Thursday, June 11, 2009


Fickle editorial love?

I love writing and I love my editors. Well, on most days. Sometimes, I guess, I feel a little fickle and want to reconsider the high school job counseling which said I should become a funeral director or a beekeeper. Now, I have nothing but respect for funeral directors or beekeepers, but chose not to follow those particular areas of work. (Although I often wonder…what is it about both of those that would have suited me?)

It’s not often that my thoughts turn to those careers, until I’ve had a particularly bad day with an editor. I’ve had two recent events—interspersed with an awesome experience. Nonetheless, the bad experiences gave me pause.

One editor requested such a serious re-write that I verged on crying out “But this reeks of being a new assignment!” While I swallowed my pride, re-wrote the piece and thought of career changes, I slowly came to realize that the editor had forced me to improve the piece. Just as a teacher wants you to reach into your skill set, this editor was challenging me to better my game. Begrudgingly, I appreciated the editor’s request and will probably cherish the clip for that experience.

I have a couple clips like that. Sometimes, for me, it is hard to discern if the published piece is very good or if I pull it out as one of my clips for sentimental reasons.

In the second instance, an editor alerted me to a published article similar to a piece I had turned in days before this other story appeared. In the e-mail, I was asked if I wanted to massage my piece, based on what the other writer had written. The published piece was a different take on the same thing. While I respect the direction the other writer took, it was not the way I interpreted my assignment. I responded to the editor that I trusted the editorial direction given and would make any changes upon request.

So, while I wait for this editor’s response, why do I feel the urge to search the classifieds for jobs in the funeral industry?

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and a certified Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coach. She writes about motherhood at Coastal Carolina Moms and creativity at TheWriteElizabeth. Find her on Twitter @Eliz_Humphrey to follow the saga: will she start applying for funeral jobs? Will she dive into beekeeping? Or will her editor *pay* for a massage instead of asking her to massage the article?

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Thursday, July 12, 2007


Kate Duffy on Self-publishing

This past April I drove five hours to the Writer's Jubilee Jambalaya in Houma, Louisiana. This is a nice sized day long writer's conference, not small but not so big you get lost in the crowd. The cost is reasonable and includes a critique by either an author, editor or someone in the writing profession. While the critique was helpful, what I learned later made the trip worth the cost many times over. And most of my learning was done at the end of the day in a workshop featuring Kate Duffy, Editorial Director at Kensington Publishing Corp. This workshop consisted of a "cold read" of the first page of your novel, then comments by Kate as an editor and Molly Bolden as a book seller.

During the day, I had the pleasure of meeting Kate and chatting with her. I knew by time for the workshop she wasn't the type to say what she thought you wanted her to, just to make you feel good. And her blunt, honest comments sure stung, and I sulked four of the five hours on the drive home.(I'm so glad the reading was anonymous!) Then I got over it, and started figuring out how to improve on the problems she and Molly caught. Yes, they were needed work. Seems I started in the wrong place:--)

When we started planning the issue on self-publishing at WOW I knew she would be the perfect choice to get the "editorial" opinion of self-published books from someone who worked in the industry. She graciously answered my questions. So, pull up a comfy chair, prop your feet up and enjoy.

And, thanks Kate. For the interview and for your comments on my first page.


WOW: Self-published books seem to get no respect by the mainstream publishers. What do you see as the main problem with self publishing?

KATE: I don’t think we are as quick to judge anymore. Self publishing was equated with vanity publishing until African American authors, in particular, finding themselves with few alternatives, turned to self publishing out of necessity.

WOW: We hear stories of self-published books such as Eragon getting picked up by the "big" publishers and this is something a lot of publishers push. Does this happen often and should it be something an author of a self-published book counts on happening to them?

KATE: No, it doesn’t happen very often but it does happen. The self published author has to judge whether the book is of regional or national interest.

WOW: Does having a self-published book influence an editor when considering a later work by an author?

KATE: I wouldn’t think so. But then again, many self published works seem to be one shot events.

WOW: What, if any, place do you see for self-published books?

KATE: Regional interest can spark an audience for a self published book. There are stories and topics that might interest a particular group of people but may lack the resonance to achieve a wider readership.

WOW: Do you think there will come a time when having a self-published book will be as impressive or as respectable as publishing with one of the "big" boys?

KATE: I don’t think so simply because of the limits of marketing dollars available to the self published author. Individual works will certainly continue to break out but overall the odds don’t favor this.

WOW: If a person is set on self-publishing, what advice would you give them?

KATE: Think very carefully. It can be financially challenging as well as a lot of hard work to produce, market and distribute.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007


Don't let the Sharks Bite

Back several years ago before I knew better, I submitted a poem I'd written to a website. Not long after, I received a letter in the mail praising my poem. They wanted to publish it in their latest collection of fine poems. Needless to say, I was doing the happy dance. Talk about excited...I just knew I'd hit the jackpot. And it only would cost me $69 to see my poem published in their book.

About this same time, I'd started a writer's course and attended a forum of questions and answers. One thing that stuck in my mind was "Money flows to the writer, not away from." So I started researching. I discovered while not a scam, this "pay to be published" format wasn't the way things were really done in the writing world. It didn't take me long to go from happy dance to funeral dirge.

Here are a few things I've learned along the way.

Money does indeed flow to the writer. Writers work hard getting those words down on paper. We should get paid for them. There's a difference of opinion among writers about working for free. The truth is though, many times we have to write for free to start our portfolio of clips. And honestly, I don't think there's anything wrong with considering an unpaid for but published article or story as a stepping stone to bigger and better things.

The sharks are circling. They love to take advantage of novice writers. Our job doesn't end with just the writing. We have to sell that article, novel or story to someone. Before sending your work to just your homework! Research is so easy to do these days with the internet. Google that agent or publisher and see what comes up. Check out their websites and remember the old saying..."If it seems too good to be true, it probably is".

There are many, many places online to gather information. Naturally WOW! is my favorite. :-) There's so much great info packed into each issue just waiting to be used. Another great place is Miss Snark's blog. She's become part of my morning wake up routine. If you are looking for an agent, then be sure to check out Writer Beware. The ladies there have made it their mission to inform writers about all the bad apples in the agent barrel. For information on publishers, stop by Preditors & Editors.

I've come a long way since that first "acceptance" letter and learned so much. Now, when I wade into the murky water searching for publication I can avoid the dangers lurking just under the surface.

I want to encourage everyone to learn as much as possible about the way the publishing world works. You won't regret it.

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