April 24, 2018

To Edit or Not Edit, That Is the Question

Image courtesy of
Stuart Miles Freedigitalphotos.net
You did it! You wrote a novel. You heave a satisfied sigh as the last words flow onto the page. A big grin stretches over your face.

Now what?

If TV shows and movies are to be believed, you send it off to your agent and a few months later, receive a box full of the first prints of your hard work.

Too bad it doesn't work that way, right?

Movie writers don't show us the endless revisions, the working through notes with an agent, then an editor, to get it right. They don't show us the author trying to find an agent. Yes, in this day of self-publishing, you can turn right around and publish your work, skip those steps, but you're doing yourself a disservice.

You MUST edit. You MUST have experienced readers and editors look over your work. If you don't, you're not publishing your best work. You're not discovering the glitches in your plot or the mistakes in character development. Someone needs to point out that your protagonist had blue eyes in the first chapter and brown eyes in the tenth chapter. Someone needs to find the typos. Someone needs to tell you we don't care about this character, why are they in here?

But, But, But

If I follow someone else's feedback, it's no longer my book!

No. Not true. If you go ruby mining and find a ruby, do you leave it pure and untouched? Maybe, but if you want to share it with others or place it in a setting, you first get help. Someone polishes it. Someone helps you find the right setting for it. Someone helps you make it an item people will ooh and ah over. It's still your stone.

With your writing, you're the one doing the work. You still own the book. You still own the story, the characters, the plot. These professionals help you polish it.

Don't skip this step. Even if you're self-publishing, let someone help you get it ready for viewing. Make sure you're presenting your best work. Not your first draft or self-edited work. Your readers will thank you.

Writing a book? Barbara Evers is a freelance editor and writer.
Feel free to contact her if you want to know more about her services.

April 17, 2018

Do You Measure Up: Judging Your Book Cover & Marketing

I want to talk about book covers and marketing, but first I want to share a related story.

A few weeks ago, my granddaughter came home with the news that she had won First Place in her school's Science Fair. Elated, I congratulated her and made sure our schedules allowed for the next hurdle: the District Science Fair.

On the day she took her project board and spoke to the judges, I began to worry. Although Victoria is very artsy, she didn't create a flashy project board. She created what her school asked of her. Most of the other kids had flashy boards with all sorts of color. Victoria's board stuck to the science of her experiment with a few targeted visuals.

Later, I wandered through and read the other boards. Only two others besides Victoria went into a scientific explanation of the results of their experiments. The other boards didn't touch on a scientific explanation at all. In the back of my mind, I hoped, but I remembered my father's words to me years ago: Judges are swayed by flashy instead of the true science in a science fair.

He was right.

A slide during the awards program showing
Victoria explaining her project to a judge.

They gave awards for the oral presentation and awards for the project. Victoria received an Honorable Mention for her oral report. Each of the Science Fair participants, also, received Gold or Silver commendations. She received Gold in both categories, but she didn't receive an award for her project. The child who won in the project category and received Best In Show had nothing scientific on her board. I remember it well. She didn't explain how she did the experiment, what the results meant, or why she got the results she did.

Her board was very cute and very flashy. She won. Three other children received 2nd-4th place. To be fair the 2nd place winner had the most indepth scientific explanation on her board as well as a flashy board.

I'm not telling this story to complain. I'm VERY proud of Victoria and her accomplishments. She won in my book because she did it right and she did it by herself. I'm sharing this because no matter how much writers prefer words to marketing, the visual part of our strategy remains important. We live in a visual world. If you can't grab people with attractive and meaningful visuals, you can't compete in the book market.

Think about the last book you bought. Why did you buy it?

Either you knew and liked the author or something about the cover or their publicity made you pick it up to begin with. FYI, if you knew or liked the author, somewhere in your past their cover or publicity influenced your decision to buy that first book

I would love to know why you bought the last book you bought, physical or digital. Please share in the comments and feel free to share a link to the book's cover, too. I'll start the conversation with my last book.

April 10, 2018

Writers Need To Like Criticism

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles Freedigitalphotos.net
Writing critique groups exist for one purpose: to improve your writing. That means you have to take criticism of your work, learn how to evaluate the criticism, and improve your writing based on that same criticism.

In other words: You NEED to learn to like criticism.

Yep. If we're going to improve, we need to listen to constructive feedback. Of course, how it's given plays a factor in how we take it, but it's still not easy to sit back and smile, and even say thank you, to hard truths.

I've been listening to TEDTalks podcasts lately, and they've started a new sub-channel: WorkLife with Adam Grant. The first podcast I listened to on this channel was entitled: How to Love Criticism.  It's worth a listen, but make sure you have the time. The podcast runs about thirty minutes.

As you listen to the opening story, think about the first time you attended a writing workshop or critique group and received feedback. You might be able to relate to Adam's story. Some of what you will hear sounds a bit radical, in fact it's called radical criticism in the podcast. But, what they're going to say, many writers can attest to. We need criticism, provided fairly and with compassion, in order to improve our work.

Near the end of the podcast, they'll talk about how to accept and be energized by constructive feedback, so make sure you stick with it. The post is approximately 30 minutes in length, so you might want to download it and listen in your car. That's what I did.

The link is below:

Oh, and, just like in the movies, there's something after the credits. Don't press pause until after Adam provides criticism to his guest on how he performed on the show.