New Essay Published: “Cornered”

In September I received news that an essay I have been writing for more than ten years was finally accepted for publication. Grande Dame Literary published “Cornered” on September 17, 2022.

I was so astounded by this news, my husband, who overheard my gasp, thought someone must have died. No, I assured him, this was a happy occasion. But my nine-year-old daughter, Nancy, who is oh-so-sweet and intuitive and also a fellow writer, understood it was more complicated than that. It was also bittersweet.

The day after I got the acceptance email, Nancy saw me in the kitchen. She congratulated me for the tenth time. Then she asked, “Are you a little sad you don’t get to work on it anymore?”

I had to admit I was. The words of Indigo Montoya came to mind. After so many years of working on it, what was I going to do now?

It’s not like I had been working on just this one thing all this time. Of course not. Reflecting on what had transpired over the past ten years, I realized I have had several pieces published since I first submitted “Cornered” back in 2011, here, here, and here. I wrote Perfect Bound and Freelancing as a Business, as well as other smaller ebooks. But all the while, “Cornered” was lurking.

In fact, what ended up being “Cornered” is the combination of two essays that I wrote separately, both on the theme of being followed by strange men. In 2016, when I was harassed yet again, I had a new frame for the stories. In 2021, I wove together the original “Cornered” and “Blaze Orange,” added the new story from 2016, and voila, I had my masterpiece.

Well, sort of.

The new essay was rejected more than a dozen times over the next year. I revised it modestly each time. I knew I was getting close because the journals kept saying I had made it to the final round before they decided against it. I felt I was so close, I decided to pay for feedback from one journal just so I could finally get it over the finish line. That, it turned out, was a waste of money. My luck was finding the right beta reader.

In July 2022, my friend and fellow writer Katherine Melvin offered to read the essay. She had already helped me out with other things, most notably Mystery at Creek Academy: Where Is Mrs. Quimby?, and I was reluctant to lean on her again. But, I told myself she wouldn’t have offered if she didn’t want to do it.

Katherine had three small, crucial changes to the essay. I made those changes, sent out the essay again, and finally, finally, it was accepted.

It is a relief to have it out in the world. There were some hiccups with the initial publication (HTML does not always do what you want it to do), but I worked with the journal and together we were able to fix problems.

I am very proud of how it turned out. Not only that, but a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. With this other work published, I have more ideas for new essays to write. Some already in revisions. Best of all, my persistence and hard work paid off, and that feels really, really good!

You can read “Cornered” here.

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Award Winner: Our Shining Legacy

Last summer I had the honor of working on a beautiful family history titled Our Shining Legacy. Written by sisters Jewel Waller Davis and Joyce Waller Baden, the book tells the inspiring story of the Waller-Dungee family and their family-owned jewelry store, Waller & Company Jewelers.

The store, located in Richmond, Virginia, was started by their grandfather, M.C. Waller, and continues to operate. It is one of the few Black-owned family-owned stores in the area, and it has been in business since 1900.

A couple of weeks ago I received this exciting news:

At the recent 2021 conference of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society (AAHGS), a book about our family history, Our Shining Legacy, was named winner of an International AAHGS Book Award in the Non-Fiction: Historical category.  

AAHGS has been working to preserve African American history for the past 40 years. According to its website (www.AAHGS.org):

The International AAHGS Book Award® celebrates published works that promote the knowledge of African American history, genealogy and research, and to introduce the substantial contributions made by African Americans in American and International history.

The legacy in Our Shining Legacy is real. Jewel and Joyce are both very accomplished women, as is seemingly their entire lineage. Several generations of Wallers and Dungees are profiled, each with a resume to envy. To be sure, these sisters had a lot of history to share. And the accolades continue to pile up.

Congratulations, Joyce and Jewel! Your hard work paid off. Thank you for letting me be part of your publishing journey!

Like this blog? Find more insights and advice in the Updated and Revised Edition of Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, now available on Amazon!

More on Standing Up to the Competition: The Complete Package

You as a writer can draw in your readers by demonstrating that you have given your book the thought, time, and care it deserves. When readers see that you respect your own work, they are more likely to return the feeling.

Indeed, this thoughtfulness shows you respect your readers, and that can go miles in building the trust needed to win over a reader.

One way you can demonstrate this respect is by putting forth a complete package. By that I mean you have not simply written the bare bones of a book. You have put meat on those bones through front matter, back matter, multiple formats, and more.

dreamstime_1645934
Copyright Gary Woodard | Dreamstime.com

How It Works

Building a complete package for a nonfiction book begins with crafting a solid preface and introduction. These are what is known as front matter, and they set the tone for the book. They also serve as important marketing copy.

Back matter includes reference sections, resource list, and appendixes. These can establish your reputation as a thorough and careful researcher.

In the case of memoir, the goal for these pieces may be to share a deeper understanding of the context of your story.

Other elements that enhance a nonfiction book include:

  • Photos or illustrations
  • Maps
  • Charts and graphs
  • Sidebars that present case studies, tips, or further information

Nonfiction books also benefit from well-developed ancillary materials—workbooks, videos, websites, and so on—as appropriate for the book. All of these pieces together allow your reader to get inside the topic you are writing about and learn more.

Fiction requires a different approach to the idea of a complete package. Nevertheless, you have likely experienced the novel that implemented this concept to its fullest. For example, a complete fiction package may include:

  • A note to the reader
  • A note to parents
  • A call to action
  • A glossary of terms
  • Maps and illustrations

Audiobooks, videos, and other ancillaries also appeal to readers and encourage them to buy your book as well as these additional materials.

Did the video cause the consumer to buy the book, or did they watch the video because they had read the book?

In either case, you are building a relationship with that reader that can lead to further sales and readership.

As you plan your book, you must study the competition and think through your reader’s needs and desires. When you create a complete package around your book, you have, to the best of your ability, filled those needs and desires.

 

PerfectBound front cover 2019 9-6 low-res

 

 

Like this blog? Find more insights and advice in the Updated and Revised Edition of Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, winner of two Book of the Year awards, now available on Amazon!

 

Copublishing Ebooks and Printed Books

As I was working with a self-publishing author recently, we started to discuss the publication date for his book and just how long it would be before he had a bound book ready to sell. It looked like he might not have his books in time for the start of his ideal selling period. Anxious to get his book on the market, this author had an idea:

Why not put the ebook out now, since that takes very little time, and continue with the editing for the printed book!

Here’s why not:

You only have one chance to make a first impression. If you put out a book that still has a lot of errors in it, you have burned bridges with all the people who bought the inferior product. Particularly as a self-publisher, you can’t afford to risk your reputation.

black tablet computer behind books
Photo by Perfecto Capucine on Pexels.com

Creating an ebook has become so easy, many authors are tempted to jump right in before completing the editing process. In fact, some traditional publishers do the same thing; although the printed book receives a proofread, the e-book may not. However, if it is up to you, do not succumb to this temptation.

For years I didn’t believe that bad editing would sink a book (this from a committed and passionate editor), but with the advent of reader reviews on Amazon and other online sites, I have learned that lesson. And once those bad reviews are up, they don’t come down and you have to work twice as hard to get your reputation back.

Traditional authors may be able to negotiate this point in their contracts. For self-publishers, the decision is theirs to make. Whatever path you choose, don’t waste your money and all your hard work by taking shortcuts.

 

PerfectBound front cover 2019 9-6 low-res

 

 

Like this blog? Find more insights and advice in the Updated and Revised Edition of Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, now available on Amazon!

 

Copyright Tips and Tidbits: How and When to Register, How to Format Your Notice, and What Not to Do (Updated)

Self-publishers, take note: While it’s true that you hold an inherent copyright to your work just for the fact that you wrote it, should anyone try to infringe on your copyright you will be best served by registering with the US Copyright Office (www.copyright.gov). That may sound intimidating, but it is actually a fairly straightforward process.

How to Register

Start by going to the US Copyright Office website. The Copyright Office accepts both online and paper applications, and the applications come with easy-to-understand instructions. The filing fee (as of 2019) is $55 for online registration and $85 for hard copy.

In addition to the application and the filing fee, you will be asked to provide a copy of the “deposit” — what the Copyright Office calls the work to be registered. If you file electronically you can send an electronic file or a hard copy of your work; file with paper and you  have to send a hard copy. (The Copyright Office prefers online applications, but you are not bound by that.)

The application itself is easy to follow and there is an extensive FAQ section to answer questions. Read the instructions carefully and you can complete the online form in less than 20 minutes.

When to Register

You can register your book either before or after publication. Although simple, it can be a lengthy process, as getting the certificate can take nearly four months for the electronic application and nearly seven months for paper applications. During particularly busy times, those lags can be even longer.

The good news is, unless you have reason to believe you will not be granted copyright, you don’t have to wait until you receive your certificate before publishing the work. The date of registration is the date the office receives the completed application, not the date you receive your certificate. Still, copyright registration is not something you want to let slip through the cracks. I would recommend beginning earlier rather than later.

Upon publication, if you have a print book, submit a hard copy to be held in the Library of Congress.

What Not to Include

When you apply for copyright, you are making a public record. That means anyone can view the information you supply. The Copyright Office website offers this pointed advice:

Personally identifying information, such as your address, telephone number, and email address, that is submitted on the registration application becomes part of the public record. Some information will be viewable in the Copyright Office’s on‑line databases that are available on the Internet. For this reason, you should provide only the information requested. Please do NOT provide any additional personal information that is not requested, such as your social security number or your driver’s license number.

As identity theft is a real problem in this country, heeding this advice only makes sense.

How and Where Your Copyright Notice Should Appear

Your copyright notice belongs on the reverse of the title page in your book. A valid copyright notice includes the word “Copyright” or the symbol “©”; the year of registration; and the copyright holder’s name, in that order:

© 2020 Katherine Pickett

Some publishers choose to use both the word and the symbol for copyright as well as the word “by” — Copyright © 2020 by Katherine Pickett — but that is not required.

Pitfall: Preregistration vs. Registration

The Copyright Office provides the option of “preregistration” for works that have not yet been completed. (Important: This is separate from registration of unpublished works.) The fee for preregistration is a whopping $140. I suspect this fee is intended to be a deterrent, as even the Copyright Office notes that preregistration is not helpful for most people. Rather, preregistration is recommended only for those who meet these two criteria:

  1. You think it is likely someone will infringe on your copyright before the work is made public, and
  2. The work isn’t finished.

Note also that even if you preregister, you will still need to go through the registration process. Except in extreme circumstances, you will most likely want to register your work rather than preregister it.

 

Print

 

Like this blog? Find more insights and advice in the Updated and Revised Edition of Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, now available on Amazon!

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

Copyright Tips and Tidbits: How and When to Register, How to Format Your Notice, and What Not to Do

Self-publishers, take note: While it’s true that you hold an inherent copyright to your work just for the fact that you wrote it, should anyone try to infringe on your copyright you will be best served by registering with the US Copyright Office (www.copyright.gov). That may sound intimidating, but it is actually a fairly straightforward process.

How to Register

Start by going to the US Copyright Office website. The Copyright Office accepts both online and paper applications, and the applications come with easy-to-understand instructions. The filing fee (as of 2015) is $35 for online registration and $85 for hard copy.

In addition to the application and the filing fee, you will be asked to provide a copy of the “deposit” — what the Copyright Office calls the work to be registered. If you file electronically you can send an electronic file or a hard copy of your work; file with paper and you  have to send a hard copy. (The Copyright Office prefers online applications, but you are not bound by that.)

When to Register

You can register your book either before or after publication. Although simple, it can be a lengthy process, as getting the certificate can take nearly three months for the electronic application and nearly six months for paper applications. During particularly busy times, those lags can be even longer.

The good news is, unless you have reason to believe you will not be granted copyright, you don’t have to wait until you receive your certificate before publishing the work. The date of registration is the date the office receives the completed application, not the date you receive your certificate. Still, copyright registration is not something you want to let slip through the cracks. I would recommend beginning earlier rather than later.

Upon publication, if you have a print book, submit a hard copy to be held in the Library of Congress.

What Not to Include

When you apply for copyright, you are making a public record. That means anyone can view the information you supply. The Copyright Office website offers this pointed advice:

Personally identifying information, such as your address, telephone number, and email address, that is submitted on the registration application becomes part of the public record. Some information will be viewable in the Copyright Office’s on‑line databases that are available on the Internet. For this reason, you should provide only the information requested. Please do NOT provide any additional personal information that is not requested, such as your social security number or your driver’s license number.

As identity theft is a real problem in this country, heeding this advice only makes sense.

How and Where Your Copyright Notice Should Appear

Your copyright notice belongs on the reverse of the title page in your book. A valid copyright notice includes the word “Copyright” or the symbol “©”; the year of registration; and the copyright holder’s name, in that order:  © 2015 Katherine Pickett

Some publishers choose to use both the word and the symbol for copyright as well as the word “by” — Copyright © 2015 by Katherine Pickett — but that is not required.

Pitfall: Preregistration vs. Registration

The Copyright Office provides the option of “preregistration” for works that have not yet been completed. (Important: This is separate from registration of unpublished works.) The fee for preregistration is a whopping $140. I suspect this fee is intended to be a deterrent, as even the Copyright Office notes that preregistration is not helpful for most people. Rather, preregistration is recommended only for those who meet these two criteria:

  1. You think it is likely someone will infringe on your copyright before the work is made public, and
  2. The work isn’t finished.

Note also that even if you preregister, you will still need to go through the registration process. Except in extreme circumstances, you will most likely want to register your work rather than preregister it.

 

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 retailers

Beta Readers Aren’t Editors; Editors Aren’t Beta Readers

If you have spent any time in the writing community over the past five to ten years, you’ve probably heard about beta readers. These are unpaid people who read your manuscript and give you feedback. The type, quality, and extent of feedback you receive depends on the readers you have enlisted to help you. Editors, of course, are professionally trained and educated to correct a wide range of problems in a manuscript to get it ready for publication. Although beta readers can greatly enhance the revision process, they do not replace editors. Similarly, an editor should not be thought of as a paid beta reader.

Beta Readers Are Not Beta BitsEditors

The feedback you get from your beta readers can be hugely helpful for identifying and resolving problems with plot, characterization, pacing, or a weak argument. These readers give you the opportunity to share your work and find out how it strikes the average reader. They do not usually make the corrections the way an editor will, but rather offer suggestions for you to implement. When you choose your readers, I recommend finding a range of people with differing skills and backgrounds so that you get a well-rounded view of your manuscript.

There are a number of sources for finding beta readers — critique groups, colleagues, writing partners, people you connect with via Goodreads or a Facebook group, among other places. Each will have something different to offer, and you will need to assess and evaluate their critiques individually to determine what feedback to accept and what to reject. These people are not professionals; they are simply giving you their opinions as to how you can improve your writing.

Some authors think that if they get enough beta readers, they can skip editing. This is generally not true. In the case of really good readers and a talented writer, the beta-reading stage can lessen or eliminate the need for a developmental editor. As mentioned, beta readers may uncover big-picture issues such as an inconsistent timeline, poor pacing, poor organization, or unrelateable characters, and the author may be able to address and resolve these problems on their own.

However, unless one of your readers is a professional editor who has done a complete line edit on your manuscript, you will still need a copyeditor at some point. If you find a publisher, the publisher may take care of the copyediting; if you self-publish, you will need to arrange the editing yourself. (For guidance on how to do this without getting taken, see my series of posts How to Hire a Freelance Editor in 5 Easy Steps.)

Employing beta readers in your writing journey is an excellent idea that can save you time and money. It is essential, however, that you know the limits of what such readers can do for your manuscript.

red penEditors Are Not Beta Readers

One major benefit beta readers do offer is a fresh set of eyes when a  writer feels she has taken the manuscript as far as she can on her own. Perhaps this is why some authors seem to think of their editor as a paid beta reader. Again, that is incorrect and may lead to problems.

In most cases, an editor should not be the first person you share your work with. You can go that route, but you can likely save yourself some money — potentially, a lot of money — if you get the outside, free opinion of beta readers first. Find out what average readers think and get the manuscript nailed down as much as possible on your own before investing in editing. Editing is expensive, and the more refinement you do on your own, the less you will have to pay someone else to do. (Read this article for more thoughts on this topic.)

Beyond that, working with an editor is different from working with beta readers. For instance, editors need a certain level of understanding about what it is you are trying to achieve with your book so that they can help you achieve it. Whereas you may want your beta readers to approach the manuscript with no preconceived notions, editing is more efficient — and better — when there aren’t a lot of surprises. So if your book has a twist at the end and you aren’t sure it’s working, you will get to the solution faster if you tell your editor what you suspect. It means revealing the twist, but that’s OK. If you aren’t sure it’s working, your editor can keep that in mind while she reads. If she agrees, she can then let you know why it isn’t working and how to improve it.

In addition, the corrections and suggested changes you receive from your editor deserve more weight than those of a traditional beta reader.  With both editors and beta readers, you as the author have to decide whether the changes further your vision for the book. However, professional editors have years of experience and training in their field, and if they see a problem, it’s likely other readers will too. If they have changed your grammar, punctuation, and syntax, it likely was incorrect. If they have suggested ways to strengthen your argument, you likely need to address that problem.

That does not mean you need to take every suggested change from your editor, but you should make an educated decision. If you don’t know why a change was made, ask for an explanation before overriding your editor. Assuming you have vetted your editor (see step 2 of How to Hire a Freelance Editor in 5 Easy Steps), you know you have chosen someone with the credentials to help you make your book the best it can be. Avoid negating that expertise by ignoring your editor’s feedback.

Beta readers aren’t editors. They don’t have the training, the experience, or the expertise. And editors aren’t beta readers. They want to get to the solution as fast as possible, and that means revealing aspects of the manuscript you may be hesitant to reveal to a general reader. Beta readers offer opinions; editors offer a professional’s perspective. Each of these roles has something to offer writers on their journey. For best results, do not confuse the two.

 

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, Kobo, Left Bank Books, and other retailers.

Four Kinds of Editors: In Brief

Editors go by many different titles. Here are job descriptions of the four main types of editors you will come across, along with their alternate names and how much you can expect to pay when you hire them (based on industry averages).

Book coaches

Manuscripts in progress. Focus your writing and shape the overall direction of the book. May work with you from inception. Can guide you through the publishing process or for just a few months until you have your writing on track. Also called book shepherd.

Average rates: $100 to $300 per 1.5-hour session

Developmental editors

Very big picture. Shape the content of the book. Review organization of the book as a whole as well as organization within chapters; highlight areas that need work, need rewriting, require expansion, stray from topic. May overlap with copyediting. Also called content editing.

Average rates: $10 to $15 per manuscript page, or $45 to $75 an hour

Copyeditors

Big picture. Work with completed manuscripts. Fix errors of grammar, punctuation, style, consistency, sense, as well as flow of paragraphs and word choice. Highlight further areas of development. Will do some rewriting; query places that don’t work, don’t make sense, don’t say what you think they say. Can overlap with development. Also called line editing.

Average rates: $4 to $10 per manuscript page, or $18 to $45 an hour

Proofreaders

Finer details. Catch whatever the copyeditor may have missed. Fix grammar, punctuation, style, consistency, sense. Very little rewriting. Usually pages have been typeset so making changes becomes costly and time-consuming. For best results, do NOT use the same person to copyedit and proofread your work.

Average rates: $2 to $5 per typeset page, or $15 to $30 an hour

Whenever you hire a vendor of any kind, be sure to clarify what their services include. Open communication is the best way to ensure you are getting what you expect.

Like this blog? Check out Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, available through Hop On Publishing, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Left Bank Books, and other retailers.

Learn How to Make Your Book Commercially Competitive — Now Save 25%!

In the past, I have offered two related workshops, one that presents information on how to make your manuscript more marketable and another that teaches you how to take your manuscript through the publishing process. I gave these workshops often when I lived in St. Louis, and now that I am settled into life in Maryland, I am resurrecting them here!

Saturday, November 8, 2014, please join me at Kensington Row Bookshop for Crafting a Marketable Manuscript. This interactive workshop runs from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and includes personalized guidance on how to make your manuscript more marketable.  Registration is required. Visit http://www.popediting.net/ServicesandWorkshops.html to reserve your seat.

This workshop is ideal for:

  • Writers who are interested in selling their books, either to publishers, to agents, or directly to readers
  • Writers who are in the early stages of writing (idea stage, first draft, manuscript development)

What you will learn:

  • How to catch the eye of publishers and readers
  • Why having a marketing plan upfront makes you more competitive
  • Practical advice on how to craft a marketing hook, define your audience, and research the competition

Why take a workshop from me? Read my bio here.

And these are the notes I received after presenting this workshop to the Rehoboth Beach Writers Guild:

“Thank you! Loved it!”

“Excellent presentation! Thank you!”

“Thank you, Katherine, for your input and valuable knowledge on Crafting a More Marketable Manuscript! I enjoyed the class and will certainly use the marketing tools and resources from your handouts.”

Kensington Row Bookshop is located at 3786 Howard Ave., Kensington, MD 20895, between Silver Spring and Bethesda. $70.
Now just $50.