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Publish Your Way! BelieversBookServices provides professional publishing services for today's independent author.




Filtering by Tag: editing

The Time I Wrote The Worst Sentence Ever And Emailed It to Thousands of People

andrew mackay

It took about ten minutes from the time the IndieVoice newsletter went out on Friday. Ten minutes for someone to politely say, "Hey, moron… did you write that sentence?"

As my country preacher father-in-law says, "If it's across the plate, it's a strike, no matter who's throwing it."

In addition to my work here at BelieversPress, I serve our local homeschool community by tutoring a class of seventh graders, one day a week. Every week, we work through math problems on a big whiteboard together.

I have a speech I give to my students each week. It goes something like this: "When we get things wrong in this classroom, we laugh at ourselves. We point out our errors. And then, we redo the problem to show that we've learned from the mistake."

I know a thing or two about learning from mistakes. I think it's important.

In that spirit:

I wrote a stinker of a sentence in the IndieVoice newsletter last week. Adding to the comedy, it was in an article titled the Value of Editing. If I was part of an organization that was into spin, I'd say it was intentional. Let's be honest… it wasn't. It was a goof. A heinous one. It was, as we say in southern West Virginia, "Real Bad."

When you do a thing for a living, you like to think that you're getting good at it. I've spent 12 years working on creating, editing, and improving content. That's a long time. But, as they say, nobody's perfect. On this one, I was far from perfect. I was downright abysmal.

Let's be clear, that sentence was like a bad American Idol audition. Everyone who read it knew it was bad.

Somehow, the bad sentence made it through two rounds of editing. That's even more shocking. Organizationally, our process is normally better than that. It was complicated by the fact that I was running late to our self-imposed deadline, so everyone working on the newsletter was in a little bit of a hurry.

Hurried work is messy work.

It's not universally true, but it's close. When you get in a hurry, mistakes are more likely to creep into your work.

I got in a hurry, and instead of being extra careful about the content for the newsletter, I sent that stinker. It's particularly sad because we have a brand that is all about bringing quality to a field where inattention to detail has ruled for so long.

So, in keeping with my classroom rules, here's that sentence, done over, to prove that I learned from my mistake:

Okay, look: we believe in editing. When we meet an indie author who feels like their books are under-performing, the first question we ask is, "Did you have your book edited?"

See that? It's a far better sentence. Coherent. Makes sense. Easy to read.

What are the lessons in this mistake?

  1. Slow down
    Great content takes time. When you get in a hurry, content that could've been great instead winds up merely adequate if you're lucky. And if you're not lucky, well, you get to write an email like this.

  2. Don't skip steps
    We talk about the value of editors over and over and over again. Seriously. If you ever meet us at a conference, or even just walking down the street, and ask us what we think the key to great content is, we'll tell you it's editing. Why on earth would we rush the process with our own content? Crazy.

  3. When things go wrong, own it
    There's no use acting like it didn't happen. When a mistake gets made, own it. Learn from it. Do better the next time.

Thanks for reading. We really do love helping you publish. As they say on the internet, #LearnFromMyFail

7 Ways to Sabotage Your Relationship with Your Editor

andrew mackay

I wrote this post after a round of email interviews with some of our editors back in 2010. The tips are as true now as they were then.

by Andrew Mackay

Ah, the editorial process. Depending on where you are in the editorial process, it is either the most wonderful thing to ever happen to you or the worst idea your publisher has ever had. Writers have long had mixed feelings about editors. For example, Bill Nye once said “There are just two people entitled to refer to themselves as 'we'; one is the editor and the other is the fellow with a tapeworm.” T.S. Eliot once said “Some editors are failed writers, but so are most writers.” And, Mark Twain said "I am not the editor of a newspaper and shall always try to do right and be good so that God will not make me one.” Here are 7 surefire ways to make the editorial process miserable:

1. Get offended

I know, I know, it’s your writing. You get it back with all that red lining from Word’s track changes feature (or, worse, printed out with changes written on in red pen), and where else would your mind go but to “My masterpiece! It’s ruined.” Don’t… most editors are genuine in their desire to work with you to make your book better. They’re not suggesting changes to upset you, they’re suggesting changes to help you communicate better.

There is the ever-so-slight chance that you could be among the minority that either hired the wrong editor or got a poor effort. If you feel like that’s the case, sit on the edits for a while and come back to them. If it still seems that way, bring it up with the editor. If you can’t get any resolution, break up.

2. Don't be curious

Red ink all over the place? Track changes shows more changed material than not? Might as well just accept all, right? Wrong! This is a great opportunity to learn about grammar, sentence structure, and flow. Editorial changes should be hard work – pull apart every recommendation, every change. Figure out what the problem was. Learn so that your next book is tighter, better, and easier to edit.

3. The "Fine, whatever" Approach

It should be clear by now that I believe in the power of a good editor, but now I’m going to give you a little out: every once in a while, editors make recommendations that aren’t the right decision for the book. You at least want to take the opportunity to think the changes through. Opening the word document and clicking “accept all changes” keeps you from taking that opportunity.

4. Expect perfection.

Oh, right there, on page 155, a huge error that the editor missed. If they can't spell antidisestablishmentarianism, all these other changes must be wrong too.

You know, you may find a couple that they missed. One person will never catch every error in a book. Expecting them to is pretty naïve. The editorial process at a commercial publisher usually involves many sets of eyes (9 editors / proofers is not uncommon) to look at each book. There’s a reason for that.

5. Explain away changes

This is almost a contradiction to #3… but, as you work through changes, you may find yourself explaining them away out of inertia rather than in the interests of serving the work. Take the time to work through why you’re really resisting a change. Serve the work! You took months or years to write it, and now you’re going to be lazy about the editorial process? I don’t think so!

6. Check with My friend Ella's Sister's cousin...

Getting a second opinion from a friend is usually a tactic used by someone trying to protect their work from changes they don’t want to make. Again, work through the changes. Ask the editor questions where necessary, but don’t pit your editor against the opinions of the whole world. It’s not fair to them, you, or your work. Work through the edits, get them completed, then you can ask for opinions on the revised work.

7. Get in a hurry

I've had this conversation numerous times:

Author: I need my book out within 45 days

Me: well, you may be able to achieve that, but the schedule would be incredibly tight. You'd have next to no time for the editorial process, when you combine the time needed for it and design.

Author: Oh, we'll just have the editor rush.

Don’t hurry the editor and don’t hurry yourself. You get sloppy when you hurry. You likely spent a long time writing your book. Rushing it now, well, that's just silly. You want to put in the time needed to make the final product the best it can possibly be.