Friday, October 28, 2011

A Good Editor is Worth Her Weight in Gold

Last week I received edits for Artifact back from my fantastic editor, Ramona DeFelice Long.

When I made the decision to publish my mystery series myself, I knew that working with an editor was one step of the process that was essential not to skip.

In spite of years of learning the craft of writing, being blessed with an amazing group of critique readers, and having a brilliant agent who took me through two substantial rounds of edits on my first manuscript — none of those experiences was the same as having an editor.

Learning the craft of writing — through writing workshops, mystery author mentors, and time spent writing — leads to proficient writing that doesn't make a reader throw your book across the room. Having amazing critique readers helps you make sure you're tell a compelling story in a way that makes readers want to keep turning pages. And having a brilliant agent — one who's willing to take a risk on a book she loves because she sees potential — can move your book to the level where publishers take notice. Each is an incredibly important step in the process. But none of them replaces the last key step of having a professional editor review your work.

If I'd signed a contract with a traditional publishing house, I would have worked with the editor who convinced the publisher to buy my book. I was lucky that I'd already worked with an editor who edited two of my mystery short stories accepted into Sisters in Crime Guppies Chapter anthologies. I loved the edits Ramona suggested for my short stories. She really got what I was going for. That was important to me. It was an easy decision to turn to her when I needed to hire an editor myself.

Here's an overview of the type of edits I received for Artifact:

  • Basic edits / aka proofreading. Ramona caught a few remaining typos and awkward phrases. I will never understand how typos still slip through even though I and several other people read the full manuscript many times! It's distracting an unprofessional to spot more than the rarest of errors in published books, and I never would have caught these myself.
  • The next level of edits. It turns out that while I don't have a crutch word I use over and over again, I have crutch phrases. Neither I nor my critique readers had noticed this, which I hope means my readers were so caught up in the story that they failed to notice because they were reading so quickly to find out what happened next. Ramona pointed these out by highlighting the offending phrases. Once I saw them, I realized how distracting they could be.

  • Deep edits. Lastly, the structural assessment was more than I had hoped for. There were two key areas where my manuscript was *good enough,* but she showed me how these sections could be *great.* And for that, I am forever thankful, and I know I made the right decision to work Ramona. 
As I mentioned above, I was lucky I already knew a good editor who was a good fit for my work. There are a lot of good editors out there, but just because they're good doesn't mean they're necessarily right for you. If you're looking for an independent editor, I recommend you start with a small section of your book, such as a few beginning chapters, before committing to a full manuscript critique.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

It's Official!

I received the paperwork in the mail that I can start doing business as Gargoyle Girl Productions!

Even though it's been a lot of work to figure out how I want to create and run my own creative business for design, photography, and writing, I'm becoming more and more convinced that diving into this project is what has helped me stave off "chemo brain."

Chemo brain is the memory fogginess, related to fatigue, that lots of people experience during cancer treatments. Since I feel like I need to sleep at least 10 hours a day right now, at first I could see signs my brain wasn't functioning at full capacity. But I refused to accept that state of affairs. I started going on morning walks in the hills above my house for exercise, signed up for online French lessons to brush up on my French for a trip I'm taking once I'm well, and filled a notebook with research notes about forming Gargoyle Girl Productions and publishing my mystery novels. Next up: Setting up the website with more than a placeholder. And did I mention I'm also back to working full time at my day job?

So far, my plan to foil chemo brain appears to be working. I'm sleeping when I need to, but when I'm awake I'm exercising either my brain or my body. Speaking of which, I think it's just about time for my morning walk.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Tips from a Sisters in Crime Panel on EBooks

In a Pens Fatales blog post last week, I shared my news about forming Gargoyle Girl Productions and publishing my first novel myself. Since then, many people have asked me if I'd be chronicling my journey. I'm doing tons of research and taking lots of notes, so I thought I'd share my journey here on my new blog.

Yesterday I attended a panel on eBooks put on by my local Sisters in Crime chapter. Since my immune system is low from chemo, I donned my opera gloves (shown at left) and told my friends they'd have to take a rain-check on hugs for a couple more months. But I'm so glad I attended! I'm going to be publishing my books as both print books and eBooks, so it was helpful to hear what successful eBook authors had to say.

The authors on the panel were Simon Wood (mystery and horror), Bella Andre (romance), Dana Fredsti (mystery and zombie-fiction).

My Key Take-Aways from the Sisters in Crime NorCal Panel on eBooks:
  1. Everything in eBooks is changing so quickly. What was true last year isn't true today, and what's true today won't necessarily be true next year. 
  2. Covers are just as important for eBooks as for print books. If a current cover isn't generating sales, research your audience and change your cover. It's also a good idea to have a similar style for all your covers in a series so that readers can immediately see it's one of your books.
  3. Blog tours are the flavor of the moment. But before overcommitting yourself, think about how long it takes you to write a witty blog post, and decide if you'd rather be spending more time devoting that energy to your books.
  4. Paid advertising works in some cases. You need to be sure to target your particular readers. Research your market and see where you might want to place targeted online ads.
  5. The thinking on pricing eBooks changes over time, so stay current with your pricing. There's lots of different thinking on pricing, and there are also different audiences who think a book has value at different price points. The one thing the panelists agreed on is that giving away your eBooks for free to begin with to gain readers isn't a successful approach. If you start off free, people won't like the switch to being charged.
  6. For your eBooks to gain the most traction, you need to have lots of books available. If a reader likes one of your books, they want more, and if you've got other books available it's easy for them to get more at the click of a button. 
  7. Novellas are a viable eBook form. Unlike in print, novellas are very popular eBook downloads. They're also a great way to have time to write more eBooks for your eager readers.
I'm especially pleased about the last point, because my natural style of writing is short. It was a stretch for me to write two 75,000-word novels, but I can write much more quickly when writing shorter fiction. I've got rough outlines for several more Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery stories, so I think I'll write some of them as novellas.