Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Who Needs an Editor?

If I hear one more author claim they don't need an editor, I'm going to scream. No, I won't actually scream, but I will put their name on my 'list' of authors not to buy. Pretentious? Elitist? How about thrifty? Yes, thrifty. Books cost money, and I, for one, am not willing to download a million books to find that one author that 'doesn't need an editor'. Not even if the books are free.

I have an MFA and I don't think that qualifies me to edit my own work effectively. Sure, I do a great job on other peoples manuscripts, and a decent job on my own. But decent isn't good enough. I've never read a review for a New York Times bestseller that said, "It was decent." And I've never heard a New York Times bestselling author say, "my book would have been so much better without an editor."

Maybe, however, some authors don't have a desire to be a NYT bestseller. Maybe an Amazon ranking is enough for them. That's fine for them. But not for me, and I won't be one of those buying their books to get them that coveted Amazon award.

Don't get me wrong, I am not demeaning self published authors. I have several whose work I love and I wait patiently for their next novel.  But I guarantee you those are authors who understand the value of an editor and don't just slap their name on a book they wrote last night that their dog and their mother thinks is the Great American Novel. In fact, most of them will be the first to tell you that the unedited excrement that is published online is a detriment to the business of self publishing. And that is what it is: a business.

Maybe Amazon could have a system that tells a reader what books have been edited? Or maybe a section of 'hobbyist' authors, those that don't take it seriously as a business? Maybe, maybe, maybe.

Here are some of the reasons I've heard in the past week for not hiring an editor:
1. It costs too much- So does my landscaper, but I like my yard to look professionally done.
2. An editor is no more than a co-author and should be listed as such-If your book requires so much work that the editor becomes a 'co-author' then maybe you should consider listing them.
3. They change your work and it is no longer 'your book'-I think it's important for an author to have an editor that 'gets' their book. Editors make your book stronger, saleable and see the entire picture as well as the fine details. They didn't write it, so they can 'see' it from another perspective.
4. I have a BA in English. I don't need one-Great. You can spell and make a complete sentence. It takes more than that, really.
5. I have an MFA and can edit my own work-Getting my MFA was one of the best things I ever did for myself; as a writer and as a human being. But edit my own work and call it done? Not a chance.

They Call Me Crazy went through 10 critical readers, my agent and two editors. Ragtown has been through four mentors, 20 critical readers, my agent and two editors. Every one of these people brought something of value to my work. Do I consider them done? No. I am chomping at the bit for an editor from a publishing house to chime in. Are the two novels still my work? Most definitely, but they are a lot stronger than they were.

And lastly, why would I spend money, go through all the readers/mentors/editors, subject myself to the criticism and the time involved in edits? Because this IS a business to me. And because my goal IS the bestseller list. 
Lofty, I know, but I've never been satisfied with a participant ribbon. I'm in it to win it.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Wizard of Seattle

This week I leave for the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference in Seattle. I've never been to Seattle, and as much as I would like to take in the city, I am going for a reason. I can feel the tornado churning as I type.

 It's been a while since I've been to a conference. My first time, I didn't have a completed manuscript and basically, I was there to learn a few things and be in awe of the 'real' writers that I was surrounded by.

This time is different. Not only do I have a completed manuscript, I have two, and one of them is a finalist for the PNWA literary contest in the category of historical fiction (GO RAGTOWN!). I also have an agent. In other words, this conference is not as much about fun for me as it is about work. This time, I am one of the 'real' writers, and I need to sell myself and hopefully, raise interest in one of my manuscripts.

So what does a good Kansas girl do when she needs to really work it? Channel the wonders of Oz, of course.

Regardless of my ability to seem like the Great and Powerful Oz at times, remember, behind that facade was a little old man who had no real powers at all. Sometimes, I do feel like a naive farm girl, whisked away by a tornado into a land of wonder, trusting the Good Witch (my agent) who tells me which road to take. Thanks to the many friends I've met along the way, I have the heart, the nerve and the brain to make this journey. I think I could take the Wicked Witch (it rains a lot in Seattle, so she probably won't show) but, there are those pesky
flying monkeys to worry about. And in the world of writing and publishing, I've discovered that those flying monkeys are everywhere.

I have no ruby slippers. Well, I do, but every time I wear them I end up in a cornfield in Kansas (we'll save that story for another day). What I do have is the street smarts and the experience of one who has ridden the Horse of Many Colors several times. I have the determination, the strength and the sweet disposition of a Kansas sunflower. I also have my Cowardly Lion doll that I will keep in my pocket, just in case I forget where I came from.

So wish me luck, say a prayer, send me the good juju. And if anyone knows how to defeat those flying monkeys (in an animal friendly way, of course) please, let me know.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Being a Good Literary Citizen

As a writer, I have discovered that writers like to hang out with other writers and writer types. Maybe we are all a bit insane, or maybe we just understand that certain something in each other that pulls us in to the field, but whatever it is, we find ourselves in a circle, a community I will call it, of like minded souls.

But being a part of a community assumes you are a citizen; and being a citizen means responsibility. Citizens support one another, they don't just take and take, they give as well. And that brings me to the point of this post: Being a Good Literary Citizen.

Publications, ratings, obvious site traffic are important to us. It gives us visibility, which in this new world of 'marketing yourself' is very important. Granted, I don't share or comment or tweet everything I see from those in my community because it would be overwhelming, but I do as much as possible, and hope when I need a little love, it will be returned.

Fictitious Mary is a member of my community. She shares and comments and tweets and rates and buys books from other members. She reviews, she shares, she gives the love. She is a good citizen.

Now let me tell you about fictitious Rudy. Rudy likes to hang in the community, but for years, Rudy hasn't shared, voted, commented-nothing on anyone else in the groups work. Now Rudy has a book out and is finally in a position where he needs a little extra help, too. Let's see, when I'm picking and choosing what to share, is it going to be a link to Rudy's debut novel or Mary's blog post about her cat?

Sorry, Rudy, kitties rule.

Of course, there is a lot more to being a good citizen than just the things mentioned above, but these are easy and take very little of your time.
In the past day, I've tweeted 5 blogs, rated and commented on three short stories, one book, two blog posts, shared three Facebook stories, 'liked' an author page and edited another short story--all for the members of my community. Aside from the editing, this took me less than five minutes of my day.

Why would I do this?

Because I am a member of a literary community and I take my responsibility as a citizen very seriously.  

So the BIG question is:

What kind of a literary citizen are you?