Monday, October 27, 2014

5 Reasons You Shouldn't Sign that Book Contract

In my editing career, I've discovered that there are a few reasons authors should pause for a week or two before they opt to sign a book contract. I don't say this to discourage anyone. I love encouraging authors to follow their dreams and reach that published status. I say it to encourage you to really consider what you're getting into and whether or not you're working within God's timing or your own. Is this really something He wants for you, or are you just looking for your name on the cover?

Here are five things to consider before you sign that contract:

1. If you're writing non-fiction or you've based your fictional character on someone you know, have you mentioned that to the important people involved? If not, why? If you are afraid to tell someone that you've written about them or tackled a tough topic that involves them, I don't recommend you look for a contract until you feel safe enough or guiltless and can handle a confrontation should one arise.

2. Can you accept constructive criticism without feeling the overwhelming need to defend your writing? If you do not want anyone to change anything in your book, don't sign a contract with a publishing house. I guarantee you the editor is going to recommend changes, and most houses state in their contracts that you no longer own the rights to your manuscript. Basically, when you sign a book contract, your rights go to the publisher. Which means they can tell you to change anything they deem necessary. Don't sign that contract if you're married to your words or you want to coddle them like a baby.

3. Are you a procrastinator? If so, do you work well under the pressure of a deadline? The process of publishing a book usually takes around a year to happen from start to finish, beginning the moment you sign the contract. There will be times that you'll be wondering if the publisher is even working on your novel, and then you'll find yourself with a manuscript slayed with red ink and only two weeks to make all of the required changes. It's a slow, quick, slow, quick type of process. Consider your schedule before you sign that dotted line.

4. How do you feel about marketing? Do you know anything about marketing? Publishing houses no longer have the budgets to fund major marketing campaigns. Most expect the authors to assist in marketing their books. That's why we constantly hear the word "platform." Because they want to know you've got a built-in audience. So what have you done to build that platform or form that tribe? And what can you do in the future to help your book sell? Are you comfortable getting in front of people through radio and television interviews, book signings, and speaking engagements? Are you proficient in social media networking? Do you go places your audience would frequent? These are all things to consider before you say "yes" to publishing.

5. Do you like working with other people? As writers, we spend a great deal of time alone in front of our computers, talking only with the characters in our heads. But when you sign a book contract, you're joining a team that is pulling for you, while at the same time they are expecting you to put forth your own effort and do what is requested of you. You may or may not have input into your cover design, your marketing plan, etc. Will you be able to handle interaction or lack of interaction? If not, don't sign that contract!

Please be very honest with yourself when answering these questions. I know it's difficult to face the fact that maybe I'm not ready to do one or more of these things. If it were me, failure and insecurity would overwhelm me, and I may drop my dream altogether. But, with time, any one of these points can be overcome and the dream can be pursued. That time is very important, though. Not something to be rushed or skipped for the sake of having a book in the market. Take it, and allow God to prepare you for what lies ahead as a published author.


5 Reasons You Shouldn't Sign that Book Contract - #thewriteediting {Click to Tweet}

How do you know if you're ready to accept a book contract? @AlyciaMorales shares 5 things to consider before you sign. {Click to Tweet}

Some writers rush to publish for the sake of having their name on a cover. Are u really ready for that contract? {Click to Tweet}

Have you found any other reasons to delay publishing your novel or non-fiction book? We'd love to hear them! Please share in the comments.

Monday, October 20, 2014


By Andrea Merrell

My husband cringes whenever I say, “Let’s move the furniture.” This is especially true during the holidays as we try to make room for the Christmas tree. He expects me to know exactly where to place each piece of furniture so he only has to move it once. All you men are probably thinking, “Amen, sister,” while most of you ladies can relate to my dilemma.

The truth: I have an idea in my head where things should be placed.

The problem: Once it gets there, it just doesn’t fit the overall plan.

Writing is much the same as rearranging the furniture, especially if your method is SOP (seat-of-the-pants). Once you get your words out of your head and in front of your eyes, what made sense before, doesn’t make sense now. That’s when the work really begins.

I’ve shared this before, but it bears repeating. In the movie Finding Forrester, Sean Connery’s character (a famous author who has become a recluse) gives this advice to an aspiring young writer: “No thinking. That comes later. You write your first draft … with your heart. You rewrite with your head. The first key to writing is … to write, not to think.”

Great advice, but now let’s talk about the second key to writing: to think.

Once you have your words on paper or safely tucked away in your computer, it’s time to start the editing/proofreading/rewriting process. When you go back over your material and read it aloud, you’ll get a better feel for syntax and sentence structure. There needs to be a natural flow to your story and things need to be in chronological order.

Changes are inevitable. It might be something as simple as moving a speaker beat to shifting an entire scene to another chapter. Maybe you have a paragraph that does not move the story forward and needs to be deleted. In that case, open a separate Word doc, title it something like “Extra Passages,” then copy and paste what you are deleting. This way, you don’t lose anything valuable. You might want to use it later. If it doesn’t work in this book, it might be material for the next. Don’t waste a single word, thought, or idea.

Rewriting is also like remodeling a house. It’s easier to build a house from the ground/up, but sometimes the initial structure is beautiful and sound—it just needs to be made a little better by some important and well-thought-out additions.

Don’t let the process derail you. It’s a natural part of the writer’s life. If you’re having trouble, call on your critique group or a trusted writing buddy. Take a break (hours, days, maybe even a few weeks) then come back to your project. You’ll have a whole new perspective and possibly a fresh batch of ideas. Whatever you do, keep working and rewriting until your manuscript is clean, professional, and ready to launch into cyberspace.

 (Photos courtesy of and


Monday, October 13, 2014

Amateur or Apprentice?

By Vie Herlocker (aka Book Mama)

I aligned the stamps perfectly, whispered a prayer, and then slipped the thick envelope into the mailbox. My first assignment in an eighteen-month writing course was on its way to my instructor. Several weeks later, my short manuscript came back to me—covered in blood. Okay, it was ink. Red ink. Bright red ink. As I read the instructor’s notes and flipped through a stack of handouts she’d included on craft that I didn’t know existed, I had a choice. I could request a tuition refund and continue to do things my way or accept the challenge with a teachable heart.

Yes, I cried, but I also chose the teachable heart and a tough hide. And that choice was a first step from self-confident amateur to God-confident apprentice writer.

If you choose to be an apprentice, start with a teachable heart. Then consider these three additional characteristics of a God-confident writer:

Apprentices Plan to Succeed
Jeremiah 29:11 begins, “I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. As Pastor RickWarren notes, “God has a plan, shouldn’t you?” Set aside a day for prayer and goal-setting for your writing. Where do you want to be in five years? Write that goal down. What measurable objectives can you tackle over the next twelve months to move closer to your goal? What can you do right now?

Apprentices Invest in the Tools of the Trade
Writing for publication requires both the art of writing (that God-given ability and vision) and mastery of the craft. Invest time and/or money in books, blogs, magazines, classes, conferences, membership in writing organizations, and professional critiques and editing. These are valuable tools of your trade.

Apprentices Are Alert to Industry News
Writing for publication means you are part of the industry ecosystem. Subscribe to the free Publisher’sWeekly Online. Even skimming the headlines will alert you to what’s going on in the industry. For news specific to the Christian Market, check the CBA website regularly.

Every not-yet-published writer has a choice to be an amateur or an apprentice, and that choice may be the difference between failure and an open door. An apprentice understands that, like any career, writing is a “becoming” process—a process of continual learning, no matter what level he or she achieves.

The choice is up to you. Amateur or Apprentice?

We would love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Please leave a comment and add to the conversation.

(Photos courtesy of and


Vie Herlocker has published in Guideposts, Angels, Penned from the Heart, Miracles of Forgiveness, Chicken Soup for the Empty Nester’s Soul, Mature Living, Church Libraries, and The Christian Communicator. She co-authored a book for school support staff and ghosted a memoir. Vie, known as Book Mama to her clients, provides freelance editing services through Cornerstone-Ink. Her mission is to encourage and mentor other writers as they develop the skills needed to answer their call to write. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Another Week in the Life of an Editor 3 : Time Management

I've been growing my editing business for the past three years, and I've seen an obvious increase in business in 2014. So much so that my personal writing has fallen to the wayside as I've worked to encourage others in their writing dreams. Although I've been grateful for the business and enjoyed working with my clients, it's been a year of all work and hardly any play.

So how does one find a balance between editing and writing, or editing and home life, or editing and ... well, anything else you'd like to schedule into your calendar?

Here are a few things I've come to realize or had to consider in the past few months as I plan for the future of my career:

1. It's important to prioritize, no matter what career path you've chosen. For me, priorities look like this: God, Family, Work, the rest of life. I make sure to take time each morning to spend focused on the Lord. I rarely check e-mails and Facebook over the weekend, since that's when our family is spending time together. I also try to make sure my work is finished (or close to finished) by 3:00 in the afternoon, since that's when my kids are released from school. If I'm on deadline for something, that will be an exception, but I refuse to make that the norm. It would be so easy to keep working and ignore everything and everyone else around me, but I want God and my family to know they are most important to me. What are your priorities? Set your schedule accordingly. Let your clients know your work hours so they don't wonder why you haven't responded to the e-mail they sent you Saturday morning.

2. Which leads me to the next thing I've realized this year. It's very difficult for me to get things done when the kids are home. I have a hard time concentrating on the details of a novel when the kids are arguing over the video games or consistently interrupting my workday with fifty questions or reminders about things I said a month ago. I've decided that next year (and the years to follow), I will only take on smaller projects or mentoring clients during June, July, November, and December. These are the months that my schedule goes into overload with family plans. What months become cluttered for you? Consider taking on smaller projects or taking time off during these months. You can always take on more projects during the rest of the year to make up for any income you may lose during these months.

3. You will notice that some months are quieter than others. For instance, during conference season, my schedule packs full. Not only am I preparing my own writing or working as conference staff, but I'm also helping other writers tighten their own writing for submission for contests, pitching, etc. These are the months I am super busy. But then comes December, when everyone is focused on family and holiday traditions. This is a quiet month for me. My advice here is to pace yourself. Consider what you'd like to accomplish within the year. Schedule your projects accordingly. If you want to write a book, try taking November and December off from editing. Participate in NaNoWriMo in November and do your rewriting in December. You'll have a personal project ready to go for the new year. Do the income-earning work during the months you know you'll be readily available, such as February, when it's cold outside and all you want to do is stay in.

4. One thing I've been able to pinpoint this year is that I can get through about one five-to-six-page chapter per hour when I'm performing a substantive edit. I'm very detail oriented, so I scour the pages for everything from punctuation marks (is the apostrophe stiff or curly?) to formatting to story structure to characterization to showing vs. telling. I want to do the best work I can so that my clients have the best opportunity to see their book published and winning awards. I'm also a slow reader. I'm sorry, but I think there are two types: speed readers and slow readers. Think the tortoise and the hare. Yeah, I'm the tortoise type--slow and steady wins the race. This affects how quickly I can edit a book. Another variable in how long the editing takes is whether or not the author has taken initiative to learn the craft of writing and practiced it enough to develop their writing skills and if they've done any self-editing. The cleaner a manuscript is by the time it hits my desk, the quicker I'm going to be able to edit it. Keep track of your time for the next year. Figure out what your average pace is, and schedule your work accordingly. If you prefer clean manuscripts, only take on clients looking for a line edit or copy edit. If you like helping others develop their craft, look for clients who are first-time authors. I hit a point this year where I was a little overwhelmed. It wasn't too much for me to handle, but my time was spent editing more than I would have liked, my priorities falling to the wayside for a few months. Knowing my pace will help me to avoid this in the future.

What about you? Whether you're a writer or an editor or a homeschooling mom or a day-job worker who moonlights as a writer, what advice would you give someone who's trying to manage their time better? We'd love to hear your thoughts! Feel free to leave us a comment below.


Are you a tortoise or a hare? Tips on scheduling your annual workload from @AlyciaMorales. #amwriting #amediting {Click to Tweet}

4 Tips for Scheduling and Time Management for Writers and Editors via @AlyciaMorales {Click to Tweet}