Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Publishing 101.2 - Line Edits

Hi sweet readers! I thought I'd do a series of posts detailing my experiences taking Publishing 101 via publication of my debut novel.

My goal is to publish a book that is indistinguishable to my readers from any novel from a Big Five publisher.  It can be done - in fact, finding such a novel is the one thing that finally got me off my butt and pushed me to self-publish ONE.

Just as a traditionally published book has a huge team of professionals behind it, ONE does as well. My plan is to blog about every step of the process from agent-approved manuscript to published book. 

It's time to talk about.....
LINE EDITS!!!! Wooooot!!!!

(I really like line edits, but if you don't, you're not a freak. One of my besties hates them. So.)

We covered developmental edits in the last two Publishing 101 posts here and here, and in the comments, some of you seemed to think that developmental and line edits were one and the same. 

Now, sometimes your developmental editor might go through the MS a second time to do line edits, but it is a completely different type of editing. 

The basic difference is this - Developmental editing is macro, line editing is micro. 
Developmental editors catch the big stuff; character issues, plot holes, thematic dissonance. 
Line editors catch the little stuff.

Here are some examples of what embarrassing little things my line editor found in the FINAL DRAFT of One: 

Character Inconsistencies

Things that you "just know" or "just make sense to you" about your character that don't really jive for anyone else.

Example: In one scene, I had Merrin "looking down as usual." That was supposed to communicate that she was shy and timid, a detail of her personality I'd eliminated in FIRST ROUND EDITS. Almost A YEAR AGO. Jamie caught it in my final line edit.


I had Merrin driving to school "The next week" but at the end of that passage she said it was "day two" at her new school.

Yep. At Least twice.

Inconsistency in emotion.

Merrin would realize she liked someone, then say a few words that indicated distrust a couple paragraphs later; that made no sense.

Inconsistency in action.

In one scene, I  had Merrin climbing on a rock when she can float. I changed her to floating, but never removed the rock. I've known this for two drafts, and somehow had never gotten around to combing through and removing completely.

Stupid lines and tangents that ruin the flow of prose and/or don't make sense.

Erased completely. Enough said.

Extra Spaces. So many extra spaces. 

Everywhere. OMG.

By the time Jamie was done doing line edits on a manuscript that I considered absolutely perfect and polished, she had just over 200 line edit notes. 

Two hundred. 

Two hundred mistakes that may or may not have been caught by my copy editor and proofreader (those posts to come!) that would have been printed and formatted for digital copies and been there for readers to find and be frustrated over in the version for sale.

So. If you're self publishing, make sure that either your developmental editor or your copyeditor will do fine-tooth-combed line edits. If they don't, hire someone who will. TRUST ME.

See you next time for Publishing 101.3 - COPY EDITS!!!!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Publishing 101.1 part 2 - Hiring an Editor

Hi sweet readers! I thought I'd do a series of posts detailing my experiences taking Publishing 101 via publication of my debut novel.

My goal is to publish a book that is indistinguishable to my readers from any novel from a Big Five publisher.  It can be done - in fact, finding such a novel is the one thing that finally got me off my butt and pushed me to self-publish ONE.

Just as a traditionally published book has a huge team of professionals behind it, ONE does as well. My plan is to blog about every step of the process from agent-approved manuscript to published book. 

Today, please welcome Clare Davidson, author of the YA fantasy TRINITY. She hired a freelance developmental editor for her work, and since I didn't choose to do that, I begged her to write a post all about it just so you all could see why this step is important for those who don't have a pro team of readers like I did. 

Please feel free to ask anything - you can comment below or chat with Clare on Twitter - and thanks for reading! Take it away, Clare!

If you're planning on publishing independently, you want to release the best, most polished product possible–right?

  Editing is a step that NO ONE can skip and I really mean NO ONE, can skip.

I know we're here to talk about self publishing, but let's just look at the traditional publishing route for a minute. Those who are lucky enough to land an agent, will work with that agent to polish their book before it gets peddled around publishers. Those who are even luckier and snag themselves a publishing deal, will work with an editor to polish their book again and AGAIN until it's the best it can be. A publisher isn't going to spend money on a print run, or marketing for a book they don't think is polished enough to sell.

You've decided to go the indie route. You've almost certainly got less capital to play with than a publishing house and you might not even want a print run. However, that doesn't mean that you can skimp on editing. The same principle applies–why would you want to release something that isn't polished enough to sell?

Now, some people are lucky enough to have awesome crit partners who give them an honest appraisal of their work, point out what needs improvement and offer suggestions on HOW it could be improved. Personally, I'm not one of the lucky ones. I don't have time to reciprocate critiques, so it's unfair of me to ask others to critique my work. If you're in my boat, you need to hire an editor. Really, you do. Trust me, you'll thank me when your book is available to buy and you're getting awesome reviews (at the time of writing, my debut novel, Trinity, has SEVENTEEN five star reviews on Amazon UK).

So, how do you go about finding an editor? Search on Google and you'll find a wealth of websites–that's one way. However, I recommend you ask other writers for leads, or check out the person who edited an independent book you loved reading. That way, you're likely to find someone who already has a proven track record. Short list a few and contact them–if they're not willing to edit a sample of your work (usually the first chapter) free of charge, then run for the hills. A good editor WILL NOT charge you for a sample. You need to know their style is right for you and VICE VERSA. The writer-editor relationship is a two way one. You're hiring them to help make your work shine, so you have to be able to take their advice. 

A good editor will suggest changes that are in keeping with your style. If you think that the changes they're suggesting will kill your "voice", they aren't the editor for you. Also, check how many passes the editor is going to give your work. Look for an editor that will go through your manuscript at least twice.

A quick tip–the more popular an editor is, the more of a waiting list they'll have. DON'T wait until you've typed 'The End' on your novel to find an editor, or you might have a long wait on your hands. Choose an editor much earlier than that and agree a date when you'll turn your manuscript over to them. Working to a deadline can make you surprisingly productive, trust me!

Another tip–try to plan in time to make your own revisions before you turn it over to your editor. You'd polish your novel before giving it to crit partners and beta readers, wouldn't you? Your editor shouldn't be an exception to this.

Right, it's time to talk money. How much will all this cost? Well, that's really an open ended question, like "how long is a piece of string?" The longer an editor has been in the business (and the more success stories they have), the more they can charge. Someone just striking out in the field is going to cost you a lot less. Most editors charge by the word, but use your sample to gauge how much time the editing process is going to take and give you a quote based on the quality of that. Remember I told you to revise your manuscript first? Yeah, that's why. It could save you money. Depending on the size of your manuscript, at the top end you could be looking at up to $2000 to hire an editor (more if you're writing the next War and Peace). However, at the lower end of the spectrum you could probably hire an editor for less than $200, if you go with someone just starting out. For many of us, that's a much more realistic amount to be looking at. However much you decide you can afford to spend, remember it's a long term investment. Unless you're incredibly lucky you're not going to sell thousands, or even hundreds, of copies straight away. Building up a fan base takes time. The beauty of publishing independently is that your book stays on the market for as long as you want it to, giving you as much time as you need to recoup your costs and start making profit.

Publishing independently is a leap of faith, but it's a lot less of a leap if you know that you're putting the best product possible out there for public consumption.

A huge thank you to Leigh Ann for asking me to write this guest post :) I've said it before and I'll probably say it a hundred times more–good luck with publishing One!

Thank you so much for being here, Clare! Really, this was an AWESOME post. You are the greatest. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Drop Everything and Read WARM BODIES Now - a Guest Post by Zoara Christman

Hey, sweet readers!
I'm super lucky that, as part of my day job, I get to have amazing conversations with college students about what interests and moves them, and that sometimes includes books. I was having lunch with Zoara a couple of weeks ago and she could not stop freaking out over how amazing WARM BODIES, a not-your-average-zombie novel by Isaac Marion, was. 

So I asked her to write a review, so we could hopefully sell some more copies for the esteemed Mr. Marion AND let Zoara showcase her mad reviewing abilities in a warm, enthusiastic environment.

So read, interact, and encourage her, won't you? And then follow her on Twitter at @zoaralou. She's pretty fabulous.

Drop Everything and Read Warm Bodies Now
Zoara Christman

I got on the Warm Bodies wagon relatively late, only hearing of the film and the novel after seeing the trailer for the adaptation in a showing of Breaking Dawn: Part II. (I realize this might lower my credibility to some the readers of this review, but what if I said I was taken as a hostage?)  Anyway, after seeing the trailer-- which looked quirky and cool-- I waited 115 squirmy minutes for the closing credits to roll so I could pull out my phone and buy the Kindle edition of the Warm Bodies novel. Truthfully, I wanted to see if it was anything like the "saga" haunting the sides of movie theater cups since 2008.

When I read a few other reviews of WARM BODIES, the general consensus seemed to be that it is a "zombie-romance." This put me off because of the recent  "supernatural romance" fad which has come about in the past decade or so. And although there are some nicely written stories out there, many supernatural romances seem to use the genre as a way to attract more buyers, not a way to illustrate a point made in the novels. I began reading Marion's piece with anything but an open mind. However, after the four Starbucks-soaked hours I spent hunched over my screen and another four hours rereading, I was as dazed and slack-jawed as... well, you know.

What immediately struck me about this work from Marion is that most of the story is narrated from the perspective of R., a likeable member of the Dead whose terse inner-monologue grows to be more descriptive as he forms relationships with Julie and other members of the Living. Marion takes his readers from a world that reads like it should be black and white to a descriptive and emotional world filled with color, passion, and music. In addition to his skilled development of the protagonist, Marion also plays with the different perspectives of Perry, the victim of R. and Julie's late boyfriend. In one excerpt, Marion even writes from the perspective of a newborn version of Perry.

Another thing I loved about reading this is Marion's use of the animosity between the Living and the Dead to illustrate overarching themes in his novel. Rather than plugging it into the story and appealing to the fad, the non-living characters are used to draw attention to the fact that without hope and love we put ourselves in danger of becoming shells, skeletons of what was human before a fever of hate burned away humanity. And even with the morbid notes that appear in this novel, the writing in Warm Bodies seems to enforce a notion that people who want to hope, or have hope, even while they are being swallowed by surrounding chaos, can not only claw themselves out, but recue others as well.

I would like to press that this review is brief. In my opinion, the novel has layers upon layers of juicy meaning. My best advice as a book lover and reviewer is just read this. This novel is funny, beautifully written, and well thought out. It appeals to lovers of humor, romance, literature (the whole text is a Where's Waldo of Romeo and Juliet references), music, and horror. Creative, daring, and inspirational, Warm Bodiesmakes an unfairly dismissed genre not only worth reading, but reading not to be missed.

And finally, I will express my one critique: Marion's novel leaves me with enormous expectations for the film adaptation. Good luck, Summit Entertainment, I'll see you February 1st.

Warm Bodies: A Novel
And! Buy WARM BODIES here!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Publishing 101.1 - One Last Round of Readers

Hi sweet readers! I thought I'd do a series of posts detailing my experiences taking Publishing 101 via publication of my debut novel.

My goal is to publish a book that is indistinguishable to my readers from any novel from a Big Five publisher.  It can be done - in fact, finding such a novel is the one thing that finally got me off my butt and pushed me to self-publish ONE.

Just as a traditionally published book has a huge team of professionals behind it, ONE does as well. My plan is to blog about every step of the process from agent-approved manuscript to published book. Please feel free to ask anything, and thanks for reading!

So. Your manuscript has been polished and shined to a high gloss, and gotten the thumbs up from (almost) everyone who's read it.
So, it's ready to go to a copyeditor for spelling, grammar, and punctuation check, right?

No. Nopppe.

There are two stages I sent my manuscript through before I even thought about sending it to my copyeditor.

For many people, the first of those those steps is hiring a developmental editor - someone who reads the MS and points out problems with characterization, plot, structure, worldbuilding, pacing - all big issues with the MS that someone who's so very close to it (you, dear writer) can't really tell how to fix, and may not even know are there. (Since I didn't  hire an editor, I've asked my dear friend Clare Davidson to post later in the week on her experience working with a developmental editor. Can't wait.)

In my case, I'd had dozens (literally) of readers, completed a revise and resubmit for an agent, and had the manuscript prepped for submission to editors by my agent, so *my* first was finding one last round of readers. I picked a diverse group - all serious writers, two published, one teen, one college student. These people had gone through dozens of manuscripts' worth of critique themselves, whether theirs or someone else's. They knew how to spot MS trouble a mile away, had never seen the MS before, and weren't afraid to give me honest feedback.

At first, I thought this was more for my peace of mind than anything else, but when the comments came back, I discovered why I really needed one last round of readers:

They called out stuff that I knew, deep down, was a problem, but was waiting for an editor to tell me how to fix once a Big Five house bought my book.

Yeah. I know. I'm not really proud of that. But I am being open and honest here, so....yeah.

For ONE, the big example was the pacing in the first half of the book. The book has romance and sci-fi in pretty equal parts, which is fine. The problem was that the romance was the first half and the sci-fi was the second, mostly (oops.) I'd addressed this a little more deeply with each edit, but whispers of this issue were still there. I knew it was kind of maybe sort of a problem, but one final-round reader in particular kicked my butt into high gear to really take care of it.

The other benefit of these last round readers was that they were the beginning of the end of finally, finally killing my darlings.

Again, these were things that I totally loved about my manuscript and wanted to see if I could slip under an editor's nose, knowing full well that I probably couldn't. The biggest example was bits and pieces of snark from the main character, Merrin. I originally wrote this girl to have a pretty strong attitude and a mouth without a filter, and remnants of that still came out in places that rubbed one of my readers, in particular, the wrong way. He called them out, and I knew he was right - they had to change. *Sigh*

Anyway, if you've taken the plunge of deciding to self-publish your book, do yourself and your future readers a favor and put it through a developmental editor or one last round of (seriously kickass) readers. The worst thing that could happen is that they would come back and say "It's perfect!" right?

Next up: Publishing 101.1 part two - Working with a developmental editor, a guest post by Clare Davidson.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

From Writer to Author

ONE has always been a misfit of a book. This story about a girl with half a superpower and a boy who makes her fly grabbed onto me one late summer morning and hasn't let me go since. It has also defied genre classification and YA-lit cliche, which, I have to admit, I'm proud of.  I poured my heart and soul into writing, revising, and shaping it for nearly a year, and I dreamed of publishing it since I wrote the very first scene.

ONE has been lucky to have many readers - dozens, actually - and got mostly positive feedback.

I was delighted, if not super shocked, when my agent also fell in love with ONE. It hadn't had the best luck querying, and the fact that Agent Tricia not only loved the story, but understood it, had me hopeful that publishers would feel the same way.

The novel went on submission in the late summer. I was so lucky that some of the biggest names in publishing agreed to read the manuscript, and that all of them loved the concept - X-men meets Sky High - and praised my writing. Each one, though, felt that something stood in the way of being able to take it on - something different each time, in fact. 

What it boils down to is this: 
The publishers we submitted to don't think they can sell ONE, but that's okay. 
Because I think I can. 

 I'm thrilled to announce that ONE, my debut novel about a girl with only half a superpower and her struggle to make herself whole, will be published on June 11th, 2013.

The sequel, TWO, will release on October 8, 2013. 

Does this mean that I'm giving up on traditional publishing? Goodness, no, not at all! (In fact, my agent's submitting my YA Contemporary Mansfield Park redux, SOLVING FOR EX, to editors right now.) All this means is that I feel that this is the best way to get this particular book to readers at this particular time.

Am I scared? Heccccck yes. But ever since I've read this blog post from one of my heroes, Tammara Webber, its message has been my mantra. It's okay to be scared, but don't be frozen.

What I'm excited about:
  • I'm in control. The final edit of ONE reflects my vision for the story and characters, and no one else's. I can price the book where I want to, and release new material whenever I want.
  • I'm not alone. I've already assembled an incredible team, from editors to a cover designer to formatters to marketing artists to a shiny new assistant, who will all have a heavy hand in making ONE the best that it can be.
  • I'm not the first. I have friends and role models who are open and honest about this process, helping me along each step of the way. 
  • I am supported. Every single person I've told about my decision has been nothing less than supportive.  Beginning with my closest critique partners, so many people are holding my hand and lifting me up through the very toughest parts of this endeavor.
  • My career options are wide open. My agent believes that a hybrid publishing model is possible, exciting, and supports me 100%. I'm so very, very lucky to have a knowledgeable and visionary publishing professional on my side, and to be backed by one of the best children's agencies in the business

What I'm bummed about:
  • There's still some pretty heavy stigma out there. I can't join debut author blogs because I'm not traditionally published, and most book bloggers won't even consider a self-published title for review.
  • My book won't be in book stores. Yeah, it was part of the dream. For now, I'm okay with letting it go.
  • It's not cheap. Would I have loved for a publisher to pay the up-front costs of putting a quality novel up for sale? Yes. Is it worth the cost? Yes, and I'll pay it. Gladly.

All in all, I'm incredibly happy and confident with my decision. I can't wait for this book to be out in the world. I can't wait for people to read it. It's going to be a great year. 

In the words of my excellent assistant, John Hansen, I'm going to rock this. And when I do, I'll have all of you to thank. 

Speaking of you, a lot of you have been asking what you can do to help (and I love you so hard for that.) There will be cover reveals and blog tours to arrange, and John and I will be in touch with many of you about that. But the most important thing you can do is simple: if you are excited about ONE, talk about it. Online, at school, at work. In reviews or in the grocery checkout. Nothing is more crucial to the success of a book than word of mouth, and I am so grateful to any of you who mentions ONE in a blog post, on the phone with your mom, or somewhere on Twitter.

Lastly, you can add and follow and like ONE all over the internet. Here are the links:

Add ONE to Goodreads
"Like" ONE on Facebook
Sign up for my newsletter
Pre-order ONE

Thank you, thank you, thank you. You, sweet readers and supporters, are what make my world go 'round.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Why We Do Redux(es)

Hey sweet readers!

Raise your hand if you love the movie CLUELESS.

Cher is snobby, rich, and entitled, yet somehow we still love her. The way she sets up Miss Geist and Mr. Hall,  takes Tai under her wing and, by the end of the movie, totally comes around about resident stoner Travis - it's all so awesome. And that ending with Josh? *swoon.*

It's almost as awesome - maybe, in some ways, better than - the original CLUELESS:

Or what about TEN THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU? The old school spoiled-yet-classic quirkiness of Padua High, the beautifully bitchy Kat, and the way Patrick Verona wins her - and our - heart? The adorable romance between Cameron and Bianca?  There's actually nothing like it.

Unless there was, like four hundred years ago.
The Taming of the Shrew (Dover Thrift Editions)

Reduxes, or retellings, aren't confined to epically awesome movies from the 90s. They have popped up all over Young Adult literature in recent years. CINDER by Marissa Meyer, SPLINTERED by AG Howard, and FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS by Diana Peterfreund are all awesome examples. (I know there are dozens more - these were off the top of my head.)

Why do we love retellings of classic literature so much? Why do we cling to it and retell it over, and over, and over again?

I can think of a few reasons:

- These stories have timeless themes. Love, the meaning of life, mourning loss, getting over our prejudices (and our pride. Hee.) Sacrifice and despair and overcoming it all. The ridiculousness and utter hilarity of life and clashing personalities. The simple truth that some people will always be kind and some will always be self centered and some will always, always, be jerks. The stories that make the best reduxes have themes that carry through the centuries and speak to the heart of what it means to be human.

- Drama is Drama is Drama is OMG SO AWESOME.  The way humans treat each other, and the emotions that tug at the human heart in reaction to their interactions, is just delicious. Using the examples above - When Josh (Mr. Knightley, swoon) told Cher (Emma) she was acting childish - when Kat finally maybe sorta kinda agrees to go out with Patrick (Pertruchio) - they ,make our hearts sink or soar because we have been there. *Sigh*

- These stories are good. They are smart. The plot twists and turns surprise us and delight us. The characters are unique and brilliant and funny and achingly beautiful, each in their own way. It's no wonder we want to tell them again and again, to turn them around to different angles and explore every possibility of how to tell the story. And, most of all, we want to make them accessible for people who might not be inclined to pick up a copy of the original.

I had so much fun writing a contemporary retelling of MANSFIELD PARK, one of my Austen favorites, this summer. It's called SOLVING FOR EX, because it's about Mathletes (hee.) I'm so very excited that it went out on submission to editors yesterday. I'm dying to see whether a publisher will pick up this retelling that recasts young ladies and gentlemen falling in and out of love as Mathletes navigating their way through high school, crushes, and catfights. Especially is exciting that, if it sold soon, it could be published in 2014 - Two hundred years after the original publication date.

I really hope my little retelling would make Ms. Austen smile.

What about you, my sweeties? What reduxes do you love, and why do you love them?

Saturday, January 5, 2013

I'm Jealous.

Hi, sweet readers. 

I have a confession to make.

I'm jealous. 

I'm lucky to be friends with a lot of incredible writers, who also happen to be amazing people in general. As it happens, a pattern seems to be emerging with a lot of them -

They're also successful.
Like, really awesome things are happening to them.

Agents are fighting over them!
They're getting book deals (for two books! And three books! And getting paid real money! OMG!)
Their books are in the Amazon top 100! And they get fan mail!

And when that happens?  I'm over-the-moon happy for them.
And I'm also jealous of them.

Don't compare yourself; we are all unique. So true!
 I totally compare myself to everyone.
But I don't let it steal my joy,
if that's what 's making that chick jump around on the beach with balloons.
I never do that anyway.

I think so often the word jealous has a negative connotation. 
But I think - and I really, really, believe this - that "I wish that would happen for me" does not automatically mean "And I wish that didn't happen to her."

We all know that this is a business. And we all know that this is a subjective business. That means that very, very rarely are we ever in real, direct competition with our fellow writers. Because each piece of work is so different, there are no consistent factors that lead to success, and there are not very many situations where we're honestly going head-to-head.

So, in one example, someone didn't get a book deal over me - she just got a book deal, and I didn't. Yet.

When a friend of mine celebrates a success, and I feel jealous, it tells me something - I want what she has. Maybe not the whole thing - maybe I envy the result, and not the path. Or maybe I envy the trappings, but not the core result.

Regardless, allowing myself to feel jealousy helps me identify what I want, and why - and how - I want it. That's not such a bad thing at all.

So I tell my friends I'm jealous of them all the time. They know it means I think that what's happening to them is so freaking awesome that I wish it was happening for me, too. In the next breath, and probably also in the one before it, I tell them that I'm so, so, SO happy for them. And they know that means...well...exactly what it means. I really, truly am happy, too.

Yes, it's possible to be both jealous of and ecstatic for someone. My friends are so badassed that it happens to me all the time. You know who you are. *wink*

What about you?