5 Ways to Use Fiverr to Publish Your Book

From Self Publishing with Dale:

When I first decided that I wanted to write a novel I have to admit I was a bit naïve going into the process. I was fumbling my way through and asking questions to authors that I knew on a regular basis.

. . . .

As soon as I hit my word target I realized there was a lot more work to go just to get it to a point where I could consider publishing it. This is when I took to Fiverr and other freelance sites to find experts that can assist me with the post-writing work of creating a book.

The results were a mixed bag, but on the whole I highly recommend at a minimum getting ideas from sellers on Fiverr if you are writing a book.

. . . .

1. Finding an editor

I created a job on multiple sites (mainly focused though on Fiverr and Upwork) to try and find an editor that could take my rough draft and help me get it closer and closer to a finished product. I received a lot of responses from both sites and I quickly realized I needed to be asking more questions to help weed out all of the people responding to my gig.

I asked questions like: How many YA books have you edited? How many books have focused on fan fiction or Norse myths? I would recommend that you think about these things prior to listing your jobs so you can more efficiently get through what will be quite a large volume of people submitting bids or applying to your job.

I ended up paying $350 for the first round of edits on a 53,000-word novel (as an aside, the novel finished around 61,000 words). I got incredibly lucky or did a decent job of vetting the editors because the person I found was amazing, efficient, and literally made all the difference in the world to my book.

Most of the online services would have cost triple the amount of money and would not have turned the book around in three working days. This was an incredible value and I am extremely happy with the choice I made to list this job.

2. Creating a Book Cover

My next gig that I listed was to have a graphic designer help me create a proper book cover for my eBook. I decided to focus on just an eBook release so I only needed a front cover. The volume of responses that I got from this job was a bit overwhelming and there was a very wide range of prices.

I tried a couple of sellers for this and provided them with the information they requested to take a crack at the book cover. The results of this job varied wildly from really terrible designs to ones that were okay but unusable. I ended up creating my own book cover using Canva and some ideas that I picked up from the various Fiverr designs that came my way.

I ended up spending around $150 for these services in total and ultimately didn’t use the results other than to influence the final book cover design. In the grand scheme of things this is a small price to pay to get some creative ideas and I do think that you can get usable book covers this way although I think I would encourage paying on the higher end of the bids as this was definitely an area where I got what I paid for with each design.

3. Copy for my Amazon listing

As soon as I got through a few rounds of edits (each round cost me the same as I used the same seller). I was ready to publish my book. In order to do that you have to do things like prepare the copy for the Amazon listing which is almost an art in itself.

Ultimately, I ended up using the same seller that did the editing for my book to help write (really edit) the copy that would go up in all of the online bookstores (Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, etc.).

This was a modest cost of $50 and it made a huge difference in what I released. They expertly guided me through how to entice people to read the book by making it less of a short summary and more of a comparison piece to other similar books and shows that the reader might also like. I would not have thought of doing that without their assistance, but it makes complete sense.

Link to the rest at Self Publishing with Dale

PG would be interested in any experiences visitors have had, good or not-so-good, hiring help with writing/publishing from Fiverr, Upwork or other similar online service marketplaces.

The Author’s Guide to Fiverr

From Indies Unlimited:

If you’re a self-published author, there are chances that someone has suggested you get a cover or some editing on Fiverr. Upon learning the site Fiverr got its name because you could pay people five bucks for an assignment, you quickly dismiss whoever gave you that advice. You’re certain you can’t get anything good for that price. Well, don’t dismiss Fiverr so quickly. Just like a book shouldn’t be judged by its cover, Fiverr is more nuanced than its name suggests.

What is Fiverr?

Fiverr is a marketplace where you can either buy or sell service. The name comes from the fact that services start at $5. Now, there may be some great services that you can get for $5, but I haven’t found many. The real benefit of Fiverr is as a marketplace. You can see people selling things you want–such as covers, artwork, and editing. When you log on to purchase an item, the product or service sold is called a gig.

What Do Authors Buy on Fiverr?

Authors can buy pretty much anything, even other authors to write their books (I’m not kidding, ghostwriting gigs are there). Generally, authors want to write their own books, so, on a practical level, authors tend to purchase editing, covers, artwork (for ads or extras), copy writing/blurb writing, and logos.

If It’s not $5, How Much Is It?

The prices vary, and a lot of the deals will look like they’re five dollars, but they’re not — in practical terms — that cheap. For example, the ghostwriting gig I linked to above is $5, and for that fee, the author will deliver up to 200 words. At that rate, a 60,000-word novel would run you $1,500. Editing is similar. A good editing gig may charge $5 to edit 500 words. For an 80,000-word book, that will come out to $800. However, the good thing about all gigs is there’s the option to ask for a custom quote. When you do that, you tell the person how long your book is, what the genre is, and ask them for a quote. They may tell you they’ll charge you $700 (a $100 discount on what you would pay if you tried to order 160 of the $5 gigs). Not all gigs start at $5. The better cover designers start their gigs at a minimum of $15, but usually run at least $35. You need to look at what you get with a gig. Most gigs come with three options: bare bones, middle ground, and the luxury package. For a cover, the barebones gigs tend to only allow you one cover image. It’s hard to get a good cover with a single image; usually it requires at least a background image and another one. Authors wanting a cover that follows traditional cover guidelines will want to pay more for a gig that allows at least a couple of images.

Link to the rest at Indies Unlimited

Best Practices for Working with an Independent Editor

From Writers Helping Writers:

Before Your Edit

1. Agreements about the business details of your project protect you both. An agreement needn’t be a formal printed contract signed in person; an email constitutes a legal agreement. The agreement should define the scope of work, start and finish dates and other relevant deadlines, total cost and payment schedule, and a clear explanation of what happens if either party cancels or breaches the agreement.

2. New writers often mistakenly believe they need a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) to protect their material. Your work is legally copyrighted the moment you commit it to print, making NDAs cumbersome, unnecessary, and often a sign of professional mistrust.

3. Most editors require a deposit to get your book on their calendar, customarily ranging from a flat fee of $100 or more to the first half of the total fee. You can expect to pay your total editing bill in full before the editor releases the edited manuscript.

4. If you can’t or don’t want to use your editor’s preferred payment method, aren’t located in the same country as they are, or prefer a slow payment method like personal checks, ask if your choice will create any issues. Allow enough time to process payments without holding up the project.

5. Missing your editing date by even a day or two could leave your manuscript without time to fit into its scheduled slot, if the deadline is tight or your editor is busy. Communicate as soon as you suspect you may have a problem hitting your scheduled editing date.

6. The time it takes to edit a manuscript varies widely, depending on your manuscript’s needs, the type of editing, and the editor’s schedule and work practices. Developmental editing usually takes the longest. Line editing is slower than copyediting, and proofreading is the fastest editing service.

If there were such a thing as a typical editing rate among all these levels of service, it might run from 20,000 to 35,000 words per week. You get what you pay for. If all the editor has time for is a breakneck race through the manuscript, that’s precisely what you’ll get.

Link to the rest at Writers Helping Writers

“Perfect to Me”: How Self-Editing Can Take Your Novel to the Next Stage

From Writers Helping Writers:

Part of the trick of hiring an editor is knowing when your manuscript is ready to hand over to them. There’s no point submitting a draft that you already know has POV issues or structural problems. The ideal situation I like to be in when I deliver my manuscript to an editor is that I think it’s perfect. Of course, it never is, but “perfect to me” means I’ve done everything I know how to do. That way, the editor will teach me something.

There are three main types of edits: developmental, line, and proofreading. At each stage, an author can do a lot of self-editing to create a “perfect-to-me” manuscript.

The Developmental Stage

A developmental edit tackles big-picture issues: plot, structure, characterization, point of view and the like. It can be hard to see where a novel isn’t working on a substantive level. Sometimes you know it’s not working but can’t figure out why. In both cases, I find it helpful to work through structural exercises.

List the major structural elements that should appear in a novel and fill in the blanks. You can go as basic as three-act structure (inciting incident, midpoint, climax, etc.) or you can get more detailed with something like a Save the Cat beat sheet. It amounts to the same thing: a novel must build momentum and it does this by hitting certain pivotal moments. If while doing this exercise you discover you’ve skipped a step or two, that’s probably where your problem lies.

Literary agent Hannah Sheppard boils this process down to a single sentence: When A (inciting incident) happens, B (character) must do C (action) otherwise/before D (catastrophe). Try filling it in. If you can’t, you’ll know there’s a problem.

One of the most common developmental issues I encounter as an editor is the protagonist’s lack of a strong, measurable goal. This goal needs to power the main character through the whole manuscript. One way to test this is to write a synopsis of the novel. Yuk, I know. A synopsis shows flaws. It’s a scary process. If you can’t boil your story down to a few pages that clearly trace a protagonist’s quest for a goal, you’ve got trouble.

Another thing a synopsis will reveal is causality (or the lack of it). If you find yourself connecting plot elements with the words, “and then,” (as opposed to “but,” or “therefore”), your story won’t be building the momentum it needs to hold a reader’s attention.

Has your protagonist done something at the end of the novel that he couldn’t have done at the beginning? If not, you have a character arc issue.

I could write an entire piece on point of view—and indeed, many editors have. Go read a few of them. I will say one thing here. It seems like it would be easiest to write in omniscient so you have access to every character’s thoughts. In fact, it’s the hardest POV to master.

Don’t be tempted to add new business to a novel to solve an existing problem. Often, you simply haven’t delivered on the promises you’ve made.

Most clients I deal with believe one developmental edit is all their novel needs. In fact, it takes several passes to wrinkle out developmental issues. Writing a novel is (or should be) like building a house of cards. Remove one card and half the house topples. Developmental edits are hard for that reason. As soon as you solve one problem, you’ve created five others. You should not expect this to be a quick and simple job. Most writers are in too much of a rush. Good work takes time. A novel benefits greatly from smoking on the shelf for a month or so after a major edit. Indeed, time might be the best editor of all.

Sometimes clients are tempted to skip the developmental stage. Because they’ve worked for so long on their novels and have used beta readers, they believe they can jump straight into a line edit and (bonus) save some money. Skipping the developmental stage is like building a house on sand. Even when I’ve worked for a year on a novel and finally decide it’s ready to send to my publisher, the first thing they do is assign me—you guessed it—a developmental editor.

Link to the rest at Writers Helping Writers

When—and Whether—to Hire a Developmental Editor

From Jane Friedman:

Working with a professional editor can be an excellent investment in your manuscript, your writing career, and your craft knowledge as a writer.

But doing so before you’re ready can keep you from getting the most out of what can often be an expensive proposition. A good, thorough developmental edit on a full-length manuscript often costs thousands of dollars.

How can you determine when and if you need the help of an experienced editor?

When not to hire an editor

This time of year, fresh off of NaNo when many authors have just exuberantly typed “The End” after completing their manuscript, editors like me often get a wave of emails from writers eager to hire a pro to help them hone and polish their story.

But fresh off a first draft isn’t the most effective time to work with an editor.

If the story is still in rough-draft shape, then much of their time and effort will focus on the big, obvious issues—issues that you may have been able to effectively address on your own through revision, and perhaps with the help of critique partners or beta readers.

It’s like seeking out a symphony conductor while you’re still learning a new piece of music. You’ll get much more out of an expert’s knowledge and guidance if you lay the proper groundwork and push yourself to the limits of your capabilities on your own before paying for someone to help you elevate it to the next level.

Once you’ve taken it as far as you can, ideally a good developmental editor will hold a mirror up to what’s actually on the page and how well it reflects your vision, and they can help you mine even more gold from it—deepening, developing, tightening, and helping you buff it to its brightest shine.

A professional editor doesn’t replace an author’s own editing and revision. Until you have a completed draft that’s as good as you’re able to make it (which may in fact wind up being your second or third or tenth draft), paying for a developmental edit may not be the best use of your money, time, or energy.

How to know when (or whether) you should hire an editor

I’m going to debunk a myth that grows more widespread as more and more people hang out their shingles as editors: Not every author needs to hire a professional editor for every manuscript.

Editing and revising (meaning assessing what you have on the page and knowing how to address any areas that could be stronger) are not functions to be automatically outsourced, separate from the craft of writing. They are an intrinsic part of it—in fact a major part. Writing truly is rewriting; the books you love and admire have almost certainly been extensively developed and polished by their authors. These are skills foundational to being a writer.

But as authors we’re constantly filling in the blanks of the rich vision in our heads, rather than seeing what’s actually on the page. It’s often hard get the objective 30,000-foot view that tells you how effectively you’ve conveyed your intentions to a reader.

This is one of the great values editors offer, as well as fresh perspective on ways you might strengthen your story based on their craft knowledge and experience.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

What It Takes to Be a Freelance Editor

From Jane Friedman:

You should be an editor.

Perhaps someone’s said it to you. Perhaps, after volunteering to critique a friend’s book, reading for hours, and writing 2,000 words of feedback (more than you both bargained for), you’ve said to yourself:

I should be an editor.

You love reading, right? And you’re really good with grammar and spelling. Maybe you even have an English degree or an MFA. What else do you need?

Curiosity, education, and ruthlessness.

An editor’s number-one asset is curiosity.

Not just double-checking facts or looking up info for the manuscript they’re working on right now, but a constant, lifelong level of I need to know.

I recently edited an essay that quoted King Lear’s Cordelia. It was a great line—“I cannot heave my heart into my mouth”—but it didn’t mean what the author thought it did. The quote did not support her point. I didn’t have time to reread King Lear and perform textual analysis, as I’d budgeted 30 minutes for this edit. I already knew it, because I’ve seen Lear four times. Fact-checking wasn’t even officially part of this job, but the essay was fundamentally flawed without that existing knowledge.

I’ve always been curious about Shakespeare. And law school. And the oceanic geology of East Asia. And the workflow of commercial kitchens. And dressage. And, and, and. I’ve never met a fact I didn’t want to know. Eventually, most of them come in handy.

. . . .

Editors must be ruthless.

What makes that sentence above true to the narrator’s voice?

Is this the right place in the book to show her desperate to return to the simplicity of childhood, and to tear the reader’s heart that she can’t?

Because no matter how beautiful the writing is, if a sentence doesn’t fit the character or the story, it’s gotta go.

Many early-career authors use their elevated Special Writer Voice, and their editors must challenge them not to make their words “better” or “more polished,” but more truthful to the author’s own voice.

Purely nurturing feedback is unhelpful. Straight criticism is discouraging. An editor must identify what’s wrong, clarify why it must be fixed, and excite the author to do the work. Editors must inflict the pain of “It’s not good enough, yet.” I’ve told more than one author to cut their first 50 pages. That’s painful! What I say about their work must ring so true that they trust me enough to endure that pain, for the sake of a better next draft.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

The Dangers of Editing

From Writer Unboxed:

I edit books for a living, so I know it’s true that writing is rewriting. But I’ve sometimes seen clients fall into editing traps that can cause real damage to their work. Although some simply waste valuable writing time, others get so caught up in the wrong kind of editing that they either lose sight of or actually blot out their vision of the book.

Before we get into these traps, a caveat. Every writer has their own approach to writing, including rewriting. There are plenty of exceptions to everything I say here. So unless you recognize yourself in the problems I describe, feel free to ignore me.

Do not start editing too soon. I’ve written before about how all the elements of a story interconnect with one another to form a complex ecosystem. If you start delving into detailed rewrites before your story, with all of its interconnected character and plot threads, is in place, then you are probably not doing all the editing you need. You cannot know how a character’s voice should sound until you know who they become. Nor can you judge the importance of descriptive details or the relative weight of different events until you know where your story is going. And you may waste time editing scenes that you later cut.

It’s tempting to jump into the editing too early. You may have reached a critical juncture in the plot where you’re not sure what happens next, so you dive back into the weeds of what you’ve written so far, looking for a way forward. Sometimes this works. But more often, the editing is just a distraction. It’s better to buckle down and finish your first draft before you start delving into the details.

Link to the rest at Writer Unboxed

On Murdering 22,000 Darlings

From WriterUnboxed:

One learns a lot about one’s writing habits—and oneself—when cutting almost 19 percent of a manuscript, paring it from 119,000 words (476 pages) to 97,000 words (409 pages).

Mind you, this wasn’t a first draft—it had been reviewed twice by a Zoe Quinton, a developmental editor I very much respect and trust (and whom I interviewed here at Writer Unboxed). After our work together, she said:

“SO well done. I’m blown away by the amount of work you did, and how well you integrated all the pieces together to form a truly stunning, gripping whole. I loved every minute of it, and nearly cried at the end, even knowing what the basic setup would be. You’ve got a hell of a book here, one of the best I’ve ever worked on. Bravo.”

Once I began submitting to agents, however, with the exception of two agents I’ll discuss shortly, I either heard nothing back or got the seldom helpful, “Not for me, good luck with it elsewhere.” The two agents who provided some feedback said two very different but very helpful things. (It’s currently under submission with two other agents, one of who seems particularly receptive.)

The first of the two agents who provided notes complimented my writing but remarked that my use of a gay, bi-racial (Cambodian/African American) woman main character made the book virtually impossible to sell in today’s cultural environment given the #mystory movement.

The second agent, despite liking a great deal about the book, comparing it at one point to American Gods, felt a lack of “narrative urgency” in the writing.

In discussing all this with Zoe, she responded that my female character’s sexuality and race had raised no reds flags for her, and she is sensitive to such things. She also found comparing the book to American Gods then bemoaning a lack of narrative urgency puzzling, as Neil Gaiman’s novel is hardly a full-throttle page turner, but shares some of the philosophical, mythical, and historical texture of my book.

Let me be clear: I in no way fault Zoe for the extensive post-edit rewrite I ended up conducting. Her job was to read the book, note its shortfalls as she saw them, help me correct them, while at the same time being conscientious of what she saw as my voice, my style, and the type of book I seemed to want to be writing—a big, sprawling, dystopian journey covering a great deal of the American landscape with a mythical backdrop.

But given my respect for the two agents who gave me notes, I felt obliged to pay attention to what they were telling me.

On reflection, making my female main character Irish-American and heterosexual not only didn’t present an overwhelming obstacle, it actually made better sense. The story concerns how a book she slaved over—a class project for a professor who was also her lover—got stolen from her when she went into an emotional tailspin after the professor cruelly broke things off. The book she created concerned Irish myth—which makes a heck of a lot more sense with someone of Irish heritage.

I wrote the character as originally conceived because the story takes place during a race war here in the U.S., and she represents exactly the multicultural/multi-racial component to our country that I want to champion and defend. But I realized I simply had to find other ways to make that point.

So that part of the rewrite seemed straightforward. Once I began reworking that aspect of the story, however, I began to realize that the other agent was also correct.

There was simply far too much needless description, excessive commentary, and just plain clutter, along with unnecessary or dramatically flat scenes—all of which I had slaved over, but which I now saw as in need of serious rewriting or just the old heave-ho.

And the more I cut, the more I comfortable I got with the paring. And the more comfortable I got with trimming, the more alert I became to what qualified for removal.

In his writing guide Best Words, Best Order, the poet and novelist Stephen Dobyns talks about honesty in the context of recognizing what is necessary and what is unnecessary in a piece of writing. He describes how, when several of his early mysteries were reissued and he had a chance to revisit them, he became dismayed at how much excess writing they contained, and was happy to have the chance to cut some of that away. He’d tried very hard to make the originals as lean as possible, and at the time believed he’d done so, but clearly he’d also allowed himself some puffery he now recognized as self-indulgent.

Link to the rest at WriterUnboxed

The End of Editing

From Publishers Weekly:

We have so many fantasies of what the writer’s life is like: jotting down notes at a café, time to dream, and a certain ease of getting published. While many of these, particularly the last, quickly fade, either because of early rejections or the need for a steady paycheck, there is one fantasy that I held on to until my first book was published: that of the overly involved, tough-love editor who would take my work to some next level—the Gordon Lish to my Raymond Carver—and care about it as much as I did.

My first book, a story collection, was published by a university press. The peer reviewers each gave a few careful comments. One reviewer wanted one story cut, the other thought it could be reworked. A second story was recommended for “fine-tuning.”

I agreed to address these small issues, and I waited for the editor to whom I had originally submitted the work to give me her edits. They never came. She told me to make the changes the reviewers had suggested, and then I was whisked right on to copy editing. I know she cared about the book. She just wasn’t going to edit it in the way I thought she would.

Rewind a year, to when I found an agent for my debut novel. He and I spent months going back and forth with my revisions, his comments, and more revisions. Here was the editing process I expected: where sentences are debated, scenes deleted, problems large and small addressed. Throughout this process, he kept telling me editors these days like really clean copy, and I started to realize that editors don’t really edit anymore.

“My agent used to be an editor,” says author Keith Lee Morris, whom I contacted after hearing him discuss the editing process at a book event, “and she quit to become an agent so that she could work more closely with authors on their manuscripts.”

My own agent, Madison Smartt Bell, agrees that editing has shifted: “Editors now can expect manuscripts submitted to them to be in an extremely finished state, perfected whether by writers teaching in the academy, or by agents drawing on their past experience as editors, or a combination of those two.”

Morris adds that editors are now expected to promote their books, and I know this was true of my university press editor, who not only acquired the book but was its marketing department, as well.

So, what have we lost with these changes in the industry? Is it just romantic ideals, or has some real care and attention to detail been lost? My debut novel, Strange Children, comes out with an independent press this month, and while the editor was certainly not a line-by-line editor, she did give me several helpful notes and talked me through ideas at length. I appreciated both her insight and her trust in me to take her comments and change the book how I saw fit. I know the time she spent made it a better book.

Morris did eventually seek out an “old-school” editor for one novel, but the experience was challenging: as writers, we may not be used to hands-on editing anymore, either. However, he admits, “There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that, ultimately, he made it a much better book. He pushed me beyond my comfort zone in a couple of crucial scenes, for which I’ll always be  grateful, even though it was painful at the time.”

. . . .

When we don’t have that, what’s lost isn’t just the quality or the not-quite-reached potential of a book, but also a sense of collaboration and mentorship. And though teachers, agents, and other writers are stepping up to fill the gap, there’s no guarantee that will always happen. As a writer, I regret not knowing that publication acceptance meant that the more rigorous editing process was behind me, not ahead of me.

The university press that published my book recently asked me to peer review a new book, and when I voted yes on the manuscript, I also handed in several pages of editorial notes, knowing I may be the only reader to do so. The editor and writer both responded with gratitude. And yet there were many small edits I would have suggested if I had been the actual editor, many places I thought a talented writer could be pushed more. As it stands, it doesn’t seem likely that push will happen. And that push, to me, seems like something we should seek out as writers, and make time for as publishers.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

So, if hiring a professional editor is something the author should undertake, what services does a trade publisher provide in exchange for taking the majority of the proceeds generated by sales of a book?

Cut the Cost of a Professional Editor

From Writer Unboxed:

As an author, you want your novel to be the best it can be. A top quality product means good reviews, word of mouth recommendations, which lead to increased sales. But just a few typos and grammatical errors will put readers off. Before they’ve even fallen over your plot holes, they’re filling message boards with mocking remarks about a couple of innocently misplaced hyphens or an occasional dangling modifier.

Most writers know this, and they diligently take time to search for editors who can check their manuscript for errors. But often a glance at the editor’s price list is enough to send an author clicking back to more fun ways to procrastinate. Suddenly, those increased sales seem a little too far down the line to justify the investment.

But you needn’t be intimidated by those price lists. In fact, there are many ways to cut the cost of a professional editor. Consider these five before you decide to stick with your potentially flaw-filled manuscript

  1. Don’t send your first draft

Don’t even send your second or third draft. Wait until you feel you can do no more with your story beyond changing that comma to a full stop and back again. It’s at that moment, when you feel you’re ready to publish your novel or send it to an agent, when you should, in fact, send your manuscript to a professional editor.

Unless you’ve been through a revision process with a story consultant or writing coach, then your first contact with an editor is likely to be for a developmental edit where you’ll get help with plot, structure, character development and flow, among other things. If these story elements aren’t already well established, you’ll be basically paying for the editor to help you rewrite, which will be time and money consuming. Revise as much as possible first, and you’ll definitely save on editing costs.

. . . .

3. Go for quality

There’s more to finding an editor than looking around for the cheapest. You’ve worked many long hours on your story, and there’s a lot of personal investment in every word. You need someone to handle that manuscript, and you, with care. And you want them to get it right first time. The last thing you need is to have to employ another editor to undo the previous one’s bad work.

Look around for editors that suit your maximum budget and ask them for a sample edit. You don’t need to send the whole manuscript. I’ve found that the first 1500 words (about five double-spaced pages) is enough for author and editor to make a good assessment of the other’s work. So, look for an editor that fits both your budget and your style.

Link to the rest at Writer Unboxed

Know your perspective

From editor and former agent Nathan Bransford, a portion of a first-page critique from a MS submitted to him for the purpose of a critique to be published, in part, on his blog:

Title – Girl at Sea
Psychological Thriller
David Burton

Chapter One

Willing to risk the sting of her husband’s palm, Emily Perrit asked, “Jamie, are you sure you have to go?” as she stood with her husband at the door to the garage.
Jamie Perrit let out a deep sigh. “Emily, you ask that every time I have to go out of town.”
“Can’t somebody else go? You should be a vice-president and not have to go. You know I don’t like to be here alone.”
Jamie froze on the first step.
Emily tensed, arms tight across her chest, heart racing.
Jamie stepped back into the house. He grabbed her jaw with his free hand. “Emily,” he said, full of disdain. “This is the last time we’re having this conversation. I’m only thirty-nine. There’s no way I can be a vice-president until I’m forty. It’s one of Mr. Teng’s rules.” He gave her face a shake. “Don’t make me punish you. You know I don’t like to do that.” He gave her a final squeeze and turned to the door.
Emily’s body vibrated with the release. She breathed deep. Eyes on the floor, she nodded. It was an old argument which she never won. “When will you be back?”
“Late Friday.”
“You told me Thursday. I got tickets for the symphony Friday night. We never go anymore.”
“Don’t whine, Emily. I don’t like it. Get Rachel to go with you.”
“She doesn’t like classical music. You do.”
“Okay, okay.”
He backed his BMW out of the garage. She thought he returned her wave then realized he only pushed the button to close the garage door.

While I like the final moment where she misunderstands a wave for him closing the garage door, I’m afraid overall that this page feels like it’s in pretty rough shape. It demonstrates quite a few common writing pratfalls rolled into one page:

  • Head jumping. We start with Emily’s perspective, and, while it’s subtle and there are no egregious violations, it feels like we start bouncing between Emily’s perspective and Jamie’s perspective due to the way his action is described. It doesn’t always feel contextualized from her perspective, nor does it feel like we have an omniscient narrator guiding us, so I ended up feeling just a tad disoriented about where to anchor my mind within the scene. It’s also confusing how we bounce in and out of the house without clear bridging action.
  • Empty gestures. There are some unique gestures (grabbing her jaw in particular, is a unique, if quite hostile gesture), but what little physical description we have feels padded with many empty and unnecessary gestures: Deep sigh, heart racing, breathed deep, eyes on the floor… Considering I recommend using generic gestures no more than two times for an entire novel, this is quite an expenditure for one brief page.
  • Launching into dialogue with insufficient context. It’s dangerous to begin a novel with a conversation the reader has very little context to understand. There’s very little contextualizing here to help orient the reader around what’s happening and what’s at stake.
  • Smushing exposition into dialogue. It doesn’t feel believable to me that Jamie would need to remind her about his age. Instead, it feels like it’s exposition crammed into dialogue, which invariably feels forced and unnatural.
  • Being coy with key details. What is Emily trying to achieve in this scene? What’s at stake? How is she thinking things through? There are quite a few missed chances to provide more details that would start to open up the story.

As I often say, all does not have to be revealed on the first page. But I’m afraid there are quite a few missed opportunities here to better anchor the reader and invite them into the story in a more natural way.

Link to the rest critique, including a redline of the first page, at Nathan Bransford

Don’t neglect the broader setting (page critique)

From Nathan Bransford:

Now then. Time for the Page Critique. First I’ll present the page without comment, then I’ll offer my thoughts and a redline. If you choose to offer your own thoughts, please be polite. We aim to be positive and helpful.

Random numbers were generated, and thanks to magicbeet, whose page is below.

“Move out of my way, darling,” Tari commanded with a confident smile.

Shadows filled the rented room, but Tari stood by the window in a single ray of moonlight, looking like an angel. Her skin glowed softly and her blonde hair shimmered, appearing almost silver. Her heavenly beauty contrasted with the black leather that hugged her long legs and cinched her small waist.

Darvyn tore his eyes from the deep V of skin exposed by her vest. Her pose and command were unconvincing. Had he ever refused her before? He chanced a look at her eyes, pale grey eyes, usually reminiscent of warm rain-filled clouds. Now they shone like icicle-daggers in a winter forest.

The cold scared him, but he ignored it. He blinked, reminding himself that she had betrayed Wildsea, had betrayed him.

He had invited her to this room, a room where they’d shared long hours of passion. But not tonight. Tonight, he intended to learn the truth about the woman to whom he’d given his heart.

She hadn’t confirmed or denied anything yet. He asked, “Who convinced you of this foolishness? Bring me to him, and together you and I will turn him over to the Council. You will be forgiven, but you must work with me.”

“Move,” she repeated.

In response to his stillness, she bent her elbow, resting her hand against her collarbone, a gesture that portrayed an almost childish innocence, but her eyes never left his. They held a sensual self-assurance

There are some good details in this opening, and I like that magicbeet takes the time to establish Tari’s physical presence. But I’m afraid I struggled to engage with this opening because at almost every opportunity the author missed opportunities to begin to open up the story and help us understand where we are, who Tari and Darvyn are, and what is passing between them in this moment.

. . . .

Here’s my redline:

“Move out of my way, darling,” Tari commanded with a confident smile. [This is a confusing opening because she doesn’t actually seem to be moving? She says this, but then they just stand there looking at each other?]

Shadows filled the rented room [the rented room where? Missed opportunity to establish the broader setting], but Tari stood by the window in a single ray of moonlight, looking to Darvyn like an angel [Tie this thought to the anchoring perspective to help contextualize who is making this observation]. Her skin glowed softly and her blonde hair shimmered, appearing almost silver. Her heavenly beauty contrasted with the black leather that hugged her long legs and cinched her small waist.

Darvyn tore his eyes from the deep V of skin exposed by her vest. Her pose and command were unconvincing. Had he ever refused her before? [Be more specific with this thought. Help us understand what he is actually considering refusing. Open up the story] He chanced a look at her eyes, pale grey eyes, usually reminiscent of warm rain-filled clouds now Now they shoneshining like icicle-daggers in a winter forest.

The cold scared him [Why?], but he ignored it. He blinked[empty gesture], remindingreminded himself that she had betrayed Wildsea, had betrayed him. [Missed opportunity to be more specific to start to open up the story. Be more specific with his memories and what, exactly, he fears right now]

He had invited her to this room, a room where they’dThey had shared long hours of passion in this room. But not tonight. Tonight, he intended to learn the truth about the woman to whom he’d given his heart. [Avoid repetition of room/room and tonight/tonight. Also, be more specific about what “truth” he is after. Open up the story]

She hadn’t confirmed or denied anything yet. He asked, “Who convinced you of this foolishness?” he asked. “Bring me to him, and together you and I will turn him over to the Council. You will be forgiven, but you must work with me.” [The reader has no context to understand what they’re talking about, so this is extremely confusing. Open up the story.]

“Move,” she repeated.

In response to his stillness, sShe bent her elbow, restingrested her hand againston her collarbone, a gesture that portrayed an almost childish innocence, but her eyes never left his. They held a sensual self-assurance

Link to the rest at Nathan Bransford

The Differences Between Line Editing, Copy Editing, and Proofreading

From Jane Friedman:

Editors disagree about many of the finer points of their work such as whether to capitalize the word president (no, generally, but yes with President Lincoln), whether to spell out numbers (some styles say yes to every number lower than 10 or lower than 100), or whether to use the serial comma that preceded this clause (Chicago Manual of Style says yes). Some purists would argue that this post’s headline should read among instead of between. But I digress.

Editors also disagree about whether to start a sentence with And. And of course editors disagree about what constitutes the levels of editing that are often labeled copy editing, line editing, and proofreading—or just simply editing.

For guidance, I turned to the authority, the Chicago manual. Yet even that widely accepted all-knowing guide doesn’t make a distinction among editing levels: “Manuscript editing, also called copy editing or line editing, requires attention to every word and mark of punctuation in a manuscript, a thorough knowledge of the style to be followed, and the ability to make quick, logical, and defensible decisions.”

New authors are often confused about what level of editing they need, and rightly so. I hope to offer insight into the differences between line editing, copy editing, and proofreading.

. . . .

What to Expect with a Line Edit

In a line edit, an editor examines every word and every sentence and every paragraph and every section and every chapter and the entirety of your written manuscript. Typos, wrong words, misspellings, double words, punctuation, run-on sentences, long paragraphs, subheadings, chapter titles, table of contents, author bios—everything is scrutinized, corrected, tracked, and commented on.

Facts are checked, name spellings of people and places are confirmed. This is the type of edit I perform most often.

Your editor will likely do the following:

  • Conduct heavier fact checking (for example, exact titles of movies in italics, death date of a famous person in history, the protagonist was using an iPhone before they were invented).
  • Make suggestions about moving or removing text (or actually doing the task and explaining in a marginal note why).
  • Initiate a discussion about why the dreary Introduction could be cut.
  • Offer a new scheme for moving a chapter or two around to better accommodate a time line. (Actually doing the moving and writing transitions might fall into the category of developmental edit or left to the author to do.)
  • Query the author in a marginal note about why Susan in chapter 2 was wearing a winter coat when the scene takes place in summer. Or whether the author intended for the detective described earlier with a full beard to be scratching his stubble.
  • Point out repetition and inconsistencies in the story line. But not rewriting. Actually revise awkward sentences, break up long sentences, streamline sentences with clauses and parentheticals. Recast sentences that begin with There are and It is. Those constructions are simply not strong. That’s why line editing is considered a sentence-level type of edit.
  • Substitute stronger words for the commonly overused words (very, pretty, things, great, and good are my pet peeves).

Let me show you what an edit can do. This is a paragraph from Chris Meyer’s book Life in 20 Lessons. Chris is a funeral home director. A line edit would turn this rough paragraph—

The more regular are the things that make life so cruel and unfair: a healthy man has a heart attack on his bike ride, a child stricken with cancer, a mother dying before her children reach middle school, a father on vacation with his children, a son abalone fishing because it brings him joy, a daughter in an auto wreck with her best girlfriends, a simple slip and fall, gunshots, the list is as endless as it is tragic.

—into this:

More likely are the events surrounding death that make life so cruel and unfair: a healthy man has a heart attack on his bike ride; a child is stricken with leukemia; a mother dies before her children reach middle school; a father suffers a fatal stroke while on vacation with his children; a son drowns while abalone fishing; a daughter is killed instantly in an auto wreck with her best girlfriends; a simple slip and fall, gunshots, the list is as endless as it is tragic.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

Surviving—and Thriving—In The Brave New World Of Publishing

From Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris:

Publishing used to be a leisurely enterprise.  Authors could submit their work directly to the “slush” pile. Editorial assistants would carefully sift through the submissions looking for books that could be turned into solid commercial properties.  Submissions were sent in hard copy, and editors’ offices were piled high with manuscripts.  We had to lug three or four submissions home to read on our spare time. Editing was done in right on the manuscript, usually in red pencil. Time consuming but effective.

In years past, agents would take on projects because they loved them and would work with authors until they were ready for submission to publishers. Editors would often send an editorial letter to authors before they actually acquired their books, making suggestions how to make them acceptable. Publishers supported new writers with publicity, author tours, sometimes even advertising. The rule was that it was only on their third or fourth book that their fortunes would hit their stride.

. . . .

The current state of publishing.

The advent of mega corporate publishing conglomerates, computer sales tracking, and the consolidation of the bookstores and distributors changed everything.  There used to be dozens of publishers, large and small, where an author might find a home. Now there are basically four or five publishers that control the market.

. . . .

Bottom line concerns have all but decimated the publishers’ promotional efforts and have left it up to the authors for the most part. Computer sales tracking  allows publishers, agents and distributors daily performance reports. While it used to take six months to figure out if a book was successful, now it takes less than month.

. . . .

 Since there are fewer bookstores, large and small, to showcase the thousands of new and old titles that are still published each month, it’s tough get an traction with readers. The vast majority of books are bought from online like vendors like Amazon or in big box stores like Walmart or Costco.

As of result all these new market forces, the submission and acquisition process is more competitive than ever.  Physical slush piles are now the email inboxes of agents and editors. The pressure is on to find “big” books that will become bestsellers upon publication. Agents are more selective than ever.

One agent I know reads only the first line of a manuscript. If she doesn’t like it, she rejects it.

Another won’t accept authors who don’t have well established social media platforms.

Editors spend their days at corporate meetings and don’t have as much time to edit or work with an author to strengthen work. The consequence is that both agents and editors require manuscripts to be as close to final as possible before taking them on.

. . . .

Authors need to be prepared to meet these challenges, but they are often subject to the old problem of not being able to see “the forest for the trees.”  Immersed in their craft, they lose perspective, and find it hard to see the larger picture of how their work will be received by agents or editors. In most instances, a new project has one shot at being accepted when it is submitted to an editor. If it rejected by multiple editors, agents will deem it a losing proposition and cease to represent it.  So authors need to make sure their work is as strong as it can be before the submission process begins.  

Hence the need for experienced freelance editors, whose familiarity with the business can give authors an advantage. In this new world of publishing, they have taken the place of the traditional in-house editor or hands-on agent. Qualified freelance editors have become a vital part of the submission process and can make difference between rejection and acceptance.

Link to the rest at Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris

PG is a big fan of quality freelance editors. He thinks they can improve most manuscripts substantially.

However, if, as the OP implies, hiring an experienced freelance editor to help you get an agent who then gets you a publishing contract with a traditional publisher is adding one more person for a traditionally-published author to pay, further reducing the net income the author will receive for a book.

In ancient times, an author could submit a book to one or more publishers directly with some reasonable assurance that a qualified individual who was on the publisher’s payroll and had been for more than three weeks would give it a serious read, at least through several pages, then send the author some meaningful feedback if the publisher’s employee thought the manuscript showed promise.

Today, PG thinks quite a few authors could benefit from a quality freelance editor before self-publishing their book.

There are quality freelance editors in New York City. There are also quality freelance editors in places other than New York City, including places where the cost of living is much lower than it is in New York City. On a regular basis, the cost of living affects the fees a quality freelance editor (or anyone else providing services) charges for her/his services.