editing

  • What Ash Ambirge taught me

    What Ash Ambirge taught me

    As a developmental editor of fiction, I often find myself pointing something important out to clients. Novels should not be episodic. The plot should have a structure, with each event like a domino falling over which then hits the next domino.

    This should also happen on a psychological level, which I find particularly gets missed by writers. But that post is for another day.

    The point I wanted to make here is that one thing in fiction impacts another, which impacts another, etc.

    And this is also true in real life.

    You wake up and decide you’re going to tidy a cupboard and, before you know it, you’ve somehow moved on to cleaning the whole room, or trying to track down the stuff that you suddenly realise you’ve misplaced.

    Okay, I hear you saying, what does this have to do with the title of this post?

    And who is Ash Ambirge? (If you don’t know the answer to the second question, shame on you!)

    Look, I’m getting to the point – or points – so bear with me.

    It’s the chain of dominoes. And how it relates to funnels and marketing. And real life.

    How it all started…

    I’m a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association where I get access to a few free webinars.

    When Covid hit last year, business owners like everyone else were panicking. So, there were some useful webinars to help people through the crisis.

    And in one webinar Ash Ambirge and The Middle Finger Project were mentioned in passing.

    I’d never heard of her – or The Middle Finger Project.

    So, shame on me.

    However, being the kind of person who can’t wait to open a new tab on a computer screen, I immediately looked her up.

    She had a new book called The Middle Finger Project. It was part life story and part kick-arse business motivation and inspiration.

    The audio version is actually narrated by Ash Ambirge herself – if you get it, you’ll really get a sense of her personality. I totally recommend it.

    Anyway, I listened to this book in big chunks. Ambirge grew up in a trailer park, the daughter of a disabled single mother on benefits, who then loses her mother as a young adult.

    The story of what happened then is a masterclass in human callousness. I’m talking about the way she heard about her mother’s death. Disgusting.

    But our heroine came through and later, in a business capacity, the middle finger story comes up. I’ll leave you to find that out for yourself.

    But she also told the story of how she found out the guy she was living with had multiple passports and multiple identities.

    And when she confronted him, he got aggressive and threw her out. She had no money or anything, so she had to go back, and then he had his hands around her throat.

    Fortunately, she escaped and spent the night in her car. And that’s when her life changed. When she was sitting in her car, homeless, listening to the radio. An ad came on and said something along the lines of: the new Rihanna CD is available on preorder.

    A truly life-changing phrase.

    Why?

    Because it was at that moment that Ambirge realised you can sell things that don’t exist yet.

    She already had loads of experience in marketing and copywriting. So, she started furiously writing some copy on her laptop and uploaded it to the internet.

    Then the money started rolling in. Her product was legit and she started working on it.

    But she sold it ahead of making it, and the demand proved to be there.

    So, with $300 in her bank account, she flew off to Chile, where rents were cheaper, and set herself up in her new enterprise.

    Now she’s incredibly successful and specialises in motivating those who want to set up in business, or who need to refine their business skills like marketing and copywriting and dealing with clients, etc.

    Where it all led…

    At the end of her book, there’s a link you can follow. It takes you to her site, The Middle Finger Project, and a downloadable book called You Don’t Need a Job, You Need Guts. This is also very inspirational and deals with setting up your own business. It’s particularly strong on building the reader’s confidence and enthusing them to change their life.

    As a consequence of following the link to the downloadable book (which you have to pay for), and signing up to her email list, I then got some witty emails periodically, often on very useful subjects.

    There was also a chance to buy a previous mentorship course she ran – Unfuckwithable Freelancer

    This course consists of a generous series of modules in the Kajabi course format. Everything is laid out in a well-structured way and takes you through the best steps to setting up your business.

    There was a considerable number of modules and because it was no longer live, but a recording of a previous mentorship, it cost $97.

    Definitely one of the best $97s I’ve ever spent. (The other one was an Alex Cattoni copywriting course, also a recording of something previously live.)

    I admit I do love courses. I love learning new things.

     

    48-To-Freedom mentorship…

    But a recorded course doesn’t have the same gung-ho motivation as a live one. So I signed up to the beta version of her live course, 48-to-Freedom, which is about setting up a business website, payment processing, email list, offers, service packages, etc, in two days.

    Now that did push me harder, especially since she totally underestimated how long it would take for people to complete it.

    In fact, it spilled over the weekend and finished on Tuesday. But it was great – she literally showed you what to do on her screen and then you just follow along according to your own business needs.

    Because I’d already done copywriting courses, I largely skipped using her copy templates. But her reasoning for the structure of her copy templates was very insightful.

    I’d studied Alex Cattoni’s sales page course and had already written up most of the content for one of the individual sales pages. But I hadn’t quite finished.

    48-to-Freedom encouraged me to finish and get it uploaded and live. And then do the other two pages.

    Sales funnels and email marketing are a big part of both Ambirge courses.

    Setting up an email list was on my list of things to do. But, with other things on the go, and not being as organised as I should have been, I had yet to sort it out.

    Conquer Your Novel challenge

    Now I have a free email 5-day challenge/course sequence.

    This free course is titled Conquer Your Novel. It addresses issues like your logline, character hierarchy (to prevent chaos ensuing), Mary Sues, plot structure, and more. 

    If you want to check it out, there’s a sign-up form below.

    So, that’s what Ash Ambirge taught me

    But that brings me back to the topic I had in mind when I started this post – funnels, dominoes.

    It started with someone mentioning Ash Ambirge and The Middle Finger Project – and this led me down a rabbit hole.

    I learned lots of new things.  

    However, I needed that kick up the backside to finally sort out my email marketing sequence. 

    Later my intention with my IndieCat newsletters is to talk about common problems I come across in manuscripts.

    I’ll also review useful books for indie and other authors, point to courses you might be interested in taking, discuss side hustles for those of you who are thinking of getting one.

    I’ll also be talking about training as a developmental editor, and the process of working through a manuscript.

     

    Topics I’ll cover in IndieCat emails

    But that brings me back to the dominoes and the funnel.

    If you’re an indie author (or any author), you want to funnel people from social media over to your site.

    And I will be writing another post on why that’s so important.

    If you are selling books, you’re in business. If you’re an indie author, you’re an author-entrepreneur.

    And it’s really worth thinking about yourself that way. Just as freelancers need to think of themselves as business owners.

    Ash Ambirge talks about us being the fiduciaries of our business.

    It’s our duty to look after our businesses and act in their best interests.

    It’s partly about separating ourselves from the business. If we think about the business – my editing business or your writing career – as a separate entity that we have a duty of care over, then we make better decisions.

    And marketing funnels are part of that decision! Marketing funnels that get people from A to Z.

    Which in your case might be getting people to buy your books.

    Or, if you’re an editor, getting people to buy your services.

    But first, you have to let potential readers or clients know that you understand their needs. Not to mention, why they should choose you (or your book) over someone else.

  • My gripe with some developmental editors

    My gripe with some developmental editors.
    Developmental editors need training.

    Here’s my gripe with some of my fellow developmental editors. Before I went anywhere near my first client, I made sure I had plenty of training.

    And that training was on the back of decades of giving feedback to fiction writers in writing groups. Plus reviewing for a popular Scottish website.

    So, when I encounter editors who offer this service without training, I get pretty pissed. Because this is not some glorified beta read.

    Just because you have opinions about fiction doesn’t mean you’re qualified to charge money for a critique. Copyediting fiction doesn’t make you automatically qualified to developmentally edit a novel. If you expect clients to pay you for these services, the least you can do is make sure you’ve actually studied and your work is vetted by an expert.

    Your client is not just paying for the editing you’re doing, they’re also paying for your expertise, which in part comes from your training. Training you should have invested in.

    But I get the distinct impression some people are downloading manuscript critique templates and reading a book or two. Then, off they go.

    You don’t know what you don’t know

    I cannot imagine having this level of entitlement. The problem with learning a new subject is you don’t know how much you don’t know. Initially you might feel you’re learning a lot. Then there comes the point where the horizons of your new subject shoot out into the distance and you suddenly realise how much more you have to learn.

    It’s a little lesson in humility. But if you’re too dumb to study in the first place, you might not get that lesson. At least, not until a more experienced client slaps you in the face with your own failings.

    Fledgling proofreaders are warned to make sure they’re properly trained (at least in the UK). Yet the same concern for standards is completely absent for developmental editing. Which is considerably more expensive than proofreading.

    Recommended training courses

    Here are some recommended developmental editing courses:

    The three beginner, intermediate and advanced courses in full developmental editing formerly available from the Editorial Freelancers Association and now available from the Club Ed site. The tutor is Jennifer Lawler. The great thing about Jennifer’s advanced course is you get to do a full edit of a novel with track commenting which she reviews. She also offers more courses through her site, Club Ed.

    The Introduction to Developmental Editing at the Author-Editor Clinic focuses more on manuscript critiques. The tutor, Barbara Sjoholm, takes you through the different elements of a critique letter. I really enjoyed this course. I think I was one of only about two students in that particular round of the course who opted to do the harder final assessment – a full manuscript critique of the novel I’d used for the course. There was an easier assignment, but I didn’t pay $399 or whatever not to have my work fully checked.

    Liminal Pages offers two courses in developmental editing – Theory and Practical. The tutor is Sophie Playle and this course, unlike the others, is in the UK.

    There’s also a course on book mapping from the Editorial Freelancers Association. This involves using Excel spreadsheets to analyse books scene by scene. It allows for detailed digging into a manuscript.

    There are other courses too, but these are the ones I’m most familiar with. They’re also the best for anyone thinking of getting into this field and authors should look for editors who’ve invested in courses like these.

    At some point in the near future I will review these courses for anyone who might be interesting in taking them. I enjoyed all of them and would recommend them to others.

  • 9 reasons why you don’t need an editor

    9 reasons why you don't need an editor
    9 reasons why you don’t need an editor

    So, you want to publish your novel yourself. Here’s 9 reasons why you don’t need an editor.

    Reason #1: Your novel is perfect as it is

    Yeah, umm… probably not. Next…

    #Reason #2: Your mother loved it. LOVED it

    Is your mother an editor? If she is, does she have the objectivity to be honest with you? Or might she worry that being honest will wreck your relationship?!

    Reason #3: Your best friend promised to give you feedback

    There’s nothing wrong with getting a friend to read your book. BUT, if they’re doing it as a favour, you have to wait until they’re ready. When they made that promise, they never factored in the length of the book, how long it would take them, or their own confidence in their critical skills.

    In fact, once it lands in their inbox, they might well procrastinate until the cows come home.

    Likewise, beta readers often vanish, don’t bother to respond, or fail to give sufficient feedback. If you have good beta readers, they are worth a lot, but they’re not editors and once you’ve ironed out their concerns, that takes you to the next level.

    The next level involves technical issues like structure, point of view, head hopping, show versus tell, and a whole bunch of other things.

    There are so many balls to juggle when you’re writing. Did you drop any?

    Did the beta readers or your pal notice that someone exited stage right on page 83, never to be seen again, even though they kind of seemed like an important secondary character?

    Reason #4: Editing is a waste of money

    Here’s the thing, if you’ve written a novel, you’ve already put a huuuugeee amount of time into it.

    And time, as they say, is money. You could have made other choices on how to spend your time. For example, you could have set up a side hustle. But you decided to write a book instead.

    So, you have invested a lot of time, energy, thought, ambition, and hope in your work.

    Why?

    Do you hope people will buy it? This means putting it into the marketplace where it has to compete with other books. Potential readers can download a Kindle sample and check it out. If there are problems with the opening chapters, they will bail out.

    If you don’t mean to send it off to an agent or publish yourself then it’s true you don’t need an editor. There is one exception – if you want to do better next time. Then it might be worth investing in professional feedback to take your skills to the next level.

    Then again, you could save money and join a good writing group.

    Reason #5: I’m shelling out for a book cover. What more do I want?

    Bad covers can kill reader interest. Good covers still need good content.

    Imagine a reader excited by the cover art, the genre, the blurb, only to give up before they get to the end of the first chapter.

    Maybe your story fails to start, the characters are boring, or your worldbuilding is taking over the book.

    Maybe your story is just plain boring, and they want to throw the book at the wall.

    As a developmental editor, I’ve had indie authors come to me after their book has been published, so I can fix their mistakes. So, they still needed an edit after all.

    Reason #6: I’m only doing this as a hobby

    And that’s fine. Some people genuinely don’t care if anyone reads their book.

    For some people, writing a book is on their bucket list, and once it’s done, it’s over. In which case, you might well choose to skip editing.

    But if you’re hoping that book gets some readers, it’s probably best to get some input.

    Reason #7: You don’t need to spend money to publish a book these days

    It’s true you can skip editing, design your own cover, do your own marketing, and so on. You might have a free blog you can use and you have Twitter and Facebook for promotion.

    But, here’s the thing, so do loads of other people. Thousands upon thousands of them.

    Have you ever hung around the #writerslift hashtag on Twitter? So many people promoting their books in the desperate hope that they’ll grab a few more readers.

    Often they’re promoting more to other writers, who don’t necessarily have the time to buy or read all those books.

    You need to appeal more to readers.

    Yes, readers can also be writers. But whoever you promote to, things like cover design, genre, plot, and sample opening pages will be the deciding factor for a lot of people.

    To beat the competition, your book needs to be polished, and that includes editing.

    Reason #8: Your novel is a staggering work of genius already. Who needs a fucking edit?

    Who indeed? Well, you, actually. No one writes a genius novel, perfectly polished, no flabby bits, plot holes, saggy middles, or weak endings. No head hopping.

    Oh wait, was the head hopping deliberate? Like a stylistic choice?

    Uh-huh.

    Reason #9: Some mate on Twitter says you don’t need an editor and they’ve never used one

    Did your mate do well with their own book? Might they have had an unfortunate encounter with an editor? Perhaps they’re still gnashing their teeth over negative feedback and now they have an axe to grind.

    Some people do display a strange amount of anger towards editors. It’s almost as if they think editors are out to get them, destroy their cherished dreams, murder their first-born child (their book).

    In reality, most editors get into this business because they love reading and they love books. They feel passionately about helping writers become better authors. They want to see their clients do well.

    Still, there’s no law that says you need an editor.

    The truth is, for indie authors, you can do what you want. You can choose where to focus your attention – marketing, cover art and design, the various levels of editing, etc.

    There’s no doubt that addressing everything comes with a price tag attached. A price you don’t have to pay when you have a traditional publisher to cover the costs for you. So, compromises may have to be made. Corners cut.

    It might come down to leaving out a round of editing or relying on beta readers to try and pick up your developmental issues.

    If you see indie publishing as a business, then you will definitely come to understand the costs of doing business.

    In business, it’s normal to hire contractors. In serious indie publishing, it’s no different. Budgeting for this is a topic for another day.

    So, there you have it, 9 reasons why you don’t need an editor.

    But if you are looking for a developmental editor, you can check out my post on the difference between a developmental edit and a manuscript critique.

    Photo by Paige Cody on Unsplash

  • Does your desk look like a bombsite?

    Does your desk look like a bombsite?
    Does your desk look like a bombsite?

    Hey, editors and/or writers! Does your desk look like a bombsite? Welcome to my life. The situation is so bad, I’m not even going to cough up photographic evidence. You’re just going to have to take my word for it. And my word on this is gospel.

    There are papers all over the place, a style guide, a dictionary, some DVDs that have somehow migrated over here, a graphics tablet, notebooks, pens, a lamp.

    I was pondering this situation today when looking at my desk from a distance (from the warmth of the radiator across the room) and remembering a piece of advice from other editors. Get a second monitor.

    A-ha! Edit the manuscript on one monitor and use the other to look stuff up.

    A second monitor on my desk would:

    • Make the mess even worse
    • Block most of the lower window (though it’s a tall window)
    • Push a decorative lamp to the floor (appropriately a woman reading a book)

    But… but… the second monitor wouldn’t be a TV screen I roped in years ago when I first got my PC. A temporary measure that’s been going on for three years now. The second monitor would have a built-in camera, and I could finally attend the zoom conferences I always have an excuse to get out of. (Well, I could probably use my phone, but I prefer to ignore that option.)

    If I bought the second monitor, I could attend interactive webinars and stuff. But then I’d have to show my face and I hate cameras. I suppose I could wear one of the three cloth masks currently sitting among the clutter. One is floral, one tartan, and the other has a paisley pattern.

    So, for the time being I am not buying a second monitor, but I am thinking about it. Because sooner or later, I’ll have to replace the TV. (I don’t actually watch TV, which is why it was better off as a monitor.) I will also have to tidy up this desk. And I will no doubt choose the very right moment to do it – a moment when I should be doing something else. And then I will decide that since I’m tidying the desk, I might as well tidy the whole bloody room. (I realise this is what a normal person would do anyway.)

    I do tidy my desk periodically. It’s just that it seems to be a breeding ground for papers and books and notepads. Before I know it, stuff is piling up again. It seems to happen all by itself.

    Truthfully, I don’t need a second monitor for developmental editing. I am an Olympic Gold Medalist when it comes to keeping multiple windows open and flipping back and forth. I suppose it would save time for copyediting or proofreading, but while I look stuff up, I don’t have to do it quite as often.

    Anyway, I think there’s something to be said for creative chaos. When I’m in heavy writing periods, my writing space also looks a mess. I’m slightly suspicious of tidy writers and tidy editors. It’s almost as if they have a character defect. A screw loose.

    It’s not natural or healthy for writers to be tidy. I remember one of my editing courses in the past saying something about the importance of a tidy workspace. Clearly, it never made any impact on me.

    I am unrepentant. But you’re still not getting the photos. I shall now return to pondering my artfully arranged mess and wondering whether sorting it out means a few hours off what I should be doing. There’s always a bright side to everything.