Final notes from the SCBWI picnic

My last two posts have been notes from Lisa Nowak’s talk at the SCBWI.  I took some of my own notes from her talk too.  A spare tidbit for you writers is that you don’t have to stick with one way of publishing.  You can self-publish and get picked up by a traditional publisher, as Christopher Paolini did.  (He wrote the Inheritance series; a fantasy beginning with Eragon.)  Or, if you’re already with a publisher who can’t use something you’ve written, you can go with a small press or self-publish.  You aren’t stuck doing things one way for the rest of your life.

She said there is a book store in Vancouver, WA called Cover to Cover that specializes in local authors.  If you live in Washington or Oregon, look them up and see if they’d be interested in selling your book.  Some libraries will take self-published or small press books if you take them there and tell the procurement librarian about your book.  But be aware that some libraries, like the one I used to work at, won’t take anything that isn’t reviewed in trade publications such as School Library Journal or Horn Book.

I learned some things for myself too.  She was talking about different kinds of editing.  She said a developmental editor deals with the overall plot of the book — Are there inconsistencies?  Is there something in the plot that can’t work as written?  A line editor deals with sentence flow and structure — Is a sentence too long and convoluted to follow?  Is one word used too often?  Is something unclear?  A copy editor, according to Lisa, deals with typos, grammar, punctuation, etc.  I tend to do all three at the same time.  I guess I need to change my tag line to say I am a “proofreader and editor”, not just a copy editor.

I went up after her talk and asked Lisa what she looks for in an editor.  She said the first thing she wants is compatibility.  She said she wants to work with an editor who is familiar with the type of book she is writing.  She gave an example of showing her work to an editor at a conference.  Lisa writes books about stock car racing for teenage boys.  The editor at the conference said she couldn’t use the word “gonna” in her book, even though she knew she’d seen other books in her genre that used that term.  That particular editor was wrong for her kind of book.

The other thing she looks for in an editor is someone who will guide her rather than being overbearing.  A good editor will make suggestions with the understanding that the author has the last say.  This has been my philosophy in editing.  When I suggest something and the author disagrees, the author takes precedence.  I am not offended when an author says they want to keep something the way they wrote it.  You own your work.  I understand that.

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