Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.
I’ve put words on the page since I can remember. Not great words at first, mind you, but words, nevertheless. You could say I’ve been in the relentless pursuit of telling story in a meaningful, engaging, awesome way before I knew how to spell.
I am, as it turns out, a writer.
Is that different than being an author? William Kenower is fond of saying something like “…every writer should call themselves an “author” because it’s a mindset. We want people to read what we wrote – and that’s not merely a writer, that, my friends, is what you call an author.” Bill’s a very smart dude, so I do my best to listen when he speaks.
Putting the splendorous Bill aside for a second, how does a mere writer become an author? What’s the process by which an author finds their work on the shelves of renowned bookstores and libraries world-wide? Is there a secret to becoming a New York Times Best Selling Author? Or an Amazon – highest ranking author? And if there are trade secrets, can everyone implement them?
In this series, I will address some of these topics. Here’s me upfront telling you that I’m not an international sensation. But my book has made it on the shelves of Village Books and Barnes and Nobles for a time. Not on Powell’s yet, but then again, I never asked. In fact, much like the teachers I know, I’m going to be telling you what I know from observation and track records, from witnessing the success of fellow author friends – speckled with some very harsh lessons of my own that depleted me of funds and left some road rash on my derrière. It’ll be helpful, I promise.
First up – Write a Good Story. Obvious, right? I know, but it’s true. Write what you’re passionate about. Write what you read and say to yourself, Damn, I could do better than that – and then prove it. Write your passion and find your purpose. Stop talking about it already, and do it.
Now there are some authors out there who have it figured out. They aren’t particularly passionate about the craft of writing – they want to make as much money as they can, while they can. They have discovered the fact that if they write porn, then they will see money coming in. Oh, get off it – you’re not a child – and you know I’m right. (The same is true for splatter punk, by the way. You can look it up if you’re not familiar with the genre.) Oh dear, I feel you cringing – I also hear you telling me that I’m wrong, that what you’re writing is valuable and honest. Excuse me, did I say otherwise? No, I did not. Time to get off that horse and listen to what I have to say.
If you are the type of author who’s interested in writing anything other than porn or splatter punk, you need to develop a passion for improving your writing chops. That means, you need to be reading writing magazines and online zines – like you’re doing now – congratulations! You need to be going to writing workshops and conferences. You need to be reading How to Write books! In short, invest in your profession – start taking writing seriously and learn something new!
A mentor of mine, Terry Persun, always has a craft book he’s reading. Terry’s published more than 30 books – across all genres. He writes professionally. That’s right. Terry Persun, author of too many books to really count – is making a living at his craft – AND he still reads “How To” books on the subject.
What this means to me is, if Terry’s still reading How To books, then I’d better be… Same with you.
Next – Figure it out. Here’s the deal – and this is honestly where a lot of authors get stuck – they write a story and slam it up on Amazon. It may be good. It may be awesome. But chances are it’s a bunch of crap. Let me break it to you gently – Most of what you write is going to be crap. There may be holes in the storyline, your characters may be flat – or equally charred – your characters may all sound mind-numbingly the same. God save you because the reviewers sure won’t.
So, what do I mean by “Figure it out”? Send your manuscript off to a professional editor who will tell you where your story lags, where your characters fall flat, where you need to rework your sentence structures, and everything else. Do not – I’m repeating for emphasis – DO NOT send it to your housemate, grandma, children, spouse, former teacher, drinking buddy, neighbor’s pet hamster… for this all-important step. Send the thing out to a professional!
How do you find a professional? That’s a great question. Here comes my first mistake in publishing…
I write satire – dark and quirky stuff with monsters and romance and ridiculously funny and sometimes dry humor (#satire). At one point, I was so desperate to elevate my second novel, I chose a well-respected editor who works for a romance publishing house.
Why? While she may have been an awesome editor, I had two problems with the work:
#1 She didn’t have time to work on my manuscript – and in fact, consistently did not meet deadlines that were quasi set up, and
#2 She didn’t like monsters.
Ooops. Do you know what I did? No? I paid the fine professional her hefty sum, took some of her suggestions, and cried. That’s what I did.
Now, looking at the above list, I thought that experience had only two mistakes, turns out there are actually more. Can you spot the third error in judgement?
#3 So star-struck by the idea she was the chief editor for a romance house, I didn’t think I needed to write up a contract like a normal human being. I thought she would put my work first. I thought she would stick to suggested deadlines in emails. I thought I would be able to chat with her about the edits after she sent me her notes. I… was so wrong. So, #3 is I didn’t think to write up a contract and have her sign it, and
#4 I was gob-smacked by her credentials and lost track of my end goal because she told me that if I made all the changes…wait for it… she would consider taking me on. Ouch! Did I ever fall for that! So, #4 could be EGO – I let my freaking ego carry the day… dagnabbit.
Figure it out is really two-fold: Find a professional editor and make sure you find the right professional editor.
Well, how in the name of Garbanzo beans do you go about doing that? I’m not joking here when I tell you it’s a lot of work. You can start by a nationally certified editors group, but that isn’t where you should stop. Go to the bookstore in your neighborhood and find books that are similar to yours in genre and feel. Look inside the book to discover who edited the book. If the work is solid, if you like the way the story flows, if – let’s face it, there are a whole lotta if’s in this business – there is contact information either to the author or to the editor, send them a sweet little note complementing them on the book and how much you enjoyed it. That’s it. Then go to their website and see if (the editor) is accepting new clients. Follow instructions.
Here’s the best practice:
- Develop a working list of 10 editors to research
- Ask for their qualifications, a list of books they’ve edited, a list of clients you can contact – then do the work of contacting them!
- Best Industry standard practices:
- Usually you will pay half of the total price upfront and the other half when the work is completed. You are the boss – they are the contractor. Don’t let editors push you around!
- Ask the potential editor to work on 50 pages or so of your work before you agree to hire them – to see if you like what their style, suggestions, work habits #very #important
- Develop a contract that states the parties, expected timeline of delivery, payment options, and basic expectations. Ask your editor to sign it. Keep a copy of the contract for your records for taxes (business expense) and reference.
- Get rid of your EGO. Allow the suggested edits work through your system. If you’ve done the above work, then should be able to trust the editor to know what their talking about. For God’s sake, get rid of the ego
Here’s the deal, some of you may be totally overwhelmed right now. Understandable. This is an overwhelming process. If you find yourself in this situation go to a trusted source, one who has already vetted its editors, already has a proven track record of elevating author work. I really would be remiss not to mention Chanticleer Reviews at this moment. They have the goods and they are reasonably priced. So, go check them out – today!
More next time…
About the Author
Sharon Anderson is an award-winning author and Chief Reviews Editor for Chanticleer Reviews and International Book Awards. Creating and editing content – as well as editing/writing reviews – and outreach are just a few skills she brings to the table. An SPU graduate in Clothing Design and Textiles – something she barely uses in her day-to-day life – Sharon brings her textile know-how into her stories as often as possible. In her spare time, she serves as President of the Skagit Valley Writers League where she promotes authors, engages speakers, leads workshops, and more. She writes dark comedy, horror, short stories, articles, and essays whenever she gets the chance from her home in the Skagit Valley where she lives with her husband, two children, two dogs, a couple of cats, and a sketchy Guinea pig. Working with Chanticleer is like playing every day! Contact: email@example.com.