Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Guest Blog by Leslie Wells

One Way Or Another by Leslie Wells

First of all, a disclaimer: Joe and I go way back. I acquired his first six novels at the New York publishing house where I was an editor. It was a wonderful experience to work with Joe on Whiskey Sour, Bloody Mary, Rusty Nail, Dirty Martini, Fuzzy Navel, and Cherry Bomb. To me, what made the books really sing were his break-the-mold protagonist, Jack (Jacqueline) Daniels, and the many snort-beer-out-your-nose-hilarious scenes. Not to mention that Joe was willing to go on a huge cross-country tour that he set up himself; sleeping on friends’ couches, booking his own signings and speaking events. I remember his excited calls to me, reporting that he’d sold a bunch of copies at a number of great bookstores. Needless to say, I was very sad when the publisher decided to discontinue our small line of mysteries, and Joe and I were unable to keep working together.

Actually, this wasn’t the first time I had to stop editing an author I liked, and whose work I admired. With a tightened economy and large conglomerates devouring smaller houses like amuse-bouches, many of us were experiencing lack of support for authors with whom we’d worked for years—in Joe’s case, more than five. An editor puts loads of labor and love into developing her list of writers, and an author who produces a new book every year or two is icing on the cake. It means a spot on your list that you don’t have to go out and acquire. You know they will deliver; you have a good working relationship; they know what to expect from your editing, and vice versa. And as anyone who isn’t wet behind the ears knows, not every book you publish will earn out. 

Much of publishing is about building an audience; continuing to publish through the titles with lower sales in the hope and belief that the next book will gain an even larger readership. Some houses stay the course when they believe in an author; others can’t, or don’t.

Here’s a story from back in the day: the first company that I worked for published John Irving. He had written three previous novels for another house, all with rather small sales. Then a very smart editorial assistant, Jane Rosenman, read the manuscript of The World According to Garp and highly recommended it to her boss, then editor-in-chief, Henry Robbins. He pre-empted the novel, and the rest is history. (Jane went on to have a great career, and is now with the 5E editorial group.) But that was before Bookscan, and before an author’s track record was considered equal to or more important than the impact of the read itself. If an author’s new novel was on submission today, after three previous small books—what’s known as a “bad track”—it’s my guess that many publishers wouldn’t go near it with a ten-foot pole, no matter how good it was. In some ways, it’s easier for an editor to acquire a first novel than it is to buy an impressive second or third book, if the previous novels netted smallish quantities.

All this is to say that it’s great that indie publishing has come so far, and is such a wonderful option for writers today. Many of my author friends have now chosen to self-publish, as opposed to enduring the nail-biting beauty contest of wooing a traditional publisher. Of course the latter can be rewarding; there are many dedicated editors who love their jobs, and are great at what they do. But if a writer decides that he or she doesn’t want to go that route, it’s nice that independent publishing is such a terrific option.

I myself have experienced being published from both sides of the fence: by a traditional publishing house, and now as a self-published author.

My first novel, The Curing Season, was pre-empted by a top editor at a major New York City house. The art director came up with a lovely cover, the book received some great reviews, and overall I was very pleased with the outcome.

For my new novel, Come Dancing, I decided to take a different tack. So many of the authors I know are choosing to go the indie route that after checking out traditional publishing options, I decided to try it myself.

To backtrack a bit: writing my novel took almost five years, since my day job as an editor takes up all of my weekday hours. (I’m now a freelance editor, ever since the publishing company I was with for two decades was sold.) I wrote draft after draft, and because even an editor needs a good editor, I asked several for their input. Peternelle Van Arsdale, a tremendously gifted freelance editor, was particularly helpful to me. Finally I was convinced that I had a fast-paced, entertaining book with an interesting setting and engaging characters. I was ready to take a deep breath and put it out into the world.

Now for the fun part: I asked the talented designer, Laura Klynstra, to come up with an eye-catching jacket.

Amy Bruno of Book Junkie Promotions (who did a fantastic job putting together my virtual blog tour) asked two bloggers if they could provide early reviews, and to my great relief, they wound up liking it. Then I wrote my own flap copy—a fun assignment after years of coming up with other authors’ jackets! My teenager helped me upload the book. I used Smashwords to send it out to all the various ebook venues, and Createspace for the paperback. 

After that, I e-mailed every single person I knew, and asked them to buy it. 

Here’s the Amazon page with the description and early quotes:


Knowing I didn’t have the technical know-how to set up my own website, I asked Kassiah Faul of Creative B to do one for me. When I was browsing other authors’ websites, hers were the ones that really stood out, so I felt very lucky that she had time to do mine. I included two bonus scenes that aren’t in the novel, to attract readers to the site: http://www.lesliewellsbooks.com

Next I set up a Goodreads giveaway, which allowed hundreds of potential readers to sign up for a print copy of the book. After the giveaway, many who did not win a free copy downloaded the ebook and reviewed it. I also set up listings on websites that promote daily deals. I try to hit ten different deal sites on the days that I reduce the ebook price to 99 cents. (I’d read that most ebooks do well with a lower price point, and so far I’ve kept its regular price at $1.99.) The freedom to price my book as I want seems like a huge benefit in a time when zillions of titles are available. And at this point, I’m aiming more for a wider readership and garnering good reviews than earning big bucks.

I also read a number of ebooks to learn more about the whole process. Smashwords founder Mark Coker’s free guides to publishing and marketing were extremely helpful, as were his youtube videos. I had read that in addition to setting up a website, it’s great to blog on a topic that will be helpful to readers, and about which you have some expertise. I figured that my subject was how to improve one’s writing, so every Monday I blog about writing tips: http://on.fb.me/ZjgreK

Joe asked me to include some of my tips:

1. Show, don’t tell. This is one of the cardinal rules of fiction writing, but often it’s hard to be aware of when you’re telling rather than showing. Instead of explaining your characters to the reader, try to reveal who they are through their actions, dialogue, and thoughts. Here are some examples:

Carl was a modest guy who wasn’t comfortable accepting praise. When his manager said the new ad campaign was working well, Carl just ducked his head and went back into his cubicle.
Showing  the action, rather than describing it, can be much more effective:
“Hey, great job on that new ad campaign,” Tom said. “You really knocked it out of the park.”

“Thanks,” Carl muttered. He glanced down at the Styrofoam cup in his hand.  “Guess I’d better get back to work.” He ducked into his cubicle and began shuffling papers.

Here’s another example:
“I’ve just started seeing someone,” Julia said. She didn’t want to sound like she’d been sitting by the phone all this time.
“I’ve just started seeing someone,” Julia said noncommittally. (This shows how Julia was feeling, as opposed to telling the reader how she felt.)
2. Less Is More (Or, When in Doubt, Leave it Out). A common habit among writers is using too many words to describe something. It’s tempting to toss in a few extra adjectives or adverbs once you’re on a roll, picturing a scene in your mind. Or to add to a list of items in your character’s apartment, for instance. But most readers don’t want to have to wade through excess verbiage—particularly when you’re using two words where one would do, or where both words mean essentially the same thing. Take a look at these examples:
Meticulously and carefully, Dr. Pedantic graded the exams.
Edited sentence: Dr. Pedantic graded the exams meticulously. (Meticulously and carefully are similar in meaning, so only one is needed.)
The waiters cleared the table of cutlery, plates, and bowls. Patrick gestured for more champagne.
Edited sentence: As Patrick gestured for more champagne, the waiters cleared the table.

3. Just Hanging Out: Dangling Modifiers. The phrase “dangling modifier” probably brings up bad flashbacks from your middle school grammar class, but it’s good to avoid this common mistake when writing. A dangling modifier occurs when we use a descriptive phrase that is not near the noun that it describes—or the noun isn’t even present in the sentence.
Here are a few examples:
At the age of ten, my family moved to a new neighborhood.  (Your family was ten? Then your parents were … nine?)
Edited sentence: When I was ten, my family moved to a new neighborhood.
Running to catch the subway, my manuscript fell out of my backpack. (The manuscript was running for the D train?)
Edited sentence: As I ran to catch the subway, my manuscript fell out of my backpack.
Upon entering Jack’s apartment, his huge collection of albums caught my eye. (This implies that the albums grew legs and walked into the apartment.)
Edited sentence: As I entered Jack’s apartment, his huge collection of albums caught my eye.

(Many more tips are on my blog.)

So far, the indie experience has been amazing.  I loved being able to choose my own jacket, write my book’s description, control the way I promote and market my novel, and change the pricing at the click of a button. And I like the fact that my novel is available in all the ebook venues, from Amazon to Barnes & Noble, Apple ibooks, Scribd, and so on. I’m now working on the sequel to Come Dancing, and the reviews I’ve received so far have been immensely helpful as I write the next novel about Julia and Jack—a book publishing assistant and a famous British rock guitarist.

Questions or comments? I’d love to hear from you: leslie@lesliewellsbooks.com

My official bio:

Leslie Wells left her small Southern town in 1979 for graduate school in New York City. After receiving her Master’s in English Lit, she got her first job in book publishing. She has edited forty-eight New York Times bestsellers in her over thirty-year career, including thirteen number one New York Times bestsellers. Leslie has worked with numerous internationally known authors, musicians, actors, actresses, television and radio personalities, athletes, and coaches. Leslie blogs about writing tips, New York City, rock and roll, and the Eighties: http://www.lesliewellsbooks.com/blog/


Joe sez: Leslie was great to work with, and I recommend her for anyone looking for a good editor.

I've asked her to keep an eye on the comments if anyone has any questions.

37 comments:

Barry Eisler said...

Hi Leslie, thanks for the solid advice.

A quick question: you mention that not every book earns out. True, of course, but I wonder if the earn-out is really an appropriate metric. Don't publishers typically start profiting on a title before the earn-out?

Imagine, for example, if the publisher kept 99% of revenues and gave only 1% to the author (only a bit of an exaggeration, alas). It would take a long time indeed for the title to earn out, but the publisher would go into the black on the title relatively quickly.

Or imagine the reverse: the publisher keeps only 1% and the author gets 99%. Here, the author would earn out quickly, but the publisher would take forever to get into the black.

My sense is that big publishers like to use the earn-out as the relevant metric precisely because it misleadingly suggests that all those authors who haven't earned out have cost their publishers money. In fact, in most such instances the publishers have done just fine.

If I'm wrong, please let me know. Thanks again for the great advice and good luck with the new book!

Alan Tucker said...

Leslie,

Terrific advice that always bears repeating! Congratulations on your authorial success in the wake of your editing success :-)

Is your self pubbed book a continuation of your first one? Or is it a new story? I was just curious if it was a continuation, why the publisher wasn't interested or if you could elaborate on your decision to go indie with it.

Thanks for the post and I wish you continued success!

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt said...

Any friend of Joe's... I got the book, and am looking forward to your indie effort. Give me a bit of time - I READ books before reviewing (quaint notion).

I think there are a lot of publishing stories like yours, and I wish you huge success on the indie (or hybrid) side, as YOU choose.

Alicia

Leslie Wells said...

Hi Barry, and thank you! I'm glad you liked the post! As for the earn-out question, it's true that this refers to an author's earning out his or her advance, as opposed to what the publisher earns per book. As an editor, at times I was told that an author's "not earning out" was the reason to discontinue publishing ... but your point is well taken! Best wishes, Leslie

Leslie Wells said...

Hi Alan,
Thank you for your comment! My new book, Come Dancing, is a brand new story. My first novel was published by Warner over ten years ago, and is a very different sort of book. I wrote Come Dancing as (I hope) a commercial, fast-paced and humorous novel, so it wasn't a follow-up to the first one. My decision go indie came after the option house passed, and several other houses as well. I always had in mind that I would self-publish since so many author friends of mine (a number of them bestselling authors) have done very well going the indie route. And I have really enjoyed the process! Best wishes, Leslie

Leslie Wells said...

Hi Alice,
Thank you so much for your note and for buying Come Dancing! Hope you like it!
Best wishes,
Leslie

Anonymous said...

I must take exception to what you wrote about "Showing" instead of telling. The example you give is terrible. You didn't "show", you put in an adverb
"noncommittally, which is certainly "telling." Sorry, you flunk.

Jude Hardin said...

Hi Leslie. I would imagine that a lot of independent authors have never worked with an editor at a publishing house, so I thought it might be interesting to see a brief sketch of the process, from the acquisition of a manuscript to the day the book is released. I know some books require more editing than others, so let's say a debut author whose manuscript needs quite a bit of work.

I've read most of the Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels novels that you edited, by the way, and I think you did a great job. Best of luck with your new book!

w. adam mandelbaum esq. said...

My personal editorial fantasy would be working on the edit of Marcel Marceau's autobiography and tell him "show don't tell."

Joe Konrath said...

you put in an adverb
"noncommittally, which is certainly "telling." Sorry, you flunk.


First of all, mind your manners.

Second, I disagree.

Speaking noncommittally provides both visual and audible pictures in the reader's head because we know what noncommittal sounds and looks like. Lax expression, monotone, no emphasis, disinterested. That's showing.

I would have gone with: "I've just started seeing someone." Jen tried keep her voice neutral even as her hands began to sweat.

If you can picture it, it's showing.

Personally, I'm not big on speaker attribution ( like said), especially speaker attribution with modifiers. I like to use action to dictate who is speaking.

"Stop it," she said sharply.

I'd prefer:

"Stop it." Gina's voice had a honed edge to it.

Leslie Wells said...

Hi Jude,
Thank you for your comment. The Jack Daniels books are great, aren't they! And to answer your question, when I was an in-house editor, I would take a manuscript through several drafts. With a novel, that would mean editing the book for larger issues such as pacing, character depiction, convincing dialogue, and so on; and then once those aspects were addressed, I would line edit the manuscript. Once I felt the book was in good shape, and the author agreed, I would give it to the copyediting department and production would continue from there. I hope this is helpful! Best, Leslie

Jude Hardin said...

"Stop it," she said sharply.

I'd prefer:

"Stop it." Gina's voice had a honed edge to it.


I don't care for adverbial dialogue tags, although I know that a great many authors use them frequently, and some of those authors sell tons of books.

But I disagree about using said, Joe. I think it's often the best way to show attribution. It's practically invisible to the reader, and if the dialogue is written well, it's usually all that's needed.

John Ellsworth said...

OK, Leslie, I just bought the book.

I'm sure there's much to be learned--and enjoyed-- in your books.

Thanks for the post.

Jude Hardin said...

With a novel, that would mean editing the book for larger issues such as pacing, character depiction, convincing dialogue, and so on; and then once those aspects were addressed, I would line edit the manuscript. Once I felt the book was in good shape, and the author agreed, I would give it to the copyediting department and production would continue from there.

Thanks, Leslie. I've been through the process several times, and I know how painstaking it can be. I do most of my own editing these days, and I try to incorporate what I've learned from my experiences with publishers.

Edward G. Talbot said...

First off, thanks for sharing. Great to have insight from someone who has been in different parts of the publishing scene at different times. It's hard to overstate the importance of a good editor - I am fortunate to be related to more than one.

I have to agree that adverbial modifiers with dialogue tags are hugely disruptive to me as a reader. I've stopped reading more than one book because of them, not because I spend my reading time looking for errors but because they are jarring. Perhaps it doesn't bother many readers, but I'd say fewer than 10% of the novels (mostly thrillers) I read use them more than sparingly if at all.

I am closer to Joe on the use of dialogue tags in the first place. One of my first passes of editing anything I've written is to look for a list of about forty items I've identified over the years. Dialogue tags are one of them. I don't eliminate all of them, but I try to not have more than one in four pieces of dialogue with tags. I do agree with Jude that used correctly, "said" becomes invisible. But I also think that finding a way to show the speaker without a tag, as Joe's example does, often winds up improving the writing.

Darryl said...

I enjoyed your post. I hope you will keep us updated on your "Indie" experiment. The plot summary in the blurb shows that your book is not one I would normally be attracted to. However, I have bought it (from Amazon) and look forward to reading it. This is, of course, one of the advantages of the new publishing model. The reasonable prices and accessibility encourage me to read things I would not otherwise, and you have the opportunity to reach a much larger audience and perhaps even attract some loyal readers who would not otherwise have read your work.

antares said...

A quick question: you mention that not every book earns out. True, of course, but I wonder if the earn-out is really an appropriate metric. Don't publishers typically start profiting on a title before the earn-out? --Barry Eisler

Hi Barry, and thank you! I'm glad you liked the post! As for the earn-out question, it's true that this refers to an author's earning out his or her advance, as opposed to what the publisher earns per book. As an editor, at times I was told that an author's "not earning out" was the reason to discontinue publishing ... but your point is well taken! Best wishes, Leslie --Leslie Wells


@Barry Eisler

I noticed Ms Wells did not answer your question.

I conjecture that the BPHs cannot answer your question. Why? Because their accounting practices are Chinese, vice American. That is, designed to hide information rather than reveal it. Also designed to make the statements of the Big Brass appear prescient.

I think your question suggests the truth, but I doubt the accounts of the BPHs reveal the answer.

P. S. Power said...

This will probably be more than a little controversial.

I think that we've all been trained to think within very narrow lines about the written word for a long time. A few people have controlled what was allowable as far as books and often simple short stories, looked like.

They had their reasons, and it wasn't a deep conspiracy.

The result is that now we look at the "tried and true" advice, and most people will consider it correct, without a lot of thought. I'm glad that people here are willing to challenge some of it!

I'm also not suggest unlimited exposition, or dry outline style books. But there is a place when a good, even a very good, work may have all of those things "wrong" with it, and still be easy to read, comfortable and telling a compelling tale.

We're entering a time when people, those that read the books, will be deciding what they like. Not from a few choices all reworked to seem bland and so similar that many of them bleed over, from one work to the next.

This doesn't mean that the old ways were evil. They gave stability, and didn't challenge people very much, which can lead to a lot of sales. They didn't push boundaries, and did things in the way they have always been done.

Now I think we have a real chance, not just to preserve literature, but to make a new kind of written work that will touch more people, and say so much more than we ever have seen before.

(Okay, so it will take a lot of work, but still, it's a hopeful thing.)

Talin said...

Weird, I read it as her not knowing the exact dollar amounts since she was in editing not accounting.

As an example, if they told her the book sold 10,000 copies that doesn't mean 10k*$8.99(for example) because there's overseas, eBooks, different discounts offered to different retailers, remainders, etc.

And why would an editor know the exact costs of a book other than the advance? I can see maybe the art department mentioning how much a cover costs, but the printers telling her how much per copy in print run? Or misc. costs that they might count against the profits like ARC's, office supplies, etc. Do they internally bill editor, art director, and other hours like a lawyer?

I know the above doesn't come out of royalties, but the overall profit/costs of a book is different as Barry Eisler notes.

I'd love to hear from an accountant who worked or is working at a Big5 publisher.

George B. said...

About the showing, not telling: many of the classics have quite large amounts of telling; and one story I wrote last year with (deliberate)heavy use of telling, has been described as "exquisite" and "much too short" by the most recent anonymous reviewer.

Not all readers are as allergic to telling as editors may think, and there is a place for it when done as a conscious choice, IMHO.

Alan Spade said...

It seems that indie publishing is not only disruptive in an economic way: it can also be disruptive in the way stories are told.

Jude Hardin said...

But there is a place when a good, even a very good, work may have all of those things "wrong" with it, and still be easy to read, comfortable and telling a compelling tale.

I agree that there's really no right way or wrong way to do any of this stuff, and that much of any discussion on craft is a matter of opinion. Where experienced editing and self-editing comes in handy, though, I think, is when the person doing the editing can sort of anticipate what will be compelling to most readers along the way, given the context of the story and the genre, etc. Those big-picture issues Leslie mentioned (pacing, character development, dialogue that rings true, etc.) are crucial to any story told well, IMO, as are the less-subjective nuts and bolts of a solid proofreading.

Hannah Steenbock said...

Leslie, thank you for a great article. It's amazing what you do with your book. Awesome!

Now... excuse me, but I have a suggestion for one of the sentences you present as edited:

"As Patrick gestured for more champagne, the waiters cleared the table."

I would turn this around, as the clearing of the table takes longer than the gesturing:

"As the waiters cleared the table, Patrick gestured for champagne."

What do you think?

Please take this in good fun. I'm a German author writing in English, and this kind of thing totally tickles my love for the language.

Sean Moore said...

I've self-published my book. Tried creating a webpage, Facebook page, and a blog, and I'm still trying to get my book out there. While doing this, I'm working on my second book in my series. Is there any advice that can be imparted to help me get more attention/traffic/sales, besides writing a better book?

w. adam mandelbaum esq. said...

Sean
There could be more advice given if you could provide a link to the book.

James F. Brown said...

What great advice. And from one who has been on the inside on the other side of the writer-editor line.

I think there's a great non-fiction book in you that expands on the brief advice you've given here. I hope you'll consider such a book as your next writing project instead of a third novel. I'd certainly purchase it!

Leslie Wells said...

If it's okay I would like to respond do several comments in one fell swoop:
Hanna: I think your suggestion for wording the sentence about champagne is great!
Sean: The best advice I can give about getting your book out there is to reduce the price regularly and then run small ads on free/very inexpensive "daily deal" sites. That seems to help get the word out. Also you could approach (via their websites) reviewers/bloggers who review in your genre, and request a review.
James: Thank you very much!
Finally, re. the discussion of writing tips: these are only suggestions, not rules. And it's an old saw that rules are meant to be broken. However, if someone is fairly new to writing, perhaps some of these tips might be of help. Thank you again for these comments!

John Erwin said...

Leslie -- I looked at your Amazon author page and noticed that you do not have "The Curing Season" listed along with "Come Dancing" among your titles. This may be intentional on your part, since the two books are so different, or it may be a simple oversight. Having all of your titles listed on your author page might give readers an easy way to find your work. Then again, I may be the only reader on the planet who ever visits an Amazon author page . . .

Kassiah Faul said...

Great advice, Leslie. I think it's awesome that you're always willing to go above and beyond to help your fellow writers out there! It was truly a joy to work with your on your website, and I wish you nothing but success. Awesome article!

Silas Payton said...

Hi Leslie

Congrats of the new book. I love writing the first draft, but find the editing tedious. I like your tips and will be checking out your website. I'm hoping it gets easier with time.

Would you mind sharing which book promo sites you've found helpful?

Alan Spade said...

@Silas: the last time I ran a free promo, I used the sites listed here: http://authormarketingclub.com/members/submit-your-book/

I used only the free sites listed on the bottom of the page, because I hate to pay to announce a freebie, and I don't think Pixel of Ink announced that promo (they are not obliged to, and they have many requests). Nonetheless, I had 250 ebooks downloaded in a single day.

Of course, 250 is not much: David Gaughran say you have to get at least 5,000 downloads in order to hope for a future rebound in sales (with 5,000 downloads in a day, you are sure to enter the top 100 free, but even with that the rebound is not granted). Still, I reached rank #14 in epic fantasy, and it helps a little to get on the readers' radar, although for a brief time.

I didn't use KDP Select, just pricematching.

The top three reader sites are Bookbub, Ereader News Today and Pixel of Ink, with Kindle Books & Tips not so far behind. The only one to be free these days is Pixel of Ink.

If the Bookbub's gatekeepers allow your ebook in and you can afford it, apparently it is the best ROI site (not speaking from experience, there).

The return on investment is far from guaranteed with Kindle Books & Tips and Ereader News Today, especially if your book is not part of a series, or if it's the first and the others aren't yet released.

Ereader News Today used to have an excellent deal where you had to pay them only according to the number of downloads of your bargain ebook (you had to give them a percentage for the ebooks downloaded with their affiliate link). Too bad this deal exist no more and now, you have to pay for everything.

Leslie Wells said...

Hi Silas,
Alan S's comment contains a very good source for a lot of the daily deal sites. I concur with him that the big ones are Pixel of Ink, ereader news today, and FK Books and Tips. Bookbub costs several hundred dollars, but is supposed to result in big sales if your book is accepted (I haven't tried it yet). The smaller sites can work nicely too if you list on at least ten of them on the same day. I don't have a recommendation for the smaller ones in particular (I've tried a number of them, but since I do them all at the same time, I'm not sure which gave the best results); but the list that Alan S. includes is a great place to start. Best wishes, and good luck!Leslie

Silas Payton said...

Alan & Leslie,

Thank you for your detailed comments. I'll look into it.

Desmond X Torres said...

A quick glance at Leslie’s CV, and then aligning them with the bulk of the comments listed has me shaking my head.

She’s guided Joe through five books (and I’ll betcha’ that Joe’s a better author as the result of the interaction). I’ve only had one editor, and she was freelance. I didn’t pay her a lot, but I came out the other end w/ a better book, and the lessons learned in the process are still w/ me a year later. The wealth of knowledge and experience sitting between Leslie’s ears is hard for me to even get my head around.

And the bulk of the comments so far are about adverbs? Or earning out? (Sorry, Barry, but I’ll betcha’ that you had a darn good idea of the answer before you asked your question).

We have a pretty serious editor here joining us. I for one have a few questions:

1. In the writing of your book, what was the greatest challenge for you when you began?

What I mean is that as an editor with the acres of experience you have, when you put your author hat on for this book, was there a degree of trepidation being on that side of the keyboard? Or was it relatively simple for you based on the number of times you helped other authors? For example, did you have to kill some darlings in the process, and if so, how tough was it for you to do so?

2. How does one go about finding an editor in the current wild west of Indie publishing? What’s a reasonable fee to pay?

3. How supportive have your colleagues from Traditional Publishing been when you made the decision to Indie this book? Mixed bag? Or was there a ratio?

I guess what I’m driving at is just how does TP view the Indie process? Is there still the amount of scorn a la the NYT or are they viewing the process as a viable channel for good writers such as yourself?

4. Do you use critique circles, writers groups or is it primarily between you and your editor as you crafted this book? Do you think that such groups are a hindrance or a help in a writer finding their voice?

5. What is your overall game plan regarding your writing career? Is Come Dancing a one off, or do you have other books planned? And if so, what’s your projected release schedule?

6. Finally— do you have a general set of recommendations to writers you’ve worked with on improving their craft? Are there books/ websites/ conferences that you have suggested to writers?

I just d/l Come Dancing. I had to—my first book (still in the desk) is about NYC in the 80’s too.

NYC in the 80’s… whoa… wasn’t it awesome? I was there too. The Peppermint Lounge, Danceteria, the Ritz… whoa… Picking up the Village Voice to see who’s going to be where. Coffee shops and La Brassiere at 5:00 a.m..

We thought the party would never stop.

Congratulations on your book, Leslie. It was a great time, wasn’t it?

SJArnott said...

I think the problem with the 'show, don't tell' rule is that some writers try to apply it everywhere.

Telling is often a useful way of summarising important background information that would otherwise obstruct the flow of the narrative.

It's also economical. Sometimes I'd rather read that a character is 'angry' than watch the writer tie themselves in knots trying to show it through elaborate description (bulging eyes, clenched fists, red face etc).

Perhaps we ought to stop calling it a rule, and start referring to it as a tool.

Leslie Wells said...

Hi Desmond,
Thank you for your comments! You asked some great questions.
1) My greatest difficulty in writing Come Dancing was getting the characters right. Many of Julia's experiences as a young woman coming to NYC from a small town were my own, but I had to fictionalize them. And while writing about Jack, the British rock guitarist, was fun, it was also a challenge. I've known some musicians, and I wanted him to be exactly right. I also wanted to weave rock, punk, and blues themes throughout. I probably wrote ten drafts of my book in the five years I was working on it. I definitely had to kill some darlings; at one point, I whacked it back from 120,000 to 90,000 words. (I put one of the cut scenes on my website as a bonus scene.)

2) To find a freelance editor, I suggest doing an internet search and looking for editors who seem professional and have informative websites. I also suggest looking in indie published books in your genre, and seeing who is thanked in the acknowledgments. In addition, you can email the author to ask if they want to recommend anyone.

3) My publishing friends were entirely supportive of my going indie. Several of them have even asked me for marketing tips to pass along to their own authors, because traditionally published authors have to promote their work, too. Some people may look down their noses at indie publishing, but I didn't run into that attitude personally. I have many editor friends who have loved a book and not been able to acquire it, and also who have wanted to continue publishing an author, but weren't able to. If that author winds up self-publishing, and doing well, it's a vindication of the editor's tastes. And a number of bestselling authors are now going the indie route, which perhaps makes it even more accepted.

4) I don't belong to a writer's group, but I think they can be very helpful, as long as the members focus on constructive criticism and try to keep it as professional as possible. After all, many published authors rely on a few author friends to read their work before anyone else does, so that's a similar process.

5) I am hard at work on the sequel to Come Dancing, which picks up right where the first book left off. I hope to have it out by next spring. This one is coming along much easier than the first--I think because I've established the tone, and I know who my characters are.


6) There are a few books about writing that I absolutely love. Stephen King's On Writing is fantastic; and I also recommend Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird; Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg; and The Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson.

Thanks again, Desmond, and I hope this is helpful! Best wishes, Leslie

Leslie Wells said...

Correction to my post: My friend Jane Rosenman let me know that actually Henry Robbins had acquired Garp when she read the ms., but she was a big booster of the book in house! Thanks, Leslie