Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Excellence in Editing and Formatting


I confess that I have a number of pet peeves when it comes to the editing and formatting of books. As someone who edits for several small presses as well as independent authors, I understand the positive impact the good brain and eye of an experienced editor can have on the finished product. Wearing an author hat, we all read or see what we expect to see on the page, rather than what is actually there. If we expect to see, "The horse ran across the road," what might really be there is "The horse tan across the roas." We don't see what is obvious to another, because our author brain knows what is supposed to be there.

A recent labor of love.
 As an editor, I want to see . . . rather than the annoying ............... I like to see long dashes––rather than - this. A lack of consistent spelling of names and products drives me nuts, as do spaces between paragraphs. The Chicago Manual of Style is my writing and editorial bible. I also do book the occasional book design, so paragraphs that have indents of more than a third of an inch bother me, as does ragged left text in a printed book.  

The proliferation of self-published authors who do not have the funds or take the time to hire an independent editor to catch these and other mistakes adds to the problem. When I as a reader am distracted enough by poor formatting, typos, and plot inconsistencies. I put down the book. And that's a shame, because most times, the story is worth reading. Lest you think I am too hard on authors, I include myself as one who has made the mistake of self-publishing a book that was not independently edited, a book that was not ready for publication. Lesson learned. 

The fact remains that an author who publishes with a small independent press, or who self-publishes, has to deliver a product that is equally as well-edited and well-formatted as a book that has landed on a major bestseller list. That is hard to do, but the extra effort will be worth it. I also believe that this attention to detail in writing and producing books carries through to other areas of our lives. It translates to a spotless tack room, diligence in developing a good canter departure, and delivering a well-turned out horse. It's taking time to do the best you can and in taking pride in going the extra mile to make your product that much better.

Even with as many as seven edits, each of my books that were published by a major publisher has a typo or two. Those are seemingly inevitable. But I use well-edited books, expert grooming of horses, and beautiful riders to motivate myself to reach deeper, father, and higher in all that I do. What motivates you to do better?

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Lisa Wysocky is a bestselling and award-winning author of fiction and nonfiction, including the Cat Enright equestrian mystery series, now optioned for film and television. She is also a therapeutic riding instructor who consults with PATH and other centers about their horse herds. Find her at lisawysocky.com

Monday, June 13, 2016

Creating an Author Mailing List



by Christine.

A great way to be able to build up followers of your books is to generate a mailing list.  Fans of your book/s can sign up and receive updates as you develop as an author.  This can be particularly beneficial if you plan to write more than one novel, or establish a series.

My debut novel was a standalone novel aimed at young adults wanting to get into the horse industry.  Shortly after the release of Horse Country, an idea formed for a series for the younger reader.

Because I have an author mailing list, those keen to know about the latest releases for the Free Rein series can provide their email address and subscribe to Christine Meunier Author News.  It’s then up to me to keep them informed!

Encourage Readers to Sign Up to Your Mailing List

Once you’ve created a mailing list, you can choose how often to contact your readers: 

  • monthly
  • seasonally
  • whenever you have news

The choice is yours but it’s a great way to keep fans informed and let them know the latest news first – before you release things on your website, before you update your Facebook page and before a book is available for sale.  It’s up to you how you utilise your mailing list, but this can be a great way to keep a collection of contact details for people who are interested in buying your books.

If you provide them with the option (and link) to preorder your latest release or to give a review in exchange for an advanced copy of your planned release or to received an autographed copy of your novel/s, mailing lists can be a great way to attract fans to your readership.

The best bit is you can establish such lists for free or at a minimal cost.  I make use of MailChimp and have read many references to AWeber.  Do your research but be proactive – set up a mailing list, design a campaign and be sure to let your fans know that you want to keep them informed, if only they’ll sign up!

You can easily provide a link where people can go to sign up and direct them to this from your Twitter account, Facebook page, personal website or any other social media means.  Alternatively, you can create a pop up that encourages visitors to your site to enter their email address and sign up.

Once the mailing list is created, you receive notifications any time there is a new sign up.  You can even provide an automated response that thanks them via email for their sign up – and this email can provide them with a personal message from you, a link to where they can download a book for free or something else of your choosing.  Show your fans you appreciate them providing their contact details!

Have you signed up to your favourite author's mailing list?

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Swept away: 107,000 words, 31 days.

This May, I wrote a novel in a month. A NaNoWriMo, if you will, only this particular novel wasn't 50,000 words. It was 107,000.

Okay, wait, let's back up. In April, I was obsessing over first drafts. I had just finished the first draft of All Heart, my horse book sequel to Stay the Distance, and had squirreled it away to let it marinate before attempting to figure out its flaws, because that's the way of things. I never want to be too close to a first draft when I start on the second draft. There has to be some time apart. It's for the best, really. Otherwise I'll lose all sense of self and fall into a pit of impossible rewrites.

So, separation. But what to do in the meantime?

Just a little Northwest Arkansas to spice up this post.
I had already told my editor that I was going to work on what I was calling the Arkansas Novel (Uninspired WIP title? Yes.) this year. My editor and I are both Arkansans. Not born and bred there, but definitely grew up there for years and years. We're drives on dirt roads, dunks in swimming holes, hope-you-don't-get-snakebit Arkansans. Naturally, her response was write it now. The thing is I had already tried writing this book. I'd tried five years ago and failed miserably, not sure where it was going and not sure I could even write what I wanted to write. So I let it sit on my hard drive, languishing in a state of unfinished disrepair.

It couldn't go on that way. But it couldn't stay the way I'd previously envisioned, either. So I pulled up Blacksnake, the Arkansas Novel's prequel (available in How to Trick the Devil) and glared at it for a while. Then I opened up a new Word document and proceeded to go nuts.

Okay, not nuts exactly. But I did get really into it. I took my main characters and I started to stretch back their history--something my editor calls writing the fictitious reality. My main characters' stories, their parents' stories, their parents' parents' stories...I went back to the 1600s. (Like I said, really, really into it.)

Most of the time when you plot a book, you look into its future. You're plotting out where a book is going, not so much looking into its depths and trying to see its past. That said, by looking into that murky background, I found the story I wanted to write. I found characters I didn't know I was going to even write about, who would be major players in the story I wanted to push out. Once I got them on the page, their history written down and how they connected to the rest of the world I'd just created, I stopped and turned my attention forward, opening up a new Word document to lay out the backbone for three books--just plot points stringing to plot points from beginning to end across the trilogy. From there, it was fleshing out those plot points into chapters until everything was in place and I could start writing.

So--to the figures. 107,000 words, 31 days. I started the draft on April 11, and I finished it on May 12. I kept a log of how much I wrote every day. I set daily goals in Scrivener, which showed me how fast I was writing with its little gradient-hued progress bar. I was diligent. And I wrote. 1,400 words on May 5th constituted a slow day. 8,000 words on May 9th was...a little frightening. What happened on that day? Did I consist only of story and a flurry of keyboard strokes? How did I even accomplish this?

And the answer, I think, is I enjoyed what I was doing. I sat down and I didn't spend half my time agonizing over every detail, every bit of dialogue. I got out of the story's way. There was only the story in my head that said sit down and write me. Shockingly enough, I decided to obey it instead of fight it tooth and nail to the end. There was no forcing it to do anything. The story went down on the page, and where it deviated from the outline, I re-outlined. I added chapters. I just held on as it rushed onto the page--for thirty-one days. When I wrote the ending on that last day I just sat there and stared at the behemoth that seemed to magically have appeared on my computer's hard drive as my editor yelled at me over Google Chat, "Did you finish it? DID YOU?"

I told her I did--in all caps because EXCITED--and I sent it her way. Then I sat there, thinking about everything else that needed to be done, because there's always that second draft to get through. And maybe a third, fourth, fifth--the work never really seems done. It's the most anticlimactic of feelings, finishing a first draft. But still, I was excited. I am excited. I want to rip into this draft, make it better, get this sucker so polished it is shiny with editing, and then write the second book, and the third. I am swept away, and maybe that's been the secret all along.

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Mara Dabrishus is an author and librarian at a small college in Northeast Ohio. Horse racing is her first great love, but for the past several years she's ridden dressage, learning how to spiral in, half halt, and perform the perfect figure eight. Her second novel (gasp!), Finding Daylight, was released in January 2016. For more information, please visit www.maradabrishus.com.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Marketing Yourself, Your Major Product

This past month I started looking around for a new horse partner. I always think it will be fun and it always turns out to be disappointing, frustrating, and so often a waste of time. I do my homework by researching the prospective horses first, examine video, and ask all the right questions. Still, things often turn out to be not what they seem or what they have been represented to be. Has this ever happened to you?

It makes me think, on a smaller scale, of looking for my next, great read. A search for a story that will take me away, suck me into the characters, make me feel something. So often I am drawn in by the cover, convinced by the book jacket blurb, and anxious to find fulfillment in the pages. Only to be disappointed. These days, I give a story a couple chapters before quitting. Then, the book sits cast aside until I can return it to the library or donate it to the local media sale.

What is it that makes a person pick a horse or choose a book? It is different for everyone, of course, depending on what they are looking for, but overall there are some basic marketing strategies. As writers, we are always encouraged to create our brand and develop a writer platform. You may be thinking of slick advertising costing lots of money, the hiring of a publicist, the oodles of dollars for eye-popping graphics and swag... Yes, that's great if you can do it, but I'm talking about something on a more basic level: professionalism. Taking yourself seriously as a writer.

Back to my horse shopping example: what do I think when I pull into a well-maintained barn with safe fences, thickly bedded stalls, and swept aisle way? I think this is someone who cares about their horses. I'm set up to have a good opinion of the horse, surmising that they will be well conditioned and trained. When I arrive at the farm, I expect the representative to have the horse ready to view--to be in and clean. They should then ask what I want to see and patiently answer my questions. In other words, the seller should be proud of the horse for sale and deal with prospect buyers in a professional manner. I'm dismayed to say that I've arrived for an appointment to find the seller absent or late and the horse out in a field covered with dirt. Some sellers have acted as if they did not have the time of day for me and were busy doing any number of other things instead of attending to the sale transaction.  How does that subconsciously affect my opinion of the horse? I hope to see through everything to the truth, but we as human beings can be easily influenced.

What impression does that convey, even if the horse is fantastic? What impression do you convey as a writer, even if your story is fantastic, if you don't put out the best product you can (if self-published) or otherwise don't behave in a professional manner as a writer?  You are really the product, after all. Your writing, your ideas, your imagination, your style--your brand.

I'm very interested in hearing other opinions on these thoughts and ideas.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Summertime



Summer seems to be here in full swing in the South. It was as if the weather went last week from a nice, cool, wet Spring to muggy, miserable, energy-draining, 90-degree humidity in the blink of an eye. As a Minnesota native, I struggled in the heat for many years until I finally figured out a while back that it was okay to slow down on hot summer afternoons. Rather than ride in the afternoon, I could write. Rather than muck stalls at noon, I could do that in the evening.  I’ll even admit to the occasional summer afternoon nap.

Acknowledging and respecting the heat should be obvious to many, especially people who grew up in warmer climates, but to a hard-working upper mid-westerner, that lesson only came after years of letting the heat beat me up day after day. Of course, when I finally decided to work with the heat, rather than against it, a horse was involved.


I have long been an advocate of humans studying the horse to learn about him- or herself. It’s what I teach in my clinics and it is a theme that runs through many of my books. Horses study people all the time. It is part of their safety system, and over time, horses have developed an innate ability to tell if a human is mad, sad, tired, sick, angry, or joyful––all from a hundred or more feet away. Why, then, could I not understand that if my horse was hot, then I might be, too?

Then one hot Tennessee day a draft mare that I was caring for became overheated while standing in her paddock under the shade of a lovely, old tree, and something inside me clicked. Just maybe, it was too hot for me, too. I brought the mare in, hosed her off and dried her, then put her in a stall under a fan. Then I did the first smart thing I’d done in a while and went inside.

Many people love the heat. Not me, but I have learned to use it to my advantage. I write all year long, but I am far more productive in the summer, when high temperatures force me inside. The afternoon heat removes all temptation for me to perform yard work, mow the pasture, clean stalls, ride, fix the fence, haul hay, and all the other outdoor activities people with horses regularly do.

Instead, I get to write. I get to put down words that help someone forge a better relationship with his or her horse, and words that hopefully engage people as they help Cat Enright, my protagonist, solve a horse-based who-dun-it.

Summer heat? It will never be my favorite thing, but I’ve learned to make it work for me. How about you? Heat or cold. Which do you prefer?

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Lisa Wysocky is an award-winning, bestselling author and clinician. She is also a registered PATH instructor. Find her online at LisaWysocky.com, or on Facebook or Twitter.