Author Archives: Emily

stacks of books on a shelf

My Writing Process and Resources for New Authors

As I’ve resumed work on my new-adult fiction novel, I’ve considered the steps that have led to the current moment: I feel confident in my writing, but I know that I’ll continue to learn about the craft and improve. I’ve observed writing as a craft that can be improved, and not merely as the first words that spew onto the page when the author sits to write (at least not for me!).
I want to record the early steps while I still remember them. This leads me to remember the resources that have been most helpful to me, which I find myself suggesting to other new writers I meet. And, it leads me to the long list of resources recommended by others that are stacked on my bookshelf, waiting to be read.

So here is the writing process of my novel so far (resources in bold), and below I will outline the updated process that I’ll use in the future:

Stage 1: Write and Revise

Nanowrimo winner badgeI wrote the first draft somewhat randomly, finishing with Nanowrimo. (I’m currently pondering if this is the best way to start a novel, or if more planning is a good idea—more on this below.) I had a story and characters I liked, but the writing itself was bad and the whole thing was a mess: trying to keep track of who knew what, how many days had passed between scenes, and what weather it was from day to day.

To address the writing, I read some books on “self-editing” or revising for authors:

  • The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman, a short guide that points out, one-by-one, specific problems new writers’ books often have.
  • Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King, a longer guide to problems and solutions, with lots of examples from literature.
  • The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi, lists of specific actions that might occur when a character feels an emotion. (So if I had written, “Nick looked angry,” I would look up “Anger” and see a list of possible actions that Nick might do, such as his lips tightening into a hard line, or his face becoming red. I would rewrite the sentence to show that Nick was angry instead of telling.

three books that are mentioned in the textSome of the major changes I made included removing adjectives and adverbs in favor of better nouns and verbs, removing distracting “said” words in favor of “said,” and hunting down and removing repetition. I considered each section of each chapter: was it narrative, exposition, or scene? A lot of the exposition (text explaining to the reader) came to life when I replaced it with an actual scene with dialogue. I read my dialogue out loud to make sure it sounded natural. After applying the lessons from the books, I felt a lot more confident in the writing.

To address the confusion, I made a map of my setting, a timeline of the characters’ histories, a long scroll of the plot and what happened each day (including the weather), and a world-building spreadsheet (using a template from editor Tanya Gold) that I filled in with information about my world, like the political system, the current technology, the state of the environment, etc. By the end, I felt confident the plot was consistent.

Stage 2: Get Feedback and Revise

I took my work to a local writing workshop where we spent a few hours working on our first page. I never would have believed that much revision could occur on one little piece of writing! But being forced to keep at it resulted in all kinds of changes. I also submitted my manuscript for a colleague’s class to use as a sample, which generated feedback from the students and also the colleague.

a drawing of a woman in an old-fashioned dress reading a bookI rounded up a team of beta readers. (I asked for readers in my winter holiday letter, and then approached half of those interested.) I was lucky to receive a huge amount of feedback, from little points of confusion to suggestions that affected the whole book (like, “Devlyn is too whiny and immature” and “It’s the future but the technology is just like today’s”). Some of the feedback was overwhelming or I wasn’t sure I wanted to follow it; I actually put aside the whole project for about a year and finished self-publishing my bike trip memoir, Somewhere and Nowhere. It was good to get a break and fascinating to see how everything I’d learned about fiction affected the writing in the memoir.

(Aside: Sometimes friend beta readers don’t follow through. Authors can meet colleagues in person or online to swap beta reading, meet with a writing group for ongoing feedback, or hire a professional editor to give feedback, with varying levels of commenting (i.e., overall feedback or line-by-line). As a freelance editor, I worked with some authors on their manuscripts and realized that the feedback I provided seemed to be a professional beta read, so I now use that description of my services [read more here].)

A year later, I came back to the novel. I made a huge list of the changes I wanted to make based on the reader feedback and new ideas I had had, and then got to work making them. The revision made my novel stronger, but the feedback had left me wondering about a few major points (Was the plot too random? Was Devlyn’s age appropriate?) and I worried that my characters were not deep enough. I also just had a general feeling of insecurity and wanted approval from a professional.

Stage 3: Get More Feedback, Learn More, and Revise

I applied for a local arts council’s grant for new writers, to use the money to work with a developmental editor. The process included finding the editor to work with. I approached Tanya Gold, a colleague at the Editorial Freelancers Association whom I had taken a class from (the class was on working with authors, and I loved Tanya’s collaborative approach). In the end, I didn’t get the grant, but I wanted to work with Tanya so much that I decided to make it happen. I might have shied away from spending the money or approaching editors, because it’s a daunting step to take, so I credit the grant-I-didn’t-get with making me take the step.

a pencil and blank notebook on top of a map of a cityWhile I waited for Tanya, I learned about making book maps (read more here). I had been trying to keep track of various parts of my novel in various ways. A simple book map in a spreadsheet was just the tool I needed. I also learned about sensitivity editing, which looks for problems like gender and racial stereotypes or writing that assumes the reader is a certain race, and planned to read my manuscript with those issues in mind.

Tanya’s feedback was incredible. She had asked questions to understand my goals and concerns. She sent back a letter that assessed my manuscript (including things I hadn’t even thought of, like the underlying theme and how to make it stronger) and a chart of what actions I should take with each chapter. She made major changes in the manuscript (tracking them so I could follow along) and left comments throughout. Some of the comments addressed writing issues in general. For example, I often aligned my dialogue in a way that could lead to reader confusion, with one character speaking and then another character acting in one paragraph. Other feedback made the plot stronger; for example, when Devlyn is kidnapped, her growth as a character would be stronger if she managed to escape rather than being passively rescued.

One of the major changes Tanya suggested was cutting large sections of description and explanation. This was hard for me to accept; I loved the feeling of autumn when Devlyn is walking home from work, explaining to the reader the details of the future world I had created. Thankfully, I attended the NC Writers Network’s spring 2018 conference; each session I attended seemed to address the changes I needed to make both to make my story stronger and to attract an agent and publisher (read more here). I came to see that bringing the reader in to share the viewpoint of the main character, and to be in the moment with her, was the way to hook the reader into the story.

More Resources

three books that are mentioned in the textThe conference led me to several books about crafting stories. I started with Story Genius by Lisa Cron, which underscores the need to get the reader into the moment with the main character, invested in her situation. Lisa also suggests mapping out your story before you begin writing. I’m debating her idea. While I can see that I wrote a lot of material that went to waste (like the scene of Devlyn being rescued instead of escaping, plus the second and third kidnappings, which were cut entirely!), I loved the process of sitting down with no plan and seeing what came out. Lisa suggests that many writing teachers recommend this random approach because it works for them, but that it doesn’t work for most new writers.

I’m currently following Tanya’s plan and rewriting, while also making a book map. The next resources on my list are the following:

  • Make a Scene by Jordan Rosenfeld
  • The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass
  • Writing Deep Scenes by Jordan Rosenfeld and Martha Alderson
  • The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne

The most recent #EFAchat on Twitter (a chat among freelance editors) discussed working with new authors and helping them improve, and offered these additional resources:

(View the chat transcript here.) 

A Plan for Next Time

stacks of books on a shelfI still like the idea of spewing out a rough draft during Nanowrimo with no planning, but I might do some initial outlining next time. Either way, I think the process will look something like this:

  • Write first draft (incorporating lessons like using “said” and powerful nouns and verbs, and keeping the reader in the story versus explaining)
  • Make a book map to ensure consistency and aid with tracking plot lines
  • Create a world-building spreadsheet
  • Revise to improve the writing, to replace telling with showing, and to root out exposition
  • Look for workshops to attend with my manuscript; keep reading and learning about the craft of writing
  • Get feedback from beta readers
  • Revise using new knowledge and feedback
  • Work with Tanya on a developmental edit (I hope I won’t need this some day, but for now I think it is an important step for me)
  • Revise
  • Get second round of beta reader feedback
  • Revise
  • Find an agent or publisher!
open book with sparkles coming out of it

Ultimate Overview of Self-Publishing

Since I first got involved in self-publishing, I’ve wanted to share what I’ve learned with other interested authors. The information has taken various forms over the years. The latest is an outline that spans the entire process and also seeks to clear up some of the confusing areas.

Self-Publishing from 2006 to 2017

covers of books Bread Science and Somewhere and NowhereI self-published Bread Science in 2006. There were few legitimate services back then, so I had to do much of the work myself. I read some helpful books but none that gave a complete overview, including all the small tasks you might not think about (like registering your copyright or investigating shipping options). I also sorely needed a chronological list.

I took some notes, and after following the process with Somewhere and Nowhere in 2017, I typed it up and published it as A Short Guide to Self-Publishing, here: http://emilybuehler.com/miscellany/how-to-guides/

Soon after my new book came out, I began to realize I’d made a mistake: by following a decade-old process, I had missed opportunities. There are so many possibilities for self-publishers these days! I decided to learn more about the current state of self-publishing.

My contribution

open book with sparkles coming out of itAt first, I thought I had nothing else to contribute. But then I realized I did:

  • While there are many services available, authors might want to learn more about what they can do themselves to save money and retain more earnings, and I knew about DIY self-publishing.
  • Many areas of self-publishing have become very complex; I could help to clarify them for authors.
  • I could still provide an overview of the whole process, which many guides lack.

New publications

I rewrote my original guide, adding new material. The Editorial Freelancers Association published is as en ebook in 2017, available here: http://www.lulu.com/shop/emily-buehler/is-self-publishing-right-for-you/ebook/product-23343169.html. (I called it DIY Self-Publishing: An Overview, but apparently Lulu would not allow the word “DIY” in the title.) It should be available in fall 2018 as a print book.

I also prepared slides for a talk at my local library, and incorporated new information I’d learned about distribution, one of the areas I find most complex. The slides were too big to upload as one PDF.
Part 1 is here: http://emilybuehler.com/wp-content/uploads/SelfPublishing2018.pdf
Part 2 is here: http://emilybuehler.com/wp-content/uploads/SelfPublishing2018-part2.pdf


I’ll keep updating and posting as new services develop!

April News

Life is busy! (Will I ever start a news post with anything else?) Here’s what I’ve been working on.

Upcoming Events: Bread and Self-Publishing

artisan breads with logo for Asheville Bread FestivalOn May 5 I’ll once again be at the Asheville Bread Festival. I’m teaching beginning kneading (tickets available here) at 10 AM at Living Web Farm, and after class I’ll head back to the Bread Fair at New Belgium Brewing to run my booth. I’m also planning to attend the baker’s dinner. If you’re in town I hope you’ll say hi! More details are at ashevillebreadfestival.com or in this PDF.

My June class at the Folk School is full, but I’ll teach “The Science of Bread” again January 6–12, 2019, and “Baking Traditional Breads” May 26–June 1, 2019.

Flyer that says, Is self-publishing right for you, May 20,, 2018 2 PM at the OC main libraryOn May 20, I’m giving a free talk about self-publishing at the Orange County library in Hillsborough, NC. I’ll give an overview of the whole process from a DIY perspective, but pointing out places where one might hire help. The talk is free but the library asks attendees to register, here: www.bit.ly/ocplwriting. View the poster (PDF) here. Here is the copy from the poster:

What does it take to self-publish a book? And what is the smartest route to take? With all of the self-publishing services available today, the process can be confusing.

Author Emily Buehler self-published her first book in 2006, before many of today’s services were available. As a result, she took a “DIY” approach. She’ll present an overview of the entire process (finding a printer, designing the book, forming a business, marketing, distributing print books and e-books, and much more) and what it takes to do it yourself. If you decide that self-publishing is right for your manuscript, you’ll know what you face. You can then consider which parts of the process (if any) you’d like to outsource and the smartest way to go about it.

The Internet has made self-publishing a viable option for authors, enabling them to sell books across the world, and author-publishers are now gaining acceptance in the publishing world. It’s an exciting time to self-publish—come learn all about it!

Writing: Clearing the Clutter, and Making a Map

This past month I received my dystopian fiction novel back from developmental editor Tanya Gold. I trust and respect Tanya, but it was hard to see how much she suggested cutting. My immediate reaction was that “publishers today must not want description.” But I could see swathes of description in other books in the genre.

crumpled paper with the word hope

Then last weekend, I attended the NC Writers Network’s Spring Conference. The first class I took was “Essentials of Scene Crafting” with Heather Bell Adams. As soon as Heather began talking, explaining the difference between scene and summary, I could see what Tanya’s edits were about: a lot of my description occurred while the main character was, for example, walking home from work and thinking, and thus explaining to the reader—nothing was really happening, and the reader wasn’t in the scene. I had turned in Tanya’s version of my manuscript to the last event of the day: Slush Pile Live. When the time came, two of the editors on the panel listened to my entire submission without quitting! Read more about the Slush Pile Live experience, and the helpful tips it offered, on my editor blog: http://www.emilyeditorial.com/getting-through-the-slush-pile/

cat and scroll of paper on floor

Scruffy observes one of my book maps

Other highlights of the conference were the opening address by Jill McCorkle and my afternoon class with David Halperin. Jill read an essay she’d written that included the idea of being haunted by memories, particularly of places, and spoke about the balance between letting your subconscious do the work of writing, and the hard work of revising. David’s class was “Writing the Character You Know Best.” I’d always considered it a flaw that my characters were rooted in my own personality, but David spoke about it as normal and even beneficial.

I won’t list all the additional minutiae of why I loved the conference, but I’m now looking forward to the three-day fall conference, where I’ll have an opportunity to meet agents and editors. This gives me a deadline for incorporating Tanya’s suggestions, revising, and getting my book (and myself) in shape. One way I will do that is with a book map. This past month, I took a class with Heidi Fiedler on book mapping. I used one of my romance novel manuscripts in the class, but I’m eager to apply all I learned to my dystopian novel. You can read about book mapping here: http://www.emilyeditorial.com/book-mapping/

Editing: Beta Reading and Bombs

hands holding phone at desk with cofee, newspaper, pen, calculatorAnother class I took this spring was developmental editing of nonfiction. At first, I found it hard to ignore copyediting, to focus on the big picture, but after a while I got into it. While I don’t know if I’ll want to move in that direction as an editor, I wanted to understand what the process entails. Even if I’m working as a copyeditor, I’d like to recognize developmental faults in manuscripts, and the material interested me as a writer. The class helped me classify the services I do offer; for example, what some editors call “content editing” makes sense to me as a beta read with comments. I rewrote the services page of the Emily Editorial website (here).

The classes I took also caused me to think about editing fees, and what they cover. I blogged about that here: http://www.emilyeditorial.com/the-cost-of-editing/

Finally, I’m excited to share a link to a report I worked on for much of last summer: Reducing the Threat of Improvised Explosive Device Attacks by Restricting Access to Explosive Precursor Chemicals. I participated in several rounds of edits and helped with a final copyedit this spring. I also helped draft a summary booklet on the topic (not yet available). The report is available as a free PDF here.

old map with compass

Book Mapping

I recently learned about book mapping. While the class was intended for developmental editors, I found the tool helpful as a writer.

What Is Book Mapping?

Book mapping is a method of plotting out the action or themes of a story, to help keep track of them. This mapping can be done visually or with text in a spreadsheet. Developmental editors can use a book map to visualize an author’s manuscript and get insights into what help it might need. Authors can use it to keep track of threads in their story and to step back from their own writing and gain the same insights.

cat looking at scroll of paper on floor

Scruffy contemplates the timeline of my dystopian novel

Over the years, I’ve tried various methods of mapping out certain aspects of my projects. For example, when I was writing Somewhere and Nowhere, I wrote the contents of each chapter on index cards to chart the mood, with red ink for bad moods and green ink for good moods. Laying out the cards, I was able to see the large swaths of bad mood that might bog down readers, and the emotional roller coaster that persisted through the story and might exhaust readers. I used the cards to find red areas to reduce or merge. More recently, I used a long scroll of paper to plot the days of my dystopian fiction story, to keep track of weather patterns and days of the week, among other things.

I’ve never had a system that worked easily, though, or for multiple aspects of the manuscript. Until now!

The class suggested an easy method of using a spreadsheet. Each row is a section of the story: a chapter, a scene, or a day in the story. Each column is something that needs to be tracked: a character’s development, a theme, an aspect like the weather, or something practical like what day of the week it is. After the map is filled in (chapter by chapter), the mapmaker can follow a thread by reading down a column.

My Book Map

I decided to practice with a romance novel that I’d put aside after the first round of revisions. I started by skimming through it and pulling out the items I would track (the column headings); the teacher called this “mind mapping.” My list included the development of the main characters (Rose and Dustan), each of the three villains (Rose’s father the king, the evil Prince Murkel, and the fairy queen), Rose and Dustan’s love story, Rose’s history, and Rose’s “memory loss” (i.e., after Rose loses her memory, I needed to keep track of what bits had come back to her as the story progressed).

Then I set up the spreadsheet and began reading the book chapter by chapter and filling in the rows. The first few rows looked like this:

chart showing the columns of a book map about a romance novel; some rows are full and some have a lot of white space

 

I immediately noticed that Dustan’s character quickly grew flat (note his empty column). The story is from Rose’s point of view, so there is plenty of opportunity to show her thoughts and growth, but I wanted the reader to see that Dustan’s original ill intentions change as he gets to know Rose. The teacher, without having read my manuscript, suggested working on the villain columns (could hints be given as to their various motivations?) and the Rose’s history column (adding history might give the story more depth).

As I progressed with adding rows, I tried to be my teacher-stepping back from the story I knew and looking at the spaces (or lack of) in the map. I noticed when Rose had four different feelings within one scene (did her feelings need to be clarified?) or when she immediately regained several memories within a few days of losing her memory (didn’t I want her to regain them slowly, for dramatic effect?) In addition to simply helping me keep track of the story, the map gave insight into how to improve it.

Learn More

glasses on book with maps insideBook mapping is a simple and free tool authors can use. If you want to get started with some guidance, I recommend the class I took, which seems to be offered periodically through the Editorial Freelancer’s Association (available to non-members as well). It’s called Book-Mapping for Developmental Editors, with teacher Heidi Fiedler. Look for it here: https://www.the-efa.org/product-category/active-courses/

stacks of paper

Getting Through the Slush Pile

Last Saturday, I attended the NC Writers Network’s Spring Conference in Greensboro. I’ll post soon about the whole experience, but today I’m thinking about the final event of the day: Slush Pile Live.

What is Slush Pile Live?

The conference planners invited attendees to turn in the first page of their novels, anonymously. Participants sat in a classroom. At the front of the room, someone read each submission to a panel of three editors. Each editor raised a hand at the point when he or she would have stopped reading the submission, had it been in the “slush pile” of unsolicited manuscripts.

stacks of paperWe’ve all heard that editors at publishing houses receive an overload of manuscripts and look for any excuse they can to stop reading. They’re not likely to keep going, hoping a manuscript will improve, or to dig deeply looking for a kernel of value they can salvage, when they have 200 other manuscripts to get through that day. I knew that my manuscript should be as perfect as possible, and in particular the opening should be.

That said, seeing the process live and learning of potential pitfalls still surprised me.

Common pitfalls

A few themes emerged as the submissions were read:

symbol of person throwing paper into trash canRepetition. Even the repetition of a single, noticeable word (not a necessary word but an adjective like “pleasant,” for example) caused multiple editors to raise their hands. The reason behind this is that the repetition distracts the reader and knocks him or her out of the story. A more extreme case was repeating specifics (like referring to a red Honda Civic multiple times instead of doing it once and then writing “the car”). A variant is coming back to a topic over and over, as if you are beating the reader over the head with it.

Too much narrative. Instead of keeping the reader in the scene, watching as the action unfolds, the writing switches to a description of what happened, or a summary. For the reader to stay in the scene, the reader should learn as the character learns.

woman at laptop biting pencil in frustrationToo much description. When the story contained too many adjectives, unnecessary details, or description so long that the story stopped moving forward, the editors lost interest. In one case this was three separate references to how cold a day was. Sometimes one editor would give up, while another would keep listening but later admit he or she had been hoping the story would go somewhere, but had considered raising a hand earlier.

Cliches. Even one tiny cliche would cause all the editors to raise hands. They said this, like repetition, knocked them out of the story. And, while it might be difficult to avoid all cliche, a cliche on the first page signaled that there would be many more. I was surprised by some of the phrases that turned out to be cliches—things I might use without thinking twice, like describing a hand as a claw or the wheels turning in someone’s head. Even the description “Coke-bottle glasses” is a cliche.

My turn

A week before the conference, I had received my manuscript back from a developmental editor. While I trusted her, I was having trouble with how much she had cut—it seemed like I wasn’t allowed any description at all. I had decided to turn in the first page of my novel as she had revised it: pared down to the characters’ thoughts and dialogue in the moment.

word hope on a piece of paper, atop a crumpled piece of paper in a handDuring the conference, I began to realize that my editor hadn’t cut description, necessarily, but had cut narrative—places where I left the scene to explain things to the reader. I grew more interested to see how the pared-down version would fare in Slush Pile Live. Then my turn came.

One editor raised his hand almost immediately, whereas the other two made it through my entire first page. The critic cited impatience to learn more about the topic introduced in the opening paragraph, and frustration with my switch (for three sentences) to what’s happening in the space around the character. He also had misunderstood what the first paragraph meant. The other two editors corrected him as to the meaning, and said they’d been intrigued enough to wait to learn more, figuring I would return to the opening topic momentarily.


One editor did point out that theirs were only three opinions. Other editors might like or dislike material according to their own tastes. But the pitfalls they identified seemed likely to be problems for any editor.

They suggested reading to learn: read books that awe you and try to figure out how the author did it, and read manuscripts from inexperienced authors (perhaps as an editor or beta reader, or as a volunteer reading contest entries) to notice what doesn’t work, that you might find in your own writing.

clock and stacks of coins with trees growing out of them

The Cost of Editing

When I started freelance editing, the rates charged by other editors seemed pretty high to me—more than I made at my day job, certainly. I figured these rates indicated the editors’ level of experience. I’ve since realized that the rates are needed because of the nature of freelance work.

Freelance versus Salaried

hands holding phone, with coffee, calculator, newspaper, pen on desk nearbyMy day job was paying my health insurance; freelancers pay for their own. I had a company computer at my day job; freelancers supply their own equipment: not only the computer but the constantly updating software, the Internet service, the newest Chicagomanual, the Post-it notes, the coffee…. Freelancers have to fund their own time off, whether for sick days or vacation, and save for retirement. They have to spend time marketing their services and networking with potential clients. And they have to pay higher taxes (the “self-employment tax”), since no one else is contributing to social security for them. Their income from editing has to be enough to pay for all these business expenses.

Some estimates say that about half of a freelancer’s income goes to these expenses, leaving only half of the hourly rate as a true salary. Suddenly, those hourly rates didn’t seem outrageous. As I transitioned away from my day job (and gained experience editing), I increased my rates accordingly.

Editing Takes Time

I always do a sample edit so that I can make an accurate quote about how long the edit will take me. When I actually do the edit, however, there are a few additional steps.

2018 calendar on phone screenFor a copyedit, I read carefully, making corrections with the tracked changes visible. (If the manuscript is an academic paper, I also do a first read through to understand the material, before beginning to copyedit.) I pause to explain edits that the author might not understand. I often have to look up material: to understand the topic, to check the spelling, to find a better word, to fact check something that seems off, or to verify a style rule that I have not used in a while. I write queries to the author when there’s something I don’t understand, and suggest alternatives. Then, when I’ve gotten all the way through, I hide the changes and reread the entire manuscript. On the second pass, I make final copyedits (some are easier to see once the tracked changes are hidden) and reread all my comments to make sure they are as clear as possible.

For a beta read, I can read more quickly, but I make notes constantly so that I’ll be able to see patterns and to find material again, to share as examples with the author. If I’m doing what I call a “beta read plus,” I pause to leave a comment each time a sentence or even a word stands out as awkward, as confusing, or as the author “telling” the reader something instead of showing it to the reader. I type my notes into a letter to the author. And then I skim through the manuscript a second time, rereading all my comments to make sure they are clear.


So yes, editing is expensive. But many editors will try to find ways to work within an author’s budget. For example, maybe the author isn’t in a hurry; if the editor could fit the work in around other assignments with tight deadlines, she might be willing to charge less. Or maybe the editor could point out a problem that repeats throughout the manuscript, but allow the author to find all the times it occurs. I often spend a lot of time explaining grammatical edits I’ve made; if the author is on a budget, we might agree that I will simply make the changes without explaining them.

Belinda Pollard elaborates on the cost of editing in two posts on her blog, Small Blue Dog: https://smallbluedog.com/why-are-book-editors-so-expensive.html. She also has promised a post on how to prepare your manuscript to make it easier (and therefore faster) for the editor to work on; as an author, I’m eagerly awaiting this information!

Spring News: Blog Posts, Events, and More

I’ve been busy with freelance projects since the new year started, including academic papers on everything from forest growth to service marketing. I’ve been taking a class in developmental editing of nonfiction, which is helping me understand how to manage the “big picture” of an edit: Is there too much or too little material? Is it well organized? I’ve also participated in several webinars.

Blog Posts for Authors and Editors

poster advertising hybrid publishing

One thing I love about learning new things is being able to reorganize the material and share it. There are three new posts on my editor blog:

  1. An overview of hybrid publishing, http://www.emilyeditorial.com/what-is-hybrid-publishing/
  2. Basic information about working with legal issues for authors, http://www.emilyeditorial.com/copyright-and-privacy-and-libel-oh-my/
  3. Some tips for working with UK English, http://www.emilyeditorial.com/how-to-deal-with-uk-english/

Upcoming Events

Flyer that says, Is self-publishing right for you, May 20,, 2018 2 PM at the OC main libraryI have three events coming up:

  1. Beginning Kneading Class: I’ll be teaching again at the Asheville Bread Festival on May 5. This year, the Bread Fair will be at the New Belgium Brewery from 10 to 2, with classes in different locations around town. Mine will be from 10 to 11:30 at Living Web Farm. Look for updates and get tickets at http://www.ashevillebreadfestival.com. (Tickets for my class are here.)
  2. Self-Publishing Talk: I’m giving a talk at the library in Hillsborough about self-publishing. It will be an overview of the whole process with a focus on what it would take to do it all yourself. It’s free and open to the public on May 20 from 2 to 4 PM. Learn more (PDF).
  3. Science of Bread Class: I’m teaching a week-long class at the Folk School June 3 to 9. Learn more here: http://emilybuehler.com/classes-events-2/class-at-the-folk-school/ (The link to register is at the bottom.)

Writing News

My fiction manuscript (working title: Intelligence, hashtag: #IntelligenceBook) went off to a developmental editor, Tanya Gold, this month. It’s my first attempt at writing fiction, and while I feel good about some aspects of it, I wasn’t confident that it was the best it could be. I’d taken a class from Tanya and liked her style of working with authors (the class was on how to work with authors!) so I’m excited to hear back from her when she finishes.

people walking in New York City

Walking through Manhattan to the EFA conference in 2016

I’m attending the North Carolina Writer’s Network’s (NCWN’s) spring conference in April. Fifteen years ago, when I first considered writing for other people, I joined NCWN; at the time, they had an office at White Cross, just west of Chapel Hill, and I biked out to use their library. I let my membership lapse, though, because I did not get much value from it. At the time, I was writing Bread Science and trying to find a publisher, and then turning my efforts to self-publishing, which was not much accepted.

Well times have changed! I’ve been to conferences the past two years (the EFA in 2016, AWP in 2017) and looked forward to one this year. When I decided not to travel far, I settled on attending both NCWN conferences. I rejoined the network and realized how far I have come: self-publishing is now mainstream and slowly gaining acceptance in the industry, and I have two self-published books; and I have two full-length fiction manuscripts that I’m ushering through the process of revisions.

I often think of myself as having three careers rolled into one: (1) writing my own books, (2) editing other people’s writing (and sometimes writing for other people as well), and (3) self-publishing my books and sharing the process with others. I’m glad to be involved in all three of these spheres.

figurines of American and British soldiers in 1776

How to Deal with UK English

When I first started editing, I dreaded getting an assignment that specified UK English. (I hadn’t even known there was a different version of English until I became as editor.) I knew the basics, but was sure I would miss something.

I won’t give details here, as there are many websites that do (such as this one, or this one), but a few examples of the differences are the following:

  • Spellings (behavior/behaviour, analyze/analyse)
  • Diction (the hood of a car versus the bonnet of a car)
  • Punctuation (Americans write, “Hello,” while the British write, “Hello”.)

A recent paper that I edited in UK English had just about every “iz” word you could imagine: optimization, minimize, size, decentralize, realize, linearize. Were all of these supposed to change to “is”? I set the paper’s language to UK English, but many of the variants are correct in UK English, if not preferred.

The I made a discovery. The online Cambridge Dictionary has separate tabs for UK English (“English”) and US English (“American”)!

image from computer screen showing a page at a dictionary website

When I looked up “horizon,” I found it was the same in either language. However, when I searched “minimize” and clicked on the English tab I found that while the “iz” spelling is correct in UK English, “UK USUALLY minimise”:

image from computer screen showing a page at a dictionary website with word "minimize"

A few options showed up:

  • Some spellings are always used in one language or the other, in which case the spelling has its own dictionary entry (see behaviour)
  • Sometimes either spelling is acceptable, but on is preferred: UK USUALLY (see optimize, minimize)
  • Sometimes either spelling is acceptable, with no preference: UK ALSO (see centralize, minimization)
  • Sometimes one spelling is only preferred at times: FORMAL UK USUALLY (see utilize)

Word "English" with a flag that is half UK and half USI decided that if the “is” version was merely an alternative, not the usual spelling, I would not change it in the paper, but I changed the spellings when the “is” form was preferred.

Having the Cambridge Dictionary as a place to check spellings was reassuring.

random text

Libel, and Copyright, and Privacy, Oh My!

An important step in writing a book, particularly if you’re self-publishing without the guidance of a legal team, is securing permissions. There are three types of material to consider for permissions:

  • any material that might be copyrighted,
  • any material that might infringe on someone’s privacy, and
  • any material that might be considered libel.

judge's gavel atop keyboardEach of these areas is complicated. For example,

  • If you quote an email that someone sent you, the copyright of the material may belong to the person who wrote it.
  • If you take a photo of a sculpture, the sculpture (a work of art) might be copyrighted, and you’d need permission to use the photo, even though you took it.
  • With songs and poems that are relatively short, even a small quote might be too much. The music industry is known for being particularly strict about copyright.
  • If a living person can be identified, even with a name change, you might be infringing on the person’s privacy.
  • A fictional character that is obviously based on a real person, even with a different name, can get you in trouble.
  • In addition to the right to privacy, there is a “right to publicity”; you cannot use a famous person’s name or image to make money without permission.
  • Using “in my opinion” before a negative statement about another person is not enough to protect you from an accusation of libel.

And this is only a sample of the points to consider. The laws about copyright, such as the concept of fair use, can be vague and are often decided in court. Remember that in addition to doing the right thing, you don’t want to get sued, even if you think you’d win.*

Resources

stack of books mentioned in the textI read four books when I self-published Somewhere and Nowhere, the memoir of my cross-country bike trip. While I still hesitated over certain items in my book and what to do with them, I felt more certain that I had considered every problematic item, and was able to make more-educated decisions. The books were these:

  • Copyright and Permissions by Elsa Peterson: This is a quick read that focuses on copyright. If you want to deal with permissions yourself (see more below) it includes guidance, as well as sample letters.
  • Self-publisher’s Legal Handbook by Helen Sedwick: This is also a fairly approachable book. In addition to copyright, privacy, and libel issues, it covers setting up a business, understanding contracts, working with various types of self-publishing services, understanding taxes, and more.
  • The Copyright, Permission, and Libel Handbook by Lloyd Jassin and Steven Schechter: This is a very detailed book about copyright, privacy, and libel and the one I would read if you want to learn the most about all three issues.
  • The Writer’s Legal Guide by Kay Murray and Tad Crawford: This includes a wide range of information (contracts, taxes, agents, dispute resolution, how to register a copyright), but you can find copyright infringement information in Chapter 5 and privacy and libel information in Chapter 8.

There are also many online articles (like this one), and the US Copyright Office has material online. Writers conferences frequently include a session on copyright or other legal issues, and groups like the Authors Guild sponsor online webinars.

What To Do

words illegal and legal on slips of paper, fingers are choosing legalSo, if you have a manuscript written, what’s your next step?

If you want to use copyrighted material and there’s a lot of it, you might work with a permissions editor, who will hunt down the copyright owners, send permission letters, and pay the necessary fees (using your money, of course) or let you know if a fee seems out of your budget. Note that a permissions editor might not work on material that infringes on privacy or could be libelous.

If you want to handle permissions yourself, go through your manuscript line by line and make a spreadsheet with every possible problem. Don’t skip over passages that seem problem-free, because all kinds of things will pop out that you never thought of as problematic when you wrote them (this might be more true for certain types of nonfiction, like memoir). Even if you suspect it’s not really a problem, include it in the spreadsheet so that you feel like you have not missed anything.

Lego police arrest Lego office man

Don’t let it come to this

Then, solve each problem. Some will be easy to check off your list. For example, maybe you’ve included the title of a book; then you read that titles cannot be copyrighted, and so you check off that item. In some cases, you might decide to seek permission. In others, you might decide to cut material to avoid a problem.

What if you don’t have a budget to pay for permissions, or someone just says “No”? Then it is time to rewrite. I know this might seem like a tragedy at first. I struggled with the simple task of changing people’s names, thinking, “It won’t be true anymore!” But then I realized that readers won’t know; they won’t be thinking about whether or not the names are accurate, and ultimately, it won’t affect their experience with my book.

woman standing with two bikes at the border of Wyoming, with a sign overhead

Mary at the Wyoming border on the bike trip

In some cases, the rewrites made the book better. For example, while on the bike trip, Mary and I often sang to pass the time. “Blowin’ in the Wind” became a favorite because of the difficulty of biking into the wind. I was pretty sure I could not afford permission to use the lyrics, however. Then I realized that I hadn’t actually known the lyrics when biking—I’d been making them up. It was only once I got home that I searched online and found them, and pasted them into my manuscript. So I changed the passage to have me singing, “How, are the times, of a man, um-de-ahhh, … before he’s asleep on the sand? How many laaa, da-da, white dog ale, before it’s for contraband?” This version actually better captured what happened, and didn’t require permission to use. In another instance, I had to remove a scene to protect someone’s privacy, but the scene was important. I ended up writing a new scene, and as I wrote it, I felt the spirit of the book coming through, and really felt okay about making the change.


Issues of copyright, privacy, and libel can be intimidating. It’s tempting to keep your head in the sand and ignore them. But you will feel better if you learn about them and try to do things right.

* It just seems like I should have a disclaimer on this post, saying I’m not a lawyer and that this isn’t legal advice. I’m not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice.

hands holding book

What Is Hybrid Publishing?

hands holding book, with text that reads "Hybrid: something heterogeneous in origin or composition"Hybrid publishing is a new model of publishing in which an author works with a publishing company but pays to publish in exchange for higher royalties. Some in the publishing industry disregard this new category because the idea of paying to publish suggests (to them) poor quality, like the books that vanity presses produced years ago. However, hybrid publishing is not vanity publishing. The hybrid press vets books before agreeing to publish them and offers active distribution.

The new model is a win-win: presses can afford to put out more books, contributing their knowledge and clout, and authors have additional venues to approach and the opportunity to make larger royalties—over 50 percent, compared with about 10 percent with traditional publishers.

Unfortunately, the publishing world is cluttered with scam artists, and the various publishing models that now exist create confusion and enable these scammers to take advantage of authors. Many companies have started using the word “hybrid” since hybrid publishing has gained some acceptance.

Standards for Hybrid Publishers

To help legitimate hybrid presses and authors continue to connect, this month the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) announced a set of criteria for hybrid publishers. If you’re an author interested in working with a hybrid publisher, the criteria can help you filter your options.

poster that says "When is a hybrid publisher not a hybrid publisher?" with stack of booksHere’s a summary of the criteria:

  1. A hybrid publisher has a mission and a vision, and doesn’t just publish a mishmash of books.
  2. A hybrid publisher vets submissions, rather than publishing anything it can.
  3. A hybrid publisher has a knowledgeable person or team producing books under the publisher’s imprint, with the publisher’s ISBNs.
  4. A hybrid publisher’s books meet industry quality standards; readers should not be able to tell them apart from traditionally published books.
  5. A hybrid publisher uses approved editors and designers to produce professional books.
  6. A hybrid publisher manages a variety of rights for the book (print, digital, and possibly others like audio and foreign-language) or negotiates with authors who want to keep some rights.
  7. A hybrid publisher provides distribution beyond simply making the book available online. This can involve sales reps who actively market the book or targeted outreach, and also involves listing the book with wholesalers. The publisher should have a marketing strategy for each book and assist the author in carrying it out.
  8. A hybrid publisher should have several books that show respectable sales.
  9. A hybrid publisher pays higher royalties than is standard in the industry, usually greater than 50 percent of net on both print and digital books.

You can view the IBPA’s full criteria here: http://www.ibpa-online.org/page/hybridpublisher(click on the “expanded details here” link to see the detailed version).

Tips for Authors

In a webinar last month, the IBPA’s Brooke Warner shared these tips for authors investigating hybrid publishers:

  • poster with woman reading, says "Does your hybrid publishing company pass the test?"Ask about the criteria listed above: does the publisher vet submissions, partner with authors on marketing, and have some form of active distribution?
  • Get physical copies of books from the publisher, to make sure they look and feel like “normal” books
  • Demand transparency: ask about any additional costs beyond what’s covered in the publishing package and about royalty rates
  • Talk to the publisher’s authors; asking for referrals is normal, so it’s a warning sign if the publisher won’t share author names
  • Ask if the publisher qualifies for traditional reviews; some companies still suffer from the stigma of being an author-subsidized press
  • Check the publisher’s website to see if it looks professional
  • See what kind of response you get after contacting the publisher, and trust your instincts if the response seems lacking

She also shared these best practices for authors considering hybrid publishing in general:

  • Educate yourself about publishing and the hybrid experience
  • Read about different hybrid models and see if one press’s model feels better than others
  • Only approach a hybrid publisher if you are ready to go the hybrid route—don’t do it while your agent is still trying to sell your book to traditional publishers
  • Before approaching, consider your publicity ideas; most hybrid contracts do not include publicity

Hybrid publishing is an exciting new option for today’s authors, and will contribute more good books to the world!


(Note: a hybrid author is someone who publishes traditionally and non-traditionally and is not related to a hybrid publisher.)