How to Know When You’re Done Editing

As I noted when talking about editing a novel, writers often fall into an endless editing trap. You could go over your manuscript an infinite number of times and still find things to improve—or at least change.

A client and I once made two rounds of edits on his book. If he had asked for a third round, I would have had this talk with him, but he beat me to it. “How many times could we go back and forth like this?”

I said, “We have reached the point of diminishing returns.” He’s a finance guy, so he understood my meaning. There comes a time when further editing doesn’t produce a better book, it just produces a different book. Continue reading

New Manuscript Formatting Guideline

One of the great things about attending writers conferences—or any conference in your given industry—is the ability to meet with experts who know more than you and learn from them. At this year’s Florida Christian Writers Conference, I enrolled in a four-day fiction workshop taught by Ramona Richards of Abingdon Press.

remington typewriter

Photo by Kia Abell • freeimages.com

One of the intitial things we worked on were our first pages. One attendee had a first page that started halfway down the paper, so her “first page” contained only about one hundred words or so. If you’ve followed this site for a while, you know I’ve advised starting one-third of the way down the page. That’s because the Writer’s Digest publication Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript contains that age-old advice.

But that age-old advice dates from a time when editors received submissions on paper. Continue reading

Digital publishing does not impair sales

Pardon me while I take a break from the Elements of Fiction series to address this article published by the New York Times: “I Was a Digital Best Seller!”

The writer, Tony Horwitz, calls his story “a cautionary farce about the new media and technology we’re so often told is the bright shining future for writers and readers.”

The short version: Horwitz was promised a hefty advance to do a long-form investigative journalism piece about the Keystone XL pipeline. First the financial backer pulled out, and then his digital-only publisher ran into some trouble. Continue reading

What to include in a book proposal

For the last several weeks, we’ve focused on getting ready for a conference. So you go to a conference, pitch your book, and the editor says, “That sounds like it has potential. Send me a proposal with your first 50 pages.”

And your stomach caves in, because you don’t have a proposal.

Agents and editors often say that many of the people they make this kind of offer to don’t respond. I believe that’s because writers are paralyzed by fear and therefore don’t move.

Hear me: It’s better to send a bad proposal than none. Continue reading

How to pitch a book

When attending writers conferences, many people get extremely nervous about meeting with editors and agents. I know I certainly have. It’s understandable. The key to remaining calm when you pitch a book is realizing, first, that agents and editors are just regular folks doing their jobs, and second, that you will get many, many rejections before you get an acceptance. When you start understanding “no” as just another tick on your list of things to do, it gets much easier to move on. Continue reading

Where to find agents

If your goal is to be published by one of the major houses, you’ll need an agent. Writer’s Market lists agents on its website, and also publishes a Guide to Literary Agents. The Association of Authors’ Representatives, the main professional organization for agents, maintains a directory of its members. Check agent websites to ensure they’ve been in business for a while, and that they handle books in your topic area or genre. Approaching an agent who specializes in contemporary Amish romances with your bodice-ripping historical novel is Not Recommended.

The same way you would review resumes if you were hiring, or the way you would investigate companies if you were looking for a job, you must examine agents and publishers to find those that are the best fit for your topic area and personality. That’s one of the reasons conferences are a great way to find an agent. Continue reading

‘Publishing 3.0’ — what is is and why it matters

Over at TechCrunch, author James Altucher has written an excellent article about the process of self-publishing his book Choose Yourself.choose yourself

Every entrepreneur should self-publish a book, because self-publishing is the new business card. If you want to stand out in a world of content, you need to underline your expertise.—James Altucher

A while back I said there are two kinds of publishing: Author Pays and Someone Else pays. Altucher has a different take on it. What he sees is Professional Publishing and Unprofessional Publishing, and he argues that some of the latter is being done by the big houses. I can’t refute that. Continue reading