Thursday, January 30, 2014

Coffee Chat 5.1 with Author S.K. Anthony: Flash Giveaway!

Hey, everyone, S.K. here. I just snuck into Lynda's house (I climbed in through the window, in case you were wondering), and I'm washing my cup. I just had some coffee and ate two of her muffins, but let's not tell her...I still want more during our chat. Shhhh . . .

SKA: Oh, hey, Lynda. Fancy meeting you here . . . in your kitchen. Err, why the murderous look? [Frantically wipes crumbs away from face.]

ER: Hey . . . um . . . good morning, I think. I hate to say this, but what are you doing in my kitchen? Wow, I didn't even hear the door . . . did someone let you in?

Oh, well. I made muffins and I—oh, man! I told those kids not to touch the muffins until later! At least they left us enough that we can still have a few apiece. [Hands S.K. a plate.] Have a couple. They're great!

SKA: Look, look at my phone! I've been busy online, entering giveaways like a mad woman. Um . . . why are you inspecting your coffeepot? Here, lemme fetch a couple mugs for us . . .

ER: [Looking at coffeepot in confusion.] I'm not sure why this pot isn't full. I made 12 cups when I set it last night. I need to stop using those ShamWow filters; they're sucking up too much of the coffee.

SKA: You know, I think I'll only have one muffin. I'm watching my waistline.

ER: I'm getting excited about our giveaway. People have been asking about the Mother of All Prizes, though, and I feel so bad every time I have to tell someone they can't have Raymond's VCR. He did promise it to me for Christmas, and I was really counting on that gift.

SKA: Yes, I've received a few emails for Deb's Pong as well, but she's holding onto it because she still hasn't beaten the third level. Ah, well. Sorry, folks!

ER: So how's it going? Have you had a good week? 

SKA: My week has been okay. Sadly, I haven't won any prizes lately, but participating in your giveaway has been just as rewarding . . . I guess. I've tweeted and I've taken advantage of the groups on Facebook, and have posted our giveaway at different intervals. I have to say, it's proven its worth, since I've received a few "likes" on my links and a couple entries from it.

Speaking of, have you heard about those "Flash Giveaways" that are going around Facebook?

ER: I've heard things here and there, but I'll admit I'm not clear on the concept. I don't have to burst into song in public to win something, do I? Because you know how shy I am when it comes to singing . . .

SKA: Shy? You and singing? Sure . . . unfortunately, that's not how it works. Unless you upload a video to Facebook of you singing, but it still won't help in this case because YOU'LL be offering the Flash Giveaway—

ER: Huh? I will?

SKA: Yes, and the entrants are the ones who have to do the dirty work.

All right. Quickly, so people can't say we don't teach them anything here on our chats, a Flash Giveaway is:

  1. a giveaway (duh)
  2. . . . that happens in a flash (double duh)
ER: Well, that seems easy enough to follow so far. Duh, indeed.

SKA: For real: it's when you decide you want to run a giveaway for a few minutes, hours, or however long you want, but it's usually within the same day. You ask participants to "like" your pages, share your posts, tell a secret, guess a lie, etc., and then you use a strategic way to choose a winner from the comments. I suggest you close your eyes and point to the screen; others suggest you use or even a separate Rafflecopter widget. In any case, a winner is chosen, and they get their prizes in a—wait for it—FLASH!

So now that we're all on the same page, Lynda, let's do one on Facebook tonight. What do you say?

ER: I think, as usual, that you are a genius. Yeah, what the heck. Let's do it.

If I were going to flash someone, what would I flash them with? I've always wanted to flash an FBI badge at somebody, but I don't have one of those anywhere close by. Any suggestions? I don't really have a second choice.

And are you sure you don't want another muffin? I can't believe your willpower, only allowing yourself to have one. That's incredible.

SKA: Well, I'm really serious about this diet. I don't want to mess it up, but this muffin is delicious.

Flashing people . . . flashing people . . . I think the FBI badge is pretty cool, but then you'd go to jail for impersonating a federal officer. I can't exactly bail you out right now, so let's stick to maybe . . . a gift card?

ER: Amazon gift card! I love Amazon gift cards!

SKA: Let's test this Flash Giveaway thing tonight and have our friends share and tag their friends. All of them will come back here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway and comment that they did. Then we'll announce a winner on Facebook. 

Easy Reader Editing's page will start the giveaway tonight at 7 p.m. EST and end at 10 p.m. EST.

If you're on Facebook, come over and help us spread the word!

ER: Sounds great to me. I think I could get addicted to this flashing stuff . . .

Okay, everyone. You know what to do and when to do it. We'll see you tonight on Facebook. And don't forget to enter the Share the Love Giveaway while you're here, if you haven't already. Lots of easy ways to enter, lots of prizes to win.

You can find everyone in the following places:
S.K. Anthony:
Easy Reader Editing: you are here. :)
Raymond Esposito:
Stephen Fender:
Debra Ann Miller:
Sisters Baking Company:
Sarah YourBetaReader:

Monday, January 27, 2014

Editor's Notes #6: A "Harsh Critic" is Not a Copy Editor

I can't afford an editor, but my spouse reads all my stuff and she's pretty harsh. 
I have friends who pick books apart like crazy, and they go through my books before I publish.
My beta readers have caught things here and there . . . I'm good to go.
I self-edit. I'm tough to please, so I know I'm not cutting myself a break.
Hey! I went to school! Do you think I'm dumb?

Have you heard these phrases from fellow authors? Have you said these phrases to anyone before . . . or even to yourself? 

When writers discuss whether they've hired an editor or not, these are the types of comments that appear. Of course, I am of the opinion that every person who plans on self-publishing needs to hire an editor at some point in the process. However, my opinion isn't a selfish one, since there's no way I can personally edit for every indie author out there. Rather, my conviction is based on a simple fact:

Unless you know the rules of grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure, are able to read through the work objectively, and have a slew of resources at your fingertips, you are going to miss something along the way that should have been fixed. 
Maybe it's something small and maybe it's something big. Maybe it's more than one "something" and those multiple "somethings" will be the deciding factor in whether your book gets a good review or a bad one. And don't get me wrong: I'm not saying you shouldn't use your harsh critics. Every set of eyes helps, if you can get honest feedback.

It's still not the same as using a copy editor. 

The average reader may or may not notice mistakes in the text. If your reader is not a strong speller, he or she might not notice misspelled words unless there's a red squiggly line underneath them. Even then, I'm firmly convinced that there are people out there who think the red squiggle means "what a fine, strong word you have here!"

Typos slip by easily, also. "One" instead of "once." "Tree" instead of "three." Real words, but not the correct words. 

What about these scenarios?

  • Which words are hyphenated only sometimes—but not always—depending on their usage? 
  • Which words are spelled differently in the US than they are in the UK?
  • Does this movie/song/book need italics or quotation marks?
  • Does the punctuation go inside the quotes or not? (Another US/UK difference.)
  • Are the verb tenses mixed, moving from past to present and back to past?
  • Is there "head-hopping" going on, rather than staying with a particular point of view?
These are a few of the things a copy editor is paid to notice. Friends and spouses can help, but the bottom line is that they're just not looking for the same thing a line editor is looking for.

If you want your hard work to be seen at its best, hire the person qualified for doing the job thoroughly. Take your time, scout around, and save your money. Copy editing doesn't have to break the bank, but it may be the deciding factor of whether your piggy bank ever gets refilled or not from book sales.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Coffee Chat 5.0 with Author S.K. Anthony: It's Giveaway Time!

It's Thursday and we're back, this time with coffee and . . . a guest! Author Debra Ann Miller is joining us this week to help us promote our latest and greatest idea: the "Share the Love" Valentine's Day giveaway!

Team Lynda (which is what I've decided to call it since it's my blog) has gotten together and is contributing some wonderful prizes for you to win through a Rafflecopter giveaway that will end at midnight on February 13, 2014.

You'll have a chance—many chances, in fact—at being one of the lucky recipients of goodies from a bunch of people who love me enough to send me money on a regular basis. More details on that (the giveaway, not the money) later in this post.

For now, I'll introduce our guest. Debra Ann Miller is the author of Descended, Ascended, and work-in-progress Transcended, all books in the Fallen Guardian Saga. Although she doesn't drink coffee [feel free to insert a loud gasp here], S.K. and I have decided we like her anyway, and have permitted her to drink tea. Unfortunately, Deb has insisted that we call her Queen Mum every time she lifts her teacup. I suppose it's the price we pay for having such a charming, cultured guest, so I'm going with it.

ER: So hey there, S.K. and Mum! I'm glad to have you both here today so we can talk about fun stuff. 

QM: Of course! I've always wanted to have a princess tea party.

SKA: Hey-hey, Lynda! And welcome, Mum. I'll let you both know that I had a sigh of relief when I found out you were having tea, Deb. I wasn't feeling the "sharing my coffee" thing this morning, to be honest. 

ER: I didn't want to be the first to say it, but yes, I was looking at that coffee pot and thinking, Nope. Not enough for three. I even thought about distracting QM by sending her down the hall for a spoon or something, but she came through and wasn't greedy. Bonus points for the queen!

OK, the giveaway thing. Have either of you ever done giveaways before, or entered any yourself?

SKA: Yes and yes. And I've won! Woohoo! Go ahead girls, celebrate with me. 

QM: I've entered several giveaways but don't have the luck of the Irish on my side . . . only in my blood. On the flip side, I've held one as well. It was really cool to have people enter a contest to win a book that I, the Queen Mum, wrote!

And woot woot to you, S.K.! I'll try to remember my etiquette with regard to your winnings.

ER: S.K., I remember when you won that cool necklace from Brandon Ax's giveaway for Elemental. I wanted that pretty bad. Maybe we should have him over for coffee some week and he'll want to give me jewelry, too.

For awhile, I was on a roll with entering giveaways and winning books on Goodreads. I didn't enter more than a dozen, but I won four books in rapid succession. One of them was D.R. Shoultz's Melting Sand, which I did a review for on this blog.  

Mum, what type of giveaways are your favorite? Would you rather win a book, or a gift certificate, or a year's supply of Turtle Wax or Rice-a-Roni, or what?

QM: It depends. I think it should fit the blog and the topic. If it's a book blogger, then I'd expect to see a book, or a Nook, or a fish on a hook.

ER: I think I'd worry if I won a fish on a hook, but you never know. It might have been a really great contest to suck me into the whole fish-on-a-hook excitement.

QM: Any Dr. Seuss fans in the house? Maybe I should slow down on the sipping here; my analogies are misunderstood. I'm just saying, the prize should complement the contest.

ER: But you know, if I really liked fish, with or without hooks, that might be a pretty awesome contest.

QM: With that in mind, maybe we should check out Trip Advisor and see what kind of giveaways they're offering. Hmm, a plane, or a train, or a sweet ticket to Maine?

ER: Well, S.K. seems to be the contest-winner among us, and I'll bet she has a fish on a hook somewhere in her prize collection. She's won everything else lately. In fact, S.K., didn't you just win two contests in December alone?

QM: Did I mention, I've won NOTHING . . . EVER?? Just checking . . . continue please . . .

[ER looks around frantically to see where SK has gone, while trying to casually slide the teapot out of the Queen Mum's reach.]

SKA: A fish on a hook! I didn't win that, but someone once gave us a fish with a hook holding a tiny clock . . . for our office desk. Umm, no. Sweet, though. I guess . . . Want it, Mum?

Lynda, yes! I won the Fire Elemental necklace during the Ashes release (second book in The Light Bringer's Saga). We can nudge him and see if you'll "win" something. You too, Mum. You've won my heart, but maybe that's not enough. [Shrugs.]

More recently, I won two awesome giveaways. One was from author Tara Tyler: I won a signed paperback of her debut novel, Pop Travel, a bookmark, and a cool bracelet that's featured in the book. And the other one was from our very own Stephen Fender. I won the signed set of the Kestrel Saga (The Army of Light, Icarus, and Second Earth), a custom T-shirt, and some delicious treats from Sisters Baking Company

ER: So I'm thinking the best strategy at this point would be to have S.K. enter all the contests for us from this point on, right?

QM: I'd like to second that motion! [Raises tea cup in salute, a bit unsteady but sincere nonetheless.]

ER: We've created a monster!

SKA: But we love it!

ER: About those contests . . .

SKA: You know . . . Now I won't share! I tried winning the lottery . . . and that didn't happen. Bummer. But sure, I can enter for you guys. IF you stop saying I suck for winning!

ER: Ahem . . . the contest, remember? We're doing a giveaway! And we have some really great prizes that will provide something for everyone, from S.K. Anthony, Easy Reader Editing, Raymond Esposito, Stephen Fender, our own Queen Mum, Debra Ann Miller, Sisters Bakery, and YourBetaReader. Why don't you tell our readers what they can win and how they can win it, S.K.?

SKA: Well, I'm not sure how else to say this, but they can win by, um . . . entering? [Laughing hysterically . . . alone . . .]  Sorry, I had to. [Clears throat.]

Okay, so back to business. We have a little Rafflecopter that you can read, click, share, etc.

You can win:
  • GRAND PRIZE: 1 signed copy of Descended, 1 signed copy of Kinetic with swag pack, 1 signed copy of You and Me Against the World (limited edition), 1 signed copy of The Army of Light packaged with 1 bag of Rain City Crunch {US only}
  • THE EDITOR'S PAY IT FORWARD DEAL: You and a friend of your choosing will each receive a 20% discount on a full copy edit and/or proofreading services from Easy Reader Editing, AND a separate 20% discount on a content/substantive edit from Sarah YourBetaReader.
  • (2 winners) FOR THE eBOOK LOVERS: 1 copy of Descended and Ascended, 1 copy of Kinetic, 1 copy of You and Me Against the World and 1 copy of All Our Foolish Schemes 
  • (2 winners) The Fallen Guardian Saga, Books 1 & 2: Descended and Ascended {US only}
  • (1 winner) The Kestrel Saga: signed copy of The Army of Light and 1 bag of Rain City Crunch {US only}
  • (4 winners) The Creepers Saga, Book 1: You and Me Against the World {US only}
  • (3 winners) The Luminaries Series: signed copy of Kinetic with Swag Pack (notebook, pen & bookmark) {US only}

Let us know if you're an author or just a lovely reader (authors, you're lovely too; calm down!) so we can make sure we don't end up with a reader winning an editing package. Imagine how confused we'll make the poor dears when we try to edit their thoughts. No bueno. 

And if you think these prizes are awesome, wait until you see what you could have won. Ready? Okay, Lynda, take it over!

ER: Well . . . I've got to tell everyone, we had a whole different list of prizes. After searching high and low through our houses, we came up with a pile of goodies that rivaled any ancient treasure. In fact, we came to think of it as the Mother of All Prizes. Had we gone with our first choices, you could have won these lovely things: one like-new VCR; one 13" TV with built-in VCR for Pong; one Pong; one StarTac cell phone; one Walkman that only stops every five minutes when walking slowly; some 1979 issues of MAD Magazine; one JVC camcorder with VHS tapes; one life-size velvet Hasselhoff portrait with Labrador puppies; one unread copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People; one handful of Scrabble letters that spell ERMAGAWD I LUV WINGER TOO; one mix tape of favorite Liberace songs; one empty box of Thin Mints.

This was a terrific group effort, but we came to realize we'd love giving the items much, much more than anyone would love winning them. Thus, the second—and final—giveaway list was created.

What are you waiting for? Share the love!

You can find everyone in the following places:
S.K. Anthony:
Easy Reader Editing: you are here. :)
Raymond Esposito:
Stephen Fender:
Debra Ann Miller:
Sisters Baking Company:
Sarah YourBetaReader:

Monday, January 20, 2014

Editor's Notes #5: The Importance of Beta Readers

Statler and Waldorf: two of the most popular Muppets ever, because they say the things we wish we could say. 

W: That was wonderful!
S: Bravo!
W: I loved it!
S: That was great!
W: Well, it was pretty good.
S: Well, it wasn't bad.
W: There were parts that weren't pretty good, though. 
S: It could've been a lot better.
W: I didn't really like it.
S: It was pretty terrible.
W: It was bad.
S: It was awful.
S & W: Terrible! Eh, boo!

As much as we might laugh at those two, I believe many authors are worried that having a beta reader might yield the same results. After all, beta readers are supposed to be brutally honest while they tell us everything that's wrong with our books, right? And we just know the focus is going to be on the "brutal" part. It's much easier on our hearts and more convenient overall to have our friends and family read our manuscripts. Nobody wants a stranger to tell them they stink.

Thankfully, good beta readers won't tell you that you stink. Allow me to adjust that a bit: good beta readers might tell you that you stink, but they'll do it in such a way that you want to take their suggestions and improve, rather than tell them not to let the door hit them on the way out.

Beta readers work much in the same way as substantive/content editors. A skilled beta reader will pay close attention to your plot and whether it held his attention. Is your voice consistent? How's the pacing? Did he force himself to keep reading?

I'm reminded of the people who are chosen for a movie's advance screening: they watch a completed movie and give feedback on its good points and bad points, what might have slowed down the action, whether the characters were likable, and whether the movie-watcher was willing to stay put with a full bladder because the story was too fascinating to leave the theater even for a moment.

Betas offer that same kind of feedback. And much like a movie screening, if enough people hit on the same problems/negatives, the author is forced to recognize that there may be an adjustment needed here and there. A good author will take the feedback, mull it over, and sift the objective truths from the opinions. A good beta will try to keep opinions out of the equation to the best of her ability.

The advantage of betas who don't charge a fee is obvious: it's free. One less thing on which to spend your money. The trick there is to find someone (or a handful of someones) you trust with your manuscript. I've heard authors complain that they've tried betas who didn't "get" their genre, or worse, who never gave an evaluation at all, basically using the "I'll beta for you" game to get free reads. I'm hoping this is not a frequent—or even regular—occurrence. 

The advantage of betas who evaluate for a fee: you will get an evaluation, and in some cases you'll get input similar to that of a content editor for a fraction of the cost. They know what to focus on without having to be guided through, although they're open to any specific things the author wants them to look for. I occasionally beta for people, though it's a challenge sometimes to take off the editor hat and ignore specifics in favor of the overall package. The disadvantage of a paid beta is that you don't get the eval for free, but to my eye, that seems to be the only disadvantage.

Authors, don't be afraid to use betas, whether paid services or free of charge. It's their job to keep things professional and to be as objective as possible, whereas using only family or friends as your betas may get you many attaboys but not nearly enough of the type of critique you may need. Doing the tough thing now might save you from having to face the tough critics later.

S: Boo!

W: Boooo!
S: That was the worst thing I've ever heard!
W: It was terrible!
S: Horrendous!
W: Well, it wasn't that bad.
S: Oh, yeah?
W: Well, there were parts of it I liked.
S: Well, I liked a lot of it.
W: Yeah, it was GOOD, actually.
S: It was great!
W: It was wonderful!
S: Yeah, bravo!
W: More!
S: More!
W: More!
S: More!

[Statler and Waldorf skits taken from actual Muppet Show transcripts.]

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Coffee Chat 4.1 with Author S.K. Anthony: What Makes a Blogger Interesting?

We're back, as promised! Coffee is brewing and it's a great day. We decided to discuss social media a bit further, so today we're blogging our chats, chatting about our blogs, and not rambling at all.

ER: How's it going, S.K.? This week, I'm no longer freezing with well-below-zero temps, so I feel like a new person. I look like a new person, too. I really hate wearing ski masks inside the house, but when it's cold, what's a gal to do, right? At least the kids know who I am once again . . .

SKA: Compared to last week, I'm ready to hang outside with a Margarita or something. Thank goodness that's over! Was that kind of temperature really necessary? I'm just glad the internet didn't freeze on us. I don't think we would have survived that, Social Media Animals that we are.

ER: Last week's chat about the Social Media Monster got us thinking about the avenues available to authors—or anyone, really—when promoting their work, themselves, an important cause, a one-time event, or a host of other things. There are an impressive number of blogs out there! In 2013 alone, WordPress reported over 13 million new blogs, a jump from 2012's total of more than 10 million. No wonder we feel as if social media has taken over our lives! That's not even counting blogs from other hosting sites, Facebook, Twitter, and all those other things I'll get exhausted naming.

SKA: So now, not only will my book be lost in reader-space (see what I did there?), but my blog is also lost in the blogosphere. Fantastic. The internet just gets bigger and bigger.

ER: Of all the ways to reach people on the internet, I think blogs are a good place to start, don't you? Or am I deluding myself? It wouldn't be the first time, so I always feel I should ask to be sure.

SKA: I think blogs are the perfect place to start. It's probably my favorite of them all. You might still be deluding yourself in one way or another, though, so no happy dances yet.

ER: Before I started editing, I already had a Facebook account, because I'm a social creature about 75% of the time. (It's best not to ask about the other 25% of the time...and my kids are forbidden to talk about it.) However, when I started my business, the first thing I did was set up a blog. Part of it was to make sure my information was out there, but I found I really liked having an outlet for the part of me that likes to talk to strangers. And strangers on the internet don't look at me in the same weird way that strangers on the street do, so that's good.

After getting tricked into signing up for a WordPress blog when I commented for the first (but certainly NOT the last) time on Raymond Esposito's blog, I realized I didn't mind having another one. My first blog is for my editing stuff, and the other one is for the rest of my life. 

How about you? What's your blog experience so far?

SKA: I love blogging. Maybe I don't post as much now, but years ago I was active in my personal blog and enjoyed the dynamic very much. Reading and commenting on blogs that I find interesting, to me, is like reading a novel but with real people in it. This way, I get to interact with the "characters" and they do the same with me.

And most definitely it's an outlet—one of the best. You can focus on a variety of subjects, or you can pick one and stick with it. It can be a how-to, a life experience, a journal-type, informative, or an advice blog. And if you feel like mixing it up? Go right ahead. That's the beauty with blogs: for the most part, people read them because they connect with you on some level, and you can write about any part of your life you wish to share.

ER: I just realized I have a third blog, on SparkPeople. I mean, not that I didn't know about it, but I'd forgotten. I've posted on occasion, but I try not to veer from the fitness angle. I'm very irregular with that one, but it's not a public blog—only visible to SP members—so I justify my irregularity by telling myself that people aren't waiting for my posts each week. 

I'm still trying for a predictable schedule for my personal blog. I write when something strikes me as important, and I don't want to manufacture "important" things just to post because the calendar says I have to.

This blog is the one I feel most responsible for, as far as regularity and content. I aim to provide helpful advice for authors by blogging Editor's Notes each Monday, and of course our chats are the highlight of my week. What's not to like here, really? Fun conversation, coffee, and telling people why our advice on current topics is the best around. It's the trifecta of bloggy-ness!

SKA: I have two blogs as well. My very first one is suffering since my life has changed and I've had to keep up with the "writer's" social media life, more so than the "real" me. But I still don't have the heart to give it up because so much of me and my life is in there. I either have to stop it altogether or get more active. I would have to make sure I go and comment on my other friends' blogs more; otherwise, why should they come back to mine regularly?

What are your thoughts on that aspect of blogger etiquette? Do you feel you have to comment back to those who took the time to do the same on your post? What about replying to your commenters?

ER: I do feel a good blogger should make it a point to visit other people's blogs regularly, and to comment just as regularly. I love comments! I live for the day when I get so many comments I can hardly keep up with them. Really. 

That said, I don't feel I have to comment every time I visit somewhere, especially if I don't have anything to add to the discussion. I like the WordPress option that allows me to "like" a post without commenting, so the blogger knows I took the time to visit, at least. I don't stop myself from leaving a comment when I want to, though sometimes it makes me feel like a bit of a sycophant. I visit about 8-10 blogs with purposeful regularity, and additional ones when I have time to catch up.

Once, I asked Raymond—honestly, we need to get him on here soon so we're not talking about him behind his back—if I was being stalker-ish because I seem to comment on his posts so frequently. His reply pretty much changed the way I viewed commenting: "You're supposed to comment. Otherwise I'm just talking to myself." 

I also feel a good blogger should reply to commenters, unless it becomes an unmanageable number. It tells people you noticed they took the time to read and contribute. 

I notice you try to reply to all your commenters, too, and they seem to appreciate that, often replying again, conversationally. That type of goodwill and online friendship goes a long way. To my eye, anyway, you seem like yourself when you comment: relaxed, fun, teasing when you're more familiar with the commenter. 

Do you feel like you're "yourself" online, or a better, improved version? Are you able to relate to people better online than in person?

SKA: Am I myself? Sure, to a point. My personality comes across, as far as I can tell. I'm just as playful with family and friends in real life ('cause apparently the internet is fake). And I'm the same online as I am in person when I'm not too familiar with someone: shy and reserved. So yeah, I'm definitely me. On the other hand, I hardly share much about myself S.K., anyway. 

So do my writer friends know about my personal life, what makes me tick, or how insane I really am? No, but that's okay, because even if they see just a small fraction of me, that part is still true to who I am. 

What about you?

ER: Oh, I am definitely myself online! [laughing] Maybe too much, at times; what I'm like in real life doesn't always translate well to the printed page. I'm a person who enjoys dry humor, but I'm stunned at how many people just don't relate in that manner. I'm part of a family of happy sarcastics (if I can completely make up a diagnosis on the spot) and in most conversations, if you can't keep up, you're toast. It's all good-natured—and we recognize the fine line between sarcasm and meanness—but you have to be pretty quick to even keep up with talking around the dinner table. 

I laugh a lot more than I do anything else, but people can't see it when I'm typing what might look like a snarky response on a thread. So I have to keep that part of me restrained a bit until people get to know me better. Life is seriously ridiculous sometimes, and the things people get upset about are most often the things I find funny.

My personality shows here, but I try not to get deeply personal, because that's what my other blog is for. The other blog is sort of my "Dear Diary" entries. I talk to myself about the things that are on my mind, and if anyone wants to read them, that's fine. If they judge me, based on those things, well...I can't stop them, because I put it out there. It's not all of me, but they don't know that so I can't blame them.

The one thing I won't do on ANY of my social media sites is air my dirty laundry. An occasional rant about the state of the nation or the high price of healthy food is a whole lot different than telling the world about Aunt Helga's family holding an intervention because of her addiction to shoe polish and gummi bears.

SKA: . . . sorry I asked . . .

ER: I write like I talk: all over the place and extended. I'm even flailing my hands all over the place, too, like a good Italian. Makes it harder to type, but it helps me think.

SKA: And that's what we love about you, you know: YOU. Now, I need you to hold on to some of that flailing you've reserved just for our blog topic. We'll have to continue this in another chat, because my coffee is finished and I'm about to freak out. Also, it's time to go and comment on some blogs . . . I know they're just waiting to see what awesomeness I have to add to their posts. ;)

Be sure to check in next week! I'm telling you: you won't want to miss it. You know why? Because we'll be just as surprised as you are when we figure out what to chat about. Maybe we'll touch on some of the blog questions we didn't get to in this round; maybe we won't. Let's all live dangerously and find out together. 

What say you? Are you with us or without us? (Without us is bad for your health. The doctor said so.)

As always:

You can find S.K. Anthony in a number of places. She's on Twitter @SKathAnthony, her website is, her Facebook page is S Katherine Anthony, and on occasional occasions, she'll be right here with me, drinking coffee and laughing it up over our latest plans and schemes. And possibly even talking about books and writing. 

You can find me here. I'm always here.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Editor's Notes #4: Do I Need a Substantive Editor?

When a writer sits down to put words on a page, he usually has some sort of idea of what he wants to write about. 

There are exceptions, to be sure, but as a general rule, the idea comes first when writing a book. Many authors describe a story as "knocking around" in their heads, or having characters wanting to tell their stories, not resting until the typing begins.

And as soon as it's on paper, it's off to the copy editor! Right?


The copy editor is at the end of the line, not the beginning. Think of the copy editor as frosting on a cake, with a final proofreader as the sprinkles. You need a good cake with a good recipe before you can use the frosting . . . unless you're my husband, who thinks cake is only there so you can hold your frosting easier. But my husband isn't writing this post, so we'll stick with needing a good cake for now.

The recipe and delicious cake come in the form of a substantive editor, known in some publishing environments as a content editor because this type of editor checks the content you already have. 

How do you know if you need one? You can think of a substantive editor as your own writer's coach.

This editor is typically brought in during the earliest stages of writing, once you have a full text. If your chapters need re-ordered, or if facts just don't mesh, the editor will notice these things. If you're stuck with moving the plot from Point A to Point B smoothly, a content editor might point out a way to adjust some details so it can happen.

Some of the things a substantive editor looks for:

  • Plot holes
    • The reader should never be left wondering how something worked itself out, or how you connected the dots. It should be clear to all.
  • Does it get going right away, making the reader want to keep reading?
    • Some readers will only read the first few chapters before quitting if a book's beginning doesn't grab them; others won't go past the first chapter.
  • Book length—what can be trimmed?
    • If your debut novel is over 140k words, you may wish to split it into two books. Not only will the printing be cost-prohibitive, but many people don't want to invest that much time and money in an unknown author.
  • Too many characters
    • The reader can't remember why Walt the milkman is important, and perhaps he's . . . not.
  • Weak characters
    • Are they forgettable due to lack of personality? Are readers turning back pages to remind themselves of who someone is?
  • A main character/hero who's a bit "too" heroic
    • Perfect looks, chiseled abs, popular, billionaire, VIP job
  • Is a character's behavior inconsistent?
    • Does your tough-as-nails CIA agent turn into a puddle of goo when her personal space is invaded?
  • Does the teen boy in your novel sound like a teen boy, or the way a middle-aged female author thinks a teen boy should sound?
  • Do all your characters sound the same, or does each have a unique voice?  
    • The voice in your head may change, but it needs to translate well in the text. The reader should be able to tell Sally from Sandy by their attitude and speech habits. 
  • Is the dialogue believable? Can you picture yourself saying these things to someone and having it flow naturally?
    • "I shall not fail you, Mother," may work well in a Howard Pyle novel or a Regency Romance, but that same phrase would be completely out of place in a contemporary novel set in Texas, USA.
    • Contractions are fine. Really. Most people use them in everyday speech.
  • Are your verbs strong or weak?  
    • Using the proper verbs can help the reader to "see" the action better. "Racing out the door" is more specific than "leaving."
  • Are you overusing adverbs or clich├ęs?
    • "Like a dog with a bone." "In a heartbeat." "With her heart in her throat."
  • Is your setting accurate?
    • People in the US don't refer to sweaters as "jumpers," nor sneakers as "trainers." Likewise, people in Australia don't say, "Y'all." Northern US people may refer to "barbeque" when cooking outdoors on a grill, but southern US people only use that word to describe seasoned pulled pork with tangy sauce added.
If you're writing historical fiction, your substantive editor may gently point out the obvious: that Julius Caesar could not possibly have been on the Mayflower. Or the subtle: the US Civil War began in 1861, not 1961. 

When I was in college, I had to write a short essay about a particular William Blake poem. At some point in the essay, I must have gotten pretty tired, because I began to refer to the poem's author as Henry Blake. Thankfully, my professor had a good sense of humor and gave me a good grade on the essay while laughingly pointing out that Henry Blake was on M*A*S*H. 


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Coffee Chat 4.0 with Author S.K. Anthony: Taming the Social Media Monster

Hello, I'm the Social Media Monster! I've come to adjust your clocks. I'll cause a warp in the space-time continuum so your "only five more minutes" of reading email turns into "an hour has passed already?"

Does this scenario sound familiar to you? Today, S.K. Anthony and I will be performing the not-ironic-at-all task of using social media (a.k.a. my blog) to discuss how misuse of social media can suck our lives away. 

Not this blog, of course. This blog will add years to your life, if only you visit it on a regular basis and tell all your friends to visit, too. Kind of like a bloggy sort of chain letter: "Tell ten friends to visit my blog and something wonderful will happen to you in the next thirty minutes. I can't tell you what it is, but you'll know it when it happens." I can only tell you that if you don't, nothing bad will happen, your dreams won't be crushed, and God will not be disappointed in you. I won't be upset with you, either, but you will definitely miss a good time. Speaking of a good time, here comes my coffee buddy.

ER: Hey, S.K.! Fancy seeing you here again over the top of my coffee cup. 

SKA: What's crackalackin', Lyn-Lyn?

ER: I'll bet our readers don't realize we have matching coffee cups. In fact, I'll bet our readers don't care that we have matching coffee cups. The picture above is mine, and it is not photoshopped. I repeat, NOT photoshopped. I didn't even use a green screen to capture that image. I figured people might think it's 'shopped because it looks so natural, but no. I just plunked my cup down in front of my coffeemaker and snapped. Snapped a picture, that is. I might have snapped for real, had the coffee not finished dripping right then. But luck was on my side and coffee was on my front. Thankfully, I had another shirt.

What was I saying?

SKA:  To answer your question, I think you were saying hi to me. I'm not sure anymore. I got confused and defensive and proud all in one paragraph.

Let's start with: Why wouldn't they care? Of course they care! We have the same coffee mugs—how else would this be a real and official "Coffee Chat"? And I'm so very proud of you for managing to take a picture that not only looks real, but IS real.

Oh, and for all those cynics out there, here I am with MY non-photoshopped coffee cup. By the way, the sunglasses are because Mildred Loudermilk doesn't want to be recognized in public. Not because I'd just woken up or anything . . .

[SKA disappears for a short while. ER drinks coffee to kill time. 'Cause drinking coffee is what we do here when we're not talking over each other.]

SKA: Sorry, sorry for me abandoning our chat for a minute; I had to go tweet something. In five minutes, I have to go do some "shares" on Google+. Ten minutes after that, I have to go like some posts on Facebook, and then I'll spend a couple hours commenting on my friends' blogs. After that I have to figure out my own blog posts, and think about canceling Instagram and creating a LinkedIn account. So excuse me while I disappear from our chats here and there. 

What are you up to?

ER: Uh . . . not much, compared to your busy schedule. I'm just kind of sitting here, waiting for you to come back. I don't even have an Instagram account. And I'm afraid to be LinkedIn with someone I don't like. Can I unlink them if we're not compatible? And how do you find the time to visit all these places?

SKA: LIKE! . . . err . . . sorry, I think this was the wrong place.

Umm, LinkedIn . . . I haven't opened the account yet, so I don't know. I'm not even sure I want to link up with people I like, so your guess is as good as mine. If someone out there knows, they should tell us. How do I find time? I—

[Disappears again, this time long enough for ER to root around the kitchen, looking for something that goes well with coffee. What's left in those Christmas stockings, anyway?]

SKA: —Okay, I'm back. I had to log in my workout on MyFitnessPal and cheer on some friends. Right . . . so I decide in the morning what kind of day it will be. Tweeting, Facebooking, etc., etc. And blogging/commenting I deal with twice a week for sure; otherwise, I will have no time for our chats.  The rest of the SM channels are lucky I remember they exist when I don't have a ton of emails to answer. 

Which are your favorite social media channels? And which do you think are more beneficial to authors?

ER: Huh? Did you say something? I was on SparkPeople, logging in the mini Twix bars I found in the toe of my stocking. My Christmas stocking. I don't usually store candy in the toe of my regular socks. I don't want to say "never," but it's not typical behavior, anyway.

Beneficial to authors . . . oh, that reminds me, I haven't checked the Goodreads forums today. There have been some pretty interesting threads there lately! 

brb . . . that means "be right back" to those of us who are online-savvy. Or just too lazy to type all those extra letters.

[This time it's ER's turn to run off, back to SparkPeople this time, just in case more candy turns up in anyone else's stockings. Not that she would ever look in anyone else's Christmas stockings. And why are they still hanging on January 9?]

All right, now. I think I'm back for good this time (translate: all out of candy and social media sites). 

I won't deny it. I do have a handful of social media sites I check with regularity. Facebook and Goodreads are probably my top two. My blogs, Twitter, other people's blogs come next. I'm finally getting back on track with SparkPeople. I may sign up with reddit, although my kids say I don't need it. I have a Pinterest account, but much like shopping, I need to know exactly what I'm looking for, or I'll waste all kinds of time and find nothing useful. Actually, I find that I'm capable of wasting time on any one of those above-mentioned things, even when they're helpful to me.

Let's face it: social media is time-consuming. There's no way around it. The real question is whether you control it or it controls you. 

SKA: SparkPeople! I have an account there as well. I had to give it up after I found MyFitnessPal. I like the blue background; my favorite color is blue. Now that I think about it, that might be exactly what attracts me to my "top" sites: Facebook, Twitter, my blog. I'm very scientific when I choose, apparently.

ER: I like the sites that make things easy for me to find. And I absolutely hate when I go to someone's website or blog and can't move around it without the pop-ups getting in the way, saying "SUBSCRIBE!" I won't go to those ones more than that first time. It's so irritating to have to keep clicking things closed just to read an article. If I want to subscribe or follow, I'll do it on my own. If you push, you can guarantee I won't follow you. I only have so much time to waste . . . I mean, spend . . . and I can't use ten more seconds of it trying to avoid pop-ups.

So what are your biggest online time-wasters? Other than chatting with me on Facebook, which can probably be considered official working time, if you stop to think about it.

SKA: Hmm . . . time wasters? I'm not sure. Twitter can be, I guess, but I don't go on too often. I retweet my friends and share a quote here and there. The rest of my tweets that I need readers to pay attention to, I use hashtags. Thank goodness for them.

ER: Twitter, for me, is almost a waste of time, because I get the feeling it's a bunch of people shouting on street corners, but not really listening to the other people who are also shouting. I use it, but I don't expect any big returns from it. 

SKA: As you said, they disappear so quickly and who knows who's reading them? I use the hashtags that anyone who might be interested in my particular subject can find. If not, no harm done. I'm never on for too long there. 

ER: Pinterest, as I said before, is a black hole. A black hole of fun garden ideas, make-your-own laundry soap, and fancy cupcakes; I can't allow myself to go there more than once a month. I have posted my blog links there, but I don't know that anyone goes to Pinterest to look for blog posts.

SKA: My time is limited with the twins and writing so I really don't do much internet time-wasting. Our chats are—obviously—work, so that is clarified. I guess if I must choose one, I would go with Pinterest as well. I don't go on too often . . . maybe once a month? But when I do, I stay there for quite some time. The good thing is, even if I get nothing done, I sign out feeling like I'm the biggest DIY-er out there. The plans in my head are endless . . . I still have yet to do one project I thought of or try one recipe I liked from there. 

ER: I'm right with you on that one. I've made one cool project and have made laundry soap. Loved them both but now I'm burnt out. 

So what social media sites do you think are most valuable to your goals, personally and professionally?

SKA: I think Goodreads for sure, though I haven't been too active in the forums and such. Facebook and blogging suck most of my online time, but I think they're both also beneficial to my goals. I don't know, I like them, so I'm sticking to them for now.

ER: What do you think about people who are really disciplined about their social media time? Are they doing well, or are they missing out on things that may be time-sensitive? I think it would take twice as long to go through Facebook posts, tweets, or any online threads, if I only logged in once or twice per week. I mean, I know the world would keep spinning even if I didn't check in on Goodreads each day, but sometimes there is so much activity on the threads that it would be impossible to catch up if I missed more than one day.

SKA: I think I'm exhausted for them.

ER: Clearly, these people are abnormal and overly disciplined, don't you think?

SKA: Absolutely.

ER: It pretty much all boils down to using the sites you need, visiting the sites that are beneficial to you, and minimizing the use of those which yield no fruit. Last words on how to tame that monster?

SKA: Social media is a beast, but once you tame it you ARE the beast!

ER: Genius. Sheer genius. [Wipes away a tear.]

Next time, we'll be focusing on blogs. Our blogs, your blogs, everyone's blogs: what makes us visit them, and what makes us keep coming back. Well . . . I guess you'll have to come back to find out.

As always:

You can find S.K. Anthony in a number of places. She's on Twitter @SKathAnthony, her website is, her Facebook page is S Katherine Anthony, and on occasional occasions, she'll be right here with me, drinking coffee and laughing it up over our latest plans and schemes. And possibly even talking about books and writing. 

You can find me here. I'm always here.