Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Guest Blogger: Beyond Self-Editing

By Jade Kerrion

Recently, my ruthlessly self-edited novel, GENESIS, won a Royal Palm Literary Award in the unpublished Science Fiction category. After running back to my hotel room and waking my sleeping husband to show him the trophy, I did the next logical thing: I set out on a search for an independent editor.

All right, some of you might be saying, “You’ve got the cart before the horse. Shouldn’t you have hired the editor before submitting your novel for the competition?” Others might be saying, “But you won an award—obviously, your novel is good, so why do you need an editor?”

For me, personally, I put off hiring an editor because I wanted to be sure my writing could stand alone (which it did). And I decided to hire one because I was finally convinced that my writing would improve tremendously with her input.


Because ‘ruthless self-editing’ is usually an oxymoron…

I studied books on self-editing, including the excellent ‘Self-editing for Fiction Writers’, made notes and kept them beside me as I edited my novel (six times, no less). I even cut out the entire prologue. However, after reviewing my editor’s notes on the first ten pages, I’m convinced that my ‘ruthless self-editing’ was as deep as a paper cut. I caught misspellings and basic grammatical errors, as any self-respecting self-editor should. My editor found far more. At one point, she had me thinking, “Wow, I did really use the word ‘the’ eight times in that short paragraph. Damn.”

Because sometimes, you just can’t wait…

Let’s face the facts: it takes time (sometimes years) to get traditionally published. Meanwhile, you’re writing other novels, right? When you find an agent and a publisher, you will usually receive an editor in the process. However, did you really want to wait till that late stage to catch possible issues with your writing style? After you’ve written tons of other books, all with those same issues? Sending your work through an independent editor can be a tremendous learning experience, especially if you’re just starting out.


Decide what you need: Do you need developmental editing, substantive editing, copy-editing or proofreading? If you don’t know the difference, find out.

Get recommendations: This isn’t the time to limit your search to what Google can spit back out at you. In addition to consulting Google, I asked fellow writers at Backspace and the Florida Writers Association (FWA). Financially, you may catch a break. For example, FWA has an editing service that they’ve negotiated with professional, thoroughly screened editors for discounted rates on a certain number of hours of work.

Get samples: Editors vary in thoroughness and individual style; obtaining edited samples of your work is key. Samples of what they edited in the past isn’t good enough. You will need a consistent basis for comparison, and you will want to know how they’d edit your work. Some editors offer samples for free, others charge a fee. Be willing to pay a fee if the editor comes highly recommended and/or has a long list of accolades to his or her name. The fees I paid ranged from $30-$35 for ten pages of edits.

Check the editor’s credentials: How long have they worked as an editor? Did they spend thirty years as a newspaper editor, or did they also edit full-length novels? How many novels have they edited? How many novels went on to find agents and traditional publishers? Have they worked in your genre? Do they even like your genre? Obtain reviews and recommendations of their work, where possible.

Electronic or paper edits: Electronic, of course. Why are we even having this discussion? Wait, not so fast. Three of the four sample edits I received were electronic. The fourth one was on paper. I learned far more from the paper edit than the electronic edits. Yes, there are nonsensical squiggles on the paper and you’ll have to invest the time to figure out what they mean. You have a busy life—who needs the cognitive overload? But take a step back and allow your eyes to drift over the pages. How many different types of squiggles do you see? Are there more of some types than others? What you’re seeing are trends—persistent issues with your writing. I ran into a brick wall attempting to identify trends through Microsoft Word’s ‘track changes’ functionality. I did bang my head on it several times (I’m the persistent type) before giving it up as a lost cause. Whether you chose electronic or paper edits will depend on what you’re looking to get out of the editing process. If you’re confident that your novel is in excellent shape and the editor is merely fine-tuning, electronic edits may be the way to go. If you’re looking for a profound learning experience, consider paper edits. If you are a control freak (see the next point), stick with paper edits. Less heartburn that way, I promise.

Review the samples: This should go without saying, especially if you paid a fee for the sample edit. However, this step is doubly important if you decide to go with an electronic edit because the editor is making changes directly in the master document, hopefully with the ‘track changes’ functionality turned on. They’re doing more than identifying the problem. They’re correcting it. Do you like what they’re doing? One editor was so enthusiastic about correcting my manuscript that he rewrote entire sentences in a style that felt unnatural for me (and he didn’t even track the changes in Microsoft Word.) I could never have duplicated it in my other novels, nor would I have wanted to. To top it off, he changed a character’s last name; I never understood the point of that particular edit. His work wasn’t a good fit for me.

How are they charging for their services? Most editors charge based on the number of pages or the number of words. The type of service also varies. Are they copy-editing, or doing everything from content to commas? Do they want payment for the full job, or do you only pay for the work done if you decide to stop working with them? Make certain you’re doing an apples-to-apples comparison when getting quotes from editors.

What else are you getting for the money? For their fee, some editors will send an edited document back to you. Others may send you the edited document and a twenty-five page critique of your content and writing style. Once again, it depends on what you want out of the experience.

Note that I didn’t actually discuss how much to pay. That’s because it varies based on your needs and your budget. For my 90,000-word novel, I received quotes ranging from $1,100 to $3,900, though most came in under $2,000.

Is it worth it? Based on the ten pages I received from my editor, the answer is yes. The accompanying partial critique of the sample pages identified stylistic elements that I’m working to eliminate or incorporate (depending on the element) in my second novel, codenamed EXODUS. (Yes, I need a better name; I’m working on that). The first draft of EXODUS feels like a tighter document than the final draft of GENESIS; the editor’s assistance is paying off, and she hasn’t even delivered the edited manuscript yet. By the time I get through all her red squiggles, I’ll be a better writer. I’m absolutely certain of it.

Jade Kerrion

Guest Blogger: Ten Things you Absolutely, Positively HAVE to do when you Finish your Novel

By Trudy Doyle

A little while back I finished a novel. When I did, I summarily thrust my fist up in the air, gave myself a firm pat on the back, then went and made dinner. Hardly a momentous celebration, but at this stage of the game, I have accomplished it a few times, so being somewhat cynical and jaded, I’m well aware the work’s really just begun. But that’s me; a bona-fide killjoy. Still, if you’re a Completion Virgin, then by all means, don’t do as I do, do as I say–give yourself a rousing huzzah! and go celebrate in the best way you can. You’ve accomplished what many people only dream about–congrats! Go tie one on because let me tell you my little dahlings: the cold light of day will dawn soon enough. And now, you may ask, what does one do next? You go down my handy checklist, is what!

1. Set the sucker aside. My advice is for a week, at least. That gives you time to bask in the afterglow of your accomplishment, imbibe vast quantities of celebratory truffles, Tater Tots or Appletinis (or whatever ignites your endorphins–oh! and of course, sweeties! That too!), and give your brain a rest for the next stage. Which is…

2. Edit, revise, rewrite. You know when your book really gets finished? When you send back the galleys. What are galleys? Er…if you have to ask, then you have a ways to go. Until then, you go over your manuscript with a magnifying glass and an eagle eye, looking for plot holes, continuity slips, characters inconsistencies, etc. This is also a good time to send it off to a beta reader, a critique partner (highly recommended) or someone you trust to give it an honest, critical read, and not someone who’ll just say “It was great!” because they didn’t want to hurt your feelings. And here’s the caveat to that–If they do criticize it for Pete’s sake, DON’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY! If they’re worth their salt as a beta reader, they’re not criticizing you, they’re criticizing the work, and it’s better hearing it from them first than having it rejected by an editor or agent because of some very fixable flaw. So do the work now, as it’s a tough business, and you need to make your work as flawless as possible.

3. Then do it again. No kidding, just when you think you have it the best it could possibly be, give the sucker another read. Only then can you check for typos and grammatical errors and please–do NOT rely on the spell checker to catch your errors. You may have written that there were too apples on the table, and your idiot spellchecker saw it as correct, so you sent it to an agent that way. Believe me, I know agents who would reject you just for that. Spelling errors scream amateur, and above all, you want to be seen as a pro, published or not. Shut off the grammar checker, too. If you’re writing to be published and you need one, then you’re not much of a writer. Dis the grammar checker and get a copy of Strunk and White’s Elements of Style. Sixty-five pages of pure grammar gold and all the English rules you’ll ever need. I have it in hardcover.

4. Make sure it’s Formatted correctly. Although some editors have their own styles, here’s the general rules: Double-spaced, Times New Roman or Courier 12pt font ONLY, paragraphs indented, no white spaces between paragraphs that aren’t scene breaks indicated by * * * * (watch this in Word 7, as it’s a default), new page for every new chapter, last name and title of the book as header on every page, THE END at the end. You might think it’s cute to do that dream sequence in Bookman Old Style, but editors and agents read all day long, and if they have to work at reading yours, trust me, they’ll pass. Don’t cut off your chances at the knees. You’ll have plenty of time later to be strikingly original when you’re at the top of the NYT list and they’re banging down the door for your grocery list.

5. Save! Save! Save! – In several places, and I mean this is all sincerity. I lost half a manuscript once several years ago because my computer crashed, and it took me over a hundred dollars and lots of angsting to get it back. Save on your hard drive, a flash drive, online. Sent it to a trusted friend. Print it out and put it in a metal filing cabinet. I have one flash drive I keep in my desk and another I keep in my purse. This is your toil and your genius; you can’t save it enough!

6. The Dreaded Synopsis and Blurb- Oh my aching neck – is there anything worse than writing a synopsis? Yes, a blurb, which is a one sentence encapsulation, boiling your 85,000 word work of art down to its very essence. I did one today in under fifteen minutes, so maybe they aren’t as hard as they seem. Maybe because they’re all foreplay, and you don’t have to go for the beginning, middle and bang-zoom! Used to be synopses were five to ten pages, but now I’m hearing the industry standard is getting closer to two. And that’s double-spaced, sweeties, with the same formatting rules applying. And don’t make it a teaser like the blurb–agents and editors will just toss it if you try to play cagey. Give the plot, characters and theme, and make sure it covers your work from beginning to end. Present tense, too, because it’s a happening thang, you see, and just the facts. They’re looking for content, not for coy. Save that for your fabulous prose.

7. More Dread – The Query Letter – There really is an art to writing these things, no kidding, and you do so need to get them right. Even before you begin your search for an editor or agent, create a good query shell as once you do, you can tailor it to each house or agency’s preferences. There’s much more information that you’ll need about crafting one than I can give you right now, so we’ll save that for another time.

8. Now do your research - What do you write? Romance, science fiction, mystery, commercial or literary fiction? Whatever the fiction (as it’s slightly different for non-fiction, and for that, I’m not quite the authority), you need to do your research so you’re targeting your work to the right house or agency. If you’re a genre writer – romance, sci-fi, mystery, etc. – there are some houses that still accept unagented fiction. It’s YOUR job to find out who they are. To do this, you might want to search the web for each publisher, pick up the latest copy of the Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market by Writer’s Digest, Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors or Literary Agents, or check out the Literary Marketplace Database at your local library (the definitive guide, a pricey subscription to get on your own, so use it at the library for free). But even those guide aren’t going to help if you don’t know what kind of fiction they buy. I always like to go to the local bookstore and browse the authors I feel my writing is most like, and then check the Acknowledgements page. See which editors and agents they thank, and that should send you in the right direction. As far as seeking out agents, Jeff Herman’s guide is great, and so is the definitive database on agents, Agent Query, Also – don’t forget to schmooze! Go to writer’s conferences, attend writer’s clubs, join national organizations for your genre. At conferences, you’ll have the chance to attend editor/agent appointments and meet them in person. At writer’s clubs you’ll get to hobnob with published authors who might like you enough to recommend you to their agent or editor. Put yourself out there! Face-to-face is always the most effective.

9. Send it and forget it – Does the manuscript shine? Did all your research? Found the perfect editors and/or agents? Again EDITORS and AGENTS? And I do mean multiples, sweeties. Send them out in batches, and I do mean in handfuls. I don’t care if you found the UBER perfecto soulmate agent and/or editor. Find several. Multiples will cushion the blow for when those inevitable rejections come rolling in. Thank your lucky stars and talent if they ask for a partial or a full, but while you’re waiting, you need to spread yourself often and with quantity. I’d research at least twenty-five to start with, sending out at least five a week. And don’t forget to check their submission requirements. Not all editors or agents will take on-line submissions; there are still many who do only snail mail. And no one like attachments. Send them ONLY by invitation.

10. Now get back to writing – You’re only as good as your last book, and writers’ write, my dahlings. Do what you do best and get back to it. It’s all about the writing after all, and if you’re not doing it, there’s no need to pay attention to any of the above. Now get back to work!


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Guest Blogger: Just because you can’t see them (good Agents)… It doesn’t mean they’re not there!

I never decided to be a writer. I didn’t wake up one day, pick up a book, and there and then grow a large chunk of determination to become published. I always was a writer. Whether I eventually become published or not isn’t the point (although I DO want to become published, let’s get that straight). I think it’s simply in my genes. I get the distinct impression that if I had started out on the road to publishment (is there such a word?) with the idea of making money, I would have quickly become lost down a side street, never to be seen again. I write for a living. Not a bad living. But not the living I really want. I write ad copy. Good ad copy, I might ad.

But somewhere along the line a bunch of characters insinuated themselves into my head by the back door, and pestered the hell out of me to write about them. And so was born my first book. Heaven Help Us.

I thought I’d done the hard bit in writing the book. Oh boy…..if only.

I wanted to do things the old fashioned way. Analogue. Not digital. I wanted paper between my fingers. I wanted a publishing house to bite my hand off all the way up to my elbow. But most of all, I wanted a Literary Agent. Not just ANY literary agent, mind you. I wanted one who could look at my manuscript and see behind the words. I wanted one who empathised. Who got excited. Not just by the thought of sales…but by the story itself. And beyond that…the writer.

There are lots…and lots…and LOTS of writers out there. Many of them good. Some of them very good. A few of them great. And they might not get published in the good old fashioned way. Not because of lack of talent. But because the hunt to find the right Agent wears you down. But that’s ok…because now they can e-publish (anyone can and everyone is), and cut out the middleman. It even makes them more money (well…some of them). But they’re missing out on something akin to finding the holy grail. Something that’s a bit like the missing link. Someone to watch over them. Guide them. Advise them. Prod them. Hell, even occasionally kick them where the sun doesn’t shine if they need it.

All because we writers basically just want to write. Sure, we love the book signings and the meet and greets and the readings and the recognition and the sight of our efforts sitting on booksellers shelves…then disappearing very quickly. But I’ll say it again….we love to write!

So…to all you writers out there who have tried…and tried….and TRIED, but haven’t yet found the ‘holy grail’ Agent…the one who loves your work for what it is…I have this to say. It’s only my two cents worth, but to me it’s as valuable as gold dust.

Keep on looking. Persevere. Be stubborn. Be obstinate. Be hopeful. Be patient. And never…EVER give up.

Just because you can’t see the Agent who’s right for you, doesn’t mean they’re not there. Your paths merely haven’t crossed yet. But one day… one day…

Bryce Main, UK
Facebook Page
first couple of chapters ONLY of the hiliarious Heaven Help Us on Facebook

Guest Blogs

As you may have heard through some of my invitations, I will be posting entries from guest bloggers. Their posts will be chosen by me based on the content and how helpful they are to writers and my followers. I do hope that you enjoy them and that you contribute to this new process through comments with helpful questions and encouragement. And of course, you too can submit a post for consideration at

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

So Many Changes Coming Up!

In light of the fact that I'm already over 1000 unsolicited queries backlogged, that I would like to finish submitting all of my current projects by the end of the year, and that we intend to launch the new LITERARY POWERHOUSE PORTAL in February, I have decided to suspend queries for a couple of months. Please stay tuned for the re-open announcement and changes to guidelines.

Please note that postings on this blog are managed by me directly and that the most recent and accurate information can only be found here. The L. Perkins Agency website is not managed by me, so it may not have the most current information. Please return here for updates!

Thanks for staying tuned!


Friday, November 11, 2011

Pitching To An Agent

One of my favorite clients is a professor at one of the best Masters Programs in writing. She recently asked me for tips that she can offer her students when pitching to an agent in person. In preparing my answer to her, I realized that this would be useful to others as well. So I decided to post it here.

When I attend a conference or listen to someone's pitch, I want to hear about a finished manuscript that is ready to be submitted. The author needs to be ready to tell me about the plot in a concise and organized way as if they were reading a blurb from the jacket of a book.Of course you don't want to actually read it, or worse, give it to me to read it.

Michael Palmer and I just did a 'What if' workshop at the Hampton Roads Conference in Virginia to help authors prepare their 30 second pitch in about 25 words. The pitch needs to tell the listener about the plot and characters in a catchy creative way. The plot, of course, should be composed of the set up, the conflict, the climax and the resolution. Its ok to ask the listener if they want to hear about plot twists, surprises, and cliff hangers. Most of us want to know all of this to know how good the read will be. We don't really read submissions for pleasure (usually and unfortunately- though we do often finish only what we enjoy). We are looking for something worth selling... So pitching should offer a hook to want us do just that.

I like the pitch to begin in a friendly, not mechanical manner. Sit down say hello, very shot chit chat, etc. Unless you're pitching at a pitch slam like Writer's Digest in NYC, where the pitches are only 3 mins- in that case, say hi and get right to it. Otherwise, you can show some humanity. This may be your chance to be remembered as a person. When ready, or on queue from the listener, begin by telling her that you have a finished [genre] MS of [# thousand] words that you believe will appeal to [target market- sex, age, other]. Then start with the plot, or character if it is a character driven story.

I'm sure that I'm not alone when I say that we don't want to hear a disorganized regurgitation of facts from the book that we need to piece together. When someone comes to me nervous, or gets started on the wrong foot, I usually stop them and tell them to relax. I tell them to pretend that they are sitting with a friend at a cozy coffee shop and they are telling me about a wonderful story that I must read. Tell it to me in a way that will interest me. Remember that it's about making me want to read it.

What someone wears is important to a certain point. Being groomed and clean is a must. Do not have food in your teeth, bad breath, soot in your eyes, or bed/hat hair. When you're sitting in front of me for ten minutes I notice all of these things. I also notice scents a lot. So body other is not acceptable. It will distract me. Clothing is important in way of making you appealing and creating a good first impression. Wear business casual clothes. Don't try too hard though either. If you're over or under dressed I may wonder about where you fit. Having said that, I would never judge your uniqueness or sense of style. We are not all fashionistas. And if you're goth, go goth. After all, you are who you are.

Needless to say that the work always speaks for it self. Ultimately we make our decisions on the saleability of the work. However, if we love a book but the author is gross or intolerable, or just plain weird, we do take that into consideration because we will have to work with this person. We need someone who is presentable and who can handle themselves in public. True, that many authors are introverts. But I don't think that that is true for the majority, and unfortunately, given today's need for marketing, having an author that can put themselves out there to create sales is imperative.

Hope that this is helpful. Please feel free to post questions here that you'd like answered.

Happy Pitching!


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

New Contest On The Block

Ebook genre fiction publisher Literary Partners Group, Inc. is sponsoring a NaNoWriMo publishing contest! Submit your 50,000-word novel in the genres of erotic romance, horror, crime, or mystery/thriller to Editorial Director Lori Perkins by December 1, 2011. Our team of editors will evaluate the submissions and choose first place winners, as well as honorable mentions, from each genre for publication by Ravenous Romance or Ravenous Shadows.

Winners will be notified by email by February 1, 2012. Each book chosen will be eligible for standard contract terms, including an advance and competitive royalty rates. The winning books will be published in e-book in 2012, with potential for print publication as well.

Please submit completed novels as word docs with a brief author bio and synopsis to

Best of luck!


Ravenous Shadows: New Imprint for Horror, Mystery, Crime, and Thrillers

The timing could not be better for Literary Partners Group, Inc., owners of Ravenous Romance, to introduce their new imprint. A line dedicated for much desired genres of Horror, Mystery, Crime and Thrillers. Given the state of the industry, especially for horror novels, this is a gift from the gods.

Ravenous Romance, their Romance/erotica imprint, has grown exponentially and is doing very well. I can't wait to see what they do with this new line. Led by New York Times best-selling author and editor John Skipp, it is sure to be a winner. John is acquiring edgy, commercial, blood-pumping fiction by both established and new writers.

Sounds wonderful to me. Best of luck!