Thursday, December 21, 2017

Memories of Christmas Vacation with S.K. Anthony

As most of my longtime blog followers know, S.K. Anthony and I have had a good number of adventures over the years. One of the fun things we used to do was our Coffee Chat series. Life has intruded with the busyness it's famous for, and we don't have the time to do those chats anymore (not for public consumption, anyway—no one would want to read our daily conversations), but there are a few favorites that make me laugh every time I reread them. This one is appropriate to share before Christmas, even though it originally posted in March of 2014. You'll see why as you read on.

Enjoy this little blast from the past, and I'll see you all back here in January!


Today’s Coffee Chat is where we finally answer some of the questions our readers have asked. I can’t believe how many there are! I’m really overwhelmed, considering how many people there are who don’t follow my blog. But hey, S.K. dragged in a huge mail bag yesterday so we could have it all ready to go for this morning, and I have coffee brewing, homemade cinnamon rolls in the oven, and my laptop ready to type out our answers.

While I wait for her to arrive, I want to remind all of you that we’ll be taking a Coffee Chat vacation during the entire month of April since we’re both participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. We’ll have short posts on our blogs each day except for Sundays, and don’t want to bog down the blogosphere with extras. It’s funny . . . ever since I got my posts ready for the A to Z, I seem to only be capable of doing certain things in alphabetical order. I tried to pack my bags for our vacation and found myself filling my suitcase with an accordion, a bullhorn, coffee, dog biscuits, earplugs, French fries, grease remover (because of the fries), a hammock, icicle lights—

SKA: He-he-heyyyy everyone! I’m in such a good mood, I’m ready to go through our fan mail, Lynda. Wow! [Stops and looks around at the mess in Lynda’s house.] You’re packing all of this? What on earth would you need a bullhorn for?

ER: The bullhorn is for anyone who doesn't like my accordion playing. It comes in handy more often than you'd think. So how do you want to do this? Take turns reading the questions to each other?

SKA: Oh, well, okay then . . .  Why don't I read the questions and you type?

ER: I don't mind taking turns, but—hey! [S.K. grabs the letter.]

SKA: So first question, Lynda, for you: “What do your elves . . . ah . . . kids . . . do for fun?”

ER: My kids are musicians, so they spend a lot of their free time with guitars in their hands. If not that, then they're . . . I don't actually know what they do. Maybe I should actually pay attention to them once in a while.

SKA: Eh, I say let them be. Ooh, this one is for me: “I love you! You're awesome! What do I get if I was both naughty and nice?” Oh, dear fan, thank you. I'm blushing. I think if you are both naughty and nice, then you live a balanced life. You get to read my books, that's what you get!

Next one is for you, Lynda. “Why didn't you bring me—” Umm, okay, let's skip this one; we have too many to answer anyway. Here: “Why do you always wear red?”

ER: I wonder how our fans know I love to wear red. Huh. I guess it's just a good color on me. It went well with my hair when it was brown, and now it goes nicely with the grey. These are kind of . . . interesting questions. I thought they'd be asking about our writing or something.

SKA: Oh, you know fans. They’re out there. Okay this one is for both of us: “What brought on your passion for making and giving away toy—umm, drinking coffee?” Our passion for drinking coffee, Lynda. I read that wrong, sorry.

For me it was lack of sleep and low energy, to be honest. When I started college, I realized staying up late doing homework, watching TV, reading, and studying for tests gave my body a need to start an addiction of something. I chose coffee. I did ease up a bit after I graduated . . . but then I became a mother and the addiction took a whole other level. It has a life of its own, I think.

ER: I started drinking coffee at a young age; and the only change is a better quality of coffee now. I can get by without it if I have to, but I really enjoy the taste. Caffeine is a bonus, but there's just something about coffee that tea drinking can't replace. I like the ritual of walking around with the mug, and sitting around with my hubby in the morning, catching up over a cuppa.

Are you sure you don't want me to read some of those letters? They're all on such colorful paper. They look like fun!

SKA: They . . .  are colorful and pretty, but they’re in Spanish. I’m translating them for you. [Clears throat.] So . . . this next one wants to know why you skipped him last year, oh . . . okay these people are weird. Let me try another one. [Shuffles papers around.] This one is asking what we do the rest of the year. [Frowns.] You know, maybe one last try or we give up. Hey! What–

ER: [Grabs bag.] Give me those. Hey! These are letters for SANTA! They’re not even in Spanish. What in the world are you doing with a bag of letters to Santa Claus? I thought these were from our fans!

SKA: Umm . . . those who love Santa love us too! Fine. Let’s just answer the real questions then. :(

ER: Do we have any real questions?

SKA: Yeah. [Slumps down on a chair.] You have them . . .

ER: Sigh . . . well, let's get on with it, then. This one's for you: “If you could write a book with a social message, what would it be?”

SKA: Good one! A little tough, but good nonetheless. I can stay general and say, “Make love not war,” or be specific and say, “No more bullies!” But in my opinion, I can write just one small message that can make the same impact for one or both: Believe in yourself. I think changes start with and within a person, but unless he believes he can achieve his goal—like bringing world peace, standing up for victims, following dreams, or just promoting love—he will simply not get too far. I think you have to be passionate to stand up for something. I’m not even sure this counts as a social message, but I still believe you can’t achieve much unless you set an example for anyone who wants to follow. First you start with yourself.

Don’t even ask me how I would go about writing this message in a book . . . this caught me off guard. I was mostly prepared to answer questions that were directed at Santa.

ER: I'm not knocking the Santa questions. It would be pretty nice to be that popular. The question for me is asking what my favorite books are to edit. I can honestly say I don't have a favorite so far. I've done paranormal, science fiction, horror and urban fantasy and have enjoyed them all. Of course, I will always enjoy the books more if I don't have to adjust as much, but even that is fun, knowing I'm helping an author to say what he or she intended in the clearest manner possible.

All right, now we have a riddle. This one's for you. “If you're in a house and all the windows face south, what color is the bear outside your window?”

SKA: Oh that’s easy! The color of the bear is scary. I don’t discriminate against bears and their colors, I’m scared of all of them equally. [Laughs.]

All right, seriously, white. If all the walls face south, the house is at the North Pole, so the bear is polar. A polar bear that is, not a bipolar bear. Though, it might be bipolar . . . I’m not finding out.

ER: Bipolar bears end up at the South Pole with the penguins. You know, two poles? Bipolar? Don't let anyone tell you they're not there. Now here's a twist on the final riddle. The answer is: an egg. What is the question?

SKA: Don’t act up, Lynda. These riddles are for us; I take one, you take one. So . . . what IS the real question? ’Cause my question would be, “What did you cook to go along with my bacon?”

ER: But I already answered it, so if I ask the question, I'll . . . oh, forget it. Question: “A box without hinges, key, or lid. But inside, a golden treasure is hid.”

Um . . . hmm . . . this is a tough one. I'm going to guess the answer is . . . six lines above this one. An egg. No surprise there. I guess that worked out for the best after all.

SKA: I knew because of The Hobbit, but you asked me the question and I didn’t think it fair I give you the question/answer/question after giving the last answer, even though you gave me a question and then an answer . . . wait, what just happened? Where is my Dear Santa bag?

ER: I kind of liked the Santa ones better . . .   So this is our last Coffee Chat until April is over, right?

SKA: Sadly, yes. We’ll be taking a Coffee Chat Vacation. A forced one, I have to say. Before we sign off on our last chat until May, here’s the last question of the day: It’s from a “fan” and it’s directed to you, since this is your blog. “What’s wrong with you people?”

ER: That . . . that is an answer for another post. Maybe a series of posts.

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.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Editor's Notes #40: Reading Goals and Continuing Education

As we come to the end of the calendar year, I notice many people posting about meeting their reading goals for the year. I've got to admit, I both love and hate the idea of having reading goals.

On one hand, I like the idea of taking the time to plan what I hope to accomplish, because it forces me to think about what, exactly, I want/need to focus on. It holds me accountable each time I look at the list and see what percentage of my goal I've conquered. Each checkmark satisfies my sense of "ducks in a row."

On the other hand, the very things I like about setting reading goals are the same ones that make me feel trapped. If I find myself falling short at a certain point in the year, I get stressed out. As things continue to progress, if I get behind more and more, I feel like I have to force myself to catch up, even if I'm dealing with quantity over quality so I can check off those boxes. One more duck in a row. If I find out that there is no row, the ducks are everywhere, and they're actually not ducks at all, but rather rabid squirrels—squirrels that are completely incapable of ever, ever making a row—well, then we have a problem.

Something I did this year with a semi-half-thought-out-maybe-almost-not-planned effort was to list the books I'm currently reading on my Goodreads home page. I can list what I'm reading, see my progress (by percentage or page number, so there's gimmicky fun involved that I can even do from my phone), and when I'm finished with each book, I am right there on one of the two places I leave book reviews. How handy, you might say! It is.

I can have the progress in plain sight without the pressure of a goal and deadline. I start when I want, finish when I can, and slowly see accomplishments piling up.

Another not-goal-but-more-of-a-guideline is that I promised myself I'd do a couple specific things:

  • I would have one non-fiction book happening at all times. This book would fall into the category of writing or editing and would be something that helped me in my work.
  • I would read more classics. We used to read a lot of them aloud to our kids when they were younger, and I've gotten out of the habit of reading the more challenging stuff. My current classic is Crime and Punishment and though I'm enjoying it, I find I don't want to pick it up unless I have a solid block of time to get in the groove of it. This is making a really long book feel even longer.
  • I would read books written by the author bloggers I follow. I follow, visit, and comment on a good number of blogs. Many of those bloggers are authors, both traditionally and independently published. Something I notice is a lot of cheering but not always a lot of follow-through. The equivalent for me would be having everyone read and comment supportively on my blog but never recommend me when someone's looking for a copyeditor. I decided to randomly choose books these authors had written or were talking about, and have found a nice selection of good work so far.
After the new year gets underway, I'll be sharing my favorite books on writing and editing, based on my first sort-of-not-really-a-goal. I'd love to hear from you if you'd like to share a book that has had an impact on you, and I'll be featuring those in the second part of that post series. Drop me an email and tell me the name of the book and why it's memorable to you.

Until then, happy reading!

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 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.


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.


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.


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! 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

"Sticker Shock" and the Cost of Edits

Put a group of editors and authors together on any online forum, and not only will you get five helpful suggestions for every three people involved, you'll get a large number of opinions on editing, what it means, and of course the dreaded C-O-S-T.

I recently joined a group called Ask A Book Editor, and have enjoyed the interactions and information exchange. Self-promotion is strictly forbidden, so it's simple Q&A with authors and other editors. Someone recently asked about free evaluations, cost per hour v. cost per word, and costs in general.

After participating in a lively discussion of "if you charge X, you're not charging enough," I thought I'd check out the Excel file that lists all the editors who are part of the site so I could explore some of these people and their pricing structure—just to see where I landed on the spectrum.

And . . . wow. I'm a cheap date.

I knew from talking with authors I've worked with that I charge about half of what many freelancers do. In fact, when I started working with Raymond Esposito, he said he'd paid exactly twice as much with another editing house before working with me—and I ended up re-editing the two books that other business had worked on. But what an eye-opener to see what some of these people rake in! My cost per word is, at best, half of that charged by others . . . but in the majority of situations I found that these people were charging three times what I do, sometimes with an hourly rate added on. One editor quoted rates "starting at .018 per word plus $45/hour," which sounded outlandish to me. And yet, these people are all working steadily.

Funny thing: there were those who were almost pricing snobs. Their opinion was that editors who charged amount (actually, what I charge, though I was a little embarrassed to admit it to them) were either incompetent or trying to undercut the competition. I am neither. I like to think of myself as realistic with what the average indie author can afford and is willing to spend. I've given what I think is a reasonable estimate after a free evaluation, complete with discount, and have had people say, "Oh, I had no idea it would cost that much, to be honest."

What do I say to that? "Um, did you look at anyone's prices prior to contacting them directly?" comes to mind, even if it sounds incredibly snarky. Because if it were me, and I looked at someone's site to get their contact information, I would check out the pricing, calculate what my particular MS would cost, and then shop around to come up with three to five editors of varying rates for evaluation. The cheapest estimate is not always the lowest quality; nor does a higher rate guarantee better quality. In general terms, these things may hold truth, but the work itself needs to be considered.

In another online group, an author was looking for an editor, and many people in the group mentioned Reedsy. One author said it was "expensive but worth it" and when asked about cost, she mentioned about $2,000 for a typical-length novel. I can understand that for developmental editing, but for copy editing & proofreading (the type she was quoting), I can tell you that most indie authors can not afford that—nor will they pay it. They'll either go cheap and hope for the best, or they'll publish without professional edits and will continue to promote the stereotype of self-pubs putting out subpar work. This is why I offer more affordable pricing with options. I hate the idea that talented work is out there, unedited. In all other aspects of life, we manage to find the money and time for things that are important to us—and yet when it comes to editing a novel into which you've put your time, sweat, imagination, and future writing reputation, there's an attitude of "It's more than I want to pay, so it's okay to go without this step."

I can't compete with Reedsy, and thankfully I don't have to. The authors I've worked with are determined to put forth the best product they possibly can, and I help them to do so. Is a big name like Reedsy worth it? I don't know, since I'd have to compare their work side by side to my own. I do know the editors I've spoken with (who have been approached by Reedsy) say they prefer to work as freelancers because Reedsy doesn't pay well. One guy posted a status update last night, saying, "That time when you took a low-paying job with a big publishing house, hoping it would lead to bigger, better jobs . . . and six months later, I got another from them, at half the rate they paid last time. Never again. I much prefer working with the author directly."

It makes me wonder if, when all is said and done, their [Reedsy's] editors—and perhaps those employed by other large editing/publishing houses—aren't making a whole lot more than I am. Except in this case, the author is paying the difference.

Read that last sentence again. If we're making about the same, why not cut out the middleman—the one who isn't doing the work—and pay the freelancer directly? I may be biased, but it sure seems more cost-effective to me.

And now a shameless plug from our sponsor: 

For the month of October, I'm running a special on editing packages for 2018, and it's pretty doggone good, so you may wish to check it out on my "Special Offers" tab. Plus you get to see a kickin' photo of an old, happy guy playing the accordion with one hand while holding a large mug of beer in the other. (Yeah, that'll get you running over there . . .)

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Book Talk with Lynda: Special Guest Brandon Ax

Hey, everyone! Today marks the beginning of something special, and I’m glad you’re here to share it. Back in the day when free time was in abundance (about three or four years ago), S.K. Anthony and I used to get together for coffee on a weekly basis and talk about all kinds of things bookish. Pure intellectual stuff, it was. Or something like that.

[Side note: If you ever have time—and brain cells—to kill, check out my Coffee Chat tab. But start at the beginning or it will never make any sense. Um . . . and starting with the first one doesn’t actually guarantee the subsequent ones will make sense, but it helps.]

Here I was, missing the days when S.K. used to break into my house (before she had her own key made), take over my kitchen, and chat with me awhile about everything relating to writing and reading. So I decided to invite someone over today to talk about book stuff. I thought about who would be too polite to say no, and chose Brandon Ax because he’s from the South, and we all know how polite southerners are. Right? Not only did he say yes (I knew it!) but he just so happens to have a new book coming out in a few days, so I won’t have to pull out my 3x5 index cards of Conversation Starters for Awkward Moments.

[Heads toward the kitchen.] Hmm . . . he’s actually waiting outside the door. How odd. I guess I’ll have to get used to guests waiting for me to let them into my house.

L: [Opens door to let him in.] Hey, Brandon! Welcome to the very first Book Talk with Lynda. Make yourself comfy and I’ll grab you a cup of coffee.

B: [Walks in and takes a seat at the table.] Oh thanks! Actually a glass of water would be great.

L: [Pours cup of coffee and plops it down in front of him.] Here you go! Drink up; I made plenty.

B: Um . . . thanks.

L: So hey, I’m pretty excited that the third book in your Light Bringer series is coming out on Monday. I’ve actually read it and I’m still excited because that means it’s official, and everyone else can enjoy it too. Are you feeling any sadness at saying goodbye to the characters?

B: [Nudges the coffee cup around.] There is a bit of sadness. Although who knows what the future holds. They have been a part of my life for so long I don’t know that I can truly stop telling stories about them. However, I am really excited about the things I am working on now. [Waits for Lynda to turn her attention to the oven, where something smells wonderful, and promptly pours coffee in the cat’s dish.]

L: I’m excited about homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast! They go so well with the coffee, and they’ll cheer up your sadness. [Hands over full plate.] So of course I have my favorite characters—seriously, Zander is my fave—but I loved the addition of new characters in Light Bringer. Some of them, I wanted to punch, but I’m sure you may have felt the same way. Have you ever had a bad-guy character where you were like, “Ooooooh, if you weren’t essential to the plot I would kill you so fast . . . better watch yourself, mister . . .”

B: [Takes a soft, warm roll from the plate and tries not to make too many “mmm” sounds as he bites in.] Well, I try not to write villains as much as antagonists. As such I get into their heads and find their motivation. In the end, although I don’t like the things they do, I understand where they are coming from. Having said that, there is a Weaver in the first book who made me contemplate interesting ways to kill a character. She was particularly vile and her motivations were pretty self-centered and obnoxious.  

L: She really was. I was hoping she’d get it good. And what if Lynn or Sidney or Connor or any of the gang starts talking to you again? Would this particular storyline continue somehow, or would you come from a completely different direction?

B: That’s the thing, right? They never really stop talking to me. There may or may not be a document. In this possible document, there may or may not be the beginnings of something. I will just have to wait and see what happens. I do have a prequel in the works mostly geared around Aiden. Also there are a few side characters in this last book who are screaming for a spin-off.  

L: What a tease. I would love any or all of those, so write as quickly and as often as you can. [Looks to the side as something whizzes by.] Whoa! Check out AndyAndy! I don't know what that's all about . . . that cat never moves that fast! But anyway, I know you're also an artist . . . does art have anything to do with what you're working on right now? And let me refill that coffee for you.

B: I'm really not that much of a—

L: Here you go! [Places a steaming mug in front of him.]

B: [Sighs.] Thanks . . .

L: So, those other interests and projects . . .?

B: [Watches the cat run laps around the table.] Yeah, I do a lot. I have always drawn, but I also love to paint and make clay figures. I have illustrated a book for someone and even dabble a bit in writing songs. Writing is my first love and will always win out, but I figured I could use some of those others here as well. So one thing I am doing as part of the giveaway is painting pictures so I can give away some prints. Would you like to see them? [Goes to grab another roll and promptly pours the coffee in a house plant.]

L: Are you kidding me? YES. I’ve seen some of your clay figures in the past, and think the book you illustrated has an adorable cover. Of course I’m a big fan of songwriting, too, and taking a peek at your paintings is naturally the next step. Doing a giveaway of the paintings is a phenomenal idea and I think your readers will really love it. What are you waiting for? Gosh, you’d think those two cups of coffee would have kicked in by now. Let me refill that cup while you grab your paintings.

B: But I—

L: Bottoms up, my man. [Lifts mug to “cheers” him.]

B: [Clinks mug in despair.] Thanks . . . Oh, by the way, can I have a glass of water, too? Because . . . coffee makes me . . . thirsty. Yeah, that’s it.

L: There you go. [Hands over a tall glass of water, almost dropping it as Brandon grabs frantically at it.] Hydration is the key, right?

B: Right!


L: Wow, these are great! Connor, Lynn, and Zander. But I thought you said you were bringing four with you.

B: I did. But now I can't— [Cuts off abruptly as AndyAndy races by with a painting in his mouth.] Never mind.

L: Uh . . . sorry.

B: [Sighs.] So I was thinking, it may be cool for people to read an excerpt from Light Bringer. I mean I wouldn’t want to spoil anything big, so some stuff may be redacted. In fact, it's in that file right behind you. [Waits for her to turn and pours full cup into her nearly empty one.]

L: That was . . .

B: Riveting—I know.

L: I’m still catching my breath.

So hey, everyone, I hope you enjoyed the very very VERY first Book Talk, with my special guest, Brandon Ax. And if you haven’t read Brandon’s first two books, Elemental and Ashes, then I have no idea what you’re waiting for, but you’re in for a treat when you do. Light Bringer will be released on Monday, September 25, so you will want to be caught up and ready to continue the adventure.

You can find Brandon at his website: Brandon Ax
At his blog: Writer's Storm
On Facebook: Brandon Ax: Author
On Twitter: @BrandonAx
And on Instagram: axbrandon

I’m here, of course, because it’s my blog and nobody invites me anywhere else. But you can also find me on my ERE Facebook page and on Instagram as easyreaderediting. Follow me to see what kinds of trouble I can manage on other social media (I post different things in different places), which basically means take your chances on being bored, or completely stunned and amazed.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Editor's Notes #38: Dialogue Part 3—Those @#$!$%^ Tags

This is the third and final part in my series on dialogue. Click HERE to read Part One—Regional Overkill, and click HERE to read Part Two—Sounding Real.

Book after book has been written about them. Blog after blog has featured articles with cautionary tales. And yet . . . the overly awkward dialogue tag still manages to work its way out of the garbage can and into manuscripts the world over.

In fact, while researching for this post, I was astounded at the number of articles I found which advocated "the death of 'Said'" and "making your dialogue more interesting with anything but 'said'" and other generally bad advice.

I'm not saying there's never a good moment for a shout here and there, but the advice to young writers on various teaching blogs & forums goes directly against the advice of best-selling authors, who sometimes advise to skip tags altogether as often as possible, and more often suggest "said" or "asked" as a way of making the tag disappear.

Personally, I tend to skim over dialogue tags when I'm reading, so I like the idea of eliminating them more often than not, unless the conversation becomes confusing. Maybe it's because I read decent books that use "said" and "asked" and, as promised by those high-level authors, those two particular words become invisible after a little while.

No one wants to read the old-fashioned (and thankfully, almost never used) "he ejaculated" as a dialogue tag. The more obscure tags will pull a reader from the story as physically as tipping him out of his chair. Think of how often you've read "blustered," "queried," "wailed," "bellowed," "quipped," and the like. I don't know about you, but when I read those words, in my mind the character is instantly replaced by the Skipper from Gilligan's Island, a blusterer & bellower from way back. Or suddenly the character is Lucille Ball, wailing her trademark waaahhh.

Elimination of dialogue tags in certain spots can be effective for quick back-and-forth action. If your characters are written distinctly, their manner of speech should indicate easily enough who's talking.

Another mistake inexperienced writers often make is to use dialogue tags that don't work in the physical world:

  • "I love you," she breathed. Nope. You can't breathe in while speaking. And breathing out is not the same as forcing air through your mostly closed vocal cords.
  • "Don't do that," he growled. Nope again. Try growling and saying anything intelligible. You're not Batman.
  • "Get over here, NOW," she hissed. Double nope. Hissing and speaking don't mix, and hissing sounds usually require the use of the letter "s." Just ask Harry Potter.
  • "What do you mean, you won't?" he barked. Nooooope. Unless it's a dog literally barking, and you understand that he sounds like arf arf woof woof grrr but you can translate it in your head like a foreign language, or—oh, forget it. You get my point.
So . . . to recap these three posts neatly: don't overuse regional dialect and slang, make sure your characters sound as real as the people around you, and make those dialogue tags disappear, whether literally or figuratively.

I'd love to know: Have you ever read a truly abominable dialogue tag? Have you written one you regret (or that your editor made you regret until you removed it)?

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Editor's Notes #37: Dialogue Part 2—Sounding Real

This is Part 2 in a series about dialogue. If you missed reading Part 1 where I talk about regional overkill and writing accents, feel free to check it out here.

I'm not sure how this happens, but for some writers, there is a major disconnect between conversing with people in real life and writing about people conversing. Why is writing dialogue so difficult for people who talk to others on a regular basis?

I think the major hurdle for many writers to overcome is making dialogue "proper" according to grammar rules. There's only one problem with that: dialogue rarely sounds grammatically correct.

Before you write dialogue for your characters, watch people for a while, and listen to them talk. Yes, I'm asking you to stalk a little . . . for research purposes, of course. I'm willing to bet you see at least a few of the following:

  • Contractions—Most people use contractions when speaking, and yet so many writers are shy about using them for dialogue. "I do not understand" sounds a lot more stiff than "I don't understand." I did edit a novel once with one character who never used contractions (much like Data in Star Trek: The Next Generation), but that was used as a distinguishing trait for a particular purpose.
  • Multiple Threads at Once—Any parent can relate to this. Or anyone who's looked at a chat window between S.K. Anthony and me. More often than not, there is more than one conversation going on at once, even if there are only two people involved. Somehow, we keep it all straight; conversation is rarely linear.
  • Mishearing—Conversations happen in a variety of places, and not all of them are quiet. Is your character talking on the phone, or are children playing around those talking? Someone is bound to say, "What?" at some point. My specialty, according to my husband, is talking to him from two rooms away in our house. I get a lot of responses that sound something like, "I can hear you but I can't understand you," and "You're not talking to me, are you?"
  • Getting Sidetracked/Self-Interruption—These two sort of go hand in hand. I get sidetracked all the time when I'm talking, and my kids make fun of me for it. I tend to be thinking of lots of things while talking, and this results in my sentence either changing midstream, or fading off altogether. Real conversation between me and my daughter in the car:
Me: I'm so thankful . . . [gets distracted by oncoming traffic]
Ellie: [waits a few moments, then speaks] . . . for . . .?
Me: [looks around] Four what? Where?
Ellie: Thankful. For. What. What are you thankful for? You never finished.
Me: Oh . . . I'm thankful someone's picking up your brother so I don't have to.

  • Body Language/Movement—These are essential in conversations. People don't stand straight at attention, facing each other to deliver their scripted lines in a tidy order. They move, they fidget, they pace, they do the dishes or fold laundry or any number of things. Sometimes their bodies reveal more than their speech does. S.K. Anthony did a four-part series on Using Body Language in Your Novel that shows how many ways your body language can help you or give away all your secrets.
  • Sentence Fragments—These differ from self-interruption or getting sidetracked, in that you don't need to be sidetracked to speak in fragments. People don't converse in the manner we all had to use in high school English tests, where we had to put our answer in the form of a full sentence. "What's for supper?" "Chicken piccata." You'll hear that as an answer far more often than "For supper, I'm making chicken piccata."
  • Age is Relevant—Children don't sound like adults when they speak (though they do come up with gems every so often), so don't write the six-year-old's dialogue as if she has the insight and wisdom of a sixty-year-old. Kids are pretty simple: they want things and are happy when they get them.
These examples are a fraction of the things to consider. There are awkward silences. Sometimes when people talk, they can't always recall the facts, so their speech is peppered with uncertainty and fishing around in their brains for the right word. Someone might always say, "Ya know?" between phrases.

Something I hadn't considered when writing this post is the dialogue info dump. I'm so glad I ran across this gem in an article by Janice Hardy on NowNovel. Her number one tip on writing dialogue is "Stop using dialogue for information dumps." She points out that starting a conversation with "As you know . . ." is ridiculous. If the other person knows, then why is Person #1 repeating it all? Her advice on how to tell if you're info-dumping in dialogue or not:
When characters share information, says Janice, "If the information is for the reader's benefit, chances are you're dumping. If the information is for the character's benefit (or detriment), chances are it's fine."
In the situation above, I always think of the boss who talks to his employee while perusing through the employee's file folder. "As you know, Joe, ten years ago when you were just a rookie, you took down that laundry-laundering operation singlehandedly even though your dog's cousin was going through psychotherapy for his issues with the neighbor's cat. I know that caused your divorce, but you can't keep blaming yourself by refusing to go to the laundromat."

Don't be afraid to read your dialogue aloud after you've written it . . . to "speak it out." It may sound natural or you may come to the sudden realization that it doesn't. Picture yourself saying those words to a friend (or an enemy, depending on the dialogue). Think of those awkward homemade commercials—Hey, Susan, you're looking so fit and trim! What's your secret? Is it that new 24-hour gym, Fat2Fit, at 123 Barbell Street?—and . . . don't do that.

People don't speak perfectly. Dialogue is not structured the same as a prepared speech given to a crowd, and is more often than not grammatically incorrect. Just let it happen and don't stress the specifics.