Novel Ideas: Becoming an Editor

Last Saturday, I was at the weekly Bible Study and one of my friends asked me a question. Some of you might already be saying, “Stop right there. You’ve got friends?” To which I would respond, “Why yes, I keep them in my basement that way they can never leave me.”

Hopefully you all know I’m joking right? I’d never kidnap my friends and keep them locked away in my basement. That’s what my garage is for after all.
Joking aside, my friend also happens to be a copyeditor and asked how one would expand into the world of book editing. I told my friend that question would make for a novel idea for Mastering the Craft (Pause for laughter to subside).

So I did some research and here are my findings about how to break into the novel editing biz.

Some of you might not know that I have edited a few books for other authors. I’m currently editing one for Burning Willow Press, the home of my own books. The first tip I have is this: get some writing of your own out there so employers can see the quality of your writing. This will show them that you know how to write character arcs, build tension, craft a scene, write dialogue. You know, the basics of storytelling. If you don’t know how to write a story, you shouldn’t expect employers to hire you to edit a story.

If you don’t want to wait to get a story published, then the easiest way is to place it on your own personal website. Having your own website is a great way to market yourself. A good freelance editor’s page should include your experience, qualifications, prices, testimonials, and any other piece of information that would sway your potential employers to hire you. If you’re looking for a good example, check out http://www.thejohnfox.com.

Once you have your website up and running, it’s time to build up your social media presence (if it’s not already). Having an account on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon Author Page, and LinkedIn will be your primary way of networking with not only potential employers, but also with other editors. Don’t think of other editors as enemies, think of them as resources. If you’re new to the business, reach out and ask them for advice. They were once in your shoes (maybe they still are).

Now, here’s the biggest piece of advice in terms of social media and your website. Maintain and update them as much as possible. If a potential client finds his/her way onto your site and the last post is from a year ago, it’s not going to make them get excited about hiring you. It doesn’t necessarily have to be about your business. People love seeing posts about your pets, your newest video game addiction, what you’re reading, what you’re writing, and just life in general.

Join in on internet book release parties. Authors typically have Facebook events to promote their latest releases. During those releases there’s normally what’s called “Author Take Over Events” where authors or others in the business take over for a time slot (typically half hour or hour periods of time). Hosting such a time slot is an excellent way to network. You could also have contests and give away editorial discounts. This might entice an author to hire you simply because your services are now cheaper. Remember, indie authors don’t get paid the same as Stephen King and James Patterson.

Having a bachelor’s degree in English, Journalism, Communications, or some other related concentration is advised. This shows the potential client that you’ve received formal training and should have a grasp on editing. However, if you don’t have the time/money to go to college then you can always receive informal training that may help to even the scales. Go check out your local library and see if they offer online courses like Lynda.com and Gale Courses. My library does and they’re free (at least at my library) to those that have a library card. Even if you’re a college graduate, sharpening your skills is never a bad thing. I’m taking an editing class through the library this March.

Along those lines of education, make sure you have knowledge of Microsoft Publisher and/or Adobe InDesign. They’re not absolutely necessary, but they’re a good bonus to have. Also, get some firsthand experience with Microsoft Word, specifically the Track Changes function. Most publishers now a days require you to have Office 365 and use Track Changes. But hey, look on the upside. That subscription to Office 365 is now tax deductible since you’re purchasing it for your new editing business!

The very last thing I can suggest to you, my friend, and all those others that consider the glamourous life of a novel editor. Focus on getting that first client. After that, focus on performing a good job. Bad reputations can cripple a career. Bad reviews are always easier to spread than good ones. When you do get good feedback from your client, ask for a short testimonial to put on your site. Wear it as a badge of honor.

Above all else, have fun. It’s always been my opinion that you should never spend your life at a career that you despise. 

Welcome back to the Crossroads

What happens when we die? 

It’s a question that cannot be answered by man, so far anyway. And until that riddle’s been solved all we’re left with are theories. Some believe that nothing happens and our memories, thoughts, and our personality just stop when our bodies finally give out. I’m not sure if I like that theory. Maybe it’s because I refuse to think all of my efforts and time, while insignificant in the larger scope of the universe, simply don’t matter.

Another theory is that death is but a door to another higher plane of existence. Call it what you like: Heaven, the afterlife, Valhalla, the void. Every religion has some place where the soul goes when the body perishes. Often, there’s a good place (heaven) and a bad place (hell) depending on the actions of the soul during its duration on earth. 

The final theory I’ll discuss (there are plenty more, but I don’t have all day) is a combination of the two above mentioned theories. If you take the idea of no plane of existence and combine it with the idea of a soul, what do you get?

Well, you actually get two things:

1. Ghosts

2. A good story.

The souls of those that died, released by the death of their mortal bodies, forever to wander the earth searching for the lives that they once cherished. Ghost stories can be found in every part of the world. Often, ghosts don’t travel far from where they lived when they still had physical bodies. Ghosts are sometimes sent as messengers to those in need of some guidance (Ebenezer Scrooge for example). Sometimes, ghosts are jealous entities that terrorize the living. Sometimes their friendly ghosts (I’m looking at you Casper). 

What I’m trying to get across to you is that whatever your comfort level is, there is a ghost story for you. There’s no better way to figure out what kind of ghost stories you like than purchasing the new anthology by Burning Willow Press.

Crossroads in the Dark IV: GHOSTS is a collection of short stories developed in hopes of bringing awareness to suicide prevention around the world. While the stories do not tell of suicide, they do tell of GHOSTS. For whom are the ghosts that haunt us daily? What are the remains of an otherwise perfect life ended far too soon? Which are the people who we find hardest to move forward from when we lose them? The easy answer is the ones we failed to save. 

For those that haven’t read the last three CRITD anthologies, welcome.

For those that have, welcome back to the crossroads.

• Forward by Lily Luchesi, author of the “Paranormal Detective” series.

Stories by:

Kerry Alan Denney

Alice J. Black

Michael Schutz

Kindra Sowder

James Master (that’s me)

Frank Martin

L. Bachman

Carol Browne

C.C. Adams

Mirren Hogan

Erin Yoshikawa

Peter Oliver Wonder

Rachel de la Fuente

W.T. Watson

Cindy Johnson

• James Crawford

Nikki Collins-Mewha

Kevin Wimer

Brian G. Murray

– Lloyd Kerns

Edd Sowder

The waiting game…

 I hate waiting.

I know, I know. You’re probably saying, “but Jim, you should never hate something because hate’s a strong word.”

And you’re completely correct. Hate is a strong, harsh, and deplorable word that should only be used in the most extreme of circumstances. For example, I finished a James Patterson novel the other day and I said, “I hated that book.” That example would show that I really, really disliked that novel. That example would also be a lie because that would imply that I still read James Patterson novels. Which I don’t. 

All of that to say, I hate waiting. Unfortunately, waiting is an essential part to the author life. Once you submit your manuscript or query to a publisher, you typically have to wait 60 to 90 days to hear back from them. When I first submitted my series to the first publisher (for all you new readers, that was an entire kerfuffle of its own) I checked my email constantly. I had the Gmail app on my phone and set notifications so that when I received a new email my phone would ding. Do you think that stopped me from logging into the app and clicking refresh every few minutes? For all you that said no, then you win a free imaginary chicken dinner! I checked the app every half hour for the first two days. It got to the point where I would wake up, use the bathroom, log into the app, then went back to sleep. That would happen every few hours. 

As time dragged on, I checked my email less frequently, but the urge was still there. After a few months and no response, my hopes began to shrivel up like slugs under a salt shaker. It was during one of those late night bathroom experiences that I read my acceptance email. I was so ecstatic. My waiting was over and I was soon to be a published author.

Oh course once you wait and then finally receive that acceptance letter, that doesn’t mean that the wait is over. No sir, you’re waiting has only begun. I waited a year before I was released by the publisher (like I said above, it was an entire kerfuffle of its own). Then I was forced to find another publisher and submit the series to them.

Cue the anxious email checking. And of course, it happened that way. Even though this time I knew that I wouldn’t receive a response until months later, I still checked multiple times a day. I still performed the late night bathroom and email checks. I still jumped at the sound of that new email notification.

Waiting is something that doesn’t just pertain to an author’s life. It’s part of everyday life. Everyone has to wait for something. It could be a book response, your turn at the BMV, attention from the person you’re interested in, or an oven preheating. We all wait for something.

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways,” states Psalm 37:7.

Even if you’re not the religious type, you have to admit that The Bible has amazing advice. Have any of you tried to “be still?” It’s not that fun. It’s that other part that gets me sometimes. “Do not fret when people succeed in their ways.” 

I see that all the time. For me, it’s hard to not become jealous when I see another author succeed where I’ve failed. It’s tough to wait for that response and then get it only to have your dreams shattered. Lately, I’ve been struggling with that. I’ve sent out submissions and wait, only to have them rejected. I try and not become discouraged, but it’s tough. You put yourself and your work out there only to have it denied. Sometimes I feel like I should just give up entirely and quit submitting. 

“Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret – it leads only to evil,” Psalm 37:8 continues.

All of my fretting as I waited for the publisher’s response caused me to doubt myself. As the days waiting grew longer, I began to worry. Worry would then turn into fear. So when I get those rejection letters, that doubt has already infected me. 

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering,” said Yoda.

I know, this is a weird column this week. The Bible and Yoda quotes. 

The point of this odd column is that we all wait for something. You must be vigilant during the waiting process. Don’t let your mind wonder to those feelings of self-hatred and loathing. Fill them with something that uplifts yourself. Don’t fall to the dark side like Darth Vader. 

If this didn’t help you with your waiting problems, here are some obligatory cliches that might aid you:

• A watched pot never boils.

• All things come to him who waits.

• You usually have to wait for that which is worth waiting for.

• If you wait, all that happens is that you get older.

My Year-End Review

 

As this year comes to a close, it’s pretty standard for people to take a look at themselves and evaluate whether or not they accomplished their goals for the year. I try not to make New Years Resolutions simply because I don’t like to be disappointed with myself when I look back and see that I haven’t completed any of them. I can’t even remember what goals I made for myself a year ago. Naturally, I went back to the column I wrote on Jan. 5, 2017 about making New Years Resolutions. I didn’t find much because I had said in the column that I wasn’t going to get into those “because I’ve also resolved this year not to over saturate my rants with lengthy and boring material.”

Boy, did I sure fail that goal.

Even though I said in that column that I wasn’t going to get into my resolutions I did say that I wanted to read 20 books and other things that included “eating healthier, exercising, and not reading books by James Patterson.”

As far as the books, I’ve read about half that number. As far as exercising, let’s just say that was a pipe dream anyway. I’ve also probably gained some weight since the beginning of the year. My health has been about the same. I even read half a James Patterson book. The intent was to read it and write a review but it’s gathering dust somewhere on a bookshelf or a window sill. It might also be in my bathroom.

Don’t judge, we all read in the bathroom. Patterson is best read while in the bathroom for a really obvious reason which I can’t say in front of you fine readers.

If you looked at my failures over the past year, it might look like I’ve failed. While I would not entirely disagree with you, I would also point out that my successes would far outweigh the failures.

Since the beginning of 2017, I have become a real life published author. Besides my first ever book, The Book of Roland which you can find here, I have had one short story published in an anthology with another story coming out in another anthology sometime next year.

In addition to being a writer for The Pilot News, this will have been my second full year, I started writing a weekly gaming article for The Buzz Kill Magazine, an online website located at http://www.tbkmagazine.com. I was even featured on one of their podcasts about Star Wars: Episode VIII The Last Jedi.

I didn’t read 20 books this year, but I did go and see 21 films. Most of those I wrote reviews for. I’ve grown my connection of authors and publishers to the point where I have been asked to read and provide book blurbs for three fellow authors. I’ve also become a part of the acquisitions team at Burning Willow Press LLC, the home of my book.

Man, I really failed when I said I wouldn’t over saturate my rants with lengthy and boring material. What does all this mean though? I’ve written 52 columns this year. Hopefully I’ll have written another 52 by this time next year. Over the course of one year, you (the reader) have hopefully seen me grow into an accomplished writer/author/editor. I am hopeful that is the case. Otherwise, what am I writing this for? If the object of this column is to show each week why I’m growing as an author then it becomes a stagnate storyline. Typically when that happens the character is killed off or worse, edited out of the story entirely.

Characters are supposed to grow and triumph over their obstacles. They are supposed to meet their goals and crush whatever expectations others have for them. That’s what makes characters interesting to read. That’s what makes them memorable and beloved in a readers mind. Readers don’t really want to read about how depressing the characters life is or how epic they fail at their tasks. It’s not good storytelling. Unless you’re George R.R. Martin or Robert Kirkman. The things those two write, Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead, have people focused on one simple question: What else can go wrong?

So hopefully, you aren’t just reading this hoping I get beheaded or castrated (Game of Thrones) or get bit by a fan foaming at the mouth (The Walking Dead). It is my hope that you are reading this and rooting for the main character to win.

Next week’s column will most likely be about what my expectations and New Years Resolutions are as a writer and as a person. I know, it’ll be boring and lengthy so if you want to skip it and read the cartoon section be my guest. The Family Circus gets me every time.