I’ve learned so much between the release of A Charming Nightmare and the upcoming release of Sister’s Lament. The number one thing I learned is that ACN was done completely wrong. I rushed it, gave myself a budget of zero, and I sought help from people who loved me. This caused ACN to suffer; spelling, grammar, flow, and overall sales wise.
I’m going to tell you about the 4 people you need in your writing life. I’ll explain why your BFF is NOT one of those people and why you should/shouldn’t pay those people.
#1 person in your writing life is your editor. Forever and ever, amen your editor.
Ask an editor how they feel about the friends and family editing plan and they will cringe at the thought of a writer using a friend or family member to do their job, because you can’t afford a professional. No matter how good your freebie editor is, it’ll show. Reason #1 not to take up mom’s or your college roommate’s offer to edit – they love you, they are some of your biggest supporters, they know what you meant and might skip over some vitals, they never ever want to hurt your feelings, and they are not professionals in the publishing industry (even the English teacher on your friends list IS NOT a professional in this industry).
With Sister’s Lament I made the financial sacrifice and hired a professional. Instead of telling me ‘I knew what you meant’ she asked me to defend my wording. If I couldn’t, she put a strike through it. If she didn’t know what I meant with certain phrasing, she re-purposed the words into something that a total stranger could grasp. She had the industry knowledge for page set up, experience for content suggestions, she knew the regulations and laws when it came to pop culture references, is an expert at character development, and had all the necessary tools to send me pages filled with red corrections.
#2 EVERYONE judges a book by its cover
I’m not saying to spend the money on your cover, cover art can be costly. However, there are a ton of indie artists looking to get their name on a piece! Shop around, look at their style, or what else they have done to find a like mind in imaging. For all of my covers I ignored my own ‘don’t use friends’ rule and gave free reign over cover art to my best friend. I tried to stay out of her vision; keeping my input to a sentence “I want them all to be focused on hands.” Off she went…not to say she didn’t ask for further instruction-more? Less? Font? Here’s why I broke the no friends rule: my cover artist is an amazing artist-I adore her work, she’s also a very detailed graphic artist, a small business owner, and she completely knows me, my style, and what I’m trying to say with a cover. She treated our situation as if we weren’t each other’s favorite people, approaching each cover as a business deal. She would tell me yes or no, and in the end I can’t argue with the outcome. She managed to capture an entire story line in ONE beautiful image.
Most of all SHE’S the visual artist. You (more likely than not) ARE NOT. Put your masterpiece in the hands of an actual artist-an indie or a paid professional-instead of frustrating yourself over stock photos that don’t quiet say what you want. Remember your cover is a FIRST impression of you and your novel, and everyone judges a cover.
#3 Grandma is not a BETA reader-your work will go on her fridge door no matter how it reads
For those of you who don’t know what a BETA reader is; they are the person you send an ARC (advanced reading copy) to whether it be in file form or printed proof. You can send them a chapter or an entire piece. They will be your first readers, the first impression of the entire piece. And their job is to say “I don’t get it”, “I love this!”, and “I hate that.” They are not proof readers-those you pay for, BETA readers are the voice of your audience.
I didn’t use a BETA for ACN and it shows, some things were confusing for readers. I missed the mark on certain points scientifically, or in solution. If I had a BETA reader, they would have been able to tell me “Can you expand on this?” And yes, your editor will do this for you, and they will do this very well for you-but two sets of eyes are always better than one right? Especially if that second set of eyes is typically FREE and doesn’t have to watch out for the use of there, their, and they’re while reading.
For Sister’s Lament I sent a file to an acquaintance of mine. Someone who loves books, and more specifically loves sci-fi. He went through my polished piece pointing out things I didn’t carry over from book one that a reader may need. He also made valid scientific points that I will address in ACN this summer when editing it for re-release. My BETA reader didn’t overlook anything. If a character needed developing he noted it. BETA’s are there for that sole purpose, to find holes. Why have a beautifully displayed piece, with immaculate grammar and punctuation, and yet have the plot as holey as a strainer, filled with characters you can’t see as real people?
#4 Proof Readers are your friend
After everything is said and done and you are holding a hard copy of your masterpiece DON’T be so quick to click the ‘Go Live’ button. Instead turn to your proofreader and hand it all over to them. A proofreader goes through a book’s proof with a skilled meticulous eye inspecting every inch cover to cover. They are your final safe guard in making sure your work is market ready. If any there, their, their or misteak found its way passed your very talented editor and BETA reader, this is the person who will catch it. If you forget a word in your copyright page, this is who will tell you. If your paragraph cuts are off, they’ll tell you. Think of your proofreader as the person holding the flour sifter looking for that one left over lump.
Those are the people you need in your life as a writer. Each one is just as important to the success of your book as the other. I will never skimp on them again, it does not help you to go without one or the other.
If you are interested in using my editor (Carmilla Voiez) you can find her guidelines and rates at:
For proofreading services you can contact Benjamin Franke at Bfranke.firstname.lastname@example.org
Cover artist??? Get your own I’m not sharing!! But Goodreads has a pretty good list to start your quest!
There are also artist communities online. I recommend joining one or ten and finding work that speaks to you and your story. Become part of that community. Rate and review their work, join in discussions, and soon a professional relationship will develop. www.deviantart.com is just one of those communities.