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Dos and Don’ts of Working with an Editor

Author, Joshua Simon


There are many things an indie writer needs to consider when looking for an editor. Is the editor capable of providing you with the service you need:  content, line, or copy editing? Does the editor have reputable references? Based on the sample, does the editor’s style suit your own? Can you afford the editor’s service?

I think every writer needs to carefully consider each of the above questions during the selection process.  Though this topic is crucial to every writer, it is one that has been beaten to death.  So, I thought I would discuss what I feel every writer needs to consider after the selection process is complete. Below are my top Dos and Don’ts when working with an editor.


  1. Do agree to terms ahead of time.

Be clear on expectations before work begins.

Do you want only that content edit or were you also expecting a copy edit as well?

Do you want the editor to provide a second round of edits in order to proof read your work after you’ve made the previous suggestions provided to you?

Do you need the editor to help you with writing the back cover, marketing materials, a press release, and text for your website?

Most editors probably won’t do all of the above but some might if you’ve discussed the scope of work ahead of time.  Don’t expect an editor to provide extra services (no matter how little) for free after the agreed upon work is completed. Their time is valuable and they have other clients besides you.

  1. Do meet your deadlines.

As I said, you are not your editor’s only client.  The time to schedule an editor is when your book is nearly complete, especially if you’re writing your first book.

Find out what your editor’s schedule is like and how long they think it will take to edit the book, and then plan accordingly. It is not unreasonable to wait weeks or months before an editor can start on your book. Expect the overall editing process to take several weeks or longer once the editor begins work. Variations will exist based on the length of the book, how good of a writer you are, and how many projects the editor works on at once.

As a side note, after you’ve had some experience in completing projects it will be easier to schedule an editor before actual completion.  Even then, I’d recommend giving yourself several weeks or even months of cushion.  It is much nicer knowing you’ve finished early and can get ahead on your next project rather than scrambling to complete something at the last minute and turning in shoddy work.

  1. Do ask for clarification.

Any editor worth their salt will clarify questions you might have on their suggestions. Otherwise, how can you determine if it is a valid change?  If an editor is unwilling to communicate with you in this way after giving you the manuscript back, I’d question using that person again.

  1. Do be prompt with payment.

But what happens if it costs more than I originally expected?  Too bad.

If you go to a car dealership and they give you an estimate for a brake job that later increases by several hundred dollars because things were worse than expected, can you get away with not paying them? Of course not. Can you imagine if your boss decided not to pay you promptly or not at all, and how that would affect your life?

For some editors, this might be their only source of income.  Therefore, don’t be late with their money.

If you decide their services were overpriced and not what you expected then the only thing you can do is not use them for future work.

  1. Do remember that a suggestion for change is not a demand for one.

As the writer, this is your story.  You need to be satisfied with it more than anyone else. Make changes only if you agree it improves the quality of the work. If you can’t make that decision on your own, bring in someone else to give you a second opinion.

I rarely disagree with my editor, but there have been a few times I decided against making his suggested changes.  This is partly because I had received differing opinions from my beta-readers and partly because the change would affect later parts of the story in works he had not yet edited.


  1. Don’t hand over a mess.

Your editor should not be the first person to read your manuscript besides yourself. Employ both alpha and beta-readers.  They will help you smooth out many problems long before your editor gets a hold of your story, especially in the way of content.  If nothing else, this step will help reduce the costs to you. The more time your editor spends cleaning up your mess, the more they will charge.

  1. Don’t expect your editor to do all the work.

Your editor shouldn’t have to re-write your book. They will rewrite sentences as needed, but they aren’t supposed to write chapters or sections for you (unless you’ve agreed they will act as a ghost writer).

  1. Don’t take it personally.

This is all a learning experience and a way to make you a better writer. I’ve improved significantly with each work I’ve turned into my editor, and a contributing factor to my improvement has been his feedback on each story.

Remember, an editor’s reputation will be held against the quality of your work as well. You don’t want an editor to blow smoke up your rear.  You want an editor to be honest about what is good and what isn’t so your story and characters can shine.

  1. Don’t be a jerk to your editor.

Like everything else in life, be professional. If I really have to explain what this means then you probably have bigger problems to worry about than everything I’ve mentioned above.

  1. Don’t lose sight of your ultimate goal.

You want a great book!

Joshua P. Simon is a Christian, husband, father, CPA, fantasy author, and heavy metal junkie. He currently resides in Atlanta, Georgia and hopes that one day he can leave the life of a CPA behind and devote that time to writing more of the ideas bouncing around his ADD-addled brain. You can find out more about him at www.joshuapsimon.blogspot.com.


What Makes Good Horror?

Guest Post by Craig DiLouie

Craig DiLouie headshot-sm-1

I enjoy writing horror because it allows a writer to really stretch and go way beyond standard norms and reader comfort zones. But what makes a good horror story?

First, let’s define horror fiction. Wikipedia defines it as a genre of literature that is intended to “scare or startle readers by inducing feelings of horror and terror.”

In other words, it’s fiction that produces feelings associated with horror-what Merriam-Webster defines as “painful and intense fear, dread or dismay”-in the reader. The Horror Writers Association essentially agrees with this definition.

I do as well, though I would add that effective characterization is so important to achieving the goal that it should be part of the definition. Why? Horror is more likely to be realized by the reader when there is a character, with whom they can relate, experiencing it at the same time. In this way, certain characters in the story are intended to stand in for the reader.

Character is doubly important when one considers the fact horror is a very subjective emotion. Some of us find the sight of blood horrifying, while others don’t. Some of us tremble and sweat at the slightest turbulence on an airplane, while others barely notice it. If the author can put the reader in the protagonist’s shoes, they should experience feelings of horror through empathy even if they themselves don’t find the object of the protagonist’s horror that scary or dreadful.

Before we continue, we should probably ask the question: Why would anybody want to actually experience this? Horrorperf6.000x9.000.indd is, after all, horrifying.

In Thrill Seekers Thrive on The Scary, published on WebMD.com, Dr. Frank Farley, psychologist at Temple University, says people can satisfy their curiosity about and fascination with the frightening, the bizarre, the unusual, and make sense of it. Dr. Glenn Sparks, professor of communications at Perdue University, believes people have a basic need to seek out situations outside their comfort zone. In some cases, they want to confront danger in order to conquer it.

Then there are the physiological changes that occur when confronted by danger, which some people enjoy-the adrenaline rush, the pounding heartbeat, the sweaty hands. Says Farley, “There’s almost nothing else, including sex, that can match it in terms of the incredible sensory experience that the body is put through.”

That’s powerful stuff. So how do we “bottle” that in a book?

The basic structure of a horror story goes like this: You have the normal, introduce the horror element that disrupts the normal, and finish with the new normal.

Force some interesting people in a story to face the fantastic with high stakes, and you’ve got the setup for a thriller. Make the fantastic horrifying, and you’ve got horror. Make the horrifying life-threatening, and you have survival horror. Make the horrifying element a ghost, demon, etc., and you have supernatural horror. Make the horrifying element a serial killer who brutally slaughters his victims, and you have splatterpunk. Make the horrifying element be life-threatening to everybody at once, and you have the makings of apocalyptic horror. And so on.

Personally, my favorite kind of horror stories are apocalyptic. There are so many great stories that can be told in an end-of-the-world scenario. When well told, these stories can be stirring to the spirit as well as the intellect, particularly when horror is contrasted with hope.

So now we know what horror fiction is and why it’s sought out. But what makes a good horror story? The answer is deceptively simple. In short, a good horror story is a good story that happens to be in the horror genre.

I’m not trying to be cute here. Too often, writers put the horror element so far forward that other elements of the story that matter, particularly character, take a backseat. At all times, a good horror story will give us people we care about, engaging conflict and so on.

Story always comes first!

The Killing Floor by Craig DiLouieIn fact, with horror, getting the basic story elements right is even more vital because the horror element may be so fantastic it requires a greater suspension of disbelief and therefore a higher degree of grounding. The more the reader can empathize with the character’s subjective response to the horror element, the greater their shared feelings of fear and dread. The more richly rendered the setting, the more the monsters that populate will stand out. The greater the willing suspension of disbelief, the more likely the reader will confront the horror in your story, find it believable, and experience genuine feelings of horror. And so on.

In short, the greater the story, the greater the horror.

Now let’s talk about the horror element, which can be conveyed as elements that are internal or external, imaginary or real, supernatural or physical, atmospheric or in-the-flesh. This is where you can have a lot of fun and let your imagination soar. Is it a plague that changes behavior? A trusted pet that turns on a family? A serial killer stalking a couple in a remote motel? A nice, outgoing family man slowly becoming violently insane? Tentacled monsters freed from an underground cavern? Hordes of the cannibalistic dead? A sadistic summer camp counselor? A derelict house haunted by the spirits of its victims? How successful the novel is will depend on two things-first, how well your writing gets the reader to empathize with the characters’ horror, and two, how much the horror element resonates with their imagination.

Horror is still a young genre that has been largely neglected by the major bookstores. With the advent of eBooks, online retailers like Amazon are eating their lunch as literally thousands of titles are becoming available, many of them very good. As a result, there is still plenty of opportunity for writers to break in and make a name for themselves. Forget your preconceived notions of what horror fiction is-that it’s werewolves and vampires, that it’s Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th, or whatever else immediately comes to mind-and make it your own.

Most important is to tell a good story and have fun, and your reader will too!

Craig DiLouie is the author of the apocalyptic horror novels Tooth and Nail, The Infection and The Killing Floor. His latest horror novel is in contract negotiations with a major publisher. He is an Active Member of the Horror Writers Association. For more information about Craig’s work, visit www.craigdilouie.com, where he blogs regularly about apocalyptic horror media.

James A. Owen: Artwork and a Winner!

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:

Michelle Beal

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 colette@fictorians.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.

A portrait of an author contemplating a looming deadline.
A portrait of an author contemplating the next deadline.


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

Pretty When She . . .

Rhiannon Frater

An Interview with Rhiannon Frater

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: What is Dead Spots going to be about?

RF: It’s a horror novel, obviously. Not vampires, zombies, or anything like that, but I’ll let Tor describe it.

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 DiesThe 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 rhiannonfrater@gmail.com.