Tuesday, April 11, 2017

#RevPit and freelance editors

What do you think of twitter pitch type contests?  The current one is #revpit where you submit to three editors a query letter and five pages and answer a few questions.
They go through them, make anon comments about the query letter and pages. They can ask for partials and fulls and end up picking one to work with for a month.
What do you think about freelance editors overall?

I think freelance editors can be terrific, and some of them aren't worth much at all. 

I have no idea how to find out which is which short of seeing what they say about your work. Except of course, the best editors often tell you things about your work that you're not all that eager to hear. As in you have six plot holes, and the tension drops to zero in chapter fourteen.

I've had very mixed results when sending writers to freelance editors but there's no way to know if that's cause the editor isn't very good or the writer didn't do what the editor suggested. 

I recently heard back from a writer whose full I'd read and thought needed a lot of work. She told me she was just going to self-publish it instead of revising.  I'm pretty sure editors have had that same thing happen.

As for Twitter pitch contests, it's not like they'll hurt you. And maybe they'll open a door for you. And maybe one of the editors will tell you your tension drops to zero in chapter 14, and you'll actually hear her and plan to revise.

In other words, there's no reason not to participate in these kinds of things. If it helps, great. If you think the advice you're getting is dreck, at least sit on it for a month before ignoring it.


Anonymous said...

I can't believe you read someone's ms and they totally ignored your feedback. I think many of us would give a limb for that kind of oppotunity!

Colin Smith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Colin Smith said...

What's the saying? "That which doesn't kill you only makes you stronger?" I'm not sure how applicable that is to Twitter pitch contests, but it sounds good. :) Seriously, as Janet says, there's no harm in these things, but as I've said before, I'm not sure how valuable they are, aside from maybe getting your query seen quicker, getting a response from a NORMAN, or being able to query an agent otherwise closed to queries. In the end, you still have to send that query, and there's no guarantee you'll get a positive response. I've participated in a couple of these things, and I must say, the best part is the thrill of the contest. Seeing agents like my Tweet, and others replying with nice comments. As Janet says, there's no harm in that.

But it's not like getting five offers of representation... ;)

Rose Black said...

In my experience, contests can:
- help you check if you really are ready to query. It's hard to judge yourself, so getting selected gives you the push (and as Colin says, can get you ahead of the queue)
- give you a a lot of good information in one place. While personalised feedback isn't alwsays possible, there's lots of generalised good advice and there's nearly always something people can apply.
- give you connections to other writers, both published and querying, and they're a good place to meet CPs.

The camaraderie tends to be great too.

Sherry Howard said...

Twitter is a great playground for writers. I've seen some wonderful connections made through Pitch Wars on Twitter, especially. I'm a big fan of Twitter and that contest, at least.

Mark Thurber said...

I echo Sherry on this. For all its flaws, I have found Twitter to be an amazing way to immerse myself and make connections in the community of writing and publishing. And while I haven't had any concrete results from contests, the experience of trying to pitch my story in 140 characters was fun and probably useful.

I've been thinking a lot about critiques in the last couple days -- in part because I just gave one and in part because of Janet's recent post about the OP who received questionable feedback from an agent. One of the challenges is that each of us is the ultimate arbiter of what our manuscript needs. Readers -- be they editors, agents, or critique partners -- can help us see things more clearly and objectively, but they can't tell us what to do in the end. That's probably why the advice of stepping away from our manuscript sometimes is so important.

Julie Weathers said...

I've been following the #Revptch contest a little on twitter also, but since I've had my head buried in writing, I'm not really keeping up with social media much these days. Even the editor who told me if I was too lazy to do basic research about the Civil War to write something else had some valid points in her critique, which I put to good use when I was through with my doll-making class.

I just pulled the first chapter of Rain Crow out of the B&W workshop because I got enough feedback to see where I could make some strong improvements. There's a split decision on the first part of the chapter, which has some backstory and set up. It's tough to know which way to go on that. How much do people really know about Charleston, SC in the days immediately preceding Sumter? Do they really need to know how chaotic it was and that bankers not above murder had no obligation to deal with women, let alone a very young woman with no experience and a massive loan they are calling on a horse farm? Women could be committed to an insane asylum on a whim, let alone as a ruse to gain property. The trick, of course, is to weave it in instead of setting it out in big stumbling blocks. And it isn't an easy trick to pull off.

Anyway, in the end you have to get good advice and follow your gut. You also need to learn which advice to ignore.

"I recently heard back from a writer whose full I'd read and thought needed a lot of work. She told me she was just going to self-publish it instead of revising."

I'm sure I'm going to get hate mail for this, but this is precisely why I've stopped reading a lot of self-published stuff. I know some of it is very good, but most is not. I've done the whole, "You need to support our self-published authors and buy their books" thing. I have tried to read them and a few have surprised me. Most I spend my time mentally editing, which is not much fun and don't finish. Now it has to be someone who is recommended to me. I know, I'm an arse.

I communicated one person who decided after self-publishing four novels she was going to get an agent and traditionally publish them.

Why didn't you go that route before and why now?

"Because agents wanted to change them and make me cut them from 360,000 words to less than half of that and I'm not ruining my novel like that. Diana Gabaldon writes big novels."

"Well, yeah, but that's Diana."

"And my sales aren't great. I think traditional publishing would be better."

"So, you're willing to do some revisions now?"


"OK, good luck with that."

*You've being blocked*

Oh, dear.

Julie Weathers said...

Writer's quote of the day:

"The best stories don't come from "good vs. bad" but "good vs. good."

--Leo Tolstoy

Elissa M said...

Julie, you do not have to support bad writing. I never heard that it was my obligation to support self-published authors simply because they're self-published. That's a load of stuff from your protag's farm (as far as I'm concerned).

I should point out that one of my very favorite writers is self-published. She chose that route because she likes control of her projects and she writes like a demon--releasing books much faster than any traditional house would. She hires professionals every step of the way (editing, cover art, etc.) and she's a marketing wonk herself. So, yeah. I support good writing, however it's published.

On topic: I think contests that get people writing and give them some feedback can never be all bad.

kathy joyce said...

Julie , I've got your back on the self-pubs. Stones become gems through pressure and friction of the earth. Manuscripts do from the pressure and friction of the publishing process. I just haven't enjoyed many books that don't go through that process.

On agents and twitter: You sure can learn a lot from periodic bursts of 140 characters. It's worth following agents on your short list. One of mine is very political. That's okay, but I'm pretty sure it would bother me if our politics didn't mesh. Also, it would anger me if I believed she wasn't doing enough to help with my book while she tweeted politics all day. Another I found to be foul-mouthed nasty, with a real chip on her shoulders about authors. Definitely not someone I'd ever query. It's a two-way street and we authors get a say too.

Others I discovered are helpful and generous. I'll start querying with them.

Anonymous said...

#RevPit sounds like an ill-considered NASCAR event.

The only caution I'd add is to keep in mind that people (generally) offer to do things like this in the hope of getting new clients and making money. That can be a perfectly legitimate thing to do and I'm NOT criticizing the people in charge of this effort. But it can also be an opportunity for scammers. If you come to a point in the process where someone is asking for money (for anything, not just editing), do your research so you know what you're getting into.

Today seems like it should be Friday. Why is it only Tuesday?

BJ Muntain said...

I've actually submitted a novel to #revptch (a.k.a Revise & Resub). I'd like to get some editorial feedback on the whole thing (first chapter feedback only goes so far... like one chapter.) I won't hear until April 17th, I think, if mine will be chosen by an editor. But the entire novel will be edited and revised by May 19. That will be a lot of work very quickly, but I think it will be so helpful.

As for Twitter, it's a great place to make connections. The nice thing about Twitter contests - they don't cost anything. The same can't be said about most other contests. So you really don't lose anything - as long as you vet the agents, etc., who 'like' your pitch.

Julie: I agree about self-published books - and I think a lot of serious self-published folks will agree, too. There are too many people who just throw their work up because it's easier than actually working on it to make it good enough. Which means, of course, it isn't good enough. It can be difficult to find the good self-published stuff among the dross. I know a lot of self-published folks who do a LOT of marketing to pull their gold nuggets out of the pile of crap.

I also refuse to critique people who feel that way - who respond to critique with, "Well, I'm just going to self-publish, anyway, so I'm not going to listen to your changes." Okay, fine. Then I won't look at your work - either now, or when it's published. (Yes, I had one critique partner once who got infuriated by my suggestions - when I suggested he needed more conflict in his literary allegorical fantasy, he exclaimed, "This isn't some shoot-em-up science fiction novel!" Umm, no. But even a literary novel needs some kind of conflict to keep the reader reading. His response: "Well, I'm only writing this for myself, anyway. I don't care what anyone else thinks!" Then why was he in a critique group? He wasn't for much longer, though.)

KD: What the editors are getting out of this contest is exposure, really. Once the editing is done, the first five pages of the edited piece are posted online, to show how well they - and the authors - did at improving their work. That might be something to look at if someone is looking for a freelance editor - samples of work done by editors - even if they haven't participated in the challenge itself.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Julie I am with you and Elissa - I support good writing, but I have found very little to like that has been self-published. There are always exceptions.

Kathy has the right of it - it takes pressure and polish to produce a great book. Few have the discipline and resources to manage this on their own. But boy, the glacial pace of traditional publishing is frustrating. So I get why some do take the self-publishing route.

BJ Muntain said...

EM: I think there's a difference between self-publishing because they don't want to work harder and self-publishing because they've done all the work but traditional publishing is too slow, or isn't publishing their genre/sub-genre, etc. I know a number of the latter, and they tend to do somewhat well self-publishing. Because they take it seriously. The former get lost in the muck.

Some time ago, a study came out that said the average self-published author on Amazon made less than $200 on their book. (It may have been much less than that, but I can't remember the exact number. But it was less than $200, anyway.) If you consider that there are a very few people making a LOT of money - even hundreds of thousands of dollars - then you have to wonder how many people make so little as to bring that average down to under $200. I know several people who make a few thousand a year, and are happy with that. They're serious about it, though.

And this is where you have to make some heavy decisions when it comes to self-publishing. Are you publishing this just to publish it, to have it out there, not caring if anyone reads it or not? Not caring if you make only a few dollars here and there? Then it will wind up being lost in the river of crapola. Or are you publishing it to get it read, to get as many readers as possible, to make some fair money at it? Then you'll need to get a professional-looking cover and a good editor, and then market the hell out of it. With self-publishing, you get what you put into it, and you have to put in a lot to get much of anything.

smoketree said...

As an editor, and someone who works with freelance editors, there is definitely a rich tapestry of quality out there. Another factor that I think is pretty important for an editor is their "author relations" ability--some have a pretty rude and condescending manner, which isn't likely to win anyone over to their point of view. If you want an author to trust your judgment as an editor, I do think it's important to show them that you care about and understand their work.

Julie Weathers said...


"some have a pretty rude and condescending manner,"

Thank you.

The last one I used seemed to think she was auditioning for some kind of comedy routine for a new Simon Cowell show. I'm sure she thought she was being clever.

Joseph Snoe said...

I'm not a twitter critter so the proposed idea is not for me currently, but it does sound like something worth pursuing.

I do get nervous because I don't even have a critique group. I'm my own critique partner, and I'm too blunt for my liking.

A friend of mine called me today. He went to a class reunion party hosted by a man who was a successful lawyer (and still may be, but may be retired) who has published that I understand is a wonderful memoir of being a newspaper boy in Birmingham during the Civil Rights era (I just ordered it to judge for myself). He now is trying his hand at writing a novel and wants to meet someone in a similar journey. I'm intrigued by the idea.

Kate Larkindale said...

I got my agent through a Twitter pitch contest, so they can be valuable. Like everything I guess it depends on the contest...

Joseph Snoe said...

I just researched the lawyer I mentioned in my previous post who wants to meet and discuss writing with me. He might be a gold mine of insight.

He was a partner in one of the most prestigious law firms in the city. (he specialized in real estate not litigation so we have some common ground, though I had hoped he could help me with a some litigation tidbits).

Kirkus Review listed his memoir "The Newspaper Boy: Coming of Age in Birmingham, AL During the Civil Rights Era" as one of the best books of 2015. One of his short stories is nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

I hope this meeting works out.

Julie Weathers said...


I'm keeping my fingers crossed for you. You need a good crit partner. They are invaluable.

I just got off the phone with my former editor and forever friend. She's thinking about making the leap into freelance editing. She's been freelance writing.

The problem with being your own critique partner or editor, and you do need to learn to self edit and critique, is that sometimes you can't see all the things that fresh eyes do.

For instance, my crit partner this morning suggested a switch in phrasing that would make a sequence of events more plain without diluting the action. Suggestions to introduce the spying sooner has sent the the story careening wildly, but that's just what it needed.

Panda in Chief said...

BJ, I had to laugh a little about the comment by the writer who got huffy when you told them they needed more conflict in their novel. Even picture books require some level of conflict. The amount and complexity of conflict in a book depends on the genre, and age group it's being written for. There probably aren't many serial killers in picture books.

But if there's no conflict, there's no story. Who wants to read a story where everyone is nice and gets along well with others? Even in a picture book!

As for the whole self published thing, I've read some very good books that were self published, but they are few and far between. A lot of comics and graphic novels are self published (including my cartoon collection books) because the number of publishers who take on these works are pretty slim.

And I'm happy to report, while I'm not in the fly to France first class sales bracket, I am far above the average in sales. Huzzah!

Beth Carpenter said...

Panda and BJ, I remember being confused about conflict when I was starting out. I'd read that stories need conflict, and interpret this to mean the characters should be bickering in every scene. I hate books like that.

I understood about obstacles. Nobody says, "Let me tell you a story. I needed milk, so I went to the store, found the milk, paid for it, and brought it home." I knew that to be a story, something had to go wrong in the quest. But I didn't realize at first that's what conflict meant. Maybe that was your writer's problem. Or maybe they just can't take critism.

Steve Stubbs said...

I struggled for years to figure out what makes stories work. Your blog has really helped me to figure that out.

That makes me wonder how you feel about continuous tension versus an ebb and flow technique. I have seen page turners in which the author goes the continuous route. I also listened to an interview with someone who worked with Alfred Hitchcock who favored ebb and flow. He said they were worried if they keep the tension turned up all throughout the story they would wear people out. (Their opinion, not mine.) So they built it up, then relieved it, then built it up and relieved it and then REALLY built it up at the climax. I don't remember which movie he referred to, but it calls to mind REAR WINDOW. The movie starts out with Stewart's character as an invalid who is also a voyeur. The movie is old, so he doesn't see the people he's spying on doing anything very provocative (although you get the impression Hitch is teasing the viewer with the prospect that will soon change.) Then he witnesses a violent scene. You get a chance to relax a few times and finally Stewart, who plays a crippled man in a wheelchair, is suddenly engaged in mortal combat with a maniac who knows he has been spied upon and who breaks into Stewart's apartment without warning. It takes skill to pull that off, but it is powerful. To keep the reader interested during the relaxed scenes you would have to dangle a carrot in front of her nose to keep her reading while you build tension back up again. I was listening to a lady describing one of Anne Rice's books on the radio one time. I did not read the thing because it was so massive, but the way this lady described it, Anne Rice did this with a subplot which was about a sexual conquest. The woman on the radio was gasping for breath as she described it, so apparently it works, properly done. I think about that every time I see a bad movie or book in which the story is suddenly disrupted by a heavy breathing sequence and it is hard to see why the characters bother. I get the impression the director is saying, "I think you are about to walk out of the theater, so here is a sudden and unmotivated heavy breathing scene to keep you in your seat, eh?" There is a group in England that used to hand out a Plaster Foot Award to the authors that managed to do this worse than anyone else and still get published. One of the recipients was Norman Mailer.

Anyway, thanks for a great post. I feel as if I am getting a PhD in story telling just reading your blog. And not a PhD as in "Plot Hole Digger," either. Much appreciation.

Joseph Snoe said...

I think I've only read two self-published books (or books that started out as self-published) in the past two years and only after they became best sellers- The Atlantis Gene and The Martian. They may be exceptions but they do show you can find diamonds in the coal bin.

Julie Weathers said...


I feel so old. Bonner Bolton is on Dancing With the Stars. He's a champion bullrider now, recovering from a broken neck that left him paralyzed for a time. My two older boys used to ride junior bulls at his father's place when Bonner and Blue were tiny little guys.

I'll just go get my walker now.

BJ Muntain said...

Beth: It was the latter. I tried to explain to him what conflict was, and he told me he knew what it was, thank you very much. But he would fight me over every scene. Because, you know, I write science fiction. Why he was in a critique group for science fiction and fantasy writers, I'll never know.

Steve: I attended a session by Hallie Ephron on suspense. I can't remember her exact wording, but she explained the need for the ebb and flow. As I remember, the gist was that by letting the reader breathe here and there, you can increase the amount of suspense they're able to feel. If they just get tighter and tighter and tighter, there's only so far they can go. But if you give them a pause once in awhile, let them loosen just a little, then tighten some more, they're able to get tighter than if you just constantly pull on them.

Terri Lynn Coop said...

The decision to self-publish is intensely personal and shouldn't be taken lightly. But, the decision to just "not" read any of it is really limiting.

Just like trad pub, I've found good and bad.

I've had a lot of fun with it, like my novella "Salt," set in Hugh Howey's world of "Sand," pubbed through the Kindle Worlds channel. I like to write short sometimes and Kindle Worlds is a great venue.

Have I made a fortune? Oh heck no, but in the 2 1/2 years since "Devil's Deal" hit Amazon, I can say I have had sales every single month. And that is mostly with zero marketing efforts on my behalf. And the reviews didn't come from my family. They were unsolicited. Even the one 3-star said that she wanted more of the backstory played out in real time. I take that as a compliment. It shows she was invested in the tale.

And my new book will be put on the query-go-round. Not because I think trad is "better," but because I refuse to limit myself. But it won't be an open-ended affair. I'll have a set goal and if I don't reach it, I'll release the book on my own. Meanwhile, I'll be working on my historical romance and a survivalist novella involving prepper teens after a natural disaster. It will be set in the world of Steve Konkoly's "Perseid Collapse" for Kindle Worlds.

I have a pro cover designer and editor and dedicated circle of beta readers. As for editors, I can suggest getting to know them on social media, watch their interactions, and check out books by their clients. Ask for references. I have someone I go to when I just need a copyedit and someone to put those damn commas in the right place (and she is good at catching things like, "um, wasn't that blue 5 chapters ago?" and someone I go to for that deeper conceptional edit. And a trust beta reader who will say, "You know I love you more than my sister's luggage, but . . . . "

As for the Twitter pitch contests, I've done a few and think they are massive good fun. It's writing! It's social! You meet industry pros! There is some tension! And always that "what if?" gamble to make it fun and an exciting break. I work at home, so I consider things like that (and commenting on blogs) as my water-cooler time.