The Importance of Return on Investment (ROI) for Writers

‎By Fay Lamb

I’m about to give you some cold, hard truth. Rick Castle is a fictional character. The number of authors who support themselves on royalties, let alone live in a condo in the middle of New York City or any other high-priced locale, are few and far between.

Oh, they do exist. I can name three of them without giving much thought to it.

However, in today’s world where, let’s face it, the market is saturated with people who believe they can write and readers who have been taken too many times, it is so much harder to support oneself on writing alone.

This is why every dollar invested in a writer’s career should be scrutinized. This careful examination of a writer’s budget should begin before the first word is written. For example, as a new author, how valuable is coaching to your career? When the first draft is written or the second or the third, what would be the reasonable cost of an edit? Then, glory hallelujah, a contract is written or a writer is skilled enough in the elements of their craft to publish a book. That’s when the cost of marketing must be considered. Make no mistake about it: even traditionally published authors must shell out payment for marketing. Facebook and Twitter are definitely not going to get the job done.

The mistake that most writers make is paying heavy fees on the front end without considering the return on investment they are likely to receive. They seek an editor or a coach, and they may find good ones, or they might find predators—individuals who have no idea what must go into a novel or a book of non-fiction to make it publishable. As an acquisition editor, a freelance editor, and an occasional writing coach, I have read many submissions in which I’ve commented that a freelance edit would benefit a writer only to learn that the work has already been edited, and I use that term loosely. Then I shudder at the price the person has paid for the edit or the coaching, knowing that the writer is likely never to recoup the money spent.

A key to hiring an editor is to ask for and review their resume. Ask them for author references and for titles that they’ve edited. Follow up on these references and ask the authors if they feel as if they received a good return for their investment. Then read what the editor has edited. Is it the type of editing you require?

Also, spell out for the editor what you require. A good fiction editor understands the elements that go into each genre of fiction. They’ll look for plot holes, for areas of inconsistency, and places where the elements are not strong. An editor of non-fiction understands the framework that publishers desire and will work to put the manuscript into that format.

Oh, and anyone who knows the industry is aware of the importance of return on investment. They will not charge you the same going rate they would charge a J.K. Rowling, or a James Patterson or a John Grisham. See, I told you I could name three authors who can live the Rick Castle lifestyle.

While those three authors have names that sell, you and I most likely do not. So, our only remedy is to get out there into the marketplace and make our names familiar. I’ve already said that Facebook and Twitter are not going to get the job done. We’re marketing to our own people group—mostly authors, and Facebook and Twitter are saturated. The return on investment is good, if you want nothing for nothing or a little for something. There are ways to make them work, but a savvy author needs to reach outside his or her comfort zone, to find traditional ads and marketing that costs them something. In the same way that they carefully examine the cost of an editor or a coach, they should ask questions of other authors who have tried different types of marketing. Authors are usually very kind to tell each other what works and doesn’t work. Authors should price various size ads on websites or in magazines or any venue they plan to work in and research the traffic for those venues.

Click to tweet: Return on Investment or ROI. A savvy author need to reach outside his or her comfort zone. Why? #amediting #IndieAuthors

Another suggestion to lower the individual cost for advertisement is to work in groups, either with authors who write the same genre for a publisher or who self-publish in the same genre. A caution, though: be sure that that the authors promoting with you write to the same standard whether it be social, morals, or in talent.

Start slow. You’ll have to pull from your own pocket at first. Always reinvest your earnings, seeking for a return on investment and eventually striving to put the money you invested back into your own pocket.

Writing Prompt: Jane stared at the returned manuscript proposal in front of her. The story is good. But have you thought about having it edited? The problem was…

 

Editing: You Lose to Gain

By Jennifer Hallmark

Editing. Such an important part of writing. It might seem counter-productive to write 10,000 words, then take out several hundred while editing. Remember, you lose wordiness to gain clarity.

Have you been able to read all our articles this month? If not, I’ll share the links so you can go back and check them out.

How to Choose the Right Editor

Choosing a Freelance Editor

Pros and Cons of Self-Editing

Which Editor Will You Choose?

Do You Need Help Editing Fiction? Try These Books

Meet Jennifer Uhlarik—Managing and Acquisitions Editor for Trailblazer Western Fiction

So How Do You Find an Editor?

Why Do I Need an Editor?

Editing. So very important. But let’s remember to first tell the story, and then edit. Too much editing at the beginning, unless you’re very experienced, will dilute the essence of what you’re creating. And that would be a great loss…

Join us in May to learn about the publishing market in 2019. We’re going to look at many phases of publishing with articles, interviews, and first-hand experiences. You won’t want to miss it.

Click to tweet: Editing. @InspiredPrompt Editing helps you lose wordiness to gain clarity. #editing #amwriting

Writing Prompt: Edit this short paragraph in the comments. Get creative…

John realized their relationship was over. He saw April with the other guy. He decided it had to be a date or why were they standing so close? His hand slammed the book he’d been reading. Wait. He could hear footsteps. Could it be April coming back to apologize or something?

Why Do I Need an Editor?

By Gail Johnson

Good morning, dear reader. I’m excited to have Dawn Kinzer with me this morning explaining why we need editors. Be sure to leave any question you have in the comments. Take it away, Dawn!

Gail: Why do I need an editor?

editingIf you’re a writer who has a great critique group, you may feel that you’ve already been given helpful feedback on your book. If you’ve been traditionally published, or hope to be, you’re aware that the publishing house will provide some editing for you.

Both are tremendous and very helpful. But, what if you’re a new author trying to impress an agent or a traditional publisher? With the rise of self-publishing and the competition it’s brought for sales, traditional publishers are more likely to choose “known” authors over unknowns—unless your book is pretty amazing. Even if you have a great story or concept, not all traditional publishers are willing or able to spend time and money cleaning up numerous errors. It’s much more efficient to select a book close to being publishable.

Traditionally published authors wanting more control on covers and content are turning to self-publishing. Even though they have experience, they may also need another pair of eyes on their manuscripts to make sure they’re putting out the best product feasible.

A freelance editor can point out holes in your story, suggest ways to improve the character arcs, clean up technical errors, fine-tune sentences, remove redundancies, bring clarity to information shared, and much more.

Why not give yourself the best chance you can to gain attention from the professionals—and even more importantly—readers? After all, don’t we want to give them the best experience possible?

Gail: What type of editing do I need?

checklist-2077019_1920The type of editing needed will depend on how rough the manuscript is at the time. Is it only in the developmental stage? Or is the book close to being polished and ready for a final proofreading? Your editor will be able assist you in that decision. Sometimes writers—especially those new to publishing—think all they need is a proofread when the book might require a complete overhaul.

Gail: Please share the different levels of editing.

Descriptions of editing services may vary slightly between people, so it’s important that you get clarification from any editors you’re considering hiring.

My definitions:

Developmental Editing

This type of editing is more “big-picture” focused. A developmental editor works closely with the author on a specific project from the initial concept, outline, or draft (or some combination of the three) through any number of subsequent drafts.

Critique

A critique will provide an assessment/review of your manuscript, noting its strengths and weaknesses. I point out specific problem areas and give general suggestions for improvement. A critique doesn’t include detailed advice on grammatical and technical issues.

Substantive (Content)

A substantive edit focuses on the content being presented in a logical, engaging, and professional fashion. I check for flow, structure, clarity of subject, and readability. In fiction, this edit also focuses on character development, dialogue, tags, beats, plot, subplot(s), theme, pacing, tension, voice, point of view, setting, the five senses, passive writing, showing vs. telling, and a satisfying story resolution.

Copyedit (line by line)

A copyedit includes the elements of a proofread, but it also focuses on style, continuity, word choice, clarity, redundancies, and clichés. I don’t change the meaning, but I look for ways to improve the writing. In nonfiction, I check to see if sources are cited for statistics and quotations. In fiction, I look for inconsistencies in point of view and tense.

Proofreading

A proofread will catch errors in spelling, capitalization, punctuation, basic grammar, inconsistent format, typos, and word usage (such as further vs. farther).

Gail: How can I find a reputable editor?

  1. Choose an editor who is knowledgeable about your genre and industry guidelines.

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Just as different techniques are used in writing each genre, different skills are needed for editing each one. In some ways, nonfiction is very different from working on fiction. If you’ve written a novel, please don’t hire an editor who strictly reads and edits nonfiction.

  1. Make sure the editor uses professional style guides.

The industry uses the following books as guidelines/rules when it comes to grammar, spelling, capitalization, hyphenating, punctuation, formatting, and almost anything else associated with publishing.

The Chicago Manual of Style

The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style

AP Stylebook (used in journalism)

The Merriam Webster Dictionary

  1. Visit the editor’s website.

You’ll get a feel for the editor’s personality, background, affiliations, and be able to read any endorsements from clients.

  1. Ask for referrals.

You may ask other authors for referrals, and you may also ask the editor if you can contact the editor’s clients.

  1. Contact professional organizations for writers.

If you belong to local groups for writers, ask other members if they’ve hired a freelance editor or if they know of someone who edits professionally.

I’m a member of the Northwest Christian Writers Association and American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). Both organizations include a list of freelance editors on their websites.

  1. Contact the Christian Editor Connection (CEC)

A great way to find an editor is to contact the Christian Editor Connection (CEC). I’m a member of this national organization of freelance editors and proofreaders. In order to be accepted into this group, editors must pass a series of proficiency tests.

By visiting this organization online (https://christianeditor.com/), you have the opportunity to connect with qualified editors.

You fill out a form and provide information on your project, your contact information, your preferred timeline, and how many editors you’d like to hear from (2-5 seems to be the average). That information is sent out to editors interested in working on that type of genre in fiction or nonfiction. They contact you through e-mail, and if you decide to hire someone, you and that editor work directly with each other. There’s no fee for submitting a request, and there’s no obligation to hire anyone.

Gail: What is the going rate for an editor?

Fees vary depending on the type of work requested and the editor’s experience.

Some editors charge by the word, some by the page, and others by the hour. Some also charge for time spent answering e-mails and phone calls.

But, the average rate can be anywhere from $25-$45 per hour.

However you’re charged, prepare to possibly spend $1,000 to over $2,000 to have a book edited (depending on the type of service and manuscript length).

You can check out the national average wages charged for various services by visiting the website for the National Freelancer’s Association (https://www.the-efa.org/rates/).

Gail: Dawn, thank you for joining us and answering our questions!

Click to Tweet: A freelance editor can point out holes in your story, suggest ways to improve the character arcs, clean up technical errors, fine-tune sentences, remove redundancies, bring clarity to information shared, and much more. #amwriting @InspiredPrompt

Meet author and editor, Dawn Kinzer

Dawn Kinzer is a freelance editor, and she launched Faithfully Write Editing in 2010. Experienced in fiction and nonfiction, she edits books, articles, devotions, and short stories—and her own work has been published in various devotionals and magazines. With a desire to encourage other Christian writers, she co-hosts and writes for the blog, Seriously Write. Sarah’s Smile is the first book in her historical romance series The Daughters of Riverton, Hope’s Design is the second, and Rebecca’s Song completes the trilogy.

A mother and grandmother, Dawn lives with her husband in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Favorite things include dark chocolate, good wine, strong coffee, the mountains, family time, and Masterpiece Theatre. You can connect and learn more about Dawn and her work by visiting: Author WebsiteDawn’s BlogGoodreadsFacebookPinterest, and Instagram.

Rebecca’s Song

The Daughters of Riverton Series, Book 3

A small-town school teacher who lost hope of having her own family.

A big-city railroad detective driven to capture his sister’s killer.

And three young orphans who need them both.

Rebecca Hoyt’s one constant was her dedication to her beloved students. Now, a rebellious child could cost her the job she loves. Without her teaching position, what would she do?

Detective Jesse Rand prides himself in protecting the people who ride the railroads. But, when his own sister and brother-in-law are killed by train robbers, the detective blames himself. Yet, another duty calls—he must venture to Riverton where his niece and nephews were left in the care of their beautiful and stubborn teacher, Rebecca Hoyt. They need to mourn and heal, but Jesse is determined to find his sister’s killers. Rebecca is willing to help care for the children, but she also fears getting too close to them—or their handsome uncle—knowing the day will come when he’ll take them back to Chicago.

Will Jesse and Rebecca find a way to open their hearts and work together? Or will they, along with the children, lose out on love?

Meet Jennifer Uhlarik–Managing and Acquisitions Editor for Trailblazer Western Fiction

By Jennifer Hallmark

April is all about editors on Inspired Prompt blog. So I’m more than happy to introduce Jennifer Uhlarik, managing and acquisitions editor for Trailblazer Western Fiction, the newest imprint of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas.

Trailblazer Western Fiction seeks to recapture the glory days of the Western, but with an updated feel that will ignite the hearts and minds of a whole new generation of readers. Trailblazer offers stories that combine the action, adventure, mystery, and romance of the American West, all wrapped up in the rugged men and brave women who left the comfort of life back east to discover and settle untamed lands in the West. Whether historical or contemporary, our westerns tell the stories of those who braved rugged terrain and insurmountable obstacles to make a life in the beauty and vastness of the western frontier.

Welcome, Jennifer! What a great name you have 🙂

You are the managing and acquisitions editor for Trailblazer Western fiction. What drew you to this particular job?

The job really fell in my lap. I’ve been in the writing industry as an author for years, and while I’ve had some successes selling western romance stories, I have other titles, either fully written or in the works, that are more western/less romance. Those have been a much harder sell. So as I was talking with author extraordinaire Eva Marie Everson about the difficulty in selling the more traditional western titles I have, she dropped the idea of opening a western line.

I was already working for Eva in her Southern Fiction line as an editor, so after hearing her out, I thought about it, prayed about it, and a very short time later, I felt like this was the direction God was leading me in. So Eva and I approached Eddie Jones at Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas about opening Trailblazer Western Fiction, and Eddie quickly said yes. And, “poof!” I was the managing editor of Trailblazer Western Fiction. LOL

When you first entered the writing world, did you want to become an editor?

Nnnnoooooo! In fact, years after entering the writing world…when Eva first approached me about working for her as an editor in her Southern Fiction line, it was such an overwhelming idea that I was paralyzed with self-doubt for several days. Tears were shed, friends and family had to give me pep talks, and only after a lot of thought and prayer did I know this was a direction I was supposed to go in.

What are some pros and cons of being an editor?

I think the pros far outweigh any cons. As an editor, I get to read and acquire some amazing fiction, which is always a plus. Another part I love is that I can now help other authors realize their dreams of publication. After years of struggling to find my path to publication, it’s fantastic to know I’m in a place to help others along the way. And it’s also exciting to be able to help other authors hone their stories into that bright, shiny gem that readers will love!

Cons? Well, for one, I can’t take every story. I wish I could, even just to encourage the author. But Trailblazer is small, so there’s no way I could take every story that came across my desk. And…Life is busier when I’m working with an author toward publication of their book. But in those busy times, I refocus on the pros and move right on past these minor cons!

What percentage of your authors are debut authors?

At this moment, fifty percent. However, I don’t have a set formula for how many debut authors vs. established ones I’ll take. It really depends on the story for me. Tell a great story with even a middling amount of skill, and I’ll give it serious consideration.

What submission advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Two things. First, Trailblazer is a niche market, so it’s important that you know the genre. Read western books, get a feel for the genre, and then craft a story that fits.

And second, be sure to study the guidelines and develop a proposal with all the elements listed on our submission page.

As a bonus piece of advice, keep in mind that Trailblazer (and all of the Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas lines) are moving to a Christian worldview, but not overtly Christian style of storytelling for 2020 and beyond. We are still looking for clean reads, so no gratuitous violence, language, etc. But there doesn’t have to be an overt Christian theme or spiritual arc to the story either.

What stories are you and Trailblazer interested in for future publications?

I am open to new and interesting ideas. I love the classic westerns like Louis L’Amour used to write, but I’d also love to find some contemporary westerns, westerns told in a more complex way, or westerns paired with other genres. You can read more of our vision and desires at https://lpcbooks.com/trailblazer-western-fiction-submissions/

Thanks so much for sharing, Jennifer!


Jennifer Uhlarik discovered the western genre as a pre-teen when she swiped the only “horse” book she found on her older brother’s bookshelf. A new love was born. Across the next ten years, she devoured Louis L’Amour westerns and fell in love with the genre. In college at the University of Tampa, she began penning her own story of the Old West. Armed  with a B.A. in writing, she has finaled and won in numerous writing competitions, and been on the ECPA best-seller list numerous times.

In addition to writing, she has held jobs as a private business owner, a schoolteacher, a marketing director, and her favorite—a full-time homemaker. Jennifer is active in American Christian Fiction Writers and lifetime member of the Florida Writers Association. She lives near Tampa, Florida, with her husband, college-aged son, and four fur children.

You can find Jennifer at her website, Facebook, TwitterPinterest, and Instagram.


Sand Creek Serenade

Dr. Sadie Hoppner is no stranger to adversity. She’s fought to be taken seriously since childhood, when her father began training her in the healing arts. Finding acceptance and respect proves especially difficult at Fort Lyon, where she’s come to practice medicine under her brother’s watchful eye.

Cheyenne brave Five Kills wouldn’t knowingly jeopardize the peace treaty recently negotiated between his people and the Army. But a chance encounter with the female doctor ignites memories of his upbringing among the whites. Too intrigued to stay away, tension erupts with the soldiers, and Five Kills is injured.

As he recuperates under the tender care of the pretty healer, an unlikely bond forms. However, their fledgling love is put to the test when each realizes that a much greater danger awaits—a danger they are wholly unable to stop, and one which neither may survive.

Purchase link

Which Editor Will You Choose?

I will admit right up front that hiring an editor intimidates me to no end. I just don’t know where to begin. There is so much advice and so many suggestions out there in the writing world that it’s hard for me to decipher which direction I should go.

This month we are looking at editing possibilities and how they will benefit us and our readers in their writing journey. There are different types of editors, who specialize in different areas of the creation process. Let’s look at a few.

A DEVELOPMENTAL EDITOR: Helps a writer with structure and content of a manuscript. This editor looks at the pacing, plot, characterization, and setting of your manuscript. They will also assist you in finding a vision for your story.

A COPY EDITOR: Much like a proofreader, they check spelling and grammar. They also check jargon, terminology, semantics, and formatting. Any factual data in text is also checked for accuracy as there could be a potential legal issue which is then brought to the publisher’s attention for correction.

A LINE EDITOR: This editor looks at voice in your manuscript and focuses on the quality and strength of your story. A line editor will look for sentences that don’t flow well, or cliches in your work. Also, they will look for repetition of sentences, and at each of your words and how they are used to help you tell the best story, so your readers understand it.

A PROOFREADER: Reads copy and transcripts for spelling and grammar errors. They work for publishers, newspapers, and other places that rely on perfect grammar printing. Proofreading is also the final stage to ensure a manuscript or article is well written and has a logical structure. They really do make sure that those editors mentioned above have done their jobs, and your story is ready for print.

AN ACQUISITIONS EDITOR: This editor is part of a publishing team to acquire manuscripts for publication. They work in book publishing companies, literary agencies, universities, and professional institutes. They evaluate manuscripts for their commercial potential, and approach authors when a publisher is interested in their work. They build relationships between authors, agents, and publishing houses. Part of their job may also include collaborating with marketing teams.

What if you’re not quite ready for the editing stage of your book? Focus on making it the best product you can before an editor gets into the picture. Working with your critique partners or a trusted friend who believes in you helps a great deal. Microsoft has a feature in it that will speak each word of print in your manuscript, so listen carefully. You might find areas of your story that just don’t flow well, or don’t sound as smooth when it’s read back to you. You can pause the feature and correct it as you go. Self editing can be bewildering, and stressful. Doing your very best before hiring an editor can be a teachable experience, and may save you headaches in the long run. Remember, an editor is there to help you create the best product you can.

Writing prompt:  Tell me a funny editing story.

Click to Tweet: This month we are looking at editing possibilities and how they will benefit us and our readers in their writing journey. #amwriting #editors #editing