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Learn Writing with Uncle Jim, Volume 1

editing_for_authors
Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

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JA Konrath

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I really have to disagree. As authors we need to write the best books we can.

Of course we do. But it's a lousy keymaker who creates a key without considering the lock first.

That wasn't the point of my quote, though. After you write a book, and you're promoting it, there are different catagories of buyers. For example, when I speak at a mystery bookstore, it's a much different crowd than speaking at a literary festival.

Book readers fit into catagories. Die hard buyers, who read everything. Casual readers, who read a few books a year on vacation. Gift buyers. Johnny-come-latelys. Booksellers. People who never go into bookstores. These are all groups to target, and all should be approached in different ways.

Any other marketing we do is invisible if the publisher isn't already doing its job. As far as running around to bookstores takes time and energy away from writing, it's counterproductive.

Your publisher is your business partner, not your boss. You're both responsibly for marketing.

You can write a great book, with great distibution and a decent marketing campaign, and it can still slip through the cracks. The more people you reach to tell about the book, the better off you are. And it's possible to reach a lot of people on your own.

No one mentioned marketing at the expense of writing. Marketing is what happens after you've written a great book.

The more promotion you do, the more books you'll sell, the more you'll strengthen your brand. You can have a zillion legitimate reasons not to do any sort of promotion. Numbers don't care about your reasons. Neither do publishers when they're looking to buy books.
 

James D. Macdonald

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Let's just agree to disagree about this.

Selling an extra 500 books is a 1% difference when you're moving 50,000.

Visiting bookstores in New York makes no difference to my sales in California, nor to my sales in Oregon. But I'd better have sales in California and Oregon, too, or I'm out of business.

If it's fun for you, if you enjoy gladhanding, more power to you. It isn't a requirement.
 

Kristin Landon

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If it's fun for you, if you enjoy gladhanding, more power to you. It isn't a requirement.

And some of us are reeeallllly glad of that.

I'm not good at glad-handing, and I can't write a book a year and work full-time if I'm also driving up and down the coast visiting bookstores. Not to mention the piteous cries of the children starving at home.

My agent, who should know, gave me the same advice: Write another good book, and don't worry about the rest of it.
 

JA Konrath

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Let's just agree to disagree about this.

Selling an extra 500 books is a 1% difference when you're moving 50,000.

Visiting bookstores in New York makes no difference to my sales in California, nor to my sales in Oregon. But I'd better have sales in California and Oregon, too, or I'm out of business.

If it's fun for you, if you enjoy gladhanding, more power to you. It isn't a requirement.

I'm happy to disagree, but you seem to be devalueing the importance of promotion without addressing the positive effects, both tangible and intangible, that it produces.

The more you promote, the more books you'll sell, the more interviews you'll get, the more media exposure you'll receive, the more events you'll be invited to speak at, and the more your publisher will get behind your books.

Incidentally, local sales do matter to chains, which track sales. Selling well in one region can result in a nationwide larger order. This has happened for me, several times.

Promotion isn't fun. Writing is fun. Promotion allows me to keep writing. The best book in the world won't sell a single copy if nobody ever hears about it. Part of my job is getting people to hear about it.
 

James D. Macdonald

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The best book in the world won't sell a single copy if nobody ever hears about it. Part of my job is getting people to hear about it.


Look at all those self-published guys with double-digit sales. That's what author-promotion without publisher-promotion gets.

Getting more interviews and getting invited to speak at more places don't strike me as major inducements. I did a four-state seven-city tour once. Never again. I'll schedule elective oral surgery instead.
 

JA Konrath

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Look at all those self-published guys with double-digit sales. That's what author-promotion without publisher-promotion gets.

No, that's what lousy distribution and no pre-orders gets you. Many books with major publishers die on the shevles, even with promotion. Self-published books never even get on the shelves.

Getting more interviews and getting invited to speak at more places don't strike me as major inducements. I did a four-state seven-city tour once. Never again. I'll schedule elective oral surgery instead.

I'm sorry you had a negative experience, Jim.

I just got back from 8 days in Italy, with my family. My publisher brought us there, and they paid for everything. I wouldn't have an Italian publisher if it wasn't for meeting them while touring the US.

I've been invited to speak in New York by Google, I've been featured in Forbes, and I've gotten free rides to over a dozen conferences, book festivals, and conventions. Not because my publisher set these things up. But because these people contacted me, having heard about my promo efforts or having met me on the road.

I was recently invited to a major chain store regional meeting. I was the sole author there, and I spoke for forty minutes to a group of 250 bookstore general managers, along with some higher ups including the vice president of the company. How much is that worth?

I've had well over a hundred interviews, newspaper, radio, web--again, my efforts, not my publicist's efforts.

My publisher is behind me, but the more I do, the more they do. For my first book, they printed up promo material, had a big launch party at BEA, and made sure my books were in the stores. But they forbade me from touring, because a publisher must pay a store coop money when the author does a signing, They figured I was a new author, and I couldn't sell enough books to justify the coop cost, so they told me I couldn't do any signings.

I did signings anyway, calling them 'drop-ins' instead of official signings, then staying for six hours and handselling hardcovers. Success at one store led to invites from others, which eventually led to the DM of a chain calling me up and inviting me to over a dozen stores. The increased sales in these stores made a blip on the inventory radar, leading to increased sales nationwide in this chain.

For book #2, my publisher toured me. 11 cities. That wouldn't have happened if not for my success with book #1. I used the rental car and dropped in an additional 95 stores, in between interviews and official signings.

For book #3, my publisher paid all expenses for me to visit 618 stores. I met over 1300 bookstore employees. Shook their hands. Pitched my series to them. Gave them free signed books. Then I thanked each, by name, in the acknowledgments of book #4. How much is that worth?

For book #4, my publisher has received it's biggest preorder ever. They're dumping all of their marketing dollars into front-of-store coop and discounts.

I'm just a midlist mystery author. But I've earned out my advance on my first 3 book, six figure contract, and my brand is growing.

I think self-promotion had a little something to do with it.

Can everyone do the same thing I did? No. But the fact remains, the more promotion you do, the more books you'll sell, the more good things that happen.

As writers, we get paid for our words. We're paid, because publishers sell our words to readers. If the readers don't buy our books, the publishers will stop paying us.

It is obviously in an author's best interest to help those books sell.
 

Captain Morgan

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Look at all those self-published guys with double-digit sales. That's what author-promotion without publisher-promotion gets.

This makes me think of those PA guys who haven't even broken the double-digit sales. Except for the rare occasion a few people accidently misclicked while shopping online at amazon. :p
 

James D. Macdonald

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I'm just a midlist mystery author. But I've earned out my advance on my first 3 book, six figure contract, and my brand is growing.

I think self-promotion had a little something to do with it.

Well, I'm just a mid-list SF/fantasy author, and you know my attitude toward self-promotion. I'd rather drive a spike through my hand than do most of that stuff you've listed as Good Things ... and you know what? My results are about the same as yours, as far as selling and earning out.

So no, I don't see self-promotion as having all that much to do with it.

Self-promotion: People who do it well and enjoy it should do it. People who don't do it well but enjoy it shouldn't do it. People who do it well but don't enjoy it shouldn't do it. People who don't do it well and don't enjoy it definitely shouldn't do it.
 

JA Konrath

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Self-promotion: People who do it well and enjoy it should do it. People who don't do it well but enjoy it shouldn't do it. People who do it well but don't enjoy it shouldn't do it. People who don't do it well and don't enjoy it definitely shouldn't do it.

Shouldn't people try it, rather than be discouraged from trying it?

And like all skills, isn't it possible to improve at public speaking and promoting?

I have a friend who doesn't brush his teeth. He's never had a cavity. But it simply isn't good advice to tell others not to brush their teeth, even if it worked for him.

Brushing reduces cavities. Promotion sells books.
 

JoNightshade

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Okay, you guys have both made your points admirably. Anyone else who is reading will certainly be making an informed decision. So let's call this the end and talk about something else before it devolves into meaningless similes. :)
 

allenparker

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What I got from Summer Camp

I understand the following from this discussion:

1. A book needs promotion to sell.
2. The publisher better be promoting the book if it is to sell.
3. An author can help with sales.
4. No amount of author promotion will save a book from a poor publisher.
5. Authors with platforms should utilize them to help the publisher.
6. Authors with no platform can have fun with book signings, but shouldn't quit their job to start a whirlwind Book Tour.
7. Eat chocolate whenever possible.

Okay, so I didn't get number seven from the discussion, but it is still good advice.
 

Dave.C.Robinson

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After taking a good look at this discussion, here's what I came up with: while promotion can be of great benefit, a writer's primary function is to write. Once a book is out you're as much promoting the next book as this one. If promotion interferes with writing you're putting your foot in your mouth then shooting yourself in the foot.

Writers write. Promoters promote. If you have to pick between them choose the one that everything else depends on. If you're not writing you won't have anything to promote.

I'm going to make an addendum to what Allen Parker said, and recommend the consumption of mass quantities of coffee.
 

anodyne

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Tea is better for you than coffee. I think there's been enough time since Boston Harbor, the tea tax and the stamp act to switch back to the one that balances the massive over-productivity of caffeine with the focusing abilities of other chemical compounds. Don't you?

P.S. Wouldn't a tea vs. coffee debate be so much more fun than a book signing one?
 

allenparker

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think about it

Tea is better for you than coffee. I think there's been enough time since Boston Harbor, the tea tax and the stamp act to switch back to the one that balances the massive over-productivity of caffeine with the focusing abilities of other chemical compounds. Don't you?

P.S. Wouldn't a tea vs. coffee debate be so much more fun than a book signing one?

You do know that tea has more caffeine than coffee, don't you?
 

Meerkat

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Here's my idiotic question, which I'm sure everyone on this site except me understands already: Why exactly is it that it would be considered a conflict of interest for an agent to represent a book he or she has also worked on (edited or perhaps even coauthored)? Wouldn't this be simply vested interest rather than any sort of conflict? Wouldn't they actually perform a more energetic job marketing such an item?
 

Dave.C.Robinson

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Here's my idiotic question, which I'm sure everyone on this site except me understands already: Why exactly is it that it would be considered a conflict of interest for an agent to represent a book he or she has also worked on (edited or perhaps even coauthored)? Wouldn't this be simply vested interest rather than any sort of conflict? Wouldn't they actually perform a more energetic job marketing such an item?

The conflict of interest doesn't come from editing or even co-authoring the work. The conflict of interest is based on where the money comes from. If I send a manuscript to Agent of Shield and they edit it heavily, then go out and sell it to Big Name Publisher and collect their commission for that it's all peachy. The problem, and the conflict of interest, comes in if they want to charge me money for editing the book.

Let's say that a bill comes up and Agent of Shield suddenly needs new tires for the Helicarrier. Now if they're charging me for editing, they can simply tell me the book needs another edit, and get the money for new tires that way, rather than pound the pavement a little harder to see if Bigger Name Publisher might buy the book instead.

As you can see from the above, the conflict of interest comes in when the agent has a clear financial benefit for not doing their job. Helicarrier tires are expensive. It's easier for an agent to charge for editing than to get a publisher to buy a book. Again the insidious part is that the agent gets paid for doing the opposite of their job.

In that case the agent benefits from selling or not selling, and has to balance the larger profit from selling against the easier money from editing.

Now if the Agent edits without a fee and sells the book, you're fine. That's because the free edits have taken time and effort, which the agent can't recoup unless they do sell the book. Here they're rewarded for selling.

Editing's fine, charging for editing's not.
 

James D. Macdonald

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There are also agents who are in cahoots with " professional editors." They recommend that you get your book "professionally edited," and supply their chum's name. The "professional editor" sends a kickback.

See, for example, the Edit Ink affair.
 

Meerkat

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Thanks Uncle Jim. I did know about those...creatures...and to beware. It was the arrangement of a legitimate agent himself or herself being involved in the project that confused me.
 

anodyne

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<bounces in Uncle Jim's lap>

I'd like a pony...

and...

a Barbie Safari jeep...

and...

a bead set...

and...

a creepy crawlers gross out treats factory and... <twirls a pigtail innocently>

another assignment and some lessons? When you're not too busy. Oh! And Peace on earth.

<nods>
 

Just Mike

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I second anodyne's plea

(said the lurker from his piteous corner).

Oh, and as it seems to be a tradition in these h'yar parts (dialect, ick!) (parentheses, ick!) I'd like to thank Uncle Jim. Seriously, my WIP would be shorter by about, um, most of it if this forum didn't exist. So thank you. Very shortly I'm gonna send it out 'til hell won't take it.

I'd love to be able to ask a noob question to brighten your day, but it seems you've answered most every one in the course of this thread. Bravo.
 

James D. Macdonald

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Here are some notes on Point of View: Site link removed per request of other site's Webmaster

This is, dare I say it, from the point of view of a filmmaker, but all the arts are related, and the story-telling arts more closely so.

Anodyne, have you been a good little girl? Did you eat all your vegetables? Did you write at least two pages of original prose fiction today? Very well!

Your assignment is to pick up a magazine that you've never previously read, preferably in a genre you don't like, find a short story, and read it from beginning to end.

Then go to your public library, find a novel in that same genre, and read it from beginning to end.

The reason for the short story is to give you an idea of the reading protocols for the novel.

Now: what worked, and what didn't, in that novel, and why?

Or:

If this is too onerous (or if you really, really want that creepy crawlers gross-out treats factory), go to a video-rental store. Get a movie you've never seen before (or read any reviews of). Watch it with the sound off. (Films with subtitles don't count.)

Now write a short story based on the story you think you just saw. You have a week for 6,000 words.

If you're a natural novelist, write a novel instead. You have three months.

Let me know when you've done it....
 
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Niteowl

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Hullo Uncle Jim!

I've read through the Condensed Uncle Jim thread, and have a quick question for you about the whole Celtic Knots advice.

Am I to apply the Celtic knots to my characters? That is, try and have them pop up fairly regularly so that the reader doesn't forget them? Or is there a deeper meaning there: like, does it apply to revealing character, advancing plot, and supporting theme?
 
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