Category Archives: Working with literary editors

Experiences and advice from experts on working with editors on your books

Writing Software: Why you need Microsoft Word – by Lisa Poisso…

And now a completely different opinion on whether you can or should replace Word. I’m not the best judge here because my old Word still works fine for me. The phrase “industry standard” does carry some weight; again, it may come down to the question of how many obstacles you want to put between yourself and your prospective agent or editor. What do you think?

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

When your book is ready for editing, it’s time to pack it neatly into an industry-standard file format. Whether you write in dedicated writing software like Scrivener or key your story into Google Docs after writing it longhand, a finished novel isn’t a private creative endeavor or hobby anymore. Now it’s a product for an industry with professional standards and technical requirements.

If your manuscript is destined for a literary agent, freelance editor, formatter, designer, publisher, or other professional, the standard format is Microsoft Word.

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Who Owns Your Book Manuscript “Edits”?

Who owns your edits?

Are you considering traditional book publishing? Do you have a contract in hand but haven’t signed yet? Did you work with an editor? Then beware.

Victoria Strauss at Writer Beware has another warning for you—and for those of you considering self-publishing your out-of-print books.

Check out the contract language from these publishers claiming that, once your book manuscript has been edited for publication, you can’t claim that version as yours anymore. Not even if you’ve gotten your rights back. Some of these seem to say you can’t republish.

Thanks for about the thousandth time to Victoria Strauss and Writer Beware for keeping abreast of these publishing-contract traps.

Share if you’ve had a publisher (or an editor) claim that once your manuscript has been edited, it’s no longer your book!


Filed under Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, business of writing, Copyright for writers, Editing your novel, indie publishing, Publishing, publishing contracts, reversion of rights clauses, Self-publishing, small presses, Working with literary editors, writing novels

What To Do If an Agent or Editor Wants Your Stuff!

When lightning strikes an author!Here’s a comprehensive, helpful post from Publishing Crawl about that fateful moment when lightning strikes! You open your inbox to find a message from an agent or editor who wants your work. Lots of good advice here!


Filed under Finding literary agents for writers, looking for literary editors and publishers, Publishing, Working with literary editors, Writing, writing novels

Small Publishers – A Checklist #wwwblogs #amwriting

What would you add to this thoughtful post from Alison Williams Writing? Have your experiences with small publishers been good or bad? Are indie writers better off self-publishing? What do you think?

Alison Williams Writing


I recently wrote a bit of a rant about the quality control of some small presses whose books I had read. You can read it here.

If you are thinking of signing with a small publisher, then do bear a few things in mind.

  • Do your homework – start off by Googling the publisher. You might find threads on writing sites that go into a great deal of detail about your chosen publisher. Read them – they can be incredibly enlightening.
  • Ask questions – if your publisher is honest and genuinely wants the best for you, they should accept that you have a right to want to know about them. After all, you are placing your book and all the blood, sweat and tears that went into writing it in their hands.


  • Who are they?
  • How long have they been publishing?
  • What exactly is their background and experience?…

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6 Basic Tech Skills for Writers

Tech skills for writersHere’s a post about some of those mysterious tech skills that can confound non-tekkie verbal people like us writers. Check it out—whether you need to communicate with editors or with beta readers or if you just want to format your own book for Amazon or Smashwords. I can attest that you DO need Styles, and I’ve found GIMP, a free program recommended by this post, to work wonderfully as a graphics editor. You’ll need this information to format your hard-copy editions as well. Let me know what you think!

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What To Do When You Sit Down To Pitch Your Novel In-Person

Good practical (and empathetic) advice on pitching from agent Carly Watters! I’ve had good luck recently from listing about eight plot points to keep me on track. No one seems to mind if I use a page of notes. What about you? What techniques do you use to make your pitch sessions work?

Carly Watters, Literary Agent

After attending conferences around North America for the past 6 years I’ve seen an array of pitching techniques. Some good. Some…not so good. I get it. It’s not easy to pitch your book (your creative project that’s been on your mind for months if not years) to someone sittingin front of you, especially when the stakes are so high for you personally.

Agents can sense thedetermination and fear in the room during pitch sessions. It’s honestly palpable and we can feel your energy.

I find pitch sessions draining and galvanizingat thesame time. Having a new project pitched to me every 7-10 minutes is a lot to wrap my head around and sometimes they bleed into one another. And depending on how conference organizers set things up I could be sitting there for up to 2 hours at a time.

When you sit down:

Relax. Then tell me why you’re sitting…

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May Be A Reason Your Editor Is Crabby…

Here’s a comprehensive “editor’s POV” discussion shared by Chris the Story Reading Ape. In my experience, careful reading of directions and the ability to follow them is a learned skill. On the one hand, as a teacher (and as many of my fellow teachers regularly lamented), getting students to follow written directions was one of the greatest of pedagogical challenges. Yet I’ve found myself misreading directions or missing an important caveat or guideline—especially when I’m trying to do something technical online :-(. So I can’t be too judgmental!
Have you ever been in an editor’s shoes? How has the experience affected your own relationship with editors?

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

To find out why, click on the link or Author Donald J Bingle’s photo below:



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3 Lessons, 4 Resolutions from the Indiana Writers’ Workshop, October 24, 2015

Novel!It’s unusual to find a conference that changes the way I think about my novel and about myself as a writer. This one-day conference, less than a day’s drive away, did just that.

The Workshop featured presentations by Brian Klems, online editor for The basic fee covered four all-group presentations by Klems and a “first-page” critique by four agents of randomly selected submissions. Participants could pay extra for ten-minute pitch sessions with up to six agents and for a personal query-letter critique by Chuck Sambuchino, author of a number of books and blogs on writing as well as humor books.

Klems’s presentations covered a huge amount of nuts-and-bolts information most valuable to writers who had not attended many conferences or mined the web for information on the business of writing. The pitch sessions were well-coordinated; all three of the agents I queried were generous listeners. The published schedule did not build in meals or receptions for the social networking that many writers find rewarding.

So what made this conference so productive? Two things: Sambuchino’s critique of my query and the “first-page” session, at which some 20 or so of the first pages submitted were thrown down and stomped upon.

First: Query-Letter Critique

I didn’t receive Sambuchino’s comments until the Thursday night before the conference, and Friday was hectic, so it was evening before I could settle into my motel room to digest the veritable armada of comments he had supplied. Everyone reading this can probably empathize with my stomach-twisting lurch when I realized that the back-of-the-book blurb I had workshopped over and over with multiple audiences was No Good. Basic questions—what is Michael’s wound, his need? What is at stake? How does this event lead to this one?—still loomed. Sambuchino wanted A LOT more information than any back-of-the-book was going to accommodate.

The feeling of utter inadequacy that settled over me produced a complete rewrite. Was that the right strategy? All I know is that when I sat across from agents and talked from the notes they were glad to let me use, not one broke in with a confused frown to tell me I wasn’t making any sense. (Believe me, this has happened.) There’s no experiment that could tell me whether my response to Sambuchino’s comments made the difference. But I do know that when I revise my query letter, the pitch itself will look a lot more like the one I wrote Friday night than the one I have now.

Lesson learned? First let me talk about

First Page Armageddon

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Interesting Post on Reading-Level Scales—for Children’s and YA authors?

Here’s a post by Dennis Baron at The Web of Language about the readability scales used by various organizations to dictate the “grade-level” writers should aim for. He argues that these scales are useless, by virtue of the fact that they contradict each other, at the very least, and don’t provide help in creating “clear” language at any level. I’m not sure how these scales relate to the guidelines on language in children’s and YA books that writers in those genres follow. Check out the post, and let me know if you have used scales like these.

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I Continue to Learn about Publishing. . . .

Following up on the rather alarming article by Dean Wesley Smith that one of my earlier posts linked to, I wrote to some agents and publishing experts requesting their thoughts. Question marksDespite dealing with a family emergency, Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware took the time to write back with a compelling clarification of Smith’s more extreme claims. With her permission, I reproduce her reply here. You’ll note a link to a very thorough article on the issue of reversion-of-rights clauses in contracts. If you’re on the verge of querying or have an offer, this article is well worth your time.

Here is Victoria’s reply to my questions:

Taking your questions in order:

1) Is it true that “life-of-copyright” is now the industry standard,
so that rights never revert, regardless of the original publisher’s
intentions for the book?

Life of copyright has _always_ been the industry standard among large and medium-size publishers. This is nothing new, and I’m bemused that Dean Wesley Smith would say that it is.

I do think that a limited-term contract is far more desirable, if you’re going with a small press (and small presses do often offer limited-term contracts–though life-of-copyright is not at all uncommon in the small press world). But life of copyright doesn’t have to be a problem–as long as there’s a detailed, specific reversion clause that ties rights reversion to minimum sales (for instance, making rights reversion automatic on author request once sales drop below 100 copies in any 12-month period). I’ve written about this in detail here: .

Unfortunately, it’s not unusual to encounter life of copyright contracts that _don’t_ have adequate reversion clauses–especially in the small press world, where people often don’t know what they’re doing. You may be able to negotiate to add a good reversion clause–my agent has negotiated sales-dependent reversion clauses into all my contracts since at least the early 2000’s–but, depending on the publisher, you may also choose to walk away from a life of copyright contract offer with inadequate reversion provisions. It’s definitely something to watch out for. But the reality is a lot more nuanced than what’s presented in Dean Wesley Smith’s post.

2) Is it true that authors who were once seen as “midlist” should
now assume they will most likely be offered $5000 or less as an
advance? (I received that amount for my first novel, but much more
for subsequent submissions that definitely did not quality as
“best-sellers,” though they sold respectably.)

Advances have generally fallen, especially since the 2008 economic downturn. But they are all over the map, so it’s impossible to make a blanket declaration. Advance amounts depend on all kinds of factors, including your agent (or if you have one; authors without agents tend to get lower advances), the publisher (smaller publishers generally offer smaller advances), what the publisher’s expectations of your books are–and, unfortunately, if you have a publishing track record, the sales of your previous books. In any case, if your sales are good, you’ll get the money owed to you regardless of the advance amount.

As for the whole “midlist” thing (that word doesn’t mean what it used to)–a lot has changed in the publishing world over the past 15 to 20 years, and one of the things that’s changed most is how hard it is to stay in the game. I don’t think it’s any more difficult to break into traditional publishing than it ever was (possibly easier, given the huge volume of books that are being published), but it is a lot more difficult to maintain a career, especially if your sales aren’t stellar.

   3) the proliferation of “royalty only” publishers. How are such
entities regarded in the industry at present? Is this a coming wave?

This really is a phenomenon only in the small press world, which has expanded hugely over the past 15 or so years thanks to digital technology. These days, anyone can set up a publishing company just by registering with CreateSpace or LightningSpark. One of the ways many small presses try to limit their financial outlay is to eliminate advances. This is extremely common, and has been for some time. However, don’t believe anyone who tells you that advances are becoming less common among large and medium-sized publishers, or that debut authors no longer receive advances. This simply isn’t true.

There are some great small presses, but an awful lot of amateur and predatory ones whose staff know little about editing, production, design, and marketing. When Writer Beware was founded in 1998, we mostly got complaints about literary agents and scam vanity publishers; these days, small press problems make up by far the biggest volume of complaints we receive. In many cases, self-publishing is preferable.

– Victoria

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