Get your writing in shape with Editorial Stand

Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to Laura and Editorial Stand.

AztecElements: Hi Laura, you run Editorial Stand (www.editorialstand.co.uk), an editing and proofreading company based in London. As an independently published author, I’m keen to know whether your business is changing as a result of changes in the publishing industry as a whole. How long has Editorial Stand been in business now?

Laura: Editorial Stand has been in business for almost a year now. I completed a proofreading qualification in February 2012 before launching Editorial Stand at the end of March that year. Since then I have been marketing the brand, building up a client basis and I pleased to say that things seem to going well.

AztecElements: What’s your view on the changes taking place in the publishing world right now and what kind of future is there for the traditional model?

Laura: The traditional path of finding an agent, getting signed on by a publishing house and receiving your author’s advance is still a very feasible route; however, it would be naive of me to say that it is an easy option for writers publishing their first novel. Even established authors are finding it increasingly difficult to get publishing houses to commit nowadays. The ebook market has taken off in a way that I don’t believe anyone anticipated. Due to this it has become much simpler for authors to get their writing to their readers; anyone can publish using the Amazon Kindle software. However, there is always the problem of authors trying to continuously undercut other authors’ prices.

AztecElements: So does the rise of the independent author present you with more opportunity than before or is it more complex than that?

Laura: There are definitely more independent authors out there looking for editing services; however, because of the way the ebook and self-publishing markets operate, most seem surprised to find out how much editing services cost. Several independent authors I have spoken to do not seem to comprehend the sheer volume of time and effort it takes to fully proofread or copy edit a novel. So while independent authors are on the rise, the need for editing companies to work harder to prove their worth is also on the rise.

AztecElements: How much of your business comes from publishing companies and businesses and how much comes from indie authors?

Laura: I have a mix of publishing house clients, independent authors and clients outside of the publishing industry. To date, I have worked with more independent authors than any other type of client, but as such they tend to be one-off projects. I really enjoy being able to fully get to grips with the author’s style and writing habit. That’s why I am looking to build up Editorial Stand’s speciality to edit for the fantasy and science fiction market; authors writing in these genres tend to write trilogies much more so than any other genre and it is very rewarding to fully get to know an author and their style.

AztecElements: What efforts are you making to reach out to the global network of authors quietly beavering away on their future Man-Booker prize winner?

Laura: I am on Twitter (@EditorialStand) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/EditorialStand) where I connect with authors and readers alike. I keep my followers up-to-date with my services and I chat to them about their writing. I am on Goodreads where I can discuss the books I’m reading and the books I’m looking forward to reading, as well as staying on the lookout for recommendations from other readers; although that’s more of a hobby for me. My blog also attracts a bit of attention from authors as I discuss topics ranging from language analysis and publishing trends to promoting books and authors. It’s all about getting the brand out into the world and I’m always on the lookout for new ways to connect.

AztecElements: I know from my own writing that I need help with sentence structure and punctuation, but do many authors really need this kind of help?

Laura: I would go so far as to say that all authors need an editor of some sort or another. At the very least, every author should hire a proofreader for errors that creep in unnoticed by Word spell checker. But for the majority of writers, a good copy-editor is essential for ensuring the sentences flow well and effectively get the author’s intended meaning across to their readers. The comment I get back most frequently from my clients is that it is remarkable how much you miss when you are so close and so familiar to your text.

AztecElements: Tell me a little bit about the editorial service you offer (in contrast to the proof-reading). What kind of guidance do you provide after reviewing a manuscript?

Laura: Well, the proofreading service, as you know, checks all spelling, syntax, grammar and punctuation. I also offer a copy editing service where I check consistency of the content and any characters (for fiction), as well as analysing the effectiveness of specific terminology and the relevance of the language for the intended readership. Copy editing involves a much more thorough analysis of the language. To clarify, what I do not offer as a service is a developmental edit, which is where an editor will actually comment on the story line and how it developments.

AztecElements: Thanks Laura. If anyone would like to get in touch with Laura or get advice from Editorial Stand, click on this link to get the contact details. You can also follow the weekly updates on the Editorial Stand blog here .

Publishing to Kobo is easy!

Now that my novel has come out of the KDP Select programme, I wanted to try and get ‘New Fire’ onto other platforms. I’ve mentioned before that Nook does not support authors outside of the USA. The Barnes and Noble decision to only allow US citizens to publish books is an odd one and I can only assume that they have no serious intention to compete for independent authors worldwide. They have either decided that the earnings from non-US authors would not justify the cost of setting up global payments, or they believe that only US citizens write worthwhile books! I leave you to draw your own conclusions.

Happily, Kobo aren’t as myopic as Nook so they are able to pay to worldwide bank accounts. The Kobo portal for authors is WritingLife. Here, like Amazon, you create an account for yourself, type in some key metadata about your book, upload it and publish. Uploading was the only bit I struggled with. The Kobo step-by-step publishing process misleadingly states that it supports the upload of Word documents. It does not. I won’t bore you with details of the dozen attempts I made, using the pitifully lean instructions, to get Kobo to accept my Word document. Suffice to say that I ended up trying a blank document with one chapter heading and one line of prose. Kobo rejected it, and so, after scratching my head for a while, I turned my attention to the ePub format.

Microsoft Word does not publish to ePub yet, something they will surely seek to address before long! In the meantime, I cast around for tools to do the job. A company called Aspose offer an evaluation tool, ‘Word Express’ which seemed to work, but the licensing agreement suggested that I’d have to pay for a full copy in order to publish without fear of prosecution. Happily, before I could get a response from Aspose on the licence cost, I found Calibre, a free tool for managing your eLibrary.

Although Calibre does not convert directly from Word to ePub, the process is still pretty straightforward. It’s described here, but the interesting thing is that I had already done these exact same steps in order to publish to Kindle. Both Amazon and Calibre need you to take the following steps;

  1. make sure all your chapter headings are styled as ‘Heading 1’
  2. and then, save to HTML

So starting from the HTML version of ‘New Fire’ that I’d created prior to my Amazon upload, all I had to do was load that into Calibre, correct the title, upload the cover and press “Convert”. Voila! The resulting ePub file uploaded without problem to Kobo.

So in a few days time, my novel will be available on Kobo! Nook will remain out of reach until they decide that non-US authors are worthwhile and I’ll only upload to Sony when they don’t force me to hand over a proportion my royalties to Smashwords. Call me ‘newfashioned‘, but I refuse to be anything other than an indie author.

‘New Fire’ on Kobo

Progress update – a journey in self-publishing

It’s a month since I published and it ought to be a good time to take stock. Here are some facts and figures on the ‘New Fire’.

Kindle copies sold in the UK: 17
Kindle copies sold in the US: 3
Paperback copies sold via Amazon UK: 6 (estimate)
Paperback copies sold via Amazon US: 2 (estimate)
Paperback copies sold myself: 10
Paperback copies as gifts: 17
Number of Amazon reviews: 3
Average Amazon review rating: 5-star!!!

Costs of publishing, website, business cards, posters and miscellaneous: £2000
Estimated breakeven date (based on above rates of return): June 2025.

My latest initiative to raise the profile is to ask reviewers on goodreads.com if they would consider ‘New Fire’. Aside from the 5-star reviews, the most important thing to me is that I’ve made an earnest start on book 2 now! As alluded to before, I have enough historical material to write a trilogy. Here goes…

Disruptive innovation and the publishing industry

This Wikipedia article about author Sam Moffie tells how, frustrated at the lack of attention that his manuscript got from mainstream literary agents and publishing houses, he disguised the first chapter of one of his favourite novels, ‘Breakfast of Champions’ by Kurt Vonnegut, and sent it to the top 100 literary agents in America. Ninety-nine of them rejected it out-of-hand.

The problem of trying to get published has been around a long time. One of the reasons why it was so difficult for an author to get published was that the production of books and the sales and marketing to draw people’s attention demanded a huge financial outlay and the traditional publishing industry guarded itself against loss by picking books carefully. Agents were most useful to the publishing industry as gatekeepers, weeding out all but the most promising manuscripts. To the vast majority of writers though, agents just seemed like an obstacle. For a good rant on the traditional publishing establishment, look no further than this post.

In the last ten years there’s been a seismic shift in the industry, thanks to technology. Digital typesetting and print-on-demand means that it’s no longer necessary to print 100,000 books to make your book affordable. The internet and eBooks means that you can make your published work available to half the population of the world at the push of a button. These are classic examples of ‘disruptive innovation’.

So has the worm turned? Is the author now free to make a fortune, unfettered by casually dismissive agents? Can we all now churn out a novel by bedtime and wake up in the morning to watch the cash pouring in through online sales of instantly printed books and eBooks that can be downloaded at the speed of light? Is the reading population now in a state of bliss, able to choose from a hitherto unimaginable range of novels that would have been choked off by the prissy agents and editors of old?

For the writer, it certainly seems like there is more freedom. Kristen Lamb says “..as authors gain more power…”. It might be more accurate to say that writers have more control of their own destiny. The interesting thing about having more control is that it usually means having to do more of one’s own work too!

For authors, getting published may be easier, but the sheer graft of writing is as hard as it ever was – George R. R. Martin (Game of Thrones) is quoted as saying that writing a novel is like cleaning St. Paul’s cathedral with a toothbrush – but now the job of publicising the book falls entirely to the author too. With no agent and no publishing company behind you, guess who’s going to have to do all the selling. Once you’ve exhausted your 250 Facebook friends and Tweeted until you’re blue in the face, who is going to find your novel? There are millions of books out there. The analogy I like to use is this: imagine placing one beautiful pebble on a beach of millions of pebbles and expecting the passing holiday-makers to happen across it and comment on its loveliness. Many authors out there will struggle to get an audience.

Are readers any better off? Did agents really have us in mind when they were turning down trash? Not if the phenomenal success of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ is anything to go by. What if we’re not interested in the pulpy smut that’s easy to find because of the sensationalist headlines it raises? What if we want to read offbeat, quirky novels in obscure genres? How on earth will we go about trying to find them? In ten years time, the body of published works available online will be vast.
Increasingly, publishers like Penguin are taking this seriously. No doubt they will be using the commercial success of books published in their self-publish subsidiaries to decide whether to take their authors seriously.

Take a look at this blog for more thoughts on this deal…and tune into this blog for lots more on self-publishing.

An article in the Metro (24th Sept 2012), a free London daily paper, states that Richard Russo (‘Empire Falls’) vehemently opposes eBooks and banned his publisher from releasing to this format. Russo claims that eBooks will be bad for bookshops, which is probably true, and bad for authors, which is very far from proven.

The biggest threat to writers would arise if one eBook format became a monopoly and then chose to use its power to dictate what goes out to market. This is already a distinct possibility. Suppose you wish to publish something that contains views that are unpalatable to a large population of irrational, violence-prone people. It’s entirely likely that a ‘globally responsible’ organisation would refuse to publish. Where would Salman Rushdie have gone to get the ‘Satanic Verses’ published if independent publishers were put out of business? Would authors like Richard Dawkins find a route to market with the weight of the Christian Right threatening to boycott whichever eBook company holds the monopoly?
It’s fair to say that publishing is at a turning point and there will be a myriad of consequences too, some of which we haven’t thought of yet.

It’s going to be an interesting decade but there’s one thing you can be sure of: writers will continue to write and readers will carry on reading.

A proper author

Thanks to my good friend Jean, I got an invitation to a book launch yesterday evening and met Robyn Young, author of bestselling historical fiction such as Brethren, Crusade, Requiem and Insurrection. Yesterday saw the launch of her latest offering ‘Renegade’, a clash between Kind Edward and Robert Bruce. It was great to meet Robyn, if only briefly and see what a book launch looks like in the traditional publishing world.

Meanwhile, I’m a step closer to the launch of ‘New Fire’ as I have now signed a contract with Grosvenor House Publishing, an outfit based in the South of England that specialises in helping writers to self-publish. I dispatched the contracts and cheque yesterday with a promise to send the ‘final’ draft for proof-reading by next Monday! This shouldn’t be an impossible task as I finished draft #4 on Monday. It’s quite scary to think that I’ll have to let go and stop tweaking, fixing and changing, but I have to draw a line under this somewhere, especially as the target publication month of October is nearly upon me.

Author woos local library

It seemed like a reasonable question to me. I stood in the library with a quizical expression on my face and a determination to not move until I got an answer. I asked one more time, just in case I’d done it wrong the last time around.

“So you say you’re prepared to put posters up of local events and places of interest, but you’re not prepared to allow a local author to promote a book…this being a library and all.” I looked at the shelves all around me, as if to make sure I was in the right place. “Don’t you think that’s a shame?”

Well the good lady behind the counter was applying regulations and she had the good grace to acknowledge that it would be nice to allow local authors to promote their books in the library.

“Leave your card with me and I’ll ask the management,” she said.

So I returned five days later and there was good news! Someone in the council run West Sussex library service had graciously agreed to allow me to present an A4 poster advertising my novel which would remain on the notice board (I was promised) for “a while”.

So the moral of this story is ask nicely and then ask nicely one more time. Finally, put on your best confused and slightly hurt expression and then ask the person you’re asking to ask someone more senior, just in case. This leaves me with one problem…I need to print a poster! :-/

60 day to go!

There are sixty days left until October, the month that I set myself as the target publication date. It’s time to take stock:

The writing – I’m halfway through draft #4. It’s not a major rewrite, more of a proof-read and minor tweaks but there are still over 160 pages to check.

Cover art – Not done. Ideas on themes only.

The printing – Talking to several companies. Sample hardbacks being sent to me to evaluate.

Clear plan for printing and level of spend – A total shambles. No nearer a decision on exactly what I need.

Publicity – Site following low (18 registered) and little feedback

CHAPTER TWO, SCENE ONE – Read it!

Not just an eBook

Do you think it feels the same to say “I’m a published author” if you don’t have a physical, printed book in your hands? I certainly think it would be nice to have a copy sat on my bookshelf, and to know that there are a couple of libraries in the country where someone might wander in and pick it off the shelf.

Five agencies out there have yet to respond, have yet to send me an email like this last one that I received on Monday…

“Many thanks for sending us this proposal, which I read with interest. I considered it carefully but I’m afraid on balance it just doesn’t quite grab my imagination in the way that it must for me to offer to represent you. So I must follow my instinct and pass on this occasion. I’m sorry to be so disappointing, but thanks for thinking of us. Of course this is a totally subjective judgement, so do try other agents and I wish you every success.”

[Agency Name Withheld]

Then, on Friday, I received this from Book Guild Publishing in Brighton…

“Further to our email of 11 July, we have completed aninitial assessment of the submitted sample material. We very much enjoyed the opening chapters to New Fire. The set-up is excellent, and your descriptions of the city and the activities that go on there are lucid and memorable. With vivid characterisation and a strong narrative right from the start, this material certainly whets the reader’s appetite, and we look forward to reading the complete novel. Please submit the MS to this email address.”

Now, the difference here is that Book Guild Publishing have a ‘partnership’ programme which builds a package for each author and requires the author to share some of the costs of publishing. Book Guild really seems to have grasped that their industry has changed forever and that the costs of printing no longer require the extraordinary levels of risk-mitigation that the old industry needed. In this modern, internet enabled world with print-on-demand, the barriers can be lowered a little and the readers be empowered to decide what they want to read. ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ is a fine example of a book that would probably never have seen the light of day twenty years ago. Now, fee-paying readers have the choice. It may not be a literary masterpiece, but hey, 95% of readers don’t ever read a Booker or Pulitzer prize winner.

Where was I going with all of this? Oh yes, if I can raise several hundred pounds, I might just make that physical copy a reality and stand in Waterstones all Saturday with a winning smile on my face.

Waterstones and a very helpful author

The initiative today was to visit my local Waterstones to see whether they’d entertain the idea of helping me publicise my novel.  This was Owen’s suggestion and he was right on the money.  The “boss” wasn’t in but I was assured that she was very supportive and she’d be delighted to talk to me about selling and promoting a self-published book.

“Look,” said the shop assistant. She pointed to a slender, well dressed woman hovering by a table and a small pile of books.  “Why don’t you speak to Rose?  She’s promoting her book today and she’s published her own book.”

So I went and spoke to Rose Edmunds who was very helpful and advised me to take a look at the Book Guild and explained how regional Waterstones branches were gradually getting to the point of inviting her along, instead of grudingly allowing her to invite herself.  Naturally I couldn’t come away without buying a copy of her book ‘Never Say Sorry’.  I look forward to getting my teeth into this when I’ve got through the current stack.

So I’m quite encouraged.  I had no idea whether this approach would bear fruit but it looks quite promising after all!  Maybe Diana has it right; the bookshops have to find some way (any way) to keep and edge and encourage the footfall.