Born to writers, I've always written and edited, but only after the economy flopped and blessed me with so much delightfully unpaid free-time did I re-dedicate myself.
I've been editing for twenty years in various forms. There is a great deal of satisfaction to be had by going over a story and fine-tuning it, whether it's mine or someone else's.
Joshua Simon interviewed me for his blog as the last post in a string of interesting articles about the writing process and self-publishing. If you are curious about more of my history, what I write, or the perfect activity, please check it out: http://joshuapsimon.blogspot.com/2012/03/interview-joshua-essoe.html
In conclusion to our book give-away, we have procured a very large, metaphorical hat. It is black and felty and often has rabbits in it. And those are Raisinetes. Everybody loves Raisinetes. No rabbits today, however. Today we find only a name:
Congratulations, Michelle! You’re the winner of one of the LAST of the limited-edition hardcover copies of “Drawing out the Dragons,” personally signed by James A. Owen.
Michelle, please send your mailing address to email@example.com.
We promised some big James Owen news today, but publishing and deadlines being what they are, we can’t say anything yet. However, when a big deadline is looming, it is a fantastic time to post art.
Concluding point: he just made a deadline. News to come!
James A. Owen is the author of the Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica series, the creator of the critically acclaimed Starchild graphic novel series, and the author of the Mythworld series of novels. He is also founder and executive director of Coppervale International, a comic book company that also publishes magazines and develops and produces television and film projects. He lives in Arizona. Visit him at HereThereBeDragons.net
Rhiannon is a successful independent horror writer who found her way to Tor through an interesting confluence of events. She was kind enough to take time out of her weekend and sit down for an interview.
Joshua Essoe: How long did it take you to get the steam going in your career? Did you ever feel like giving up?
Rhiannon Frater: I’ve been writing since I was a little girl, so I guess it took all my life to get to the point where I am presently. The journey wasn’t just about getting a big break and a publishing deal, but also developing my voice and finding my genre. For a long time I thought I was going to be a mystery writer like Agatha Christie. I was rather surprised when horror ended up being my niche.
JE: Did you ever consider giving up?
RF: I did for about nine years. My husband helped me get back on track. Being an author is a very tough business. You have to have a thick skin, a good support system, and a lot of ambition along with the talent to write, of course.
JE: Of course. Take that one as a given and work on the rest! Who did you learn from, or are you self-taught? Did you take workshops to hone your craft?
I read a lot of books and wrote a lot of books to discover my writing voice. I have also learned a lot from reading the editing notes from my editor at Tor and my indie editor. I also learned a lot about plot structure and character development from being an avid fan of Alfred Hitchcock and Joss Whedon. I’ve been told many times that I write cinematically. Readers tell me that when they finish one of my books they feel like they just watched a movie.
JE: You started indie, you put your books out yourself and collected a following with your As the World Dies Trilogy. Eventually Tor took notice. What was the process you went through to produce your books? Did you hire professional editing, cover art, and book design?
RF: As The World Dies started out as an online serial. It gained a huge following, much to my surprise. The original fans were the ones who wanted to have the series published so they could have physical copies on their bookshelves. It was with their encouragement that I tried very hard to find an agent or a publisher who would be interested in my zombie epic. Instead, I was met with rejection. My husband approached me about self-publishing utilizing the new media. I was reluctant at first, but after a lot of research we felt it was the best way to go about it. A friend did the cover art, I formatted the interior, my husband did the layout of the full cover, and some friends helped with the editing. This was back in 2008 so there weren’t the resources available then that there are now.
I’ve learned so much since those early days. I now have an editor who works with Permuted Press edit my indie novels, I have a professional formatter, and my cover artists are top notch.
JE: I loved the updated covers that you and Tor released. How did things change when you signed with Tor? What are the pros and cons of Indy vs. trad publishing in your experience?
RF: Well, the purchase of the trilogy allowed me to quit my day job and give the full-time writing gig a shot, but what keeps me writing full-time are my self-published novels. I have only seen one royalty statement since the books were published by Tor, which is the norm with big publishers. It’s my monthly royalty payments from Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Audiobook Creation Exchange, and Createspace (trade paperbacks) that pays my bills and keeps me happily writing at home. So even though the bigger lump payments come from the big publisher, the more consistent monthly earnings are from my indie works.
Creatively, the indie side of things is much more in my court. I can write a very long novel with no worries of a word count restriction. I can write whatever I want to write next and not worry about writing a synopsis, summary, etc., to pitch to my editor. The interior design, cover art, and layout are things I have full control over with my indie novels. Tor has been really kind with taking my suggestions for the covers of the As The World Dies Trilogy, but they have final say.
Both publishing paths have pros and cons. I happen to enjoy doing both, that’s why I’m a hybrid author.
JE: You’ve achieved what many indy writers strive for, that big publisher staring you in the face and telling you you’re good enough. First of all, it must have felt amazing. Second, do you think it’s necessary? What do you think of the gatekeepers and what is your advice for new authors trying to decide what route to take, and what steps along that route?
RF: In my case it has definitely been worth it to traditionally publish. The initial advance money gave me the freedom to pursue a full-time career. I have also enjoyed the editing process with my editor at Tor. I’ve learned a lot from her. Because the books were published by Tor, Publishers Weekly reviewed The First Days and it received a Starred Review. Also, many people who have never heard of me gained access to my books because they were on the shelves of local bookstores.
What’s nice about self-publishing is that the books that Tor may not want can still find their way onto the e-readers and bookshelves of readers. Big publishers have to buy what they feel will sell to a wide audience. I may come up with an idea that they think is awesome, but won’t sell. Those books don’t die in the back of a writer’s closet anymore.
The best advice I can give up-and-coming writers is in the F.A.Q. on my website.
JE: How big a part is the social aspect to the success of a writer’s career? Did you go to cons, workshops, seminars, meet particular people, pitch, plead or beg?
RF: Everyone’s path to success in writing is different. I know of people who have taken every writing class offered in their area, traveled to workshops, seminars, etc…. They even know a lot of writers, agents, and publishers from constantly networking, but they don’t have a book deal. There are also people who write their first book, send it to an agent, and have a seven figure deal two weeks later. There is no set path. There is no magic key.
In my case I self-published, a producer saw the cover of my second book and thought the character looked like his wife, he bought it, loved it, optioned the series, and the next thing I know I have an entertainment lawyer referring me to a literary agent in New York. I had an agent by Thanksgiving, she pitched in January, and I had a deal with Tor in early March.
JE: That’s amazing. Your latest, Pretty When She Kills, came out last month. How is it being received, and what is your next big project?
RF: I actually returned to the old vampires. My vampires are scary and kill people, but holy relics and sunlight are deadly. The series has been gaining quite a fervent following since True Blood gave us back the scary bloodsuckers. The reviews have been really awesome and I hope the third book will bring a fitting end to the trilogy.
I’m wrapping up my latest project for Tor right now called Dead Spots. It’s a really bizarre horror novel that I absolutely love. Once I turn that in, I’m probably going to return to the Pretty When She Dies universe and write the last book in the trilogy, along with a side novella.
JE: Sounds intriguing. I love the title. Now, for the serious. Complete this sentence: “Like I said…”
RF: …kill all the things.
Guest Writer Bio: Rhiannon Frater is the award-winning author of the As the World Dies trilogy (The First Days, Fighting to Survive, Siege,) and the author of several other books, including the vampire novels Pretty When She Dies, The Tale of the Vampire Bride, and the young-adult zombie novel The Living Dead Boy and the Zombie Hunters. Inspired to independently produce her work from the urging of her fans, she published The First Days in late 2008 and quickly gathered a cult following. She won the Dead Letter Award back-to-back for both The First Days and Fighting to Survive, the former of which the Harrisburg Book Examiner called “one of the best zombie books of the decade.’ Rhiannon is currently represented by Hannah Gordon of the Foundry + Literary Media agency. You may contact her by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
It has been a busy and wonderful month here at Fictorians.com. To finish off our Publishing Month of Madness, Brandon Sanderson was kind enough to agree to take some time out of his crazy schedule for a short question and answer style blog post.
Here it is in all its glory.
Joshua Essoe: It used to be that producing a book a year was sufficient, even productive, but now it seems if you’re not getting at least two or three books out there every year to feed the cavernous maw of impatient e-readers, you’re too slow and the tide will just pass you by. What do you think of the difference between e-books and traditional publishing?
Brandon Sanderson: Authors are doing some interesting things in e-books. One thing you’re noticing is that in e-books-probably for pricing reasons-the books are growing shorter and coming out faster. It’s moving closer to a much older model, where you would release serialized editions of books that were more like episodes rather than an entire novel. Some of the market is going that way. I think it’s just a different model; I don’t necessarily think it’s going to be the only model. It’s just a new and interesting thing that e-books are doing.
JE: Is there a pressure that has developed from traditional publishers for their authors to be pushed towards more production? When should an author consider self-publishing instead of trying to land a book deal in NY? Should one self-publish while trying to land that book deal and use potential sales numbers as part of the pitch?
BS: I don’t feel that there has been any push from New York to publish books at any different speed at all. In fact, one of the main reasons to publish with New York as opposed to self-publishing is if you are an author who doesn’t write at least one book a year. If we’re to take The Way of Kings as an example, there’s no way that I’m going to be producing 400,000-word epic fantasies as fast as a lot of the self-published writers can put out books. There’s no way that anyone could have made that book at that speed. It’s a book that takes a year, maybe eighteen months to write. So for long epic fantasies, New York certainly has some things going for it.
One of the reasons that it’s really good to publish fast and short when you’re doing self-publishing is that you don’t have any sort of marketing push behind you. You don’t have bookstore shelf presence, which is one of the major forms of marketing-people seeing your book there on the shelves. Word of mouth is always the most important thing, but it becomes even more important for the self-published writer. Publishing quickly and getting a lot of books out helps to get your name in more places in the market and helps to push some of that momentum through. That seems to be the key way to make it as a self-published writer.
When would I self-publish versus New York-publish? I would not abandon either model. Self-publishing has proved itself so viable recently that if I were a new writer, I would be looking at doing both at the same time. Maybe taking the longer, more epic-style books to New York and doing the faster-paced, more thriller-style books online, and seeing what works best.
So the expansion of the e-book market gives you more places to go. That said, if you’re not a particularly fast writer, self-publishing is going to be a very hard route for you because everything I’ve seen-granted, I’m not an expert on this; there are places to go other than me for expertise-shows that being able to produce quickly is a key factor in being a successful self-published author in this market.
JE: How long does it take to be forgotten in this fickle book market, and what should an author be doing to prevent it?
BS: It depends on your method. What you’re getting at here is the balance between promotion and just writing the next book. That’s a balance authors have had to work with for decades, if not centuries-the idea being that promoting your book keeps it in people’s minds. Right now you can do that through engaging blog posts, being on Twitter, going to conventions, doing book signings, and all of these things. They take time. If they take so much time that you’re not writing your next book, then the question becomes are they worth it?
Do you want all your eggs in one basket? Do you want to write one book and then spend the whole year promoting it, trying to get it to take off, or do you want to, in that time, write three books and try to get one of the three to take off? I don’t think there’s any right answer; they’re both valid ways to go. You could end up writing that one book and, with your promotion, turn it into a big success that builds a name for you. Or you could be in hindsight wasting your time promoting it when it never ends up taking off.
So you have to find the right balance for yourself. Part of the question that I would ask myself is, are you an engaging blogger? Can you write interesting things on a topic and build a platform that is not just about “Buy my book!”? Would it be something interesting and fun for people to read, and can you leverage that to make people interested in your writing? If you can, then blogging would certainly be helpful to you.
Guest Bio: Brandon Sanderson writes epic fantasy novels for Tor Books. He is the author of Elantris, the Mistborn trilogy, Warbreaker, and his newest grand epic, starting with The Way of Kings. He was also chosen to complete Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series, the final book of which, A Memory of Light, is due out in January 2013. Find out more about Brandon at www.brandonsanderson.com.
Writers frequently ask me if an editor is really necessary. The answer is no. An editor is not necessary, an editor is essential.
Many indie authors say, “But, I can’t afford it.” The truth is, if you can’t afford it, then don’t publish a book. Something I think many indie authors tend to miss is that you guys are running a small business. You’re the boss and the employee and everything in between, and should expect a certain amount of upfront cost. Releasing a book before it’s ready because you won’t hire an editor or cover designer does more harm than good. It is better to wait and make sure that your book is as strong as you can make it before you throw it to the wolves.
Especially your first book. There are thousands and thousands of self-published books out there and they’re all inexpensive and easy to get. If a reader gets hold of it, finds a few spelling errors, a missed word here or there, and an abundance of passive voice, they’ll put your book down (or remove it from their e-reader) and just move on to the next thing. They’ll never give your potentially wonderful story a chance to be potentially wonderful—and there goes your chance for future sales to that reader. Think what your reaction would be as a reader. First impressions mean everything. That goes for your first book in a new series, your first book ever, your first chapter, your first page, your first sentence.
The New York Times has editors, TV news stations have editors, Vogue and Maxim have editors, all the publishing houses have editors. Why would successful businesses like those all use editors? There must be a reason. . . . Ah, yes. It is because they’re essential to a finely tuned, professional product.
An indie editor is different from a trad editor. The only person who pays an independent or freelance editor is you. The only person that editor is beholden to is you. Their job is to strengthen your words and your voice to help make your story as good as it can be. The way you want it. A good one will be enthusiastically in your corner, working to help make you a success. And you want them in your corner. You wouldn’t think of going into an MMA match without having had a trainer. You’d get killed. Likewise, you shouldn’t throw your darlings to those wolves without some ninja skillz.
An editor’s job is not to rewrite you. Writing is your job. Their job is to help you make that writing shine as brilliantly as possible.
And another huge difference between indie and trad editors? Between hiring your own editor and having one imposed on you? If you hate what they do, you don’t have to use it—any of it.
So what can your friendly neighborhood editor do for you? There are several forms of editing; copy or line, content, substantive, proof reading. We’ll focus on line and content which will be the most applicable and reasonable for an indie author.
A copy or line edit, as the name suggests, is a meticulous edit of each line in the text looking for missing and misspelled words, superfluous language and redundant phrases, mixed tenses, and all technical inconsistencies. Line editing is editing for tone, style and flow—focusing on polishing the author’s words to improve the overall effect and increase the impact of the writer’s message. And to make sure that horrible passive voice is not yammering all over your story. You don’t want readers to admire your writing. You want them to be so engaged by the story that they don’t notice your words.
A content edit is more involved. It is checking the story for logic holes, inconsistencies of plot and character, patching any holes in the fourth wall, finding spots in the story that are weak or don’t make sense, then suggesting possible solutions.
An editor’s job is to help you get the movie you see running in your head playing the same way in the heads of your readers. What makes a story work is an emotional connection with your readership. If you get that, they’ll love your book and they’ll love you.
A good content editor is not easy to find; there aren’t many out there who can tell you what’s wrong and offer solutions on how to fix it. So be careful. Get references, talk to people you trust or people with experience.
When you contact an editor be professional. Be prepared to send a sample. Be prepared to give the editor a deposit for reserving time for you. Be prepared to meet your deadlines so that you have time to do a couple passes on your own before handing it off. Not only will those passes make your editor happy, but it will make your wallet happy. Make sure you know what format the editor needs. For example, I use industry standard—I know how long an MS formatted to those specifications will take me to edit based on a five page sample.
What will amaze and appall editors of all shapes and sizes is that a large percentage of manuscripts submitted for review have not even basic formatting set correctly. It immediately gives the impression of laziness, that the author didn’t care enough to do a little research.
If you are curious what the vaunted Industry Standard looks like, read Vonda McIntyre’s handout. This is a good starting point, but keep in mind that the industry is in flux and many online submissions will vary from this. If they do, they’ll certainly state it in their submission guidelines. If not, always go with the old standard.
A good content editor will also be able to help you sculpt your story to best appeal to the audience for which it is targeted. Do you want to enrapture teenage girls? Or do you want men in their thirties on the edges of their seats? Knowing who you are writing for and what appeals to them is as important as having a wonderful story. Because what might be an amazing story to that thirty-five year old guy is almost certainly not going to appeal all that much to a sixteen year old girl.
So, all you indie authors out there, go out and find an editor you love (and hate—if the editor is any good you’ll curse their name more than a few times). Get that editor working for you, and let them help you and your business produce the best product possible.
Joshua Essoe is a full-time, freelance editor. He’s done work for best-seller David Farland, including the multi-award winning novel, Nightingale, Dean Lorey, lead writer of Arrested Development, best-seller, James Artimus Owen, and numerous Writers of the Future authors and winners, as well as many top-notch independents. He is currently the finishing editor at Urban Fantasy Magazine.
Together with tie-in writer Jordan Ellinger, indie success-story, Michale J. Sullivan, and traditionally published author and NY Times best-seller, Debbie Viguie, he records the weekly writing podcast Hide and Create. You can find his interview episode here.
When not editing . . . ha ha, a joke. He was a 2014 finalist in the Writers of the Future contest, and lives with his wife, and three horrible cats near UCLA.