Meet the Panel
DAY 1: Why they did it AND Who should consider it
DAY 2: Editors (who, what why) AND Finding your vendors
DAY 3: Processes & Timelines
DAY 4: Promotion
DAY 5: Resources
DAY 6: Things I’d do differently & Myths and Advice
Personally, for me, getting to read these has been really inspiring and inspirational. I can’t wait to share even more of them with you!
How do you know what kind of editor to use? How do you find them? What about beta readers or critique partners?
At first I really didn’t know what type of editor to use – content, copy, proofreading? I asked around for recommendations and ultimately decided to go with line editing and proofreading for the first book since it had been content critiqued and developmentally edited by my old agent and by the editors I’d done revisions for when that book was still on the submission-go-round. But for other books (particularly in a brand new series), I might use developmental editing. I also get beta reads from critique partners and from reader fans. Teenage daughters of my writer friends are an excellent source for beta readers, since they’re 100% my target audience. If they think something isn’t working, it isn’t.
Here are some editors I love: Rhonda Helms for developmental and line editing, Lauren Dee of Daisycakes Creative for copy editing.
My inner circle is insanely talented, and yes. I know how lucky I am. I have experience previously content editing as well as a bunch of “great” college qualifications, but (like others have said below) I realize I have a huge blind spot on my own work. I also know I’m dyslexic, so I may go overboard on how clean I want things to be.
The bigger question to me isn’t, “Who do you hire and why?” it’s more “Who is on your team?” My team has people who do content editing and copy writing. I additionally hire a copy editor and proofreader. My copy editor is super smart and will point out content blips I may have missed. It doesn’t happen a lot, but knowing she’s grabbed me a time or two gives me more confidence in my product. After I do a copy edit run thru and listen to the book out loud as I read along, it goes to the proofreader who works for my copy editor.
I’m actually an editor myself, but I don’t trust just me on a project when it’s my own. I found my critique partners through blogs mostly, and they’ve been absolutely necessary for every book I write.
If you’re new to the self publishing world (meaning previously unpublished with a traditional publisher), I would suggest using all of the above. Critique partners (good ones, at least) will tell you what works and what doesn’t. They’re also worth their weight in gold and will help you become a better writer. Beta readers won’t help with your mechanics or structure, but they can tell you if a story makes sense, and sometimes we all need that. And editors clean up everything the previous two miss. I still rely heavily on my critique partners. I use beta readers at various times, and I always, ALWAYS use at least one editor and one proofreader on every self published book.
I’m a draft writer and don’t usually share my work until I’ve completed the 2nd or 3rd draft. Then it will go out to 1 or 2 critique partners. With their feedback I’ll complete another draft, then send for a new critique with a different CP. Depending on how big the changes are between drafts, this process can be repeated several times. When I’m down to minor tweaks, I know it’s time for a beta reader. Then it goes to my editor. My editor was recommended by a friend, and I feel extremely lucky that she’s a great fit.
It’s been a progression for me. On my first book I used an online critique group and lots of beta readers before I felt comfortable hiring an editor. The next book I used less online critiquing and a few less beta readers. The more comfortable I become with my story telling and structuring, the less input I seek on the content part of my process. I need a lot more help with the polishing part—I use a line editor and proofreaders.
I’ve never done developmental editing. When I first looked into traditional publishing, the idea that anyone would get between me and my story was one of the biggest turnoffs (next to the money thing). I used betas for my first fifteen books, mostly to tell me when a scene wasn’t working. As time went by, I got less and less of that feedback and more and more grammar, spelling, etc. notes. Recently I’ve switched to having proofreaders give everything a last look after editing rather than use betas any longer, just because it feels like I’ve got more of a handle on it at this point.
It’s the responsibility of every author to know their own strengths and weaknesses. Do you need an editor? A proofreader? Take five pages or a chapter of your recent writing, polish and edit it until you feel that it’s perfect, then let it sit for a week. Come back to it in a week and read it out loud. What kinds of things do you notice? Are there a lot of typos? Does the dialog read clunky? Are there sentences that don’t completely make sense? Use this kind of reading to judge what kind of edits you need. If you publish and get a lot of bad reviews, it’s time to reevaluate your editor. Take the time to look critically at your own work and be honest with yourself if you find a weakness.
I have found beta readers from interacting with fans on social media. Every once in a while a fan will message me about a typo or something they caught, so I’ll ask if they’d like to beta read. These readers will often do a great job catching things about the story I didn’t catch on my own. Critique partners are much harder to find. I found my first critique group at an RWA meeting, but over time, we became less ideal as partners. I found my second group through a writer friend at NaNoWriMo. Keep your eyes open for people who can help improve your work without tearing you down.
All books inherently suck, so I knew that I needed ALL THE EDITORS. 🙂 In the beginning, I swapped edits with author friends to save money, and that worked out pretty well. Nowadays, I find my copy editors through referrals from other authors who I respect, and I’ve picked up proofreaders through referrals or readers who volunteer.
How do you find editors, cover artists, formatters, and other vendors who you like?
I found my cover artist through the KBoards Writers Cafe, which maintains a “Yellow Pages” post of freelance cover artists, editors, proofreaders, formatters, and so forth. I went through each name on the list, checked their work to ensure they worked in my genre and produced covers that stood out, and eventually reached out. The others I’ve worked with have been recommended by writing friends who’ve had positive experiences with the individuals in question.
It’s kind of funny. My first cover artist, who I still work with for my Dani Spevak Mystery Series, is someone I met on Babycenter. She and I have daughters born within a few days of one another, and we’ve been chatting since before they were born. (They turned 4 in December.) Amy Lynch Hallenius is an extremely talented artist who did a gorgeous pencil drawing of her daughter, so of course many of the other moms wanted drawings of their own children and we hired Amy. This is the drawing she did of my daughter, who was 4 months old at the time.
Anyway, she and I started chatting about reading and how she’d always wanted to do children’s book illustration and design book covers, so when I decided to self-publish my first book I decided to work with Amy – and I’m thrilled I did! Now Amy has her own photography business, and I’m trying my hardest to convince her she needs to get into the romance novel stock photo game. There is a dearth of good shots!
I found my cover artist by spending hours on Amazon looking at covers and then searching the books for the cover artist credits. It was certainly a process. I learned a lot from my first book. I adore the cover for Wreckless, but it got a lot of backlash. So, we went a different direction with the RVHS Secrets books. Knowing what you like and knowing what works are sometimes two different things.
Editors are tricky because you want to find someone who is really good, timely, professional, willing to discuss notes, and gets your genre and voice. Phew! That’s a lot of basic requirements.
I used general recommendations from people as well as asking a few writers I know who I was impressed with their released books. In the end, I found my current editor through a post she placed on KBoards. She gets my quirk to the point where sometimes she seems to know better than I do where my voice and style needs to come out more. Then I did sample pages.
If an editor won’t do sample pages for you, pass. You don’t want to invest your time and money on someone who doesn’t understand your writing, genre, or vision. There are brilliantly talented editors out there who will not be a match for your books. It’s the way of the world.
I’m lucky to know a lot of these people personally. I format everything myself because I’m a formatter (and I’m picky, lol) and I found my cover designer because she’s a good friend of mine, and SHE knows several other cover designers and editors… word of mouth helped me out a lot.
I’ve found my editors, formatters and cover artists by word of mouth—talking to other authors who write in my genre and getting feedback on who they’ve used and who they like. Reputation is everything in this business. Now that authors are freelancing for a lot of services that publishing houses used to simply assign, we can pick and choose who fits out needs best. And trust me, we all talk to each other about who’s good to work with and who isn’t.
My cover artist is my sister, who is an amazing graphic artist. I’m very lucky, because we work together on the concept and I have input in every part of the cover design.
I do my own formatting.
For editors I think it’s really important to seek testimonial from other authors and to get a sample edit done on your work. It’s great to develop a long-term relationship with one editor but I also think it can be helpful to change it up. Different editors might see different things in your work that need to be addressed.
Cover art can be tricky. I find it hard to express my cover ideas to a visual artist so it takes some back and forth to get on the same page. For that reason I think it’s very important to make sure you know what you’re signing up for with a cover artist. How many concepts will they do? How many revisions will they do once you decide on a concept? Do they offer any guarantees for satisfaction? Will they be willing to tweak or change the cover in the future if you find it’s not working? You should know those things before you sign a contract—and you should definitely sign a contract! That way you know exactly what you’re getting and what is expected of you in return.
I’ve been very fortunate in that I had one person that did all three when I started, and made it all seem SO easy. As time went by, he left the cover art business, and I found a great new cover artist that I’ve been using ever since. Then he left the editing business, and I lucked into another great editor. He tried to break up with me as a formatter, but I’ve steadfastly refused to allow him to leave that business…
Word-of-mouth is one of the best ways to assemble your self-publishing team. There are lots of people out there who are less than trustworthy, so your best bet is to hire people who have worked with your friends or authors you respect. Another great way to find good editors and cover artists is to look in the front of an ebook you like and see if the author gave credit inside their book. That’s how I found my cover artist, Robin Ludwig. When I was first starting out and browsing the YA bestseller lists, I kept coming across covers I liked and noticing they were done by Robin. Open your eyes and look around. Ask around. If you come across someone who no one you know has ever worked with, proceed with caution.
BRIA: Sara is too modest to brag, but those gorgeous covers? She does them herself. She’s her vendor. I think this is the dream of a lot of indies: Be fabulous at everything…but know what you’re not fabulous at! 😉
Want to check one of the authors out? Just click on their name. 🙂
Can’t wait for Friday when we’ll be talking about writing and publishing processes!