As writers we’ve all been told that social media is an essential marketing tool, and it truly is. I’ve made fans and sold books on social media. It can also be a double-edged sword, so it must be treated with respect at all times. Let me give you an example.
Awhile back I was posting on a friend’s Facebook thread, and I started engaging with another of her friends on the same thread. As I recall, we were talking about jazz music, something we both enjoyed. During our online conversation she mentioned that she was an editor. I told her I was a book publisher and to please send me a friend request so I could include her on my referral list.
As it turned out, she posted frequently Facebook. Her content included extreme left wing political posts, along with rants about her hatred of children, her dislike of men, her belief that interpersonal relationships were a complete waste of time, her hatred of churches and of people of faith, and so forth. She also had no tolerance whatsoever for anyone with an opposing point of view, and she wasn’t beyond telling anyone to “go f— themselves,” for simply disagreeing with her.
After reading a just handful of her posts I realized there was no way I could EVER refer this woman to any of my authors, and I have since blocked her on Facebook. My issue wasn’t that I disagreed with her opinion. Let’s face it; the world would be a pretty boring place if we all thought alike. My issue was her open contempt and hatred of others. If she could tell people she disagreed with to go “f— themselves” on a public forum, I could only imagine how badly she would have treated one of my authors.
Be careful with what you post on social media. It really can come back and bite you.
Back in the 1990s, a well-known political slogan went, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Well, there is a version for authors, and it goes, “It takes a team to write a book.” So, who’s on the team?
First and foremost would be the author him or herself. After all, the author is the star of the show, and the captain of the team. Some of you may have an image in your mind of an author, in some isolated house on the seashore, working away at his or her typewriter, pounding out perfect prose with the very first draft. If only it were really like that, but it’s not. In my case it’s me, in my office, working with my team.
The first person on my team is my beta reader, Geneva. She’s an avid reader, but not a writer herself, and she’s honest. Sometimes brutally so. That’s what qualifies her for the job. Every couple chapters or so I call Geneva and read it back to her. If something isn’t working, she’ll tell me–and in no uncertain terms. “Cut this,” she’ll say, or, “No, that’s not accurate.” Granted, not all of you will have someone in your circle who is willing to give you such candid feedback. If that’s the case, check with some of your local writer’s associations, and try to find a critique group. Critique groups will typically meet once a week, someplace quiet, like a coffee bar, and they’ll read, and critique, each other’s work. They can be a real asset, and it can save you the time, and the hassle, of having to do a major rewrite later on.
So, if the author is the captain, the editor would be his or her first officer. I’ve posted, many times, on this blog why every author needs an editor. Simply put, your editor will go over your work and correct those gaffes, punctuation errors, inconsistencies, grammatical errors and other problems that you, the author, cannot see. He or she is the person who separates the pros from the amateurs. My advice is to find someone you feel comfortable working with. I’ve been working with Cynthia, my editor, for sometime now. We have a great relationship. She fixes the problems, without changing my voice. She also likes to make snarky comments in the sidebar. Over time I’ve learned not to drink coffee while I review her changes, lest the coffee go up my nose.
The next team member is the proofreader. He or she goes over the final edited version of the manuscript to catch the errors that you, or your editor, my have missed. Typically these are the tiny errors, such as a missing quotation mark, that can be easy to miss.
Depending on your genre, your team may also include photographers or illustrators. Some of you may be tempted to use your own visual art, but I would advise a word of caution. Unless you’re a professional, or you’ve had some professional training, leave it to the pros. Drawing, painting and photography are disciplines that take many years of training and practice to master, and an amateurish photo or illustration can make you look like an amateur as well. Also be cautious using stock images, especially for your cover. Another author may come along and decide to use the same image for his or her cover.
Finally, the last member of your team is your publisher. You have many options here, and I have a page on this blog that discusses those options in detail. Each has its pros and cons, and it’s up to you to decide which would be the best for you.
Some of you simply may not have the means to hire all these professionals. If that’s the case, and you can only hire one person to work with you, make it your editor. He or she is the most important member of your team, and would be the one you simply can’t work without.
One comment I often hear from first time authors is, “I don’t need an editor. I can do my own editing.
Okay, before I go off on my tangent, I’ll admit I resemble that remark. When I wrote my very first book, Anna’s Kitchen, I too naively thought I didn’t need an editor. In fact, I was such a smart aleck at the time that I thought I knew everything, never mind the fact that I had never written a book before in my life. As far as I was concerned, the spell checker in my word processing software was all I needed. So how did I do? Well, you may want to refer to my post titled, Just Add Two Tablespoons of Fate. Sure, I can laugh about it now, but it’s a splendid example of why all authors, and especially new authors, simply must have an editor.
An editor is a fresh pair of eyes to go over your manuscript and give it the added polish it needs to turn it into a great book. They are not as much concerned about the content of your work as they are the structure. They look for things such as misspelled words, typos, comma spliced sentences, dangling participles, incorrect homonyms, redundancy, and all the other gaffes that you, as the writer, may have overlooked. The reason why you’re not seeing them is because you’re too involved with your own work to see it objectively. That’s normal, and it’s very human. It’s the same reason why doctors don’t treat themselves or members of their own families.
Some of you reading this may still be skeptical, or you may even think your writing skills are so superior that you simply don’t need an editor. If that’s the case then all I can tell you is that writing can be a very humbling experience. There is nothing quite like having your readers point out all your errors for you and post them on the Internet for the entire world to see. Once that happens your credibility as an author is pretty much shot, and you can kiss your writing career goodbye.
What do Danielle Steel, James Patterson, Mary Higgins Clark, Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, and Dean Koontz all have in common? They all have an editor. And if these authors all have editors, then what makes you think you don’t need one?
Anna’s Kitchen was my very first book, and I completely self-published it. I think there should be a requirement somewhere that every author must do this at least once in his or her lifetime. It’s an incredible learning experience as it makes authors extremely aware of just how much hard work goes into publishing a book.
Since I had no one to edit or proofread my book I did it all myself. This meant I used my spell checker for a proofreader. Big mistake, I know, but that is one of the many reasons why I learned that every author, no matter how rich and famous, simply must have an editor.
Once the book was printed I found all kinds of errors going back to the original manuscript. One of my friends found one to be particularly amusing. It was in a gravy recipe, and it said, “Add two tablespoons of fate.” He laughed and laughed. Then he asked me if it meant we were supposed to pray over the gravy as it was being prepared. Now mind you, it’s actually not a bad idea. I pray over the little everyday things in life much more than the big things, but in this case it was actually a typo the spell checker had missed. “Fate” was spelled correctly. What it should have read was, “add two tablespoons of fat.”
Yes, that would be a good recipe for gravy. But for everyday life yes, you should add two tablespoons of fate everyday. What will be will be.