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In the last few weeks, I've received more than my usual number of emails asking if I'll work on a manuscript from developmental editing to copyediting to proofreading. No editor should do that, folks. It should be three separate editors.

Here's why: Even an editor will start to see things that aren't there. Even an editor who is highly trained and skilled will substitute "the" for "teh" or mentally add in a missing comma in a manuscript they've read four times.

This is why I have a list of colleagues to whom I refer clients who need proofreading done on books I've line edited, or who want me to do the final polish and need someone to do the developmental editing. Any editor who tells you they can do an equally great job of line editing and copyediting the same manuscript should be regarded with suspicion at best.
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Hellooooo, LiveJournal & Dreamwidth! So much has happened since I last logged in months and months ago. I have been living in the internet version of a cave, no lie. But, of course, I faithfully update Twitter.

Hitting on the high points -- I'm no longer with Jones & Bartlett Learning, instead returning to freelance editing full time. (Although... if some awesome fiction publishing company wanted to hire me, I would be open to hearing about that. :)) Anyway, it means I'm moving back to NYC, which I have missed desperately this past year, and I'm hopeful that there will be awesome gatherings and readings for me to attend to get back in the swing of things and catch up on everything I've missed.

And... [ profile] c_katherine and I have delivered the Salt and Silver sequel to several friendly editors -- while we've been told it's not really something the current market would support, once it's been edited, we're thinking about ways to turn it into performance art (public revising! Yeah, we'll see) and get it to readers who have expressed interest. Additionally, we're writing another romance novel -- this one with no paranormal elements, just a lot of weird stuff.

Meanwhile, on Twitter, tonight I was chit-chatting with Cathy Clamp (new Cat Adams book came out today!) and Lisa Spangenberg about the newest kerfuffle -- repurposing fanfic for wider publication.

(Now, I'm pretty open about the fact that I've been reading and writing fanfic for most of my life; I love it and support it; I donate to and volunteer with the Organization for Transformative Works, post my fic to the Archive of Our Own, record other people's works as podfics, regularly post fanfic recommendations to Twitter, etc. I'm a big fan of the "gift economy" -- while, at the same time, I did publish repurposed fanfic as part of Tor Romance (bet you can't guess which books!) and invite fanfic authors to submit proposals for both repurposed and more traditionally original fiction. So -- I don't think my opinion on this issue comes as a shock to anyone paying attention.)

While having this discussion, though, I observed that I've seen some really bitter people saying pretty crappy things about a newly famous piece of repurposed fanfic (Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James). My comment on this was to say something that I wish more people would take seriously. It's sort of a corollary to what I've been saying for years, that the "secret handshake" of the publishing industry is to be a professional. I said:

Free advice: A really good way to network & get attention is to be the kind of person people want to be around & work with. *

I truly believe this and I'm sticking to it. Anybody else have advice in a similar vein that they swear by?
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If you read my Twitter, you've seen me weigh in on "e-book piracy" once or twice. (Or a lot.) I lean toward the idea that the word "piracy" is a stupid word to describe semi-legal downloading (it depends on which country you are in), and I am not entirely against it, anyway.

People who can afford to pay for a book and download it from Demonoid instead are jerks; I feel the same about music and TV shows. Some people can't afford it, though. Some people live in countries to which Amazon doesn't deliver, or even a used book costs more than a week of lunches, or it is illegal to possess the material in a certain book… Other people have written better summations and criticisms of this go-around than I can right now.

([personal profile] torachan did a great linkspam a while back, and I'm sure there have been more posts since then.)

On my Twitter, I encouraged people to download copies of Salt and Silver from torrent sites. Frankly, Kat and I were both thrilled that it showed up on torrent sites -- it was popular enough that people wanted it! How neat! And despite promises from our publisher that it would be available in various e-book formats, it ended up only available in Kindle format from Amazon. That, in my opinion, is shitty. I don't have a Kindle, so I can't even get a copy of my own e-book! I downloaded it as an HTML file from a torrent site so I could have a copy. (And this HTML file has a bunch of errors in it from the OCR that really irk me, by the way!) Plus for a while it was $9.99 as a Kindle book, which is just plain ridiculous when you can buy the paperback for $6.99 new.

I also think there needs to be a way for people to be able to transfer their books into multiple formats, although this is less like CDs to MP3s (as I've seen people say), and more like vinyl to MP3. Still, there's cheapish USB hardware you can plug in to make your vinyl into MP3 (or FLAC!), and there's no equivalent for books you've already bought four copies of in paperback that you want on your e-reader.

Sure, I would love to make enough money from writing that I could, like, pay my car insurance for a year or something. But I don't, and I am mostly okay with that, because if I had to choose between people reading what I write and people not reading what I write because they can't afford it or the material isn't available in their country, I'd choose the former.

I actually have a lot more to say about e-books, and a lot of theories on how to help fix the industry that would actually work if publishers implemented them, but that's not what this post is about. This post is about something I see people saying often about books that I want to debunk, because I haven't seen anyone else doing it.

More than I would like to, I have seen comments or heard people say (or have had them say to my face!) that they don't want to pay for books "because that author has enough money."

Anyone who thinks that needs to educate themselves. First of all, it is not up to us to be the arbiter of how much is enough for someone. We don't know the details of anyone's lives. Authors don't get health insurance (unless they live in a country with socialized medicine) or 401(k) plans or pensions. A full-time author only has the money they make by writing -- minus whatever their government takes in taxes. Some authors have terrible health problems; some are taking care of sick and/or elderly parents; some have sick kids or a sick partner/spouse. Some authors aren't full-time authors -- but not all jobs are cushy investment banker jobs where you make millions of dollars and never get arrested for breaking the law. A lot of authors are teachers or librarians; have you ever met a librarian who got rich from cataloging and speaking at ALA? Probably not, right?

Many authors do not get paid nearly as much as you think they do, especially in this economic climate. Authors who once could support themselves writing two books per year now cannot -- they don't get paid the same advances, they don't sell as many books, so they don't get the royalties, and the publishers may not even want to publish two books per year by them anymore, so their earnings are immediately cut in half. (And good luck finding another publisher to publish that second book, especially if it's the same genre.)

Authors, whether they are print and e-book or e-book only, don't get that much money -- 50% of $6 or whatever is $3, and a lot of e-book-only publishers aren't charging $6 per book. (Not to mention that not every e-book author is the wildly successful dark horse; some just sell a few hundred per title.)

Some authors get 10% on their paperbacks -- but even if the paperback is 9.99, that's only just under a dollar per book. They have to sell 10,100 copies before they even make back a $10,000 advance. Sure, that's easy for Nora Roberts, but it's less easy for, say, Anna Katherine.

Additionally, for a mid-list or new author, if one tiny thing goes wrong, that can send their entire career into the toilet -- their editor leaves, someone goes on vacation so the publisher misses the deadline for sending ARCs to the trades for review, they get shuffled to a different imprint, the cover has to be done twice because sales hates the first one, their book comes out the same week as a much-anticipated release from a bestseller… Anything. Any of those things alone can be disastrous; two or three can make it impossible for the author to sell another book without switching pseuds and/or genres and starting over, unless the sales are tremendously strong anyway.

Here's the other thing to remember when you say stuff like that: The money a publisher makes on, say, a Nora Roberts book… That's not entirely profit in the pockets of the cats who run the world. That goes to fund the marketing and promotion efforts for lesser-known authors. Even just a small percentage of the profit a publisher makes on a Nora Roberts book can fund a couple or three mid-list or brand new authors -- it's advances, advertisements in magazines, promo trips, 4-color ARCs, pens with the author's name on them… You're not just supporting Nora Roberts or Stephen King or whoever when you buy their books -- you're supporting all the authors that company publishes.

(Not to mention the salaries of editorial, production, marketing, sales, art, and all the freelance editors and designers who are hired to do the cover or proofread the first pass or write the cover copy.)

I'm not saying that you should never buy a used book or that you should never go to a library or that you should never download a title from Demonoid (or wherever). But if you can afford to buy a copy new, whether it's e-book or paper, I'd like you to give a little more consideration to doing that, especially if your reasoning for not doing it is because you think the author has "enough money."
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Cringe cringe cringe! If you haven't already seen it, a review site posted a mostly-negative review of a book, and the author flipped out in the comments section. I could only scroll through about half the comments before I had to close out of the window. I find people humiliating themselves a difficult thing to watch/read/hear about.

When I talk about professionalism being the secret handshake of publishing, this is... well, this is an extreme example of the kind of thing to which I'm referring. Very extreme. But, as you can see, it's something that happens!

Any professional writer or editor will tell you that you have to learn to roll with it when you get negative reviews -- whether that review is on your published book, or if it's a critique of your draft from your writing partner, agent, editor... No book is perfect. There's always more work to do.

It sucks when people say negative things about your writing, but if you can't roll with it -- and if you can't identify what in those negative reviews is a helpful critique you can incorporate into your writing for next time -- then you're going to have a really hard time finding a place in the publishing community.
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Ahh, antibiotics! I'm about 80% better now, which is lovely. So I thought I would come write a blog entry about punctuation!

The biggest punctuation problems I see in the manuscripts I edit for my clients are misplaced punctuation marks. Particularly the misplaced question mark and the misplaced comma. Here is a quick and dirty refresher.

A question mark goes at the end of a question, whether that question is in dialogue or narrative. Examples using some of my favorite characters from Flashpoint...

"Do you have the solution?" asked Greg.

If Ed had the solution, would Greg give the order to take the shot?

A question mark should not be used if a question is not being asked. For example:

Greg wondered if Ed had the solution already.

That's not a question, because Greg is not asking anything -- it's a statement about what Greg is thinking.

Incorrect examples:

"Do you have the solution" asked Greg?

Greg wondered if Ed had the solution already?

Commas. I'm not going to go over every single time you're supposed to use a comma (or not supposed to use a comma!), but I'm going to hit the two biggest offenders:

1. The comma in dialogue. It goes inside the double quotes. Like this:

"The labels on the tanks of chemicals say chlorine and NH3," said Jules, staring down at the target through the scope of her rifle.

2. The comma in direct address. If one character is talking to one or more other characters, the comma comes before and/or after the name. Like so:

"Boss, I have the solution," said Ed.

"Me, too, Boss. Waiting for your go," added Jules.

"Okay, Ed, Jules, take the shot whenever you can," said Greg grimly.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to go through your manuscript and make sure you haven't made any of these common errors! Go forth and proofread!
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The other day, a friend of mine complained to Twitter that an adult with a business relationship to her organization had sent her an ostensibly professional email using "txt speak" -- not just the shortening of words we've all been known to do at one time or another to make our long thoughts fit into the 160 characters of a text message or the 140 characters for Twitter, but full on "c u l8r"-style.

I get emails like that a lot -- unfortunately. Sometimes people even send query letters to agents and editors written in less than professional language. Now, I'm not talking about a casual letter instead of formal; some editors and agents actually respond better to a more casual tone in a query letter. No, I am talking about full on spelling errors, grammatical errors, and punctuation errors; long, run-on sentences; a page that is entirely one paragraph; unsigned emails and letters with no contact information…

Several people have even sent me religious and political forwards! While that may be appropriate for some business relationships (if you work for a religious or political organization reaching out to others, perhaps?), it is certainly not appropriate for an author to send to editors or agents, especially ones who are almost strangers.

This is important: be professional. I have said it before, so many times, but I will say it as many times as I have to. The secret handshake is professionalism. Professionalism is what makes people take you seriously. Professionalism is what will sway someone to your favor. Professionalism is what's going to tip the scales for you if, for some reason, it comes down to a choice between you and another author, especially when most other things are equal. Professionalism will encourage other people to view you as a force to be reckoned with, even if you're unpublished or working on your first book.

Writing to an editor, agent, or other (professional) author is not like writing to your best friend. I'm not saying to ditch your signature voice and write a dry, formal email. Professionalism is proofreading your emails, keeping your temper, signing emails to strangers with the appropriate name (and contact information, if you don't want to be emailed back).

Personally, I have an appreciation for casual business emails -- but there is a huge difference between a casual "I read your blog and find it really helpful, and I, too, love Fringe fanfic about Astrid," and "YO, CAN YOU EDIT MY BOOK CUZ ITS GOOD BUT NOONE BLIEVS ME BCUZ MY SPLLING AINT SO GOOD PLZ HELP OK???!!"

(Depressingly, I get quite a few emails like that every month; when I was an acquiring editor, I got a lot of query letters like that, or written with crayon on construction paper, or printed in silver ink on teal paper and therefore unreadable, etc.)

Your email address also has to do with this. A professional email is your name or pseudonym @whateverdomain. It is not "limpbizkitfan27" or "iluvtomhardy" or "7babies1dad" -- okay, these are not exactly emails I've seen, because I don't want to embarrass anyone, but they are very close. Your email address, subject line, and identifying name are the first things new business contacts will see when you email them; start off on the right foot.

I'm not writing off (har har) emails like "annawrites" or "katwitharedpen" or something related to your industry, but first impressions really do stick around, and if you give the impression that you're twee or ridiculous, it will be hard to overcome that to get someone to take you seriously later.

I know this may seem unfair, but in the absence of meeting someone personally, email stands in! An unprofessional email address is the equivalent of wearing sweatpants to a convention where everyone else is wearing business suits; an unprofessional subject line is equivalent to sliding your manuscript to an editor under the stall door of a bathroom.

Some of my personal tricks for staying professional:

1. I take my time when I write emails. Almost no email needs to be written in a half-thought flurry. I write slowly and always proofread before sending.

2. If I'm concerned at all that I might send the email before I'm ready by accidentally hitting the button (or Cat Ex Machina), I take the email address out of the TO box and put it into either the subject line or the body of the email. That way, even if "send" gets hit accidentally, the email doesn't go anywhere.

3. I never write email in the first bite of new anger. If someone's emailed me something that upsets or angers me, I step away for at least fifteen minutes and do something that does not make me upset -- pet a cat, play a video game, whatever. Since I work from home, I can knead bread dough or fold laundry; when I worked in an office, I would do a completely different task, like read slush or talk to my interns or file or go across the street to get a latte. Just like with #1, I maintain that almost no email needs to be written in a half-thought flurry (or fury). Even if the anger doesn't go away, taking your time to calm down and think about how to approach answering that infuriating email is always better than writing a rageful email and sending it in a fit of pique.

4. I keep all my personal stuff in Firefox, and all my business stuff in Chrome. Email, Dreamwidth, LiveJournal, Twitter, Delicious, Google Reader, Tumblr, Wordpress… Everything. This serves two equally important purposes.

One: I never accidentally post a personal journal entry to my professional accounts or a personal Twitter post to my professional Twitter account. I never accidentally bookmark something on my professional Delicious account that should go into my fanfic Delicious; I never accidentally send a client or business contact an email from my private account. (This also means that when I want to write a Twitter post, I have to go and open up the account in the right browser, giving me extra time to make sure I really want to post those 140 characters.)

Two: At the end of the day, when I am done working, whether that's at 7 p.m. or midnight, I just close the whole browser and I don't have to worry about my work stuff until I open that browser again when I start working the next day. It's tempting to work all the time, and keep my work email and Twitter open all the time -- but I've learned that it's very important to keep a separation between a personal life and a professional one. Even if it's just a few hours, those are important hours, giving me a chance to recharge. Anyone who has worked a 120-hour week will tell you that it's damn exhausting to think about work and keep that professionalism going all the time. Closing the browser lets me relax a little, and put work -- writing, editing, blog posts, whatever -- out of sight and out of mind for a while.

These tricks may not all work for you. What do you do to stay professional?


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anna genoese

November 2015

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