Monday, July 26, 2010


So, by this point, some of you might be interested in what the book is actually about.

Or not, but I feel like writing about it, so I will.

Really though, this is practice for something important to either the query letter, the sales pitch, or the back jacket if I self publish, because, no matter how brilliant the book is, no one will buy it if they don't know what it's about.

So... what's it about? Like most writers I'm sitting here with a manuscript and it's got a lot of things going on in it and trying to get that down to one paragraph (Yes, that's what we're aiming for in Query letter land.) is daunting.

I can condense the entire series down into one question: What if Job fought back? Unfortunately that's not much relevant to the first book. Because the first book is actually the middle of the series.

So, what is it? It's a love story. It's about wrapping up loose ends. It's about free will and fate. It's about forgiveness, and about the things that cannot be forgiven. Most importantly it's about how good people can do some really bad things, and how no matter how good your intentions may be, you can still get burned, and burn everyone you love, in the end.

If you liked Harry Potter but wanted something more engaging to a grown-up mind, you'll probably like Sylvianna. If you liked Twilight, but wanted to smack some sense into Bella and Edward (or wanted some decent sex scenes), you'll probably like Sylvianna. If you liked the Magician but wanted engaging characters who actually did things, you'll probably like Sylvianna. Most of all, if you want a book that starts a series that will deal with complex moral issues without preaching at you, and without pulling punches, then you'll like this series.

Well, there are the themes of the book, and who it's marketed to. Now let's take a whack at the plot.

Sarah Metz just got to college. She went in search of a biology degree. She found a group of wizards on the run from their past. They remember her, she doesn't remember them. Over the next year she'll help them fight off the creatures trying to kill them, fall back into love with the man who used to be her husband, break the heart of her best friend by doing so, and maybe, if they're lucky, not remember who she used to be.

Still needs work, but it's a good first shot.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Say Hello to Mr. Hill

Now, I know traditional publisher/writer types will tell you to never, ever hire your own editor. The publishing company will have it done for you if they like the book. As we've proven in the last column, editing is expensive.

I understand why this advice is given. There are lots of editing scams out there, and even for people who aren't scammers, they might just not know what the book world really wants. (Quick example: Does this editor usually work with technical manuals? He might not really know what to do with a novel in that case.) If you wait for the publisher to provide the editor, then the publisher knows the output will be the sort of thing they can sell.

At the same time, every third person and his mom are now writing books. Which means you've got a whole lot of competition to see who is going to get an Agent, and then the Agent competes against all the books other Agents are shopping around.

I saw the statistic that the average Agent would get close to 10,000 queries a year, and the average Agent would pick up four or five new clients. I don't know if that number is true or not, but I do know that if I've got to deal with that sort of competition, I will make sure my book is as good as it can possibly be, so I'll be hiring an editor.

The other reason for getting professionally edited is this: I'm still not sure if I'll go the agent/traditional publisher route. If I go the self publish route I have to hire someone to edit this thing because I do not want to be another of the self published authors out there who produces a work that doesn't look like it was spell checked, let alone ever had another set of eyes go over it.

So, the lovely Thomas Hill of Launchpad Press will be retained for the job.

Here's how the deal works: I had him edit a sample of my work and send me a price quote. That quote came in at .01 cent a word, and he'd be done in a month. The sample he sent back to me looked good. The turn around time was faster than anyone else who bid. We corresponded by email, and he seems very pleasant and professional. I Googled him and didn't find any complaints or scam reports on him. The terms are professional as well, half at the beginning of the project, half at the half way point. The contract he sent is simple to read but covers everything. No wading through pages of dense legaleese and wondering after you signed if you just gave away the rights to the family farm. Finally the invoice is through Paypal, which is nice because both Paypal and the credit card I'm using to pay for this have buyer protection on them.

So, by Monday Mr. Hill will have Sylvianna in hand, and the editing will begin. I'll continue to post how the editing experience goes.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Editors II

Holy Yog's Law Batman! Editing is expensive!

So, after taking the time to look into this whole editing thing, I got some quotes. Here's what editing may run, one to five cents a word. I got rates back at .01, .03, and .05 a word. (One outlier was charging $.18 a word.) Now, that doesn't sound bad, until I look at my little word count on Sylvianna and see it comes in at 262,130 words. So, at best, I'm looking at $2621.30 and at worst a bit over $13,000.

The sound you hear in the background is my husband telling me to write a shorter book.

To make matters even more fun, this is apparently an area rife with scams.

Now what? Besides encouraging my buddy who is good with grammar to stop teaching writing 101 at the local community college and start life as a book editor.

First off, really read the samples I got sent back. They are good. All the editors have indicated they think the bits of the books they looked at were strong, and wouldn't require massive intervention to make better. However, they are trying to sell me a service, and saying the book sucks and will have to be entirely re-written is not a good way to sell me said service.

.05 a word told me he could have it done in a few months, remarked about how it needed work on making the tale more visually intense, and varying the word choice a bit. The bit he worked on looked good, but he only marked up two pages, so it's a tad hard to tell how much he can add to the project. He's an author with six SF books of his own on the market, so obviously he knows how to write a book that sells. His terms are half up front, half on delivery.

Two main concerns with him. First off, I can't afford to pay for $13,000.00 in editing. (And, if self publishing, I really don't hope to make that much back!) Secondly, his comments were dead on about the weaknesses of my prose, but his fixes don't sound much like me. How much my voice would become his by the time the book was done is an open question. Now, since he's got published, selling books out, whether that would be a bad thing is also an open question.

.03 did a decent mark up as well. This one focused more on grammar and flow than on word choice. No comments about what bits of the writing needed to be improved. He told me he could have it done by August 2011, if I paid for the entire thing up front. Mr. .03 may be a lovely person. He may be a legitimate editor. He's also not getting my business.

.01 focused on grammar and making the story clearer. Things that make sense to me do not necessarily make sense to the reader. He can get it done in a month, and also wants half now half later. Mr. .01 charges extra for something called a story review, in which he and his crew read the thing and go over it with a fine tooth comb to see if it's salable. Mr. .01 also has a list of books he's edited on his website.

Right now I'm leaning towards Mr. .01. Before he gets engaged for the deal, I'm going to see about how well the books he's edited sold, and hopefully track down their authors and see what they thought of his skills.

In the meantime, a decision needs to be made: Pay for editing, or start the agent hunt?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Yog's Law: Editors

Now, by going the self publish route I don't have to shell out as much as $750 dollars in the quest for an agent.

No, by self publishing I can shell out money in the quest for an editor.

Some people have noticed that self published, especially in the not too distant past, was code for, "No one in their right mind would publish this!" Bad writing, insipid plots, grammatical errors, and cardboard characters have been the hallmarks of self published fiction. (This is not necessarily true for non-fiction.) This is often because people who publish their own work don't bother to hire a professional editor.

Want to have an idea of the value of a real professional editor. Read any of the first four Harry Potter books. Then read Deathly Hallows. How much do you want to bet a copy editor got anywhere near Deathly Hallows? Not much? Me either.

I know I can spin a good plot. I write decent, occasionally brilliant, dialogue. I'm not a grammarian. I don't process information visually, so my prose is weak on the what do things look like front. (Actual comment from a beta reader: "Can you make this more visual?" My response: "Probably.") I need an editor. By going the agent/publisher route, they'll pay for an editor for me.

By going on my own, I need to hire one on my own. Fortunately this is the internet age, so editors are easy to find. I've got two professionals who specialize in sci-fi fantasy work, and one who I know through a board I hang out on. All three will get bits of the book to work up, and then they'll send me what they can do with it, and how much it'll cost to do the whole thing.

Keep in mind writer friends, they are doing the first bit for free to show me what they can do, then I pick the best match based on what they send me. Once again, if they want money upfront, it's time to go find a new option.

So, stay tuned for the next Yog's Law Update: Editors II.