“I found a problem,” the author called to tell me, his editor.
“Oh, crap,” I reply. This is not the discussion I want to have with any author.
Here’s the evolution of an editing error. I had worked closely with Mark Langan on his book More Busting Bad Guys — the second in a series of true crime stories of his life on the street as a police officer. We had organized the stories into chapters, and I had done two major editing passes. This after he and his wife, Annette, had read and reread the chapters many times.
Your kid’s artwork on the refrigerator. Your daughter’s ballet recital. Your grandson’s trombone solo. Amazing, right?
And you are objective how?
The same principles apply to your book manuscript. Of course, your spouse or partner will love the work. Your mother-in-law might be a little more critical. And the coworkers you asked to read early drafts have only positive comments (especially if you are their manager).
These early reviewers are not generally your target audience, and they are clearly not objective. …
How often have you heard a speaker in a large venue (okay, not during the plague year, I get that) and then stood in line to buy the speaker’s best-selling book in the back of the room? More often than your credit card wants to remember, right?
But what was it about the speaker that made you want to fork over a twenty for more wisdom? …
“I just want to know if my writing is any good,” my authors often say. I am a nonfiction book editor.
Aha. The fear factor.
Author Anne Lamott and others give you permission to write a shitty (her word) first draft. So do it. You don’t have to show it to anyone. Just bang it out. Even my idol Stephen King roughs out his work with the door closed. It’s the second draft that gets shown to selected critical readers.
With your writing, you’ve got to climb the ladder to reach the high diving board and just jump. Show smaller…
They’re called epigraphs. Remember that term in case you get to buzz in on “Grammatical Stuff” for $1,000 on Jeopardy! You see them in books as a design element at the beginning of chapters.
Consider this one that’s commonly overused:
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
Attributed to Lao Tzu or a Chinese proverb
And then wise words of this man are often printed in motivational and self-help books:
“A man is but a product of his thoughts. What he thinks he becomes.”
Of course our favorite TV and movie star is quoted in…
There is no golden ticket to writerly fame and fortune with traditional publishing, as this author says. No matter who publishes your work, you, the author, have to market yourself and your writing. Period.
Everyone should write their book or books. Write write write. Get it out in a purge or an exorcism or with a divine presence guiding you. Get your book out of your head. But I don’t think every book that is written needs to be published (and I’ll explain what being published means shortly).
I’ve seen statistics saying that 80 percent of us have a book inside. Of course, that’s an unmeasurable number, so there is no valid source. Christopher Hitchens went even further. …
So you wrote your book and you find out that if you win a book award, you’ll be able to use that honor in your book marketing. “My award-winning book” you say on social media. And you stick the bright, shiny doodads on the cover.
Ever wonder who wins these awards and why? Hold on. The big question is really quite different: Will winning an award help sell your book? The answer is, “Not really.” But a couple of silver and gold stickers and the bragging rights may be worth the investment in dollars and angst.
I admit I am…
Nailed it. Excellent insight. As an editor, I tell my authors, "You are the author. Your name is on the cover of the book. You will win every disagreement, every edit, every change. I'm just giving you my best shot and helping you write your best work."
Excellent advice BUT . . . traditional publishing and its gatekeeper agents are not always the best way to (try to) publish your book. Independent author/publisher publishing has become a clear first choice for many authors. Which sounds like a good idea for my next blog post.
A picky nonfiction editor who helps authors write, polish, and publish their books. Author: Cover to Cover: What First-Time Authors Need to Know about Editing.