It may come as a surprise, but it is not always easy for editors to give critical feedback on manuscripts. While I believe the editorial mind is geared toward quickly noticing what's missing, wrong, or out of place, there's also a human on the other side of that mind who knows what it is like to receive criticism on creative work.
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You are the cream that has risen to the top. You have several publishing offers in front of you. You have your pick of the litter. Advance and royalty rates are basically the same. What now becomes your deciding factor? Does it really matter whom you choose to publish with?
The word on the street about editor-agent relationships is muddled at best and negative at worst. But I don’t give that much thought when I am in the trenches with an agent reviewing a proposal and negotiating an author’s contract. I decide how my relationships with agents are going to be—and I like working with agents.
- I am editing another author's book.
- I am editing another author's back cover copy.
- I am doing some online super-sleuthing for new authors.
- I just got off a long conference call with another author or an agent.
- I am responding to a long emailed list of contract revisions from an agent or another author.
- I am writing an edit letter to another author.
- I am preparing proposals for an upcoming acquisitions meeting.
- I am preparing a monthly activity report.
- I am on my way to a meeting.
- I am just getting back from a meeting and I am trying to figure out where I left off in my work.
- I am taking action on the action steps from a meeting I just attended.
- I am honing my telepathy skills when I have no idea what another author is talking about in the book I am editing.
- I am trying to decode a cryptic request from someone who just stopped by my desk and asked me to do something for them.
- I am making a desperate attempt to create a to-do list so I don't forget anything that has to do with the thirty to fifty projects I have in the pipeline.
- I am conceptualizing a best seller (yes, it pays to speak positively).
- I am shutting down my computer and on my way home for the evening.
Before you hit "send" on that query or proposal to that agent, editor, or publisher, you'll want to make sure you've dotted all your Is and crossed all your Ts. Here's a list that could help you get one step closer to your publishing dreams.
You finally meet with the editor or agent, and to your surprise, after thinking their favorite word is no, they say they like your concept and would love to see more of it. “Here’s my card,” they say. “Please email me a full proposal.” The words you had practiced to combat any objections are caught in your throat and all you can say is, “Oh! Oh, that’s great. OK! Yes? Really? OK! Thank you!”
Yes, they want you to send them your manuscript (or proposal). But you know what some writers do? OK, wait. This requires a list.
Are there any questions from the audience?
Many times we overcome the fear of rejection and walk right in with our ideas, but what we don’t get rid of is the residue of rejection on the way out—the bitterness or low self-worth that is left over from the rejection. Handling rejection properly is the difference between being jaded, cynical, apathetic, and desperate and being confident, present, and amazingly successful. Here are ten ways I think you can filter out the negative residue of rejection and find yourself coming out on top.
What makes you most nervous about pitching a book idea?
I want writers to be successful. I want to see them take ownership of their gift—research more, practice more, train more, hone and fine-tune more, go back to the drawing board more, be critiqued more, and think more about the industry as a whole.
As you begin to formulate the main topic of your book and your target audience, these are the other equally important questions you, your book proposal, and your manuscript should be able to answer.
I know, you were taught to do two spaces in your high school typing/keyboarding class, but in word processing programs like Microsoft Word there’s a little flex space after period so there is no need to be redundant. However, I was informed on Twitter this afternoon by @EditorMark that the 6th edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association is going back to two spaces after a period, but since that only refers to psychological journals, textbooks, and such and has little to do with the mass media books, I just closed my ears and said, "La, la, la, la, la..." All I can think about is the search-and-replace nightmare that would be!
Do not use colors, huge fonts, or clip art to accentuate book or chapter titles.
We’re going to standardize it anyway when (or if) it comes in house. We have paragraph styles that we apply to a manuscript in Word, so that it can be easily typeset and placed in an Adobe InDesign template by the interior design team. The other thing is that editors read for content, not how cute or creative a manuscript looks. You can’t trick us with your pretty designs. Our judgment of beauty goes far beyond skin deep.
Do not include photos, graphics, or non-Word tables in your manuscript file.
Attach them as separate files (.jpg, .gif, in high resolution). Just place a note in your file where a photo or graphic should be placed using the image's file name for reference. Keeping these embedded in the file can, at times, make the file too large to save and e-mail.
This also adds to the bulk of a file, and really there’s nothing that it is useful for when you are not doing an e-book. Now, I don’t mean that you can’t include links to Web sites in your book, just don’t leave the hyperlink active (when it’s blue and underlined and when clicked takes you to the Web site indicated). Here’s how to deactivate it using Word 2003 (Word 2007 has a similar method, if I’m not mistaken):
- Place your cursor in the midst of the text for the hyperlink.
- Then right click with your mouse. A pop-up menu box will appear.
- At the very bottom of the menu box is the selection “Hyperlink.” Roll your mouse over that and another drop-down menu will appear.
- Click “Remove Hyperlink,” and the hyperlink will be deactivated.
- Em dashes—used many times in the same way commas, parenthesis, or a colon may be used. Often I see the double hyphen (--) used in the place of an em dash, which is cool (I know what you meant). But if you want to know how to get what you want, try holding down ALT + CTRL + the minus sign on the number keypad.* Works like a charm.
- When typing numbers in series such as 256 to 345, en dashes can be used in place of the word to. An en dash is a bit longer than the hyphen and is used to connect numbers. To get an en dash, try holding down CTRL + the minus sign from the number keypad.* Result: 256–345.
- Hyphens are used mostly in hyphenated compound words: “decision-making.” I’m sure you know how to type a hyphen. This is listed here because the hyphen is often used incorrectly in place of an em dash (-- vs. —) or an en dash (- vs. –).
*If you have a laptop without a number keypad, the "Symbols" function should have an em dash or en dash you can insert directly into the text. (I've done this mostly with Word 2007 on my laptop. It's not as easy as the keyborad shortcut, but it works.)Avoid using bold, italics, underline, and sometimes all caps on one word or phrase.
We get the point (no, really, we do): you’re EMPHASIZING something. But just italics will do. The way you phrase something can also help to carry the weight of what you’re trying to say. Take time with the points you want to emphasize in your manuscript. Finding contextual and literary ways to increase the weight of what you’re saying may help it hit home with the reader more and give them something to take away from your work for a lifetime. Just like a mom trying to talk a four-year-old out of a tantrum, I say: "Use your words." (And I am a mom of a four-year-old, so...)
Use page breaks between chapters instead of hard returns.
Again this seems elementary, but maybe because of a lack of knowledge people still do this. Using hard returns to separate chapters makes it hard to keep the divisions between chapters and other elements constant. If you delete a line, all of a sudden the beginning of chapter 3 is on the same page as the end of chapter 2. This isn’t such a big deal as it is an unnecessary frustration for the writer (and editor, once it gets that far).
“Help” tutorials for Word should help direct you on how to do this. In Word 2003, I go to the top default toolbar and click on “Insert,” then “Break.” A menu will pop up, asking what kind of break you need “Page Break,” “Column Break,” or “Text Wrapping Break.” By default “Page Break” is already selected, so all I do is click “OK” and my page is broken to the new page. (You can also use keyboard shortcut CTRL + ENTER to get a page break.)