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The Successful Author

Editor Skills

editor skills

There are three basic types of editors (and they each have various names). Each type of editor requires a different skill set.

Developmental Editor

A developmental editor, sometimes called a comprehensive editor, looks at big picture issues. For fiction this includes items such as story arc, character development, writing voice, and plot issues. Nonfiction looks at theme, organization, structure, writing consistency, and so forth.

A developmental editor must read widely and have knowledge of your genre and the publishing industry.

Copy Editor

A copy editor looks at sentence structure and the flow between sentences, paragraphs, and chapters. They will identify awkward sections and poor phrasing. They may point out character inconsistencies and possible factual errors to check.

A copy editor needs to know the genre. Having a college writing degree helps, but a more beneficial characteristic is having taught writing and graded a lot of papers or has experience in a career that requires a lot of editing.

Proofreader

A proofreader looks at the details: word usage, punctuation, and grammar. A proofreader should enjoy specificity and be able to focus. A proofreader must know and follow a style guide, such as the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS).

Some proofreaders know multiple style guides, but others specialize in using just one and therefore only take jobs that use that style guide. The key requirement is having mastered a style guide and knowing how to apply it.

No one can do all three types of editing at once—nor should they. And most editors will only ever do one type.

The ultimate qualification to become an editor is having successfully done the work. This makes it hard for people to start as an editor because few writers will hire an unproven editor.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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The Successful Author

Editing Options

edting options

Some writers say they can’t afford an editor, but I say you can’t afford to. No one can.

But if you want options, here are three ideas come to mind:

Barter

First, look for an editor who will barter. They edit, and you perform a service of equal value. It might be writing-related or it might not. But since most editors need actual money, this may be hard to pull off unless the editor is a friend or just starting out.

The Beginning Editor

Second, the next option is to seek a beginning editor who wants to edit but has no finished projects to show people. Maybe the first-time editor will edit your work for free or at a reduced rate just to have something in their portfolio. Remember, every editor must have a first project to get a second project. But the first one is hard to get. You can help them as they help you.

A University Connection

Third, contact the writing department at a nearby college. Maybe they have a promising student looking for experience.

These are all long shots, but they’re worth exploring.

The one thing you don’t want to do is find an editor who isn’t qualified, such as a person who majored in English or who likes to read. These people may make good beta readers, but don’t ask them to edit.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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The Successful Author

Finding Time to Write

finding time to write

Finding time to write is a dilemma most writers face at one time or another. Maybe all writers do.

I think the problem, however, is in the question. We don’t need to find time to write as much as we need to make time.

We each have 24 hours in our day. While work and sleep occupy part of each day, we exercise some degree of control over the rest. We decide what we will do with it. We can choose to write or opt to do something else.

Before you say, “But my situation is different,” let me agree with you.

Then let me ask, “How much time do you spend each week watching TV or on social media?” That is a prime opportunity to write instead.

If writing is important to you, you will make time to write. It may be a little or a lot. It may be every day or only once a week, but make it happen.

If you can carve out ten minutes a day, every day, and write one hundred words each day, by the end of the year you will have written 36,500 words.

If you can carve out one hour a week, every week, and write 500 words, by the end of the year, you will have written 26,000 words.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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The Successful Author

Common Submission Errors

common submission errors

Here are the three biggest mistakes people make when submitting content for publication. Avoid these common submission errors :

1. Not Following Submission Guidelines

The first submission error is not following directions.

Adhering to submission guidelines helps increase the chance of them publishing your work. Each deviation lessens the likelihood of success.

Common mistakes include missing deadlines (a huge no-no), submitting content not accepted by the publication, and having a piece that’s the wrong length. Too many writers ignore the directions for submissions.

2. Not Proofreading Their Work

The second submission mistake is not proofreading their submission.

Most editors will overlook an error or two, but when it’s clear that the author never even ran spellcheck, it’s obvious they haven’t bothered to send their best work, and they expect me to clean it up. Sometimes I don’t have the time, but it always irritates me,

3. Not Adhering to Writing Conventions

The third submission error is using non-standard formatting.

Some writers must think that creative formatting equals creative writing. It does not. They use odd fonts or switch fonts within the piece, various point sizes, multiple colors, and lots of bold, italics, underline, all three, and ALL CAPS.

All these things require work to clean up. Make it simple for editors by submitting a clean copy with no embellished formatting.

To have the best chance of success, avoid these common submission errors.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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The Successful Author

Contest Conundrum

contest conundrum

I have paid to enter some contests. It’s okay when you win, but it’s a double hit when you don’t.

Contest Fees

I’ve paid from $1 to $20 to enter contests, and each time they gave a compelling reason why I needed to compensate them to consider my work. And each time I’ve felt duped afterward.

Going forward, the only reason I would pay to enter a contest was if I was going to receive feedback on my submission. So far, I’ve never seen this offered in the contests I’ve considered.

Beware Bogus Contests

Also, be aware there are some bogus contests, whose only purpose is to make money for the contest owner through the submission fees they charge. Research contests carefully and steer clear if you have concerns.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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The Successful Author

Receiving Feedback

receiving feedback

One thing that has most helped me improve as a writer is receiving feedback from others. It is critical.

This feedback has mostly come from critique groups but also from beta readers and paid professionals. This last category is costly but invaluable.

Regardless of the source, the key is figuring out which feedback to apply, which to adapt, and which to dismiss. Don’t blindly follow every recommendation. Each piece of feedback is nothing more than one person’s opinion, and that opinion may not be right for your vision of your work.

Our mission as writers is to figure out the difference between good and not so good feedback and handle it appropriately.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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The Successful Author

Must Writers Blog?

writers blog

As someone who’s written 2,500 blog posts and counting, you may be surprised that I don’t think a writer must blog. Here are two considerations, followed by a blogging option:

Fiction Writers

It’s hard for fiction writers to build a following with a blog. Unless you want to blog and have ideas for posts that align with your author brand, then don’t do it.

Your agent or publisher may have different ideas, but don’t worry about that unless the issue comes up.

Nonfiction Writers

It’s much easier for nonfiction authors to blog. Just blog about the same things you write about in your books. Build an audience around your content, and they will likely be interested in your books too. Given that, don’t blog if you:

  • Don’t have the time
  • Lack of incentive
  • Fear it will drain you
  • Aren’t ready to commit to it
  • Don’t have enough ideas of what to blog about

Blogging Alternatives

As an alternative to starting your own blog, you can look to guest post on other people’s blogs.

Blogging isn’t right for everyone. If it’s not right for you, invest your time and creativity elsewhere.

Some publishers and agents insist that your blog, but if you know it’s not the right fit for you, don’t let them force you into doing something you don’t want to do.

Just walk away, and look for a publisher or agent that doesn’t take such a hardline approach.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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The Successful Author

When You Need an Agent

when you need an agent

If you plan to publish your book with a traditional publisher, you’ll need an agent. Most publishers only work with agents.

Even if you find a publisher who will work with you directly, you should still use an agent.

Why is that?

Because an agent will negotiate a better contract for you than you could possibly do on your own. Even if you are a lawyer or know one, an agent is still in a better position to get you the best possible deal.

Of course, if you plan to indie-publish, there is no need for an agent.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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The Successful Author

Critique Group Characteristics

critique group characteristics

Some critique groups can be good, some are okay, and some are not good at all. Here’s what to look for in a critique group that I think is important.

Critique Group Characteristics

  • The members actively write.
  • The members read.
  • The members balance criticism with praise; too much of either is bad.
  • The members curtail feedback on pieces in genres they aren’t familiar with.
  • The members challenge each other to improve.
  • The members provide encouragement
  • The members are committed to helping other members.

Critique Group Leader

Also, look at the leader. Is the leader effective in maintaining focus and structure? If not, the group can easily veer off topic and waste time.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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The Successful Author

Finding a Critique Group

finding a critique group

Finding a critique group is challenging, especially one that’s a good fit. Assuming you want a local group, ask area writers if they have any suggestions, check with bookstores (especially independents) to see if they know of any groups, and search online.

If all this fails or doesn’t find you the right group, you can always start your own. That’s what I did.

Also, in lieu of local groups, consider an online group. Again, do an online search for online critique groups. (There are 44 million matches for the search term.) The benefit of online groups is they don’t have a geographic limit and often don’t have time restrictions.

Last, if you’re in a group that’s not working for you, bow out and find another one. Don’t waste time in the wrong group.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!