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Editors Roundtable at SleuthFest

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 21, 2014

We continue with my recap of panels and workshops at SleuthFest. These are my interpretations and notes, and any misstatement is my error. Photos are viewable from my Facebook Page. Like my page, then click on Photos, Albums, and SleuthFest 2014.

Editors Roundtable with Neil S. Nyren, Shannon Jamieson Vazquez, Deni Dietz, Matt Martz and moderated by P.J. Parrish

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How have the changes in publishing affected you?

Matt said social media tools can take up a lot of time and become distracting. However, electronic submissions are great. “Queries written like tweets don’t fly.” Be professional in your queries.

Shannon mentioned that e-mail has revolutionized multiple submissions like the Xerox machine did earlier. E-books are growing.

Neil said e-books are a big change in our business. If you plan to save self-publish, please make sure the book is ready. Respect the reader. Hire a professional copy editor to edit your work and a professional artist to design your jackets.

Kristy (aka P.J. Parrish) warned listeners to be careful of typos especially if you get your backlist scanned.

Is the editing process gone, or how has it changed?

Matt said, if an editor has to dig in deep to line edit, then he probably shouldn’t be working with you. An editor works on tone, pacing, developmental issues, and broader strokes.

Shannon said there’s no one way to do it. “I red-line the hell out of a manuscript. We’re working to make the book the best it can be.” She’ll spend at least two weeks on a manuscript. Altogether, a book might take her five to six months for the different stages.

Neil gives the manuscript a complete first read and then sends the author notes on what works and what doesn’t.

Deni said historical mysteries take longer to work on due to the research involved. She works with three associate editors. She advises writers to learn your toolbar and track changes. The days of sticky notes on manuscripts are over. Formatting is very important.

Also, there is a misperception that if it’s wrong, an editor will fix it. That is untrue. Deni will do brief edits as she reads through the work and then sends it back to the writer for corrections. She believes that if someone doesn’t show you what’s wrong, how are you going to learn?

If the writing is dazzling, but the story is not compelling, Neil said that’s called an “MFA” [Master of Fine Arts] manuscript.

Where do most books fall apart?

Shannon says this happens for her between pages 1 and 150. The book gets off to a good start but gets tangled in subplots, or else the story peters out. Or the solution isn’t what she’d expected.

Deni said sometimes this happens in the middle or at the end because the writer is anxious to finish. Or else there’s a Too Stupid To Live moment. But that’s fixable, so don’t despair.

Neil looks to see if the author has control of the book from the very beginning. He says a good agent should know an editor’s particular taste.

You will learn more by writing a book, putting it in a drawer, and starting a new one than by working on that same manuscript for years.

How often do books come out?

Shannon said romances are at the forefront of three month back-to-back book releases but not mysteries. Deni said her house puts out one book a year due to reviewers’ lead time.

Short stories and novellas are making a comeback with e-books, according to Shannon. Nobody is buying short story collections, but they can be used as teasers for book-length novels. Neil pointed out pricing on a short story could be $.99 or free, while a novella can be sold for $2.99.

What about print-only deals?

Matt said it’s not much of a partnership if the author retains e-book rights.

Neil adds, “We’re giving up the potential, so for most people print-only deals won’t be a possibility.”

Deni said Five Star will not take a self-published book.

Shannon said they would consider buying e-book rights from self-published authors, but you would have to take your book down at the online sites where you have it on sale.

Coming Next: Kobo and ACX

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4 Responses to “Editors Roundtable at SleuthFest”

  1. Interesting, thanks!

  2. Excellent points. Had to miss this panel, so I’m glad you’re providing notes. Love the “MFA” comment from Neil Nyren!

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