Why I Hate Insta-love: An Editor’s Perspective

Trusted source Urban Dictionary defines insta-love as “when someone who just meets you thinks that you are their soul mate and they want to spend the rest of their lives with you and have kids with you.” Sound crazy? Sound familiar?

The word started popping up a few years ago to explain a rapidly growing trope in YA literature in which the protagonist meets a boy and instantly falls in love. Insta-love became so reviled on social media and the blogging world that I was certain it would disappear. And yet here I am, blogging about it today because I’m still seeing it in submissions and in published works.  Continue reading

Why Grammar Matters: An Editor’s Perspective

I once heard that grammar is as important to good writing as bread is to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Without the bread—aka the boring, structural piece of your meal—you’re just left holding a mess.

A few weeks ago I attended a conference where there was a discussion about the importance of grammar. An attendee stood up and asked if having technical writing skills and underlying knowledge of grammar was important to being a writer, as she didn’t have an English major background. The panelists almost unanimously said no. One of the panelists went on to say that grammar was what editors were for, and the focus of the writer should be the craft of the book.  Continue reading

How To: Set Up a Picture Book

For those of you looking to write a picture book, it helps to know how these books are set up for publication. From page count to layout, picture books are quite a bit different from your average story. Take a look at the guidelines below to start on the right foot.


  • The average picture book is 32 pages. Some are 24, some are 48, and on occasion you can go as high as 64.
    • You’ll notice those numbers are all multiples of 8, and that’s because printers print in “signatures” of 8, 16, or 32 pages. Learn more about signatures here.
  • Having a 32-page book doesn’t mean you get the full 32 pages. At least two pages will likely be needed for the title page and the copyright, and you may also have to incorporate a half title page or a dedication.
  • Endsheets (the colored or printed pages at the beginning and end of a book) do not generally factor into your page count. They are added separately and are usually produced on slightly different paper than the rest of the book.
  • Most picture books are laid out in spreads, aka a left and right page. Spreads are used in order to create larger, more vivid artwork.
    • Fun fact: It also helps save time and money, since it is usually less expensive and time-consuming for an illustrator to do a spread than two separate pieces (one for the left page and one for the right).

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Manuscript Dos and Don’ts: Lightning Round

Here are some down-and-dirty dos and don’ts for setting up a manuscript. (Keep in mind that you should always follow the specific guidelines set forth by the agent, publisher, or magazine.) I’ll start out with the general, big-ticket items and work my way down to crazy-editor pet peeves.

DO: use Microsoft Word

DON’T: use Pages, Google Docs, Word Perfect, or other programs for word processing

DO: conform to Chicago Manual of Style guidelines and Merriam-Webster spellings whenever applicable

DON’T: forget to run a spell check before submitting your manuscript  Continue reading

Your Website 101: How to Create a Strong Online Presence

Before you even finish your manuscript, your website should be in the works. Nothing looks worse to a publisher, customer, or reviewer than typing your name into Google and coming up with…nothing. In this day and age, no one can afford the luxury of not being online.

Start by creating an author website so readers can have a direct link to you and your book. You can link back to places like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Facebook with ease, and having your own website will help you make direct sales, connect with your readers, and, above all, have a landing place for your brand.

There are two choices when it comes to creating your website: hire a pro or do it yourself. This decision all depends on your level of comfort with technology, as well as the amount of time and money you have available.  Continue reading

What’s In a Name? How to Craft a Great Book Title

This post is excerpted from The Independent Publisher: How to Build and Promote Your Bestselling Book

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and lightning bug.” —Mark Twain

The words that comprise the title of your book, though few, are some of the most important ones you’ll write on the whole project. If you doubt that, consider this: do you think John Gray would have sold millions of copies of Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus if he had stuck with his original title for the book, which was What Your Mother Couldn’t Tell You and What Your Father Didn’t Know? Would you have picked it up, carried it to the checkout, and whipped out $16.95 if it had that title?

“Writing a book that lacks a title feels a bit like owning a car with no license plates,” novelist Nicholas Weinstock wrote in an essay in Poets & Writers magazine. “Sturdy and stylish as the vehicle might be, as smoothly as the narrative may be running, the thing will not be allowed in public without some assortment of letters riveted squarely to the front.”  Continue reading

To Query or Not to Query: Your top six querying questions answered

The world of querying agents is gray and murky at the best of times. Signings and acceptances are rare, and rejections—when they are sent at all—are generally something to the effect of “your book is not the right fit for me at this time.” Not quite the feedback the aspiring writer needs! So how do would-be authors make their query letters stand out among the hundreds or thousands agents receive each month? Read on for tips and advice on your top six querying questions, from finding the perfect agent to making yourself marketable.  Continue reading

The New Year, Old Year, All Year Resolutions Every Writer Should Have

Some of us make New Year’s Resolutions…and some of us make All Year Resolutions (after we’ve stopped going to the gym in February). Whether you’ve stuck to this year’s promises or not, resolve to try these 10 things within the next calendar year. Below are the top 10 resolutions for writers, from setting writing goals to keeping your website fresh to making meaningful connections with other authors. A happy, productive writing year to us all!  Continue reading

The Freelancer Cheat Sheet: Everything You Need to Know About Freelance Writers and Editors

You’ve probably heard of most of these professions: ghostwriter, book doctor, coauthor, editor. But what do they all mean and how do you know who is right for your project? Read on to see who, what, where, when and why, for the four main freelance jobs.

Who: Book Doctor

What: A book doctor is a writer/editor that is approached by a publisher or author with a troubled manuscript. These people are usually seasoned professionals with excellent reputations and connections in their field and in the world of publishing.

Where: It can be tricky to find a good book doctor. Your publishing house will often be the one to approach an industry professional for help. However, you can look around online to see if there are doctors for hire. Be sure to do your research thoroughly, as some people like to bandy the term about.

When: In many cases, a book doctor is used when a manuscript needs major reworking, not just editing. Book doctoring can happen with promising or famous authors who just haven’t turned in the manuscript an editor hoped for, though individuals can also seek the advice of a book doctor.

Why: Book doctors are aptly named: they fix up, clean up, and set a book to rights. This can be a difficult process, and will require a lot more work on the part of the author, but the results are worth it.  Continue reading