All posts by Katherine Pickett

I'm the owner of POP Editorial Services, where I provide copyediting, proofreading, and developmental editing to authors and publishers across the country. I'm also the author of the award-winning book PERFECT BOUND: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, published in September 2014, and the booklet Freelancing as a Business: 7 Steps to Take Before Launch Day, published by the Editorial Freelancers Association in August 2015.

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Katherine

Gold! Foreword Reviews Announces 2014 INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award Winners

June 26 was a good day at Hop On Publishing and its parent company POP Editorial Services. That’s when we learned that Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro had taken the gold in the Writing category in the 2014 Foreword Reviews’ INDIEFAB Book of the Year Awards.

Foreword Reviews' INDIEFAB Book of the Year Awards

Four excellent guides had made it to the final round, and Perfect Bound won top honors. In addition to the silver award from the Independent Book Publishers Association’s Benjamin Franklin Awards, this recognition from librarians and booksellers across the country has been astounding.

I have to admit, I never thought we would win. Chris Pickett was the force behind selecting and entering the competitions. “I always knew we would win,” Chris said. “I had complete confidence in the book and I thought it stacked up well against the competition.”

With each success for Perfect Bound, we are reminded that we did not do this alone. Heartfelt thanks go to the 11 publishing professionals featured in the book for their generosity in sharing valuable insights. And a warm thank you to Susan Moore (copyeditor), Sue Hartmann (designer), and Sharon Honaker (proofreader) for their work to make ours an award-winning book.

Perfect BoundLike this blog? Find more advice and insights in the award-winning book Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, available through Hop On Publishing, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Left Bank Books, and other fine retailers

Would You Take Back a Manuscript Before Your Editor Finished Working on It?

Several times throughout my freelance career, I have had reason to suggest an author take back a manuscript and work on it some more before I continue with my editing. The reactions I have received run the gamut.

The first time this came up, I had been hired for a developmental edit and project management. I had done plenty of project management but was new to manuscript development, and it wasn’t until I had put in about 10 hours of work that I realized the project really amounted to a ghostwriting assignment.

WorriedGhostwriting costs a lot of money for a number of reasons, the two most obvious being it takes a lot of skill and it takes a lot of time. It definitely costs more than development. With my client’s pocketbook in mind, I suggested he take back the manuscript, do some work to transform what had been a transcript into a narrative, and then come back to me for editing. Even though I was confident this was a better tack for the author, I was nervous to make the suggestion because it meant changing the terms of our agreement. It turns out I was right to be nervous: the client was irate.

Although I did my best to explain what my motivations were, the client felt I must somehow be trying to get out of the work I had agreed to do and make him do it. In his mind I was running a scam to get more money out of him. The funny thing is, if I had been crooked, I would have kept my mouth shut, racked up a bunch of hours doing shoddy work, and returned a manuscript that was passable but not good. If he hadn’t been so angry, he would have seen that what I was suggesting would save him time and money because I wouldn’t have to query every sentence I wrote and I wouldn’t have to charge him for ghostwriting when he had hired me for development. His fear of being taken advantage of prevented him from reacting in a rational manner.

That project petered out, not because of this encounter — after 30 minutes of heated discussion the client finally understood what I was suggesting and why — but because the author simply stopped returning the edited/ghostwritten chapters. He found out writing a book is more work than he first thought.

That experience left me gun-shy, but a few years later, I again determined it would be in my client’s best interest for me to return the manuscript for revision before continuing with the editing. I had made significant, large-scale changes to the first two chapters and suggested the client apply some of the basic principles of good writing that I had highlighted. This time, the client agreed. I was thrilled. We worked out a new table of contents and a new framing for the story; the author was completely on board. I knew execution was going to be the critical point, but I crossed my fingers and marked my calendar for four weeks out, when I expected to receive the revised manuscript.

Surprise! One week later the author returned the entire 400-page manuscript, “fully revised.” To her credit, she had made some of the most important structural changes. However, the writing was not improved. Whereas some authors will see the kinds of changes I have made and apply them to the rest of the book, effectively learning something about what makes a strong sentence and what their crutches are, this author was unable to take advantage of the same opportunity. Alas, editing proceeded but the book was never as good as it could have been.

Not too long ago, I once again offered to return a manuscript for revision before I completed the editing. As always, I did this with a little trepidation. I know my motivation is with the author’s best interests, but I also realize it may be insulting to have someone say your book needs so much work, you should just take the whole thing back. The impression that somehow I am shirking my duty as editor is another factor that fuels my fear. But this client and I had a history, so I decided to take the chance.

CooperationThis time, there was no need for fear or insecurity. The client felt no threat and understood exactly where I was coming from. Yet, he passed up the opportunity for one more revision. In this case, he had his hands full with other projects and felt confident enough in what he had submitted and in my ability to improve it. For him, the time and money he was spending on editing fit his schedule and budget. Although I felt he could have improved the book in ways I couldn’t — and if he made some of the more basic revisions, then I could focus on other aspects of storytelling — in the end the project proceeded as scheduled. I respected my client’s decision, but I did feel he could have made a more powerful book with one more thorough revision.

I have also worked with authors who are willing to take my challenge, and the results can be astounding. In one instance when I was hired for a copyedit, before I had finished my first pass through the manuscript, it was clear the book really required development first. (For a discussion of the differences, see Four Kinds of Editors: In Brief.) I wrote the author and explained what I had found: time line problems, inconsistent characterization, and a weak ending, among other issues. I provided detailed notes about what the problems were and how I thought he might fix them. He agreed to do a full revision based on my comments.

A month or so later, the client returned his revised manuscript. Having already experienced authors who did not employ any of my suggestions or make alternative changes to solve the problems I had highlighted, I did not know what to expect. What I discovered on reading the new manuscript was thrilling. A full revision, with time line problems addressed, characterization strengthened, and — what’s this? — a completely reimagined ending for the novel. Better than simply making the changes I suggested, he had taken my guidance into consideration, played with it for a while, and come up with something all his own. Now this was a work both the author and I could be proud of!

So what would you do if your editor, partway through a project, suggested you take back the manuscript, perform a thorough revision, and resubmit it? Would you assume you were being scammed? Would you stick to what you had and let the editor do his or her best with it? Or would you take up the challenge, approach the project with renewed vigor, and take your manuscript to the next level?

In each of these instances, I suggested the author thoroughly revise his or her manuscript before continuing with editing in order to achieve the most efficient use of the client’s time and money — and to some extent, my time as well — in pursuit of the best product. I know that often, if the author does more work, then he or she will have to pay me less. The line will never reach zero, but many writers can save significant amounts of money and achieve much higher quality if they are willing to revise their manuscripts under the guidance of a professional editor. Some writers are astute enough to capitalize on this opportunity. I hope that more will do so in the future.

Perfect BoundLike this blog? Find more advice and insights in the award-winning book Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, available through Hop On Publishing, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Left Bank Books, and other fine retailers

The Ban on Adverbs

DandelionsWhen I first got involved in the writing side of the publishing industry, in 2012, I soon heard a mantra of sorts: Never Use Adverbs. Having been an editor for a dozen years before that, it struck me as one of the most arbitrary and useless rules I’d heard. Today, I at least understand how the ban on adverbs got started, even if I don’t agree with it.

What’s interesting to me is that many of the so-called rules that some novelists live by are not the same rules as those their editors profess. In fact, they are often at odds with each other. A writer might say, “Never start a sentence with a conjunction.” An editor will say, “That rule has gone by the wayside, and thank goodness. Clarity is more important.”

The uncompromising ban on adverbs is another such rule that editors are unlikely to support. It is famously summed up in a quote from the author of On Writing:

The road to hell is paved with adverbs. —Stephen King

He goes on to liken adverbs to dandelions, saying one is pretty but soon your lawn is taken over by them, so you must get rid of all of them.

And that right there is the problem. We cannot rid our writing of an entire category of words. We can use them sparingly, because one is pretty but a hundred are not; however, there is no reason to give them up entirely. It isn’t even possible to achieve. (Full disclosure: I once gave my mother a bouquet of dandelions. She loved it.)

Now that I have edited more new writers and seen just what a field of dandelions an author is able to grow, I understand the temptation to throw them all out and just say no, don’t use adverbs. Some writers sprinkle every sentence with two or three adverbs when the sentence would be stronger without even one.

Quickly rounding the bend and hurriedly entering the dining room, I found the decorator busily arranging the centerpiece on the beautifully laid table.

It’s easier to live by an all-or-nothing rule and cut all adverbs always. But easier isn’t always better. I have seen several manuscripts in which the author bent over backward to avoid an adverb and it left me scratching my head.

I rounded the bend at a fast pace and entered the dining room in a hurry to find the decorator arranging the centerpiece at a fast clip on the table laid with beautiful decorations.

To me, moderation is key to all things in life — even adverbs. Adverbs help writers to express how someone is feeling or the manner in which an action was done. They intensify adjectives and tell readers when and where an event took place. Yes, weak adverbs abound, but they aren’t all weak. Some are tantalizing. And even the weak ones can be useful at times.

I sped around the bend and entered the dining room to find the decorator hastily arranging the centerpieces. The decorations were lovely. Beautiful in fact.

So cut your adverbs freely, make sure that each one has earned its place in your writing, but please, do not weed them all out. Writing benefits from diversity and decoration. A ban on adverbs eliminates that.

PerfectBound by Katherine PickettLike this blog? Find more advice and insights in the award-winning book Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, available through Hop On Publishing, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Left Bank Books, and other fine retailers

IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards Silver Award Winner!

Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro has been named a Silver award winner in the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards!

April 10, 2015, I traveled to Austin, TX, to attend the awards ceremony, and it was a terrific experience. My friend, colleague, and contributor to Perfect Bound, Kathy Clayton, was my guest for the evening.

Katherine Pickett and Kathy Clayton at the IBPA awards ceremony
Katherine Pickett and Kathy Clayton at the IBPA awards ceremony

Our table of ten was filled with finalists and industry notables. Having chosen our table at random, we were thrilled to be seated with three other finalists. Also at the table were Sonia Marsh, who heads the popular Facebook group Gutsy Indie Publishers, and Brian Jud, executive director of the Association of Publishers for Special Sales (APSS; formerly SPAN).

Two of the finalists at the table won Gold Awards. Rita Gardner won for her memoir, The Coconut Latitudes, and Shea Henderson won in the crafts and hobbies category for her book School of Sewing. We all joined the fun.

Rita Gardner wins Gold
Rita Gardner wins Gold

Perfect Bound took Silver in the reference category. Although it would have been nice to win the Gold, the book has done well. Over the past two days both the print edition and the ebook have landed on Amazon bestseller lists, and for several hours yesterday the print edition was on two bestseller lists concurrently.

Perfect Bound hit two bestseller lists April 14, 2015
Perfect Bound hit two bestseller lists April 14, 2015
The ebook hit the bestseller list April 15
The ebook hit the bestseller list April 15, 2015

It is constant conversation among writers as to whether these awards competitions are a good investment. Some can be quite expensive. The strategy at Hop On was to choose two awards where we valued the opinion of the awarding body and where we thought our book would fit — and possibly win.  For us, it has been a terrific experience and a whole lot of fun. Besides being recognized by an industry-leading organization, we are also reaching more readers, and that is what the publishing adventure is all about!

 

PerfectBound by Katherine PickettLike this blog? Find more insights and advice in Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, available through Hop On Publishing, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Left Bank Books, and other fine retailers

Protecting Your Copyright: How to Keep an Editor (or Anyone Else) from Stealing Your Work

copyright symbolMany authors are concerned that someone, anyone, will learn of their book idea and try to pass it off as their own. Although this is rare, the worry is understandable. Ideas do get stolen, copyrights are infringed, and the originator of the idea may end up with nothing.

The trouble for the author is, if you want to create a really good book, you have to be willing to share it with others before you publish it. You need feedback from friends, family, beta readers, industry experts, professional editors, agents, and publishers.  You also need to be able to share it with reviewers and anyone you might ask for a foreword or a blurb. You have to be confident enough in the system to send your work out into the world and let other people reflect on your ideas.

So how do you get that confidence? As an editor, I often have potential clients ask what they can do to protect themselves from having their work stolen (“by you or anyone else” being the unspoken implication). Well, my first thought is always, “I have no interest in writing or publishing your book. Do you know how much work that would be for me?” But for those who are truly worried, I suggest a few precautions they could take. These protections apply to anyone you may share your work with:

  • Research your editors, agents, publishers, or other publishing professional. Your first responsibility is to ensure you are working with someone who is above board, whom you can trust. Ask for references, ask about their work history, and talk to other writers to find out if they have any experience with this person. Look online for warnings, and listen to your gut. If you don’t trust the person, don’t work with them. For in-depth advice on this topic, see How to Hire a Freelance Editor in 5 Easy Steps.
  • Ask the person to sign a nondisclosure/confidentiality agreement. I have signed a few of these in my career for both publishing houses and individuals. I have no plans for your book, so it’s no skin off my back. For you as the author it clarifies to the person that you don’t want your ideas spread around. You consider the work confidential and they should too.
  • Register your copyright. This is the most extreme step, but it also assures the most protection. Plus, it’s easy, it’s only $35 if you do it electronically, and no one has to know you did it. You have an inherent copyright in your work, but registration helps you to defend that copyright. Visit the US Copyright Office website or the Canadian Intellectual Property Office website for details. You can find a crib sheet on registering copyright in this blog post here.

As one blog reader pointed out, documentation is key in all of this. Periodically saving your files as PDFs or other nonalterable formats with date stamps will help you to prove what you wrote and when you wrote it.

Of course, none of these steps will prevent someone from taking your work. Once the document leaves your computer, some malicious person could find it and try to make it their own. But by taking these simple steps, you can minimize the chances of that happening, and you can maximize your ability to fight any legal battles that may come up as a result.

PerfectBound by Katherine PickettLike this blog? Find more advice and insights in Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, available through Hop On Publishing, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Left Bank Books, and other fine retailers

The Votes Are In! Perfect Bound Is a Finalist in Two Awards Competitions!

Great news, everyone! Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro has been named a finalist in not one but TWO contests!

Foreword Reviews' INDIEFAB Book of the Year AwardsThursday, March 12, at 4 p.m., Foreword Reviews announced the finalists for its 2014 INDIEFAB Book of the Year Awards and Perfect Bound made the list. We are one of four finalists in the Writing category. You can see our listing and read more about the contest here: https://indiefab.forewordreviews.com/finalists/2014/writing/

Not two hours later, the Independent Book Publishers Association announced the finalists for its competition, the 2015 Benjamin Franklin Awards. Once again, Perfect Bound made the cut, this time in the Reference category. Read more about this contest and view our competition here: http://www.ibpa-online.org/ibpa-benjamin-franklin-awards-2015-finalists/#ref

To add to the fun, a book I copyedited last year is also a finalist in the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards. Studying Wisconsin: The Life of Increase Lapham, published by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press, is one of three finalists in the Regional category (http://www.ibpa-online.org/ibpa-benjamin-franklin-awards-2015-finalists/#reg).

We will have to wait until the end of June to learn our final standing in the INDIEFAB Awards. However, I will be in Austin, Texas, for the IBPA awards ceremony April 10 to learn whether Perfect Bound was awarded a Silver or Gold Medal.

Thank you so much to everyone who contributed to the book, whether with interviews or reviewing early drafts of the manuscript or editing and design.

As you can imagine, we are absolutely thrilled at this good fortune. We have always been proud of Perfect Bound, but with so many other books published each year, it is an honor and a joy to be recognized. Now let’s hope we can turn that “Finalist” status into Gold Medal Winner!

Like this blog? Find more advice and insights in Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, available through Hop On Publishing, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Left Bank Books, and other fine retailers