Editor’s Rant: Write Every Day or Quit Now

Or, Some Nutjob’s Opinions on What it Takes to be an Author

A few days ago—ahem, May 26th at 12:01 AM ET—a highly unpleasant individual named Stephen Hunter blogged about what they think it takes to be an author. This was very concerning, because the aforementioned person is indeed a published author of more than 20 novels, if his bio (and google) are to be believed. Heck, this man even has a Pulitzer Prize for Distinguished Criticism. He has writing credits many authors dream of.

But in his post, ever so subtly titled If You Want to Write a Book, Write Every Day or Quit Now, he gives a holier-than-thou sermon about becoming a writing automaton, where efficiency is the main pursuit and is defined by the obscene number of words you can crank out daily.

Now, I’ll pause for a second, and let you go have a read of the Becoming an Automaton Writer Bot for Dummies manual in-progress.


Good, now we can get to the point of this post, which is about the lessons you could take away from this oh, so stellar “advice” from a jaded man with no life (he dumped his only lover for his craft, remember?) or what you really should learn from articles like this that want to simplify a creative process into a basic mathematical equation.

Continue reading “Editor’s Rant: Write Every Day or Quit Now”

Editorial Discussion: Managing FAQs From Your Clients

Editorial Discussion

Now this might seem like an no-brainer topic, but let me just say, sometimes telling an author something is not enough. You don’t how many times I’ve given explicit instructions on how to get to the project information form on my website, but I still get e-mails from authors telling me that can’t find the link–despite the fact that there is a direct link on my Pricing & Payment page, and I often include the link in the body of the e-mail I send authors.

The thing is most people either skim e-mails, or don’t really try to remember all the details, because they can always just send you an e-mail and ask, right? So, I think it is important for any business-minded individual to know two ways of fielding questions before they even get asked, and having a quick and easy way to respond your clients’ queries.

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The Importance of Beta Readers: To Pay or Not to Pay?

As you guys know, I have recently opened The Ribbon Marker Editorial Services, and I offer a variety of services, from book reviewing to content/developmental editing. My current, most used service is beta reading.

For those of you who don’t know what a beta reader is, a beta reader is the first person to take a look at your manuscript who is not a caring loved one. A beta reader is there to represent the reader’s interest and conflicts with your manuscript, such that they give the author a preview of possible problems that readers might have with their story. Their feedback gives authors an opportunity to improve things before their book is for sale and their reputation is on the line. Betas don’t necessarily have to have editing experience, but they do need to know enough about the genre for them to tell you what works in your book, and what doesn’t.

So what makes for a good beta?

A good beta reader is:

  • A reader of the genre  – being a reader of the genre means that the beta has already done the background research of what readers of that genre like, and what they never want to see.
  • Open-minded – in a continuously changing industry, where books straddle genres and sub-genres, you need someone who can see the possibilities for manuscript blurring lines and testing boundaries. Just because your book isn’t a classical contemporary romance, it doesn’t mean it couldn’t spawn a new sub-genre or theme with in that genre.
  • Critical – you don’t want a beta who says “the book was great and I really liked your characters”. You want a beta who will say, “While I like Stacy and Ben, I thought that Ben was too permissive to really be the alpha male that Stacy had hoped for the entire book (and her entire life). Particularly, I feel like he really needs to be more outspoken in their arguments. Ben is a guy who really knows himself, and he wouldn’t let Stacy just steamroll him into letting go of the argument.” Notice, there is a difference between critiquing (insightful but polite analysis), versus fault-finding and being judgmental (rudely listing all the thing wrong in the manuscript and then hatefully questioning the authors attempts).
  • Reliable – you want a beta who will actually:
    1. Read the manuscript
    2. Give constructive criticism
    3. Get back to you in a timely manner
    4. Keep you appraised of their progress
  • Supportive – at the end of the day, you want a beta who wants to help you make your book into the best version of your book that they can, from the reader’s perspective.

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The Ribbon Marker’s Guide to Effective Reader Entrapment: Part 4 – Synopsis/Blurb

 The Ribbon Marker’s Guide to Effective Reader Entrapment

How to successfully get me, and  many other readers out there, to buy your book.

4. Blurb

The book blurb is the second to last thing that readers use to make the decision whether or not they are going to buy your book. So what makes for an awesome blurb that just makes readers click the Amazon “Buy now with 1-Click” button?

First we need to look at the type of write-up you are using. Most people use the words summary, synopsis, blurb interchangeably. I admit to being guilty of this myself until quite recently (I favored synopsis over blurb because it sounded more concise and to the point). WriteWorld has an excellent post on the difference between summary/synopsis/blurb, what each are used for, and examples of each. I will summarize.

The Summary highlights the major points of the story, in the shortest amount of time, so readers get the gist of it. The Synopsis is a type of summary, written in the present tense, that is more geared to selling the story (all its major points, the ending, and the story arc) to a publisher. The Blurb is the summary that goes on the back of your book to entice the reader with a detailed description of the twists and turns of your book, but doesn’t reveal the ending.

So, what goes into a great blurb?

Continue reading “The Ribbon Marker’s Guide to Effective Reader Entrapment: Part 4 – Synopsis/Blurb”

The Ribbon Marker’s Guide to Effective Reader Entrapment: Part 3 – The Cover

 The Ribbon Marker’s Guide to Effective Reader Entrapment

How to successfully get me, and  many other readers out there, to buy your book.

3. The Cover

Covers are crucial in helping authors to sell/pitch their story to prospective readers. They allow readers to use a quick glance to make a decision on whether they are interested in purchasing your book, or in spending a little more time investigating whether or not your book is truly for them (e.g. read the blurb, read reviews, go to your website/blog, ask other people etc.). Book covers are meant to attract people who haven’t necessarily heard about your books (or you) but are just browsing for their next read at the bookstore or online, and to give them a visual taste of the book before they even know what the book is about.

One thing I’ve learned from going to the RT BookLover’s Convention this year, is that many readers are first and foremost attracted to a book’s cover. I’m not much of a “Cover Lover” myself, but I do agree that the attractiveness of a book’s cover can make me pause when scrolling through Amazon’s “recommend for you” list.

For me, the cover should: be a snapshot of the crux or main concept of your book, therefore the image should communicate the genre and premise of your book; evoke some emotion out of the people who see it, such that the overall feel of the story is well communicated; and be interesting in some defining way.

Continue reading “The Ribbon Marker’s Guide to Effective Reader Entrapment: Part 3 – The Cover”

The Ribbon Marker’s Guide to Effective Reader Entrapment: Part 2 – Word of Mouth

 The Ribbon Marker’s Guide to Effective Reader Entrapment

How to successfully get me, and  many other readers out there, to buy your book.

2. Word of Mouth (WOM)

We would all like to think that we are above peer-pressure, and the being influenced by the thoughts of others, but the fact is we only allow those who we think are worthy of having input into what we do and say. I, personally, don’t hang out with a lot of readers who like the same genres I enjoy. Most of my friends go for more mainstream, highly publicized books or classics. However, I, like many other book readers, love talking about books, even if we are not talking about books in our preferred genre (the book club phenomena).

For about half a year, I asked my friends’ opinions on Fifty Shades of Grey. I was wasn’t really inquiring about the writing style or the way the story unfolded, but I wanted to know what my friends thought about E.L. James’ portrayal of the BDSM lifestyle. I am not a practitioner of the lifestyle (though I wouldn’t mind if my lover required some aspects), but I have a profound respect for those who do and I didn’t like feeling that their lifestyle, in essence who they, might not have been correctly portrayed (I dislike people who criticize things they don’t even make an effort to understand). Finally, after a year of opinion gathering, vacillating, and reading short excerpts of the books online, I finally bit the bullet and read the books shortly before the movie came out on Valentine’s Day.

BDSM books are one of the few times where I feel that authors should really take their time to do their research, because it is such a polarizing concept. People are either going to get it and identify with those who practice BDSM, be open-minded (it’s not for me, but whatever flips your switch), or want to condemn it as being sick or the sexual practices of people with issues. From the media frenzy, I felt like E.L. James walked right into an ambush set-up by those in the last category. By only portraying the more interesting or extreme aspects of BDSM (extreme control, contracts, punishment, etc.), and having the character who introduced it into the relationship having been an abused and neglected control-freak (opposite the virginal goody-two shoes), she basically gave the intolerant people a leg to stand on. These individuals’ wouldn’t waste their time in researching BDSM, because they already “know” that their current, uneducated opinion is correct.

Continue reading “The Ribbon Marker’s Guide to Effective Reader Entrapment: Part 2 – Word of Mouth”

The Ribbon Marker’s Guide to Effective Reader Entrapment: Part 1 – Content

 The Ribbon Marker’s Guide to Effective Reader Entrapment

How to successfully get me, and  many other readers out there, to buy your book.

1. Content

Before your book is even for sale, you have to have a great story to sell.

Make sure you know your target audience, and their reasons for reading in the first place. I know that sounds silly, but sometimes writers are so focused on communicating the wonderful, fanciful world that they have created, that they completely forget that readers read for a reason. If you don’t keep in mind your reader’s motivations and interests when you’re writing, then your book followership might not turn out as expected.

I read to escape my life. Reading is a nice little holiday from all the stress I have in my life, a nice visit to a new world or with people who lead more interesting or different lives. I want to feel like I was transported to a different world where I hung out with the characters, and got to know them in a real and meaningful way.

So for me, I don’t like a book that makes me work. I don’t want to have to remember a long list of minor characters’ names because the suckers keep popping up from time to time, or be in the heads of more than three characters at a time. I don’t to have to memorize a map of the world you have created in order to keep up with what is going on in the story. Lastly, I don’t want to feel like I’ll be forced to sit a pop quiz after I’ve finished the book. I am pretty accepting of really weird facts. You tell me that we are in a world where feline creatures are sold across the galaxies in order to give the an opportunity to come across their life mate, I’ll run with it. If you say that vampires are real and have “come out of the coffin,” I’ll make sure to stock up on TrueBlood. If the story is set a small town in a fly-over state or dreary London, Bob’s your uncle.

Continue reading “The Ribbon Marker’s Guide to Effective Reader Entrapment: Part 1 – Content”

2015 RT BookLovers Convention!

Hello Lovelies!

I am sure you have noticed a serious decline in posts during this past week. Other having a really intense week in French Class (I have learnt more than 50 verbs en Français), I have been moving, and most importantly, I have been getting ready for the 2015 RT BookLovers Convention!

The Romantic Times BookLovers Convention, held for the last 32 years, is one of the biggest annual events for networking and interacting with, and learning from, various publishing industry professionals. The convention has a unique mixture of learning workshops, dedicated to various publishing topics, and fanciful, crazy parties and events, where book addicts, like myself, have the opportunity to meet other book junkies, authors, and get lots (and lots) of swag!

This year, the RT BookLovers Convention is being held in Dallas, Texas, from May 12th to May 17th. There are so many interesting events, that I have knowingly over-scheduled my time (as impractical as that may be). The workshops I am most looking forward to include: Structuring to SELL Insider Secrets for Creating a Story Guaranteed to Breakout Big!, because I think it will offer a very detailed look at the editorial process;  The Writing Voice  workshop , as I will actually get to hear what editors look for in submissions and how they critique them; Being Heard: How Bloggers Can Start and Maintain a Publisher Relationship workshop, as I just started this blog and the workshop would go a long way to answer some of the questions I have about blogging; and last, but not least, Author Chat: Reality Shifters workshop, because the line up of authors is amazing (the only way that could have been better was if Laurell K. Hamilton was also a panelist). I am also really looking forward to all the parties being hosted. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know about my steampunk dress calamity (which has thankfully been resolved), and my woes of not getting my dress for the Heather Graham’s Lone Star Supernatural State party (I’ll fudge something).

This will be my first time attending the convention (actually my first convention ever), and I am ridiculously, almost spastically, excited to be attending. I am arriving a day early, to familiarize myself with the flow of the convention, and I can’t wait to get there and meet heaps of like-minded individuals.

Keep an eye out for posts and pictures from the convention, so you can share in the experience. Hopefully, I will convince you to check out the 2016 RT BookLovers Convention, which is being held in Las Vegas!

I’m off to pack!

Which to use, professional or colloquial language, when writing in the publishing industry?

This topic has been of great importance in our house for many years now. My sister, who comes from a primarily sciences background, feels that when writing, no matter who you’re writing too, you should always use professional language. I, on the other hand, feel like being in the publishing industry allows writers to use a colloquial writing voice.

For example, when you write or read a review, would you prefer to hear a very clinical review of the book, or would you rather hear somebody’s truly impassioned, but more informal, opinion of the book? Personally, I find that impassioned reviews tend to be  more indicative of how good a book is. If a book is good enough to make someone want to rant for 5 1/2 pages, then chances are it’s either really polarizing, or it’s one hell of a good book. On the other hand, I understand why my sister would feel that any sort of professional work requires a level of seriousness and objectivity. Both styles communicate the same information, but the intensity in which the information is communicated is very different.

Professional writing has its place. I would never send off a cover letter for an internship or job written in the same way as I do on my blog. However, I think that when you need your personality portrayed to others, it is more effective to use a colloquial style. I also think that the style you choose also depends on the subject matter you’re writing about. For example, if I was writing a paper on how cells divide, I wouldn’t really need to use a colloquial style, because it’s a fact, cells only divide in such and such fashion. However, if I want to talk about my opinion of the book, I have to start using words like I, myself, for me, and other words or phrases that personalize the reading experience to me, because I am not exactly like the next reader, therefore I might have different opinions.

Even from the readers point of view, reading a book that’s full of stilted professional language makes the content feel even more dry than it is. That’s why a lot of people don’t spend their free time reading the New England Journal of Medicine, unless they have to do so for work (or are total science geeks :D). I would rather pick up a copy of Gena Showalter’s book, and have people talk like they do every day.

At the end of the day, this is just another example on how different personalities prefer different styles. That’s why one person has never honestly stated that they like all books written by all authors. Authors portray their personality into the books they write. They have a type of book that they like to write (e.g. Urban fantasy, young adult, etc.), or they have that certain types of characters that they like to repeat. Mary Calmes, is an excellent example of this. She really likes the alpha male character who is in a position of power. She did it once with the Change of Heart series, with Logan being the semel (tribe leader) who has this power over other tribe members, and who has the power to do  the partial shift, which none other than his equal can do (a reah by the name of Jin). She also did it again in the A Matter of Time series, where Sam is a law enforcement officer (ending up being Supervisory Deputy Marshall Sam Cage), and comes from a household where his father is the alpha male that makes all the final decisions. That’s why when readers like Mary Calmes’ stories, they can pick up any one of her books and just enjoy it. You find so many reviews on Goodreads that say, “I love all of Mary Calmes’ books and this one didn’t disappoint”, because her type of writing style appeals to a particular reader personality.

 Which writing style do you prefer? Which do you use in your line of work? Which style do you think is best when in the publishing industry?

What made you want to be a part of the publishing industry?

When I realized that my graduation deadline was in the not-too-distant future, I had a massive panic attack. Graduation was no longer this far away date I was looking forward to because it meant no more assignments, no more all night study sessions for exams, and no more attending lectures. Instead of feeling that way, I got really, really, scared.

I was afraid of not knowing what to do next. When you are in school, it’s simple: don’t fail, and make sure you make it into the next grade or course. However, there is so much uncertainty after graduation. It’s a time of reassessing your career path. Are you really sure you know what you want to do with your life?

Continue reading “What made you want to be a part of the publishing industry?”