#AmWriting

‘The Cheque’s in the Post’ – how to not annoy your editor! #amwriting #selfpublishing #writingcommunity

angry

I’ve been editing for a while now and the majority of my clients have been an absolute joy to work with – open to advice, professional, and just downright nice. That said, I’ve had a few not so pleasant experiences over the last few months and felt it was time to address some issues that unfortunately seem to be becoming quite common.

So here’s my advice on having a professional and constructive relationship with your editor.

Punctuality

clock

I have many hats. Editor, writer, reviewer are just some of them. I have a full schedule and am usually booked in advance (for which I am very grateful). I have to stick to my schedule to avoid infringing on the time set aside for my next project. So if you agree to get a manuscript to me by a certain date, please make sure you do so. I work hard to stick to deadlines I’ve agreed to, and to make sure I bear my client’s own schedules in mind, so please grant me the same consideration.

Formatting

I’m clear about how I would like you to format your manuscript before sending it to me. Please adhere to this – and if for some reason you can’t, then just let me know. Which leads to my next point.

Communication

communication

I appreciate that sometimes things happen, that there are circumstances beyond our control, and I try to be flexible as much as I can. But please communicate. Send me an email. Call me. Just let me know what’s happening. I recently agreed to a client deferring payment of her deposit. I kept that spot for her. She didn’t pay, ignored all my emails, and I couldn’t fill that space at such short notice, so I had a week where I had no income. Unprofessional and totally unfair. It also means that I’m now wary of being that flexible for other clients. If she had just been honest and emailed me to say that she could no longer use the space I may have been able to reschedule or find another client.

Money matters

services-stamp

This is probably my biggest bugbear. I appreciate that editing costs money. But if you have decided to hire an editor, then please make sure you have the money in place to pay them for the work they do. I ask for a deposit when a client books a place, but I have had several occasions recently where a deposit has been paid, but the client has then either delayed or not paid the balance once the edit is completed. This isn’t because they are unhappy with the edit – in fact on all these occasions the client has been very pleased with my work. On one occasion, the client emailed to say they were very happy with their edit, and then simply ignored every request for payment. Other clients have deferred and deferred. While I appreciate that some circumstances are beyond people’s control, please do remember that your editor may be relying on your payment. It isn’t fair to expect someone to wait for a payment from you because of circumstances that are nothing to do with them. Without naming names, one of my clients didn’t pay because he had to fund repairs to his car. But what if I’d needed to pay for repairs to my car and was relying on his payment to do that? If you’ve booked a service, agreed to a contract, and the other party has fulfilled their obligations, then you should pay what you owe. It really isn’t fair to expect to do otherwise and it’s completely unprofessional – you wouldn’t tell a plumber you couldn’t pay once he’d fixed your tap, so why is it ok to not pay your editor?

Don’t take it personally

I get it. I’m a writer. It hurts to have our work criticised when we’ve put our heart and soul into it. But if you want to be an author, if you want to be taken seriously as an author, then you need to be able to listen to feedback. I’m not out to be nasty or unkind, but I am honest and I will tell you what isn’t working. Please take that criticism and advice in the spirit in which it’s intended. I would be doing you a disservice and wasting your money for you if I just told you your book was wonderful.

Understand the role

A client recently complained that while I had pointed out places where things needed reworking and had provided examples of how he might do this, I hadn’t actually rewritten those parts for him. This is not your editor’s job. Your editor is not there to write your novel for you. I can guide you, advise you, restructure things so that you can see how they might be improved, suggest how you might improve things, tell you what needs developing and where things don’t work – but I cannot, will not and should not rewrite your manuscript. An editor isn’t a ghost writer.

I’m sorry if this feels like a rant – honestly, 99.9% of my clients are lovely, friendly, professional people and I love working with them. I can’t tell you how lovely it is when they take the time to tell me how my work has helped with their book. However, these bad experiences seem to be becoming more commonplace and it’s a worrying trend. But to the clients that do make my work a joy – thank you!

 

Advertisements

Last Minute Editing – discount available #editing #selfpublishing #AmWriting

editing-e1452170134574

Need an editor at short notice? I’ve had a last minute cancellation and have some limited availability for the next week. If you can have your manuscript to me by Friday 23rd November, I can offer a heavily discounted rate depending on the editing package you choose. You’ll have your edit back by Friday 30th November at the latest.

Many, many thanks again for your excellent and professional editing services. Your revision notes are meticulous, sensitive and intelligent.

I can’t praise Alison enough. She is extremely helpful and her editing skills are brilliant. Alison’s suggestions are all relevant and positive. Highly recommended.

I thoroughly enjoyed working with her and learned a great deal in the process.

Find out more about my editing services.
Read some more fabulous testimonials.
You can contact me here.
Thanks!

Yes, we do judge a book by its cover! #writingtips #amwriting

pencils

It’s a very old and very well-known saying that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But this is a saying that shouldn’t be taken literally. While I urge you not to judge other things in life by their appearance (particularly people!), it’s usually a safe bet that a poorly designed book cover means a poorly executed book.

Unfair? Well, taking off my editor hat and putting on my reader hat for a minute, if I’m going to spend my (very) hard-earned cash on a book, I want to make sure I spend it wisely. And what have I got to go on when I browse the endless goodies on offer on Amazon? I have the blurb, (please authors – get this right. It is NOT a synopsis), the reviews (if I can trust them), and I have the cover. And I won’t get to the blurb or the reviews if the cover doesn’t grab me in the first place.

A good, well-thought out, attention-grabbing cover tells me that this author cares – cares about their work, cares about their book, cares about their reader. A poorly executed cover sends warning bells ringing that this author hasn’t researched the self-publishing world thoroughly, doesn’t understand what they need to do to publish successfully, and has probably rushed to publish.

So what makes a good cover, and what doesn’t? And what should you bear in mind when designing your cover?

Think thumbnails. Will your cover stand out in that tiny, tiny little space it will have in a search?
Think genre. What’s your book about? If it’s a romance, go for an image that says romance. If it’s a gritty detective story, then show that in your cover. Don’t be vague, and don’t overthink it.
Think trends. I hate to say it, but there are fashions in book covers as there are in anything else. Look at other books in your genre and see what’s popular at the moment. People know what they like and they may go for a book by an author they don’t know if the cover reminds them of a book they’ve liked (although don’t plagiarise, obviously). But do give it your own twist and be original too.
Think title. Make sure it stands out and that people can read it. Make sure the font is clear and big enough.
I’ve seen covers with dreadful hand-drawn images, cut and paste pictures that are the wrong size and perspective, and random images that have nothing to do with the book itself. There are blogs devoted to showcasing the worst of these – which, while it’s easy to laugh, it’s also heart-breaking that these authors haven’t done the research and have set themselves up for ridicule.

Self-publishing can be an expensive business – but there are some things that cannot be scrimped on. Editing, proofreading and a great book cover are worth investing in. There are some great designers out there who do a good job and don’t cost the earth (although you shouldn’t expect to pay peanuts for a professional). Research, ask for recommendations; if you see a self-published book with a great cover ask the author who designed it – most will be more than happy to give you a recommendation. If you’ve spent time crafting a wonderful novel, give it the polish and packaging it deserves.

Writing About Mental Health #mentalhealth #amwriting

 

0_7TkxwqqEpWlCJaP8_

medium.com

I’ve read, and edited, a lot of books that address the many issues associated with mental health. Whether fiction or non-fiction, it is so important that the writer gets the details right, and, unfortunately, many do get things wrong, sometimes very wrong.

According to the mental health charity Mind, approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. So fiction writers are absolutely right to include characters with these issues in their work. And self-publishing has meant that the self-help market has exploded, with many writing about their experiences and offering advice.

As someone with direct experience of these issues, I can’t stress enough how damaging it can be for authors and writers to get these things wrong. The wrong choice of word, the wrong representation, and you add to the enormous amount of stereotypes and misinformation out there, adding to the already difficult barriers and misconceptions that people have to struggle with every day. So how can you get it right? What should you do and what shouldn’t you do?

250px-Mental_Disorder_Silhouette

Wikipedia.com

Fiction

Interesting characters, characters that your reader can identify with, are so important when writing fiction. And as mental health issues are so common, it is right that these things should be included in fiction. So how do you do this successfully?

  1. Avoid the stereotypes

Remember that mental health is complex. It comes in many forms. People with OCD don’t all spend hours a day washing their hands, and if they do it isn’t always because they have a fear of germs. And you don’t have OCD if you like to keep your books in alphabetical order and you’re very tidy. People with depression aren’t just sad. You have a responsibility, as a writer, to explode those myths and to make your characters realistic.

  1. People with mental health issues are more than their issues

They have jobs. They have families. They have hobbies. They might be horrible people. They might be heroes. Their mental health might be a big part of them – but it isn’t everything they are. They still eat breakfast. They still fall in love. They still like music and going out and films and everything else that ‘normal’ people do. Make your character the centre of your story – and that means their whole character.

  1. Do your research

As with everything you write, get your facts straight. Research, read, ask. There’s a wealth of information out there and in this day and age there’s no excuse for getting it wrong.  This goes for finding out how a character with a certain issue might behave all the way through to making sure the drugs/therapy/attitudes towards that person are consistent with the time in which your book is set.

Non-fiction

As someone who has experience of dealing with mental health issues, I can attest to the benefits that can be gained from reading self-help books. It’s wonderful to know that others have the same issues and it can be inspirational and motivational to learn about the strategies they have used that have worked. That said, I have also read a lot of rubbish – opinions and misinformation bandied about as if it’s the gospel truth. This is not only patronising, it can also be downright dangerous.

  1. Be honest

Why are you writing this book? Do you have experience? Qualifications? Or do you just have an agenda, or a theory you think is relevant that you want to share? If the former, then go right ahead, but if it’s the latter then please find something else to write about. I read a book recently that explained that the best way to get over depression was to have a positive mindset. Wow. I’m sure all those people who battle depression daily really wish they’d thought of that. To write so flippantly about something as complex as depression is not only patronising, it is irresponsible in the extreme. To write about depression, or anxiety, or OCD, or anything else, you need to understand the issue thoroughly.

  1. Again, do your research

It’s absolutely vital that you know and understand your subject. You wouldn’t write a book on coping with any other type of illness unless you had been through it yourself, had helped someone through, or if you actually had qualifications and experience in the field. Writing about mental health for the non-fiction market is no different.

  1. Be aware of your responsibilities

Imagine you are struggling with depression. You buy a self-help book. And you’re told it’s just down to you – you just need to be positive. Imagine the effect that can have on someone. Your words matter. Be careful how you use them.

There are some amazing books about mental health out there, both fiction and non-fiction. If you want to research mental health, or if you have mental health issues yourself, then I wholeheartedly recommend the following to begin with:

Jenny Lawson:

Furiously Happy

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened

You Are Here

David Adam:

The Man Who Couldn’t Stop

Joanne Limburg:

The Woman Who Thought Too Much

And there’s plenty of help and advice here too:

Mind

OCD UK

Young Minds

Beat

Bipolar UK

 

 

Editing services – an update on pricing #amwriting #editing #selfpublishing

pricing-tips-freelancers

A few weeks ago I decided to change the way I charged for editing, moving away from pricing per thousand words to charging by the hour. I did this because I had found over the last few years of editing that there is a sometimes quite a big difference in the amount of time it takes to edit different manuscripts of the same length.

However, I have realised since making that change that this system isn’t working for authors. I have reached out to past and current clients and the feedback I’ve received is that clients prefer to know up front exactly how much an edit will cost. This is understandable – writing and publishing can be an expensive business and I can completely understand how it is better from an author’s point of view for the costs involved to be clear from the outset.

So, after much reflection and consideration, I have decided to return to the previous system of charging per thousand words. My clients are, obviously, the life blood of my business and it makes sense to use a system that works for them.

My editing charges are as follows:

Editing – a note on editing: as I work mainly with authors who are planning to self-publish, or who want to have their work edited prior to seeking representation, my editing service works in a slightly different way to the editing process that happens in traditional publishing, which would usually involve a developmental edit, followed by a line edit and then a proofread. Most writers are on a restricted budget and so would find it difficult to pay for all these different stages of editing. There is also always some overlap in these editing stages.

So, my editing service comprises of an edit for spelling, grammar, sentence structure, flow, characterisation, continuity, plot consistency and style. I will also correct any typos, grammar errors and spellings. I use the track changes facility in Word and will provide you with two copies of the edit: Edit 1 shows all changes made so you can trace what I have done, Edit 2 is a clean copy with all changes accepted – this will show you how the manuscript will read if you accepted all the changes that I’ve made. Having both copies means that you can easily see the difference the changes will make, while still having the option to choose whether or not you want to make those changes. You can go through Edit 1 accepting or rejecting each change as you see fit. As well as the edits, I will write a detailed report focusing on plot, structure, characterisation, pace, setting and style, making suggestions for any changes: £4.50/$6.00 per thousand words.

For manuscripts under 15,000 words I charge a flat rate of £60/$80

If you would like to book an edit followed by a separate proofread, the cost is £5.50/$7.25 per thousand words.

For manuscripts under 15,000 words I charge a flat rate of £80/$100

Two edits of your manuscript followed by a separate proofread costs £7.50/$10.00 per thousand words.

For manuscripts under 15,000 words I charge a flat rate of £100/$130

Proofreading – correction of spelling, grammar and any minor issues with sentence structure and plot inconsistencies: £2.50/$3.25 per thousand words.

For manuscripts under 15,000 words I charge a flat rate of £40/$50

Beta Reading – general feedback on elements such as plot, characterisation, setting, story flow, continuity and any grammar/spelling issues. Please note that this is not a proofread and I will only give general advice on spelling and grammar, not a line-by-line edit. I do not fact check: £1.50/$2.00 per thousand words.

For manuscripts under 30,000 words I charge a flat rate of £40/$50

Evaluation/critique of self-published work: £2.00/$2.50 per thousand words.

For manuscripts under 15,000 words I charge a flat rate of £40/$50

Submission to agents – letter and synopsis: £40/$55

Evaluation of first three chapters for submission: £40/$55

Self-publishing – blurb, author page information: £35/$45

Please note that all prices are in GBP and USD. If you would like a quote in a different currency then do get in touch.

If you would like a quote, a sample edit, or if you have any questions at all, then please do get in touch, either via the contact button, by email at alisonewilliams@sky.com or give me a call on 07891065012.

You can also read some testimonials from current and past clients here.

bigstock-Thank-You-202535-583x410

Writing the dreaded query letter! #amwriting #writingtips

letter_writi_24714_lg

Along with the dreaded blurb and the dreaded synopsis, the query letter seems to rank as one of the hardest thing a writer has to tackle. Write a 100,000 word novel? No problem. Write a one-page letter? No thank you!

And while it’s true that the world of publishing is changing, and that many authors are happy to self-publish, some writers still wish to find an agent, and so will need to introduce themselves with a query letter.

What’s important

It’s absolutely vital to remember that this letter is the first example of your writing that an agent will see, so make it count. These are the key things to remember:

  • Address your letter to a specific agent – avoid Dear Sir/Madam.  Using a name shows that you’ve selected that agent – not just stuck a pin in ‘The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook’
  • Make it clear you’ve done your homework – state why you’re approaching that particular agent (similar authors? Looking for your genre?)
  • Make your book sound interesting
  • State the genre and word length
  • Include any details of your writing history – competitions, publications, experience
  • Keep it formal, keep it short, be business-like
  • Do include EXACTLY what they’ve asked for

Structuring your letter

When I’m helping my clients to write a query letter, this is the basic structure I suggest:

  • Paragraph 1 – why you’re writing and what you’ve included
  • Paragraph 2 – a VERY brief, two or three sentence summary of the book
  • Paragraph 3 – brief details of any relevant writing experience/successes
  • Paragraph 4 – the fact the manuscript is complete and word count. Also, state if you are working on a series, a new novel etc. Agents like to know that you have longevity
  • Paragraph 5 – contact details including a telephone number and an email address

What not to do

  • Don’t make jokes or try anything wacky – they’ve probably heard and seen it all before
  • Don’t spell the agent’s name incorrectly
  • Don’t forget to include your submission (apparently that does happen!)
  • Don’t come across as arrogant – if the agent takes you on you will have a very close working relationship, so you don’t want to sound as if you’ll be a pain in the backside
  • Equally, don’t beg or sound needy – agents need writers!
  • Most important of all, be professional. Yes, we’re all artists, and creative types and so on, but publishing is, first and foremost, a business. This is a business letter – treat it as though you’re applying for a job (because you are)

Good luck!

It’s a jungle out there – watch out for the vanity presses #wwwblogs #amwriting #selfpublishing

I had a phone call the other day from an elderly gentleman who was trying to find an agent. I explained the process to him and then he said that he’d already published a book, but he still couldn’t get an agent. Digging deeper, it seemed that he was under the impression that if he had a book out on Amazon, an agent would come calling.

He’s published with a small press. I took a look on Amazon. His book has been out for almost three years. The blurb and the cover are terrible. He has zero sales and zero reviews. Getting a little bit cross now, I decided to dig a bit further.

It turns out that he paid money to a vanity press that seems to masquerade as a publisher. This organisation states on their website that they open to submissions. They give the impression that they are looking for books to publish.

Digging even deeper I discovered that what they do once you’ve sent your submission is to ask for the full manuscript (and your hopes are raised). They then come back and give you some flannel along the lines of how they love your work, think you have real potential, but the economy and the market and blah, blah, blah, so they want to publish you but they need you to make a financial contribution.

Further investigations revealed that this contribution can be anything from £1500 to £3000.

So, a vanity press then.

(I’m not naming the company in question here as they apparently have a tendency to send out emails from their lawyers to anyone who criticises them and I really don’t have time for that rubbish).

Now I understand that no one is holding a gun to anyone’s head while you give them your bank details. But still – this seems unethical at the very least. And to do this to an elderly man is downright cruel.

So lovely writers, please be careful and remember that you shouldn’t be paying a publisher, they should be paying you. If they ask you for money, they’re a vanity press. If you’re happy with that, then that’s up to you (though why you would pay someone to do something you can do yourself, I don’t know) but please be very, very sure about what you’re getting yourself into. It’s very easy to get carried away, and unfortunately there are people out there who are only too happy to exploit that.

burglar

 

The Joy of Taking it Slow! Or why I’ll never do NaNoWriMo #AmWriting #WWWBlogs

nano-buzz-and-woody

Every November, Twitter, Facebook and blogs are full of tales from the front line of NaNoWriMo – or National Novel Writing Month. The aim is to write 50,000 words during November and it does seem to galvanize writers everywhere into action.

But while I agree that it is good to sometimes have deadlines and targets, the thought of NaNoWriMo makes me shudder. Can it be good to put so much pressure on yourself?

Writers are terribly insecure beings on the whole. And we’re also our own worst critics. We set ourselves up, a lot of the time, for failure by putting unnecessary pressure on ourselves when we don’t really need to. And I can’t help feeling that for me, and possibly for a lot of other writers, NaNoWriMo could pile on that pressure and add to writers’ guilt.

You know what that is – berating yourself because you haven’t met an artificially imposed target; stressing out because you didn’t manage to write enough this week, or today, or in the last half hour; feeling terrible because you spent half an hour reading the comments on a Guardian article instead of writing (I just can’t help torturing myself at the moment). We all do it. We all think everyone else is writing for three hours before breakfast and then doing a full day’s work (I’m talking here about those of us who have other paid work in addition to our writing). We all secretly suspect that everyone else is up until the small hours, pounding away at the laptop while we, lazy losers that we are, are terrible enough to sleep.

We’ve all read those articles in the back pages of writing magazines – ‘My Writing Day’ or ‘My Bloody Perfect Life’. You know the ones. ‘I get up at seven and drink lemon juice and water. Then I write for three hours solid before taking the dogs for a long, refreshing walk in the acres of woodland just outside my cottage, before coming home to a healthy salad for lunch and an afternoon of editing.’

I don’t know about you, but my reality consists of squeezing in some writing amongst the paid work, and sorting out the kids and the dogs and the house and the cooking and the shopping and the hundred other things that have to take priority. Sometimes it’s genuinely impossible to write. That often makes me feel really bad. I don’t need NaNoWriMo to make me feel worse.

And you know, there’s nothing wrong with taking your time over your writing. Sometimes the reasons we don’t write are genuine reasons and not excuses. If you have family or a mortgage to pay or an elderly relative dependant on you, or the washing machine packs up, or the dog needs taking to the vet, then writing, rightly, takes a back seat. And you shouldn’t beat yourself up about that.

And there’s also more to writing than the actual writing. Sometimes you need time to think about your work. This can be just as important as getting the words down themselves. Sometimes you need some time away to sort out your ideas or to work through a tricky plot point. Deadlines that really don’t matter aren’t going to help with that.

I’ve worked as an editor with a lot of authors who get themselves in a pickle because they have become obsessed with a self-imposed deadline that they just have to meet. Their work suffers. I know the idea of NaNoWriMo is to get your writing going, and I know that for some writers it might well help. But, knowing as many writers as I do, and knowing how they punish themselves when they miss deadlines or aren’t as productive as they feel they should be, then I personally think that NaNoWriMo isn’t helpful.

Modern life is horribly stressful. It’s busy and demanding. Shouldn’t your writing be the opposite of that? When I have a whole afternoon free to write, with no pressure, no stress, no word count in mind, it feels wonderful. I don’t want to turn that into a chore, another task to tick off a list. And I don’t want to feel like a failure if I don’t write enough. So if it works for you, then go for it. But I won’t be joining in.