Thursday, November 30, 2017

Editor's Notes #39: When the Red Ink Flows



With the love/hate relationship so many authors have with the editorial process, it's tough to do a good job without having someone's feelings hurt on occasion.

When I edit, I tend to leave a lot of margin notes, because it's often the only way I get to converse with the author, other than email. Margin notes allow me to talk where I want to, when the situation arises that I need to.

My margin notes can be for grammar rules, suggestions for a change, and explanations of why I removed something over there and kept it over here. I also use the margin to tell the author if a passage made me laugh or cry, because I think authors need to know their humor actually hits the spot they're aiming for, or if I felt them bleed their emotions onto the page.

After one of my authors told me he'd rather see less red, I changed my settings in Word so that anything I delete is in a nice, soothing blue, a.k.a. "Perhaps you may wish to rethink this." Anything I add is in red, a.k.a. "Do what I say because I know better in this instance."

Hmm. Maybe it's not exactly that way, but at least there is less red on the page, right? Goal achieved.

However, what happens when there's so much red on the page that every new comment feels like "the" comment? This is the one that's going to break him. This is the one that will put her over the edge. It's just too much.

I've had this happen on occasion, and I always feel terrible about it. But when all is said and done, I can't do less than the job I was hired to do, and if that means a lot of red, then that's what the manuscript needs. I try to be concise in my explanations, but I'm never sure how that goes over, since every time I think I'm being factual and neutral, my kids tell me I sound mean.

Not nearly as mean as some, apparently. I saw a Twitter post the other day, asking for authors to share the meanest thing someone ever told them about their writing. The "ouch"-worthy one that stood out to me was someone who said his editor asked him if he purposely wrote that way to make people think he was stupid.

Wow.

Believe me, the goal is never to sound mean. In fact, if I've gone through a frustrating edit, I tend to wait a day or two before sending them off (barring any deadline issues), reread all my margin notes, "nice" them up a bit if needed, and then proceed with returning the MS.

What's the best way to deal with a lot of red ink? I have to admit that I still don't really know. All I can do is keep doing the job, explaining as I go, and hope the writer accepts that the changes are necessary if the book is to become its best.

So, authors, tell me about your experiences with editors. Have you had someone treat your manuscript as if it's their own, rewriting things the way they'd say them? Have you had an editor that made you feel inept? Or have your red-ink moments been a positive thing for you?


Thursday, November 23, 2017

For All My Friends in the U.S. . . .


For all my friends in the U.S., I wish you a happy Thanksgiving. 

May your fat pants not become just "pants." 

May your turkey be thawed on time and not necessitate a tumble in the clothes dryer. 

May your relatives all have fun together—or go home early if they don't.

I'll be home, making the fun stuff (a.k.a. my super-fluffy homemade rolls, pumpkin pie, and other desserts) while my husband tackles the staples of the meal—he cooks the turkey better than I do because he likes turkey more than I do. It works well for us.

Have a wonderful weekend, don't trample Black Friday shoppers a mere twelve hours after being thankful for "everything," and give yourself some grace when you have to let out your bathrobe. That extra helping of all the dishes on the left side of the table only happens once a year.



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If you like what you're reading, I invite you to fill out the "Follow by Email" widget in the column on the right. You'll get my amazing insights right in your inbox! How thrilling is that? Or you can follow me on Instagram (as easyreaderediting) for completely different content—check out all that stuff on the upper right of my page where the Instagram feed is scrolling merrily along. I also have an Easy Reader Editing Facebook page I'd love for you to like and follow. I'm on Google+ as myself (Lynda Dietz) and my "follow" badge is . . . you guessed it, right there in the right-hand column for you to click. I try to share different things in each place so  life doesn't get predictable and boring, and you never know what you'll find—or whether I'll be sharing YOUR posts, too.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Honk If You Loved It! . . . And Even If You Didn't


As I interact with more authors, whether personally or through Instagram, Facebook, or Goodreads threads, I've noticed a conversational theme which crops up over and over. Reviews: good, bad, ugly, or worse—nonexistent. The push for reviews on Goodreads has become so desperate for certain authors that my last post was all about why I don’t want to be asked by yet another stranger if I’ll read and review their book.


Most authors depend on reviews to promote their books to others. Some use them as feedback in order to learn what they might be doing wrong so they know how to improve their writing. Some really strong-willed authors claim to never read reviews, no matter what, because it's not going to change anything they do in the future.


I have issues with those who claim to "never" read reviews, so I'm just going to be honest: I don't believe you. I think you secretly read them and pretend you don't care.


Although most, if not all, authors write for the pleasure of it and the satisfaction involved with the whole creative process, I can not believe there are more than a handful of them—think Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, and those who get bajillions of reviews that don’t affect their sales one whit—who truly don't give a rip about whether someone likes and appreciates their efforts or not. If you don't care, then why are you publishing your books at all? Why not write them and put them in a special place in your home where nobody will find them until you're dead and gone? Like the basement freezer (in the middle of a block of ice, of course); sealed in a ziploc bag & buried the backyard; in your septic tank; in a wall safe behind your mother-in-law's picture. There you go: four perfectly safe, hidden-maybe-forever places where your special art can remain concealed, untainted by the eyes of others. Don't thank me for the ideas; just use them. But only if you really, really don't care.


The other 99.8% of those who write creatively do so because they want to share their ideas with the rest of the world. I'm so glad they do, because I need more creativity and imagination in my life. They give me color and nuance in a way I can't come up with on my own. They make me think of things in a totally different way. They make me smile, and they make me cry. And sometimes they make me crazy.


These are the authors who may not live for reviews, but they do thrive on them. One author on a Goodreads thread mentioned that he'd rather have more reviews of all levels than only a few that are all five-star. To leave a book review tells the author you've not only read their book but have taken the time to let them know you appreciated it . . . or didn't. Either way, it tells them you've paid attention somewhere along the way.


I leave reviews for specific reasons. Obviously, if I've enjoyed a book, I want to let the author know. I'm pretty sure most people enjoy being complimented when it's sincere. I'm not a flatterer. If I like you, I'll tell you. If I don't, I'll avoid you but will still be polite if I can't avoid you. I can be tactful if I need to be . . . and uncomfortably blunt, also, as long as I remember to be kind while doing so.


I've left some pretty scathing reviews on Amazon. I've been accused (by someone claiming to not be the author, of course) of being a cheapskate and expecting superb literature for under three dollars. I've been chastised by disgruntled friends of authors for "never" giving good reviews. I've been told to "get a life" by the same not-author who called me cheap. None of those things is true. I just firmly believe in warning book purchasers if a novel is a piece of garbage. It has nothing to do with my personal taste in books, but whether a book is well written, makes sense, and is the best work the author can do.


A newer author will never realize what he or she is in need of learning if readers don't leave reviews. They shouldn’t rely on readers as writing coaches, but if they’ve missed something along the way to publishing, a reader will let them know. In this era of e-books, sales don't always mean your book is loved by one and all. Someone could download it for free or cheapie-cheap and delete it without finishing, because it was very little investment in their resources. Some sites won't allow an author to promote on them unless a minimum number of reviews are logged on either Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, or other places. A good author, whether new or not, needs the encouragement to keep writing.


Read it. Review it. The authors worth their salt will appreciate it. They really do want to know what you think.


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If you like what you're reading, I invite you to fill out the "Follow by Email" widget in the column on the right. You'll get my amazing insights right in your inbox! How thrilling is that? Or you can follow me on Instagram (as easyreaderediting) for completely different content—check out all that stuff on the upper right of my page where the Instagram feed is scrolling merrily along. I also have an Easy Reader Editing Facebook page I'd love for you to like and follow. I'm on Google+ as myself (Lynda Dietz) and my "follow" badge is . . . you guessed it, right there in the right-hand column for you to click. I try to share different things in each place so  life doesn't get predictable and boring, and you never know what you'll find—or whether I'll be sharing YOUR posts, too.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Please Don't Ask Me to Read Your Book


I'm an editor for indie authors. As such, I recognize how difficult it is for some of them to get book reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, so I'm careful to always leave a review when I read a book. If it's great, of course I want others to enjoy it, and if it's terrible, I want to warn people to save their money and time.

Most of my reviews tend to be favorable because I have a general idea of what I'm picking up before I start, either from friends' recommendations or my own pre-purchase research. Even if a book is cheapie-cheap, I'll still read the negative reviews to see if they mention anything that's important to me. I don't usually bother reading very many positive reviews, partly because so many reviewers include spoilers without realizing it, and partly because I expect a book to be good. If someone thinks it's not good, I want to know why.

People on Goodreads ask for reviewers all the time. This is a dubious practice, and "officially" there is to be no review swapping (because those boil down to give-me-five-stars-and-I'll-give-you-five-stars) but still . . . authors are constantly pimping a free e-copy if someone—anyone!—will pleasepleasepleaseprettyplease review their book. (Author Gisela Hausmann has a great post, "What Authors Can Learn from Car Salesmen," that gives some great tips on how to not beg/sound desperate.)

So when people ask for reviews on GR . . . if I haven't offered (and I'm obviously very active there) then I am not interested. Why am I not interested? After all, I do love reading and I always review what I read.

Well, in a few words, here's why. By asking me to review your book, you are putting me in the position of either looking like a jerk by saying no because I:

  1. don't have time 
  2. saw the reviews and know I won't enjoy it 
  3. know from experience that most who ask on random forums have books with numerous issues, and I will be put into the uncomfortable position of saying it out loud

Or I say yes to be polite and then am forced—because I won't say yes and then not do it—to read and pay attention to details I might otherwise not. It's weird . . . I naturally remember details of books I've chosen to read, but have to concentrate on books not of my own choosing. Perhaps it comes from the occasional assigned reading at my day job, where we are expected to discuss what we've read. If I have to read a book someone's asked me to read, I read it as an editor, and can't shut that off. This is an odd curse, but that's what I deal with.

Dear stranger, basically you are asking me to work for you without being paid for it, and I have wasted a lot of time and energy doing things like this that I later regret. As a freelancer, I do a fair number of free evaluations for writers, and if they hire me, that's great, but if they don't, it's hours put in that don't pay off. It happens, and it's part of the free eval package.

Those ones I don't mind nearly as much, except for these stats—the ones who don't hire me are typically broken down into these portions: 10% are people who simply choose someone else—a better fit, for example, of a British editor for a UK writer, or those who are truly shopping around and looking for the best price, fit, and timing on the calendar—and the other 90% are people whose manuscripts are nowhere near ready for editing, much less publishing.

Those 90% still get the same thorough editing eval as anyone else, because I believe in being fair, and I want to be as thorough in my explanation as possible when I'm telling someone their book is not ready for editing. Perhaps I could be mean about it and simply tell them it's not ready, but if they don't know why, then it may never be ready. Or they'll find an unscrupulous editor who will take their money, fix misspellings and typos, and never tell them how bad the overall writing actually is.

Unfortunately, in my experience, many of the "read my book for review" people are still in the second-draft phase and don't know it because they've already gone and published. So yes, I'm being asked do work for them for free, even if they're not aware of it. I even added a (hopefully polite) "please don't ask me to read your book" portion to my Goodreads profile, because I get a slow-but-steady flow of requests that wax and wane around the timing of my posted reviews, and I always feel so uncomfortable when answering. I hate to be rude, but on the other hand, they're not exactly being polite by asking a stranger to do them a favor when there's been no previous relationship.

What are your thoughts on the "please read my book" crowd? I'm not looking for everyone to necessarily agree with me, but would genuinely enjoy your input on this one.


*****

If you like what you're reading, I invite you to fill out the "Follow by Email" widget in the column on the right. You'll get my amazing insights right in your inbox! How thrilling is that? Or you can follow me on Instagram (as easyreaderediting) for completely different content—check out all that stuff on the upper right of my page where the Instagram feed is scrolling merrily along. I also have an Easy Reader Editing Facebook page I'd love for you to like and follow. I'm on Google+ as myself (Lynda Dietz) and my "follow" badge is . . . you guessed it, right there in the right-hand column for you to click. I try to share different things in each place so  life doesn't get predictable and boring, and you never know what you'll find—or whether I'll be sharing YOUR posts, too.


Thursday, October 19, 2017

Road Trip!


Today's regularly scheduled post has been preempted by a mini road trip I'm taking with my daughter this week. We may or may not pick up a bunch of Muppets along the way.

I'll see you all in two weeks!