Guest Expert: Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers.
First impressions are important. We all are aware of that as we brush our teeth and try to unknot the rat’s nests from the back of our hair each morning. In fact, first impressions are part of our marketing efforts, too. Whether we are marketing ourselves (say, an interview or a TV appearance) or marketing our books via e-mail, editing is an essential part of that first-impression effort called a query letter or proposal. Thus editing is an integral part of marketing campaign.
Here are a scattering of helps gleaned from my HowToDoItFrugally Series of books but especially my Frugal Editor.
Five Editing Myths Waiting To Trip Up Your Campaign to Market Your Work
- If your English teacher told you something is OK, it is.
(No! Language rules and style guidelines have changed since you were a sophomore.)
- If a manuscript or query is grammar-perfect, you’ll make a great first impression.
(No! Lots of things that are absolutely grammatically correct will annoy publishers, agents and others.)
- Always use your Spell and Grammar Checker.
(Maybe. Some well-known editors suggest you don’t use it at all but The Frugal Editor gives you dozens of ways to make it your partner instead of your enemy.)
- Your publisher will assign a top-flight editor so you don’t need to worry about your manuscript.
(Maybe, but don’t count on it. Besides you can be a better partner for an editor if you know something about the process–and you’ll also know better when to nix her suggestions! In any case, I suggest hiring an editor of your own before you submit your manuscript.)
- Formatters and editors will take care of the hyphens, ellipses and all the other grungy little punctuation marks that English teachers avoided teaching because they didn’t know how to use them either.
(Chances are, you’ll catch even great formatters and editors in an error or two if you know your stuff!)
Five Things to Avoid for a Pristine Query Letter
We are selling our work when we approach any gatekeeper, an editor, an agent, a contest judge. Here are five little things to avoid so you’ll look like the professional you are.
- Don’t tell the gatekeeper you always wanted to write. You can think of something more pertinent to your cause (and something more original!) than that.
- Don’t use the verb “quote” when you want the noun “quotation.” Some stylebooks will tell you that it’s OK, but agents can be a picky lot. Use zero-tolerance grammar rules for your queries.
- Don’t pitch more than one book at time. You want to give that one your best shot.
- Don’t call your novel a “fictional novel.” By definition, a novel is fiction.
- Don’t overdo exclamation marks, question marks, or the use of sentence fragments. (Yes, fragments are acceptable when they’re used for a good reason.).
Here’s one last suggestion for fiction writers ’cause they’re so often neglected when it comes to marketing. Avoid using italics for internal thought in the synopses sections of your marketing tools or in the sample chapters you must include.. It is being done more and more but using them often becomes a crutch that fiction to avoid writing great transitions and point-of-view; the best agents and publishers will recognize it as such.
Our BookBuzzr columnist is Carolyn Howard-Johnson, an award-winning author of both fiction and nonfiction, a former publicist for a New York PR firm and an instructor for the renowned UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. She is an editor with years of publishing and editing experience including national magazines, newspapers and her own poetry and fiction. Learn more about the author at http://HowToDoItFrugally.com. Her The Frugal Book Promoter: How to Do What Your Publisher Won’t won USA Book News’ best professional book award and the Irwin Award. The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success is top publishing book for USA Book News and Reader Views Literary Award. The Great First Impression Book Proposal: Everything You Need To Know To Sell Your Book in 20 Minutes or Less is a helpful little booklet available at www.budurl.com/bookproposalreport . And don’t miss another booklet Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips for Writers: The Ultimate Frugal Booklet for Avoiding Word Trippers and Crafting Gatekeeper-Perfect Copy.