflicting thoughts about who has been inspired to write new material during this time and those who have totally lost inspiration and motivation. Some writers are reporting increased sales, or no changes. Others have seen sales spikes and then leveled off. Some have flat-lined and/or tanked completely. I'm not the best industry watchdog, but I can hopefully express some thoughts and solutions via some experience and a bit of common sense. Lord willing....


Via my drive-bys and article reading, it seems that Children's Picture books, some Middle Grade and Non-fiction inspirational books are doing well or have even picked up. As far as genre fiction, adult thrillers and romance are up there, but that's not unusual for these popular genres. Sweet romance in (Christmas settings and HEA) are seeing upticks. That's what I've noticed. Dark fantasy and horror, my genre at the moment with four new books out, is limping along with moderate gains. This does not mean stop writing what you like or what you at the present. Trends always change. Basically, any genre or book can sell during this period.


Short and sweet--Like Anne Rice says, if you are in the doldrums, FORCE yourself out of it and lay down the ink. Once you get started you'll pick up that lost momentum. Her advice (and mine) about blockage in the confines of your present manuscript--transport yourself back to the day when you felt that white hot spark for that book and remember the thrill you had crafting it. It was the best thing on the planet, wasn't it? You were hot on it. Now you've warmed. And it's those negative muses that are whispering those rotten little sweet nothings in your ear. Your book's quality hasn't changed. You've changed. 

Adjust your attitude and recapture that positive, warm and fuzzy feeling you once had. Still can't write anything new? What's wrong with editing or rewriting a trunk novel you once had high hopes for? Switch your gears and adapt.


It's not easy sharing a crowded house now during this lock-down period. Kids are restless souls and they'll be all over the place. Noise and distractions will rule the day. Drugs and alcohol might have slipped into this confined lifestyle. Tempers might be volatile and explosive. Do the best you can in reserving some private time for yourself after all your necessary chores are done. Try to find a quiet place reserved for concentration on your story or book project. It won't be easy. It will be more difficult than ever. Try to maintain a status quo and even keel during this time. If you have a spare room, nab it for you own, even if it is a temporary hideaway. Don't lose faith. 


This one is so tough to solve, especially now. It's always been tough. What is effective for one writer in a certain category or genre can be disastrous for another. I could list all of the promotion and marketing sites out there but it won't do you any good unless you know exactly which one might work better than the other. The top three, off the top of my head for general commercial fiction would be Amazon, FB and BookBub. Then again, I'm seeing little drops in ROI on these, with the exception of BB. Don't throw a ton of cash at several sites just to see which one rings the dinner bell. 

Get the best advice you can from your peers who have had experience in this area. You have to target your category and genre precisely. 

I'm not saying this is the time to do it, but you could try some price drops, freebie specials, Kindle Unlimited, cover and blurb changes. Indie authors can make these swaps and change-outs fairly easily. Us trad people have to clear it with our publishers. And, again, this is NO guarantee of increased visibility and sales. It is a maneuver that just might work for you if you think your book could be a bit stale. It doesn't cost anything to try it. 


This is strictly my game plan, and has been for about eight months. I'm inept, even lousy at picking paid-for marketing sites. I've lost bundles of cash. I don't know how to bid properly and I seldom have a book that qualifies for these sites, which most often stipulates 99 cents or free books. When I'm sitting at $2.99 to $4.99, I'm at the mercy of my publishers and I try and work with these figures as best I can. Yes, I have certainly sold books at full, higher prices, better than my rock-bottom specials. It's weird that it works that way--but all the variables of each book play into the scenario.

I've heard and read from several blogs and YouTube presentations that books receiving 40--60 reviews on Amazon start tweaking the Zon's head and pulling attention. I've heard 40 from one source, 50 from another, and 60 from yet another. I do believe it is the 50 mark which is the most accurate. Note: this is speculative rumor. No one knows how the Zon's algos work. So I've been requesting book reviews from all of the major review list sites. I personalize each and every pitch letter, reading About Me pages and Policy Guidelines. It costs nothing, but the workload is difficult and time-consuming. Then again, time seems to be all I have on hand right now. I'm in bedroom lock-down, voluntarily. We all know about writer solitude, so there's nothing new about that.

Truth be told, I'm out to get as much ink as an octopus. That includes mentioning, in my pitch, that I would love to do interviews and guest posts as an alternative to a book review. 'Cause right now, the reviewer's TBR piles are higher than K-2. They are swamped. So go after them with double barrels. It's a Zombie Land double tap. 


Are you following any famous authors on FB or Twitter? This can be an unexpected goldmine. If you happen to comment on one of your famous author's (or celeb) posts, and they like it enough to share it to their community, you've just thrown yourself in front of their followers and friends list--this could result in tens of thousands of reads. Cultivate those sources and watch them. Don't ask for anything outright. 

Have you ever watched a YouTube movie about your favorite authors or your genre? Have you ever left comments, showing your wit, knowledge or introspection? Ah, then...after your sentence or paragraph, skip a line and add your name and author of (your book title). Nothing more. No links. No Amazon mention. Don't elaborate with a spammy message. I've done this simple little sig tag and never gotten in trouble for it. Why do it? YouTube videos can get a tremendous amount of hits, and people DO read the comments. It also makes you come off as an authority, perhaps a person who knows what they're talking about? I would apply this to only those sites that you visit more frequently and not the ones you visit out of curiosity. 

Blessed wishes, please stay safe and healthy,

Chris and Christy. 

Sunday, March 29, 2020

The Psychology of Editing

First and foremost, I am no editor. I’m only an author with some thoughts about this subject. I don’t think an author on this planet can edit themselves, with the exception of Anne Rice!
Nancy of Melange Books suggested I might share some prep advice when it comes to writing and editing. Particularly editing. We’re all going to go through these stages with our Melange books, and it is inevitable. As authors, we’ll always need new eyes—a fresh outlook from another perspective. I shouldn’t remind you that these views and changes that come from your editor are not personal opinions from an editor. Editors are stand-ins for readers—readers are the well-spring from which you flow. So take in mind that any editor who flags a problem is seeing these speed bumps or errors in place of the reader, and is removing the “bad” or “questionable” before the reader even sees it. Problem solved, you end up with a smooth, uninterrupted transition through your text. That’s a very positive thing. Every little nuance that is pointed out and corrected makes the story, better and better and better. It’s teamwork, and the goal is to make it shine.

Do you have a choice word or paragraph that you just can’t let loose of? Do you believe it’s intrusive to remove it? I’ll bet your editor knows that it’s going to throw the majority of readers off because it is too exotic, misplaced or not really needed. She knows that passage will confuse the majority of readers by leaving that kink in there. You want wide and easily comprehensive writing. You can’t afford to lose your customer’s interest or let them pause. Editors know that part of it and it deals with pace. “Couldn’t put it down” means there’s a lack of speed bumps.

Tip 1: (Got ahead of myself there). Prep. Prep first means health. Strive to be in the best physical condition you can before you write or handle any editing. Get that flu on the run, ease that backache, take your choice of meds for that migraine and generally strive to be as wide awake and rested as you can. Eat right—you have a stint in front of you. Me, I have to take dozens of pills a day, drag my oxygen tube around with me and get in some walking laps inside the house. I’ll avoid any of the stronger medicines, and I won’t drink or smoke at the computer or at any time. I’m damn lucky to live from one breath to the next.

Tip 2: If you’re just about ready for your first edit pass, you’ll be told this by your assigned editor. Do you feel the drudgery coming on? Here’s a nice little psyche move that’s good for you and your editor. If you think your book is finally ready to hit the editor’s desk, do a real fast run-through the text. Your editor will click their heels and     oblige the request. This might take you four or five days, depending. Trust me, you’ll find things you missed. You always do. No reason for major rewrites, just a solid, precise read through. This helps in two ways: it will bring back great memories of where you were when you started this tome, which you wrote with white hot inspiration. Right? Remember that masterpiece? Nothing has really changed. You were thrilled to the gills when you wrote your first draft of it. You’re reliving  that state of awe and exhilaration and, even laughing and crying over some of those memorable scenes. Secondly, you are recapturing your momentum. You’re remembering every beat and the natural rhythm of the story, the action sequences, pauses, breathers and crucial dialogue passages. Your character’s names, ages, vocations, motivation and physical characteristics will click right back into place. You’re not going in half-blind. In addition, this takes some extra time off of your editor’s workload, which is a relief and speeds up the process.

Tip 3: Remain steady on your editing pass, progressing at a good pace. When you find yourself enjoying your story too much and glossing over the words, remember to slow down and get back in critical mode. Slow down enough to catch those missed commas, hyphens, quotation marks and periods. Don’t jump ahead and anticipate what you thought you wrote--double check it and find out what is actually printed. You might have revised something way back there and forgotten about it. Keep continuity in the back of your mind—your characters don’t change skin, hair or eye color every other chapter. They don’t take off in a Chevy and later burn rubber in a Ford.

Tip 4: I’m not an editor but I sure can see POV swaps in just about every book I read. If you have a multiple view point story, separate the scenes with a chapter or transition break. A transition is this little indicator like this:   #              #           #  between paragraphs. Your publisher will insert those symbols in their own house style, in case you already know them.

Tip 5: A little metaphor and simile never hurt a writer. Observe the passive and telling in the next phrase:

He was clumsy. He wasn’t experienced. He looked like an amateur runner.

Now, a bit longer but showing with some voice:

His stride was crazy-legged; he ran as much sideways as forward. She nearly laughed out loud but thought better of it. Instead, she felt somewhat sorry for him. It might have been his first jogging experience. Diane was no stranger to barbs or insults. Even with a slung gut and knocked knees, wasn’t Seabiscuit hard on the eyes but chock-full of speed and heart?

Tip 6: Are you seeing a lot of red lines tagged in your manuscript? So much that you think it’s overwhelming? Don’t despair, take one at a time and you’ll breeze right through them. Remember, you are forging ahead and leaving all the bad behind. It’ all uphill from the very beginning now. You won’t be going back.

Tip 7. Learn to stop editing. Quit. That’s enough. Don’t insist on, or try to sneak in, structural editing when you’re in final proofs. It’s going to be just fine. It’s true that you can edit a book until it’s worthless. If you are in the middle of a grammar or syntax pass, stay on that track—focus on that. If something flies out at you that needs attention, make a note of it to later share with the editor.

Don’t argue with an editor. Don’t insist. Compromise. She is the pilot and captain for now. You are passenger with the seat belt fastened and tray in the upright. She’ll know when it’s time to land.

Thanks, Chris red-shifting outta here