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My love of bookstores

allyouneedisbooksIn case you haven’t gathered already, I love books. From the words on the page, to the tiny details penned into each and every corner, I can’t not see one without wondering what secrets it may or may not possess. The first time I went to a bookstore my parents had to drag me out by the collar; a marvelous feat mind you, since I was not a lightweight lad.

Since then, my obsession for the written word has never waned, nor has my love for the places that sell it. In my lifetime I’ve visited over 50 bookstores, and less than half of them were Barnes and Nobles. During each visit I’ve noticed something different about each one, the same way a wine connoisseur would be able to tell you the differences between one red and another.

No two bookstores are alike. Yes, this includes Barnes and Noble’s examples, for i’ve never been to one where the layout was exactly the same. The same goes for bookstores, big and small, for every single one of them comes with a specific flavor. And each flavor is indicative of not only the society in which they reside, but also the love in which their patrons provide.

For anyone who tells me bookstores are dying, I can honestly say this is the furthest from the truth. Bookstores are alive and well, and never should they be forgotten in what they provide. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, simply find your nearest bookstore and take a gander. Come by on a regular basis. Ask if they have anything new or any upcoming events.

Like books themselves, bookstores only need you to make that first little leap into their world. Once that’s done, you’ll be surprised at how much you’ll gain.

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I’ve been to many bookstores in my life, but i’d really love to hear about your experiences. Which bookstores have you all been to? What are your favorite things about bookstores?

Leave your comments, questions, queries, and contradictions below.

Until next time,

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Posted by on August 2, 2014 in Bookstores, Uncategorized

 

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Before the Move

 

I’m moving to Minneapolis tomorrow.

That’s right. After a year of substitute teaching, freelance writing, and kicking my stories around on the editorial floor, I’ve decided to take charge of my life in a way unlike I’ve done before.

Sure i’ve gone across the country before. Going to Luther College was a big deal for a teenage boy from the Californian inland. Malta and the Mediterranean was also no short hop and skip from my residence hall either. Heck even driving to Denver was a new experience, since I made the trek with a borrowed car and more than a few cups of coffee. However, each of these was for something certain, something definite. Each time I made these trips, it was because I was looking for an education, or was selected to partake in a massive organization. This time, when I take off from the driveway, i’m going for something that has no end goal, except the one I choose myself.

I mean, that’s what being an adult is all about right? Making choices and sticking with the consequences come hell or high water? Doing something violently out of your comfort zone? Trying to better yourself by becoming more self-sufficient? I hope these are what it takes, because i’m charging ahead with a full tank of gas, my savings, and a burning desire to work in Publishing.

During my travels I’ll stop in many places, some familiar and some very much alien. By this time tomorrow I hope to be in Grand Junction, Colorado, a measly 12 and a half hour drive from my hometown in Indio, California. On the way i’ll drop my parents off, making them the last ones I see before setting off on my journey. In a way it’s thrilling, since I owe them so much. They’ve supported me through every decision i’ve made, even the ones that weren’t so properly thought out, and I couldn’t be more blessed.

So, before I get too sentimental, this is a prelude to my 7 Day Road Trip to Minneapolis Adulthood*. It’ll surely be a wonderful trip, fraught with danger, distance, and more than a few breathtaking moments. At least that’s what i’m hoping for.

May you all be well in your own personal journeys, wherever they are. If you wish to share them my comments are always open for you to enjoy. I like hearing stories, especially long winded ones, so don’t be afraid to share.

Until next time…

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*Geez… the sentimentality strikes again. Oh well. Can’t help it.

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Post Publishing Institute #7: I’m Free! Freelancing! (Part 2)

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Hello and welcome to Part 2 of my discussion on Freelance Writing/Editing. Or as I like to call it, FREELANCE WRITING: THE SEQUEL!

Attack-of-the-Sequels

The ONLY appropriate reaction.

Being a freelance writer, and all that it entails, is very busy work. When one isn’t editing someone’s work, or scribing the latest blurb for a fashion magazine, they have to self promote. I would go into more detail, but I touched on these in the previous blog post.

Instead, allow me to fill your mind with some new and exciting information. As you’ve likely guessed this post still has to do with freelancing, so you may be asking:

“But Zach, haven’t we covered this topic already? Surely you’ve beaten us over the head with all there is to know. How much more could you possibly have to share?”

Well fear not fellow writers and readers, for the world of freelancing is more vast than any Greek epic yet to be read.

"Good, good. Let the long windedness flow through you." -Homer

“Good, good. Let the long windedness flow through you.”
-Homer

Yes, it seems like I covered the gamut but did you know there are freelancers that specialize in what they do? In fact many in this line of work make a living through one type of writing/editing. And since the world of book publishing can always use a more help, these people can take jobs that would normally garner an employed editor/marketer’s attention.

Sarcastic Wonka

I certainly will, Gene Wilder.

Scared Wonka

Now while this may seem like total grunt work, it can actually be a lot of fun. Since book publishing has always been a relatively small market (some businesses having as many as 3 employees) with a small time budget (the yearly budget for most publishing companies is usually 1/10th the budget of one Hollywood movie.) they need all the help they can get planning, editing, writing, and even socializing with the author.

As such, here is a list of a freelance writer/editors many specialized jobs. Check them out and see which ones you jive with the most.

((Disclaimer: As a beginner, chances are you’ll end up doing many of these at once. Like I said before, it’s a busy job that doesn’t allow for slacking.))

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Job 1: Editor

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Figured i’d get the most obvious out of the way first. Being an editor means you will edit. Simple as that. However, how you will edit, what you will edit, and when it’s due, are completely up to the whims of your employers.

When taking on these tasks, always ask the basic questions: How much am I editing? What format is this editing under? (typically fiction is done under Chicago Manual of Style, but it never hurts to ask.) When will you need this done? What are you paying me?

Job 2: Coaching, Consulting.

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Another job that’s pretty easy to grasp. Rather than editing, this job means you’ll be working with the author to make the story better. Typically this falls under the workload of Line Editors, since they’re tasked with working out the fundamental ideas within the story.

Keep in mind, this job is highly personable and requires a great amount of tact and empathy. As many of my friends can attest, writers are not machines made to churn out epic novels for others amusement. They have feelings, wants, hopes, and dreams like any other human being. Understanding this, and being adaptable to your author’s needs, while finding the right way to discuss and motivate, is paramount in this line of work.

Job 3: Book Doctoring

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Sometimes an author falls way behind on a deadline. Sometimes the planned publishing process gets muddled or distorted. Sometimes a book needs a massive overhaul, but it’s too much work for even the most skilled editor on staff. So what do you do? You call a book doctor.

This tends to be the most stressful job for a multitude of reasons. First, you can likely expect whatever it is that’s handed to you will be a monstrous affront to all things literature. Second, it will likely be riddled with issues that need fixing, most of which may be so minuscule that only a keen eye can fix. Third, you’re likely not given nearly enough time to fix all these issues (I mean,heck, they needed a book doctor for a reason.)

It’s not a pleasant job, and half the time you won’t be able to make something half as good as you wanted it to be. Yet it does have its merits, and can be the most rewarding for both the gratitude and paycheck you’d receive.

Job 4: Collaborating and Co-Authoring

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There are many reasons an editor/writer becomes a co-author to a work. Maybe your works inspired the author in question. Maybe your previous workings are a significant part of the writings. Maybe the author likes you a lot and thinks you should be signed on. Whatever the reason, Co-Authoring and collaborating connects you to the work on multiple levels, and can be a major boon to your publishing cred.

However, what this job makes up for in bragging rights it takes away in time. Anyone who has ever written a book can say that it was a major emotional, physical, and mental investment. Working with a second author can lessen the physical portion, but the emotional and mental investments are doubled to compensate. Plus, with two authors you may end up writing something twice as long, meaning the physical effort is doubled instead of halved. These assignments can also eat into your other projects as well. So proceed with caution when presented with these opportunities.

Job 5: Ghost Writing

ghost writing

I honestly couldn’t have found a better picture to describe this process.

Ghost writing is when an unknown/unannounced author writes the story, but another author’s name is signed onto it. Examples of this include many James Patterson novels, in which his many understudies write his books while he puts his name on them.

Now, before we jump the gun and say “That’s not fair. Who would be dumb enough to do that?” keep in mind the reason ghost writing exists. Often times an author will want to make a point, but feels their name is associated with too many things. Case in point, Mel Brooks wrote and directed The Elephant Man, but kept his name out so no one would mistake the movie for a comedy. In another example, M. Night Shyamalan allowed Will Smith to take credit as director for After Earth’s production so people would think it was a good movie.

In a way this is what ghost writing does: allow the author to make something they wish to write, but not have their name associated with it. Or, alternatively, it allows a new writer to get their start, but under a more famous person’s name so it’ll sell. No matter what happens, the one writing will always be appropriately compensated and, if you do a good enough job, it could mean greater opportunities and connections.

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That concludes the lesson on freelance writing/editing. Hopefully by now you’ll have amassed enough knowledge to get your start in freelance writing.

Remember, it’s a tough business out there, and requires a considerable amount of time and effort. However, if you keep at it, you’ll find a very rewarding career managed by no one other than you, yourself, and thee.

So what do you think? Have any of you done a job such as these? Have any ever needed someone to do any of these jobs? Do they sound like something you’d be interested in doing?

If you have questions, concerns, critiques, or compliments be sure to leave them in the comments below.

Until next time.

 

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Post Publishing Institute #6: I’m Free! Freelancing! (Part 1)

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Hey y’all. For those who don’t know i’ve lately been doing a bunch of freelance writing to pass the time. Lately it’s mostly been for recreation and most jobs I’ve taken on are small editing and criticism tasks. That being said I’ve gleaned a lot from my time as a freelancer with regards to the writing and publishing process as a whole. In addition i’ve even earned a spot on the staff of a really neat online magazine called The Ranting Dragon.

I’ll talk more on that later but if you’re interested the website proper can be found here.

Actually, what I want to talk about most is what a freelancer writer/editor does. Some may recall an earlier post I made titled “Things your Editor is not!” where I touch upon the stereotypes regarding editors. Rather than doing that, i’m going to go into specifics, or rather the types of roles one can expect to perform as a freelance writer/editor. For those seeking to be the former the next section is for you. For those curious as to the types of freelancers out there my next post will likely be more up your alley.

So you want to be a Freelance Writer/Editor

When you clicked on this page chances are you noticed the swarthy dwarf blacksmith pounding away at an unfinished weapon. While the picture is very pretty I chose it because it fits the theme of a freelance writer/editor in more ways than one. In fact it may be the best metaphor out there for the profession. So, for anyone hoping to make a living off freelancing, here are a few things you should know.

1) The first step is knowledge.

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It goes without saying that anyone worth their salt in any subject has to know what they’re talking about. Yet some people seem to think being a freelancer is as simple as declaring it so. While this may be true, it does one no good to call yourself something and have no experience or education. It’s the same reason why blacksmithing begins with being an apprentice. Years of manual labor dedicated to honing your craft if needed for any smithy to have a hope of succeeding.

Fortunately being a writer or editor is something you’ve likely done since you first went to school. If you’ve ever taken a writing class or edited a friend’s paper then you have some experience. Even fanfiction or poetry counts as personal experience. It’s not professional experience mind you, but it’s definitely something one should keep in mind when going into this line of work. Should you wish to take it a step further there are plenty of writing centers, schools for editors, and even literary groups willing to teach and give guidance.

2) The second step is practice.

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Ah practice, that dreadful word that goes hand in hand with effort. Learning the ropes is all fine and dandy but to truly succeed you have to continuously hone your skills. It’s also why blacksmith apprentices work for years before they’re allowed to handle projects on their own. Fortunately writing is not so dangerous a profession, and you can practice your craft without fear of losing your fingers.

So how does one practice being an editor/writer? Well here are a few suggestions I gleaned from my time at DPI:

  • Just as an apprentice needs lessons, learning begins in places that are chock full of knowledge. In the case of a freelanc writer/editor, there are several books that teach proper techniques and etiquette in the publishing world. In an earlier blog post I listed many books that come in handy when learning how to edit. At the same these books can help you become a better writer since they show what editors and publishers look for in a piece.
  • Many blacksmith apprentices are expected to glean from those who were already masters of their craft. You can do the same by taking your local newspapers and editing them yourselves. It comes as no surprise that some newspapers are riddled with faulty writing or grammar. Either due to negligence or apathy, these mistakes are the perfect opportunity to hone a keen eye for detail, while giving you the satisfaction of catching something other people might not.  This works for magazines and even (le gasp!) your favorite books.
  • You know how they say you can’t trust a skinny cook, a tan engineer student, or a clean blacksmith? Well that’s because they spend all their time refining skills they already have. In this case, the best refinement comes in the form of reading. This simple act, which you likely already do for recreation, will broaden your mind and give fuel to your own burgeoning creativity. It helps you understand the writing style of whatever you wish to edit, and makes you invaluable to anyone who wants your help. Better yet, you can accomplish twice as much by editing as you read.

3) The third step is putting yourself out there.

I put this one last because it is both the easiest and hardest step to take. As writers and editors we tend toward sheltered lifestyles, and would be content to keeping to ourselves while the world comes to us. In a sense, we’d all love to be that great blacksmith in the mountains whom people come to from far and wide, seeking out majestic expertise in craftsmanship.

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“Hey Bob. How much longer til we get to this great Editor person?”
“Just five more mountain ranges, Ethel.”
“Five? Screw this! Wanna get tacos instead?”
“Sure.”

Now while the above was poking fun at that conceit, it does speak the truth. Freelancing is a business in which you are selling your skills, and while that comes with all sorts of freedom, it also comes with a massive amount of responsibility on your part. When you freelance you are typically your only boss, but you are also your only employee. As such it falls upon you to make your work known. How does one do this? Why it’s actually quite simple: put yourself out there.

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I don’t mean go out on the corner and chase people with your claims of editorial/writing skills. Chances are you’ll more than likely scare people away. Rather put yourself in a position where your name can be easily seen. In this day and age, advertising can be done with little  Bug your friends. Make a facebook page. Set up a blog (wink wink). Heck, if you have to make flyers and post them on street signs.

Just let people know you’re out there. Let them know what you’re all about. It may not get you a lot of customers but hey, everyone has to start somewhere. If you stick to it you’ll either get an audience or you’ll get better. No matter how you slice it I don’t see how either one will hurt. 

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So that’s my first half discussing the work of the freelance writer/editor. In my next post I’ll go into specifics on the kinds of work freelancers and editors do.

If you have a few suggestions, a couple words of advice, or even some experiences you want to share then say so in the comments. If not then I hope you have a wonderful day.

Until next time.

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Publishing Institute Post #5: Publishing in The Name of ________

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You’ve probably seen them in your hometown: Bookstores that sell a particular niche. A particular religious niche. A particular religious, but more often than not, Christian niche. These are the bookstores where you can’t help but wonder “Out of all the countless books that are published, how the heck do they find all these?”

Well, my dear readers, the answer is simple: Just as there are publishers for Fantasy, Mystery, and Paranormal Lovecraftian Romance, there are publishing houses that specialize in Religion books. No i’m not talking about people who reprint The Holy Testament or The Bhagavad Gita, but rather books that have an overt, observable religious theme to them.

(And yes, Paranormal Lovecraftian Romance is a thing. No I don’t want to look it up.)



(Fine here is an example, don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

As with every facet of publishing, DPI had a fantastic slew of women and men who took time out of their busy lives to educate us bright eyed would-be publishers. For this lecture, the man in charge was none other than the great Joel Fotinos. Say hello Joe:

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Look at that smile! With such an attractive picture you’d think he’s been all over the Religious publishing world. And you’d be right! This man held jobs in various Christian publications across the Midwest and even dabbled a bit in other religious houses (those stories, however, are not mine to tell). In fact, he is so well rounded he was the first to win “Spiritual Hero of the Year” from The Science of the Mind Magazine due to his magnanimity and outreach efforts.

For us at DPI we were fortunate to have such a splendid man lecture us on the Religious Publishing world. Though it may seem like a small time genre, religious publishing has never been stronger. In fact, Religious publishing has great potential for growth, and is more varied than you would think.

So, dear reader, if you plan to work for, or publish something of religious intent, allow me to provide you a handy reference list, taught to me by the man above (Joel, not the other one) with a little self added information. That way you may be a little more prepared in your future endeavors.

THE FIVE RELIGIOUS PUBLISHING MARKETS:

1) Christianity:

-Due to this being the most prevalent religion in the USA, this group actually is split into four.

A) The Christian Books Association (CBA): Conservative Christian Market, publishes books like Heaven is for Real and is a very black and white industry. Usually for Christian Tracts and Evangelical books. Examples include: CSPA and Thomas Nelson Inc.

B) The Religious Booksellers Trade Exhibit (RBTE): Liberal Christian Market, for more “Spiritual Christians” or books with redemptive endings. Anne Lamott’s books are published here, as was Yann Martel’s Life of Pi. Examples include: Riverhead Books and Knopf Canada (the latter does more than just religious publishing.)

C) Catholic Publishing: This one overlaps with both the CBA and the RBTE, but as you could guess most of these books have a Catholic perspective to them. The books they publish tend to be sold in Cathedrals Catholic retreats. Examples include: Ignatius and TAN Books

D) Mormon Publishing: Also overlaps with the CBA and RBTE but with a Mormon perspective to it. Very insular, most books in these markets sell only in Mormom cathedrals and Mormon bookstores. Examples include: Eborn Books and Signature Books.

2) Judaism:

– The second largest market in America, this market is responsible for giving us amazing works of literature such as The Diary of a Young Girl (Anne Frank), Everything is Illuminated (Jonathan Saffran Foer), and The Book Thief (Markus Zusak). While they’re not as big as the Christian market, this section makes up for it by being available anywhere outside of religious events and Jewish communities. Examples of Jewish Publishing Houses include: KTAV, Feldheim, and Gefen Publishing

3) Islam:

– I’ll be honest when I say I haven’t done much research on this sect of Religious publishers. However, I can say that they’re a growing market dedicated to dispelling the myths and misconceptions regarding their beliefs. If nothing else I say give a few of their books a shot, and maybe you’ll be surprised at what you discover. Since it’s small in America it’s difficult to find a list of notable publishing houses. However, the wonder blogger at Muslim Writers has compiled a list of useful places to start.

4) Eastern Doctrines:

– These are actually a bunch of different “umbrella houses” that kind of get grouped into one due to their size. Religions included in this market are :Buddhism (including Mahayana, Theravada, and Vajrayana), Taoism, Hinduism and the Baha’i Faith. Famous books from these publishers include, among many others, a The Tao of Pooh (Benjamin Hoff), Siddhartha (Herman Hesse), and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (Robert M. Pirsig). Popular Eastern Doctrine Publshing Houses include: New Directions and Wisdom Publishing

5) New Age:

– This is also a catch all term for a rather large group. It includes anything that’s gained a major following within the last century/half century. Usually includes anything involving Pagan, Wiccan, Near Death Experiences, Acupuncture, Tarot, etc. It’s a rather open ended market but it’s really picking up steam in America. Popular Publishing Houses include: New Leaf Publishing Group and Sounds True.

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Should you wish to pitch a book to any of these companies, keep this in mind:
Religious Publishing isn’t about publishing books, it’s about publishing content. The heart of the book, from the words on the page to the theme of the narrative, are what they consider when taking on a book.

So before you send your manuscript, ask yourself: Is my book on the level with this publishing house? Do I speak to the audience they wish to reach? Or will my book do better somewhere else?

Sure that seems obvious, but content matters. The heart of the story matters. No one at in the CBA  would consider taking a story about chakras, even if the protagonists are deeply religious. Chances are your manuscript is fine the way it is, but only needs the right house to publish and distribute it.

If you have any further questions or comments you’re all welcome to speak your mind below. Until next time.

 
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Posted by on September 4, 2013 in Advice, Publishing Institute

 

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Publishing Institute Post #4: Those Crazy Copy Editors.

Well? Does it?

See if you were a copy editor you’d know the answer to this. For the rest of us, myself included, questions like these leave us scratching our heads.

For those of us not trying to defend the honor of the mess that is the English Language, details like this seem kind of pointless. I mean, who reads a book and says “oh those words don’t have a hyphen. This work must be burned! BURNED I SAY!”

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For your consideration: please throw all typo ridden narratives here.

Well believe it or not the answer is “more than you’d think.” While most people wouldn’t react in this way, it honestly doesn’t take a lot to see how important proper grammar is in writing. I mean, if I wrote like this:

HI M@H NM3 IS Z@CH @ND THIS IS M@H BLOG11!1!!1! OMG LOL ITS FUL OF SHINY STUF AND U SHUD FOLOW M3 CAUS3 IMM GREAT1!!1!! OMG

Chances are I wouldn’t have any readers.

Now, if you want a less satirical point then consider this article, or this article.

See, grammar is important in how others perceive and receive your work. Anything laden with typos is guaranteed to be sent back with poor grades. For those of you aspiring to be a writer consider this: Rob Spillman, Head Editor of Tin House, once said, “I immediately throw out any manuscript with a typo on the first page. It simply means they didn’t care.”

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Disclaimer: these are not actually his words, but imagine if they were… yikes…

Now, before you get out your stories and search for every small mistake, keep in mind that it’s also normal to have a few typos. As long as they aren’t too numerous, you’ll be okay in sending in your manuscript. After all, that’s what Copy Editors are for.

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Cue the triumphant music.

While most don’t spend their lives painstakingly slaving over every detail, there are some that make a living from it and enjoy it! Well.. maybe enjoy isn’t the right word, but it’s darn close.

The copy editor is a strange creature indeed. Armed with a keen eye for detail and a dictionary bigger than your head, these men and women charge valiantly into the untamed wilderness that is a newly acquired manuscript. As I described in my previous post, these are the editors that won’t compromise on quality. While they may discuss the occasional stylistic detail their job is, for the most part, set in stone.

What do I mean by that? I mean that, as of my last 2 weeks in this program, I learned just how important this book is to an editor:

220px-The_Chicago_Manual_of_Style_16th_edition

In this reference material, which gets updated every so often, lies every stylistic and grammatical rule every Editor in American publishing must follow. It’s over 1000 pages long and chock full of information. Good news for you: it’s mostly available online here. Bad news for me: I still have to carry the physical copy.

So what does this mean for all that MLA and APA stuff we had to do in high school and undergrad? Well…

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Yup, keep feeding that fire.

This is not to say those styles are useless. In the world of academia, and even some professional careers, they are still quite relevant. Some publishing houses even use of those styles. However, most will stick to Chicago Style.

For those of you wondering where to begin, here are a few things I gathered from the wonderful Alice Levine.
(no not this one. I meant this one.)

  1. Never forget the Oxford Comma. (I want to eat ice cream, chocolate, and oranges.)
  2. Get your possessive pronouns right. (Hers, His, Its.)
  3. It’s = It is. (Correct: It’s my birthday.) (Wrong: I want to touch it’s fur.)
  4. Gray is American. Grey is European.
  5. For words like the one above, if you spell it one way, keep it consistent throughout the narrative.
  6. Hyphens are used only when it comes after the subject. (Correct: That jerk is anal-retentive) (Wrong: What an anal-retentive jerk.)
  7. Learn the difference between the En-Dash and Em-Dash. Hint: it’s not just the length of the dash.
  8. Keep a style sheet for terms, places, and names. It’ll help you stay consistent.
  9. Only capitalize titles if they are attached to a name. (Correct: Senator Jane) (Wrong: Jane the Senator)
  10. Commas are always confusing. Try not to overuse them.

Mind you these are only a few rules. The Chicago Manual of style has so many different laws and regulations that sometimes even a copy editor feels burnt out. However, if you stick to these few at first, and try not to misspell anything, you’ll be one leg ahead of anyone who doesn’t know/care.

As for the heavy lifting, be sure to trust in your copy editor. Yes, the acquisitions editor may have given you the deal but it’s the copy editor’s job to make sure yours doesn’t get thrown into the fire pile.

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Exhibit 1. A.K.A. Me a year ago.

Copy editors are a wonderful sort and deserve far more credit for your favorite author’s novels than we may realize. Thanks to them our printed words aren’t a bastion of typos and grammatical nonsense.

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So what kinds of editing experience do you all have? Do you use the Chicago manual or are you set in the MLA/APA ways? Knowing most of you, the process of editing is a glorious yet painful thing to experience. If so how do you get through it?

Leave a comment below. Otherwise, until next time.

 
 

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Publishing Institute Post #2: What’s an Agent? Why should you get one?

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(Warning: the following lesson may not be appropriate for those who want to self-publish or send excerpts and short stories to magazines or publishing books. For everyone else: enjoy.)

So picture this:

Many moons ago you had an idea, nay, an urge to write. For weeks you slaved over details, world building, character creation, and crafting. You’ve received good and bad advice. You’ve struggled with writer’s block. You’ve neglected the dirty dishes in the sink. After an undefined period of time, you’ve finally done it! You’ve written a novel. Now all that’s left is to send it in to a publisher right? After that the big bucks come flowing in… right?

Wait… Why am I not getting any feedback? (I sent it to like… seven Publishing houses)

Why is my story being ignored? (I worked so hard on it. I even bought books on writing)

Why won’t anyone take me seriously? (I swear I showered last night!)

If the above sounds like an exaggerated version of you, do not lose hope. It’s not that your story is bad, or that you’re unlikeable. It’s that you have no representation.

Now you might be wondering: What the heck is this nut talking about? Representation? Isn’t my skill enough?

It’s a fair question, but have you ever heard of Nikolai Tesla? The man was a genius, crafting marvels of scientific wonder and shattering the per-conceived notions of his time. He’s the reason electricity works the way it does, and is partially responsible for the name of an amazing 80’s heavy metal band.

"I'm on the highway to that one place full of bad people." -Heavily paraphrased by me.

“I’m on the highway to that one place full of bad people.”
-Heavily paraphrased by me.

Unfortunately, the man died broke and shamed. It wasn’t that his talent wasn’t enough, but that no one wanted to vouch for his brilliance. In fact, the man had most of his inventions stolen by a dude who crafted the lightbulb. The ones that weren’t stolen were disavowed or made infamous by a man with way more money and influence.

So what went wrong? Well it wasn’t that the man wasn’t talented, that’s for certain. Instead it’s that he wasn’t very well represented in his life. Had he the lauding and background we give him today things might have been different for good ‘ol Tesla.

Fortunately for you, dear writer, you don’t need to pass on to gain representation. The States are a much more forgiving place nowadays, and anyone with an iota of brilliance can gain the representation they need to help make their dreams a reality. How, you ask?

Why, with an Agent of course!

"You called?"

“You called?”

Wrong Agent…

Actually, the kind of agent i’m talking about is a Publishing Agent. Should one choose to go the traditional route, these people are your first step to getting your story published. Paid by commission, these men and women work tirelessly to make your manuscript as perfect a possible. All the while they act as a liaison between you and the Publishing company, ensuring you come out of the bargain with the best possible rewards and rights.

“But wait!” you might say, “What if this agent is no help at all? What if they try to steal my work I so lovingly crafted?”

Again another fair question. As writers we often feel wary with sharing with other people our works. It’s the ultimate paradox really, for we are careful with disclosure, but we want people to see and love our works. Thus I say to you, aspiring writers, if you wish to let others see your work, why not start with one who’s life goal is to help those like you?

See, in a previous article I talked about people who work by commission. Like a freelance editor, an agent works the same way. The difference: rather than be paid up front, the agent is paid when you are paid by the publishing company. In essence their entire livelihood exists solely because writer’s like you need representation. Thus many agents are more than happy to give that, should time or skill permit.

In addition to that, the very word “Agent” has quite the history in and of itself. It’s origin, agere, is the Latin word for “to set in motion, drive, lead, or conduct.” Seems fitting for one who tries to get your work noticed, no? Well wait, it gets better! In the 1550’s, the decade before Shakespeare himself was born, the term had a much more powerful meaning. According to the Online Etymology “Agent” meant “Any natural force or substance which produces a phenomenon,” a fitting definition for one who wishes to help stories succeed. Four decades later it meant “the representative,” again another fitting definition. It wasn’t until the 1910’s that the word became synonymous with “spies,” but I digress.

“Well they sound great and all, but where can I find one?” you may ask. Fortunately the answer is quite simple.

Take a novel you like, preferably one you’re novel resembles in tone or genre, and look at the dedications. Often times authors will acknowledge their agent in the dedications of their books. While this is a good start, there is also no harm in searching for agents online. Agents’ webpages and blogs pepper the internet far and wide. Oftentimes they’ll list what they’ve worked on and what they want to endorse. All it takes is one email.

Or,you could use this website: http://publishersmarketplace.com/

I mean… I guess you could look up your favorite books. Maybe the agent will be listed. I suppose you could pay for the full service, i’m told it might be totally worth it.

Like the picture above, an agent is like a bridge. They serve to connect what is naturally separate, in this case the writer and publishers. In addition they support those who wish to cross, as they will do for your manuscript as it goes to the publisher. If things pan out the bridge will help make it to the other side, and will even support you on the way back. That’s what bridges do, and I feel agents do that just as well.

And if your bridge is bad then you could always find another one.

—-

So that’s my word on bri- I mean agents. I know I said I’d talk about editors this time around but I felt this needed to be said first. I promise the next one will talk about the various kinds of editors that help shape your books to excellence.

In the meantime, does anyone have a personal experience with an agents? Have you ever found a good one? Are there any you find particularly exciting?

If you want, leave a comment below. Until next time.

 
6 Comments

Posted by on July 19, 2013 in Advice, Publishing Institute

 

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