London Calling

Hey everyone!

Are you a Jack London fan?

In this speech, I talk about what I take from his books The Call of the Wild and White Fang.

Hope you enjoy!

See you out there…

If you’re a writer, write. And if you’re a reader, keep reading. We need you!

Author Richard S. Todd

Richard Todd is a novelist, screenwriter, and President at The Editor’s Desk. Plus a few other things that get lost in the clutter. Visit him online at www.richard-todd.com.

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The Black and White of Print Journalism

print journalism,nate hendley, the editor's desk“It’s something I do well and that I enjoy. So I keep at it.” – Nate Hendley, journalist and true crime author.

This week, The Inside View speaks with Nate Hendley, who has made a career out of print journalism and has written a series of true crime books.

1)    Your work has appeared in National Post, The Globe and Mail, eye magazine, This magazine and Maclean’s. How did you come about deciding on print journalism as a career?

I have been writing ever since I was a kid. In grade school, I’d pen these long, hand-written adventure stories involved mercenaries and guns for hire. In high school and university I wrote a lot of short fiction, tried my hand at novel writing (with grim results) and wrote songs (I played in a few bands).

After graduating from university in 1989, I moved back home and tried to launch myself as a fiction writer. I wrote a lot but didn’t sell anything. I decided if I was serious about working as a writer, I’d better get specialty training. And switch to non-fiction. So I applied to the journalism program at Conestoga College (local community college in Kitchener, Ontario). Conestoga had a stream for university graduates, so you could finish in just over a year.

I never actually graduated from Conestoga. I started doing a gig at a Guelph, Ontario music paper called Spotlight after I left school. I also worked part-time at the Kitchener-Waterloo Record, writing up short sports round-ups and answering phones in the newsroom.

I just kind of went from there. I moved to Guelph, Ontario, started writing for a pop culture mag called id. I became the editor-in-chief eventually.

I never really seriously tried any other profession to make a living, besides writing. It’s something I do well and that I enjoy. So I keep at it.

2)    What kind of stories are print media editors looking for from their writers?

Depends who the editor is. I did a lot of freelance writing for the National Post in its early days around 2000 – 2002. I did a lot of colourful feature stories for them. I would pitch them interesting stuff that caught their attention—like a piece about this weird religious prayer rival some group did down in Regent’s Park to bring about peace or something in the community and another piece about UFO devotees.

I got a rep as a reliable freelance reporter with the Post, and they started assigning me stuff. I covered a lot of concerts, for example.

I now write for a lot of trade publications, which are magazines focused on a specific profession, occupation or niche. I’ve written for Canadian Grocer, Canadian Printer, Canadian Metalworking, Franchise Canada … you get the idea.

With trade pubs, I never have to pitch. The editors assign stories. So my advice is, get a rep for being consistent, file on time (that’s a biggie), give the editor’s what they want (if they ask for three interviews in your story, don’t try to get away with just doing one), stick to the assigned word count and don’t make waves. The media world, like many professions, still runs to a large extent on word-of-mouth. As in, one editor recommends a writer to another editor.

3)    How can local entrepreneurs attract a writer to feature their product or service? How about local authors or artists?

Local entrepreneurs looking for coverage would be best advised to start with local neighbourhood or community papers. Put together a press release about yourself or your business. Keep it short, sharp and to the point. Make no longer than one page. And include contact info (this part is vital). Give the paper a reason for covering you (is your store launching some interesting new product? Are you drastically expanding your business?—the media needs a reason for giving you coverage). Find out the proper editor at the paper to send the press release to. Then email it to them. If they don’t respond within a couple days, send it again.

Local and community are always looking for stories and they usually welcome press releases or emails from entrepreneurs.

Once you get clippings in local and community papers, you can move up a notch and try to interest the bigger players, like The Toronto Star, or CITY-TV, or radio station or what not.

For authors and artists, I would advise creating an interesting website and keeping a blog, about your book or painting or art in general or whatever. Update content regularly. Use social media to drive people to your blog. And like entrepreneurs, write a press release and send it to local media to drum up some stories.

4)    If a budding journalist asked you if they should pursue a staff position or work as a freelancer, what would you tell them?

Logically, it would make more sense to pursue a staff position if you’re a budding journalist. A staff position provides security, contacts and benefits (like dental and such). It’s tough to freelance if you’re just a newbie.

Problem is, there aren’t too many safe and secure staff jobs out there anymore in the media for budding journalists. So be prepared to freelance, even as you try to get a staff gig.

5)    What’s your vision for the future of print media?

I think there will always be some kind of print media going. Personally, I prefer reading paper books and magazines, even though it might be more convenient to use an e-reader. I think there’s enough of us who feel the same way to keep some semblance of print media going (maybe in the same way companies still produce vinyl records, for die-hards).

Having said that, I think we will see fewer print publications in the future, as the media gravitates to the digital world. I suspect more newspapers will disappear, or at least stop doing paper copies. Ironically, one of the trade mags I wrote for—called Canadian Printer—no longer prints paper copies. It’s all digital.

6)    On the side, you also write true crime books. How much research was involved with your latest book, The Mafia: An American Subculture?

Quite a bit of research went into the book. Some of the research was left over from a previous book I had done for the same company, called American Gangsters. I found the FBI website to be an invaluable trove of information. For instance, I printed off this once totally top-secret FBI file on the Mafia, published internally in the late 1950s. The FBI website is also chock full of press releases about U.S. government crackdowns on Mafia types, which was very helpful.

I availed myself of many good books about the Mafia as well. There’s lots of websites about Mafia figures on the Internet, but I avoided using most of them because they’re generally wildly inaccurate.

Other material used include government reports, court documents and many, many media stories, especially in the New York Times and Chicago papers.

Questions for Nate? Send them to info@editorsdesk.net.

Reprinted from The Editor’s Desk.

If you’re a writer, write. And if you’re a reader, keep reading. We need you!

Author Richard S. Todd

Richard Todd is a novelist, screenwriter, and president at The Editor’s Desk. Visit him online at www.richard-todd.com.

 

What to Expect from your Book Editor

First-time authors aren’t sure what to expect when they first work with an editor. This article should take some of the mystery out of it. Enjoy!

Book editing,editor,The Inside View,The Editor's Desk“Even the most brilliant of authors will have mistakes.” –  Sèphera Girón, Developmental Book Editor at The Editor’s Desk

This week, we speak to Sèphera Girón, one of the developmental editors at The Editor’s Desk, about what to expect from your book editor.

1)   How important should hiring a professional book editor be to an author?

Before I answer that, I should address the current state of publishing.

Traditional publishing is not necessarily on the decline but it’s going through a seismic shift. I believe traditional publishing will always be here. Self-publishing is not a new concept but in recent years, as the average citizen has become a technological wizard; it is easier and more economical than ever to self-publish.

In traditional publishing, once the author has leaped from the slush and landed onto an editor’s desk, a relationship begins. The editor will work with the author in a developmental capacity to draw out the best story the author can tell. When both the editor and author have decided the story is ready to be published, editing does NOT stop there. The manuscript will go through a process which can include any and all of these steps, some repeated: copy editor, back to the author, line editor, back to the author proof reader, sometimes back to the author and then it’s published. See how many editors are involved in one book?

Some authors choose to use an editing service to polish up their book as shiny as it can be before even going for a swim in the slush. Some authors have “first-readers” or writers groups where they workshop their ideas. Some authors write a book and send it off with no one seeing it.

There is no one magic answer when it comes to preparing a book for submission to a publishing house even if you already have a working relationship with your book editor. It’s up to you, the author, to submit the best work possible.

When it comes to self-publishing, authors would be wise to hire additional help in as many areas as possible. Most authors really just like to write. They don’t want to deal with anything but writing and in many cases; they shouldn’t perform any part of the process but write. However, a self-publisher is a publisher. You’re not just an author anymore. You are a publishing house. You are putting out a product in competition with traditional publishing houses. It behooves you to hire a developmental editor, especially if you are a new writer, to help you shape your project. You should definitely have some sort of copy editor to catch all those repetitive grammar errors you’ve been making since high school. Don’t be ashamed, we all do it. A line edit can be costly but it will catch everything you didn’t as you read and re-read your manuscript endlessly.

The short answer is, a professional book editor performing any service can help make your work shine at its best and an author should seek out what his or her budget can afford.

2)   What can an author expect from a professional book editor?

An editor is not a magician. An editor can only perform so many miracles in relation to the author’s own skills. An editor will help an author tell the story he is trying to tell. An editor can not and will not rewrite your book or even a sentence. An editor will not format your book or deal with photographs in any manner.

An editor wants the book to succeed and is doing the best he or she can with manuscript. An editor is not out to destroy your book or make you feel inadequate. The editor is on your team.

In modern times, an editor will use track changes so that the author can accept or not accept the editor’s suggestions. An editor will also flag spots and leave comments.

A good editor will not pussy-foot around bad writing. You asked for help, you got it. Suck it up. If you feel your editor is too harsh for your thin skin or not doing what you think he or she should be doing, use a different editor. Personality and expectation clashes do happen but sometimes an author isn’t ready to hear the truth or is inclined to do the work.

3)   Would you ever recommend an author edit his or her own work?

Even the most brilliant of authors will have mistakes. It’s impossible to see everything clearly when you’re involved in the story and have stared at those words for months, or even years. A fresh set of eyes can see so much more.

4)   Do you find that working with a book editor develops the author’s talent in the long run?

Most certainly. My own example is how my work has shifted and grown with Don D’Auria, current Editor-in-Chief at Samhain Horror Publishing. Many years ago, I decided I wanted to write for Leisure Horror. I submitted plots and manuscripts. Back in those days, sometimes you had to wait a year for an answer by snail mail. Don liked my writing but I hadn’t pitched anything that fit his vision for the horror line. We met some time later at a con and talked more. Then finally, I pitched him a book he wanted to take. We worked together on four books at Leisure Books and now have finished two with Samhain Horror with more in the works. We have a history now and it’s comforting to know how he thinks, what he looks for, and he knows what he can ask of me and that I’ll deliver. It’s motivating, as well, to know that an editor has an interest in my work, that my own creativity won’t be lost in his hands, and that it will look great with proper grammar and all that in a professional format.

If you intend to write for the long term, you may find that you will prefer to consistently work with an editor who understands your vision and can tease it out of you. Your spouse, parents, children, are very likely not good editors. They may help you understand if your story makes sense, but chances are, they won’t be the best at fixing your grammar and random tense changes. The more you write, and see your errors, the less you will make those errors, and you will find yourself growing as an author.

Think of an editor like your teacher. He or she is correcting your papers and helping you succeed. You can learn from your mistakes and your writing will improve.

5)   What is developmental editing vs. copyediting?

Developmental editing involves looking at the big picture of the manuscript.

What is the story?

Does it make sense?

Are all those characters necessary?

Is there a climax?

Is the story engaging?

Is the book organized properly: front matter, back matter?

Is the narrative voice consistent to the style?

Are there random tense changes?

All these questions and more are considered when a developmental editor is at work.

Copy editing is more about the mechanics: Grammar, typos, sentence structure, and so on.

6)   Why is proofreading important after going through the editing process?

Between the editor and author going back and forth, mistakes can happen. A proof-reader checks for typos, weird spacing, random name changes, and so on. It never hurts to have professional eyes take one last look before releasing your hard work into the world.

7)   On a different note, you’re very involved in your local writing community, doing everything from heading up associations to panel discussions to event planning. How important is it for an author to be part of their local literary community?

Authors should become active in their community as a way of spreading literacy, educating youth, inspiring free-thinking and promoting self-expression. In a world where there is so much focus on money, houses, fancy cars, fashionable clothes, and so on, there needs to be a safe pocket of calm, where someone can go away from the world, and step into someone else’s world if only for a few hours. Everyone is a story teller. Everyone has a story to tell. And everyone deserves a platform to explore this process within his or herself and to share it. Working authors have the power to make this happen in their own communities by forming or joining writers groups, working with libraries, running panels, reading series, conventions, hosting a retreat or workshop, and so on.

Questions for Sèphera? Email then to info@editorsdesk.net.

If you’re a writer, write. And if you’re a reader, keep reading. We need you!

Author Richard S. Todd

Richard Todd is a novelist, screenwriter, and president at The Editor’s Desk. Visit him online at www.richard-todd.com.

Using Simple English

Simple English,copyediting,business writing,Editor's Desk

Let’s say you’re shopping for computers. You go into a store and ask two different salesmen about the graphics on a particular model.

Salesman #1 says: “This baby is configurable to dual AMD FirePro D700, each with 8GB of GDDR5 VRAM, 2048 stream processors, 384-bit-wide memory bus, 264GB memory bandwidth and 3.5 teraflops performance.”

Salesman #2 says: “Top of the line. Graphics, photos, games, and movies will leap off the page. And if you’re designing graphics or web pages, you can’t beat the power or memory capacity.”

Which salesman would you buy from?

Chances are Salesman #2 will be getting your money. He didn’t intimidate you with jargon or feel he had to impress you with fancy tech talk like Salesman #1.

Salesman #2 simply spoke to you. And if that rings true in a brick-and-mortar location, why should your business copy be any different?

Just like that savvy salesman, your website should be using Simple English.

Simple English doesn’t mean “dumbing down” your text. It means making your page easier to read by not using large words, overly-techincal jargon, or complex phrasing.

In other words, it reflects how most people speak in both personal and business conversation. You want your website to reflect that casual tone. After all, your customers most likely don’t need to know how it works, just that it works.

So how can you test the readability of your business copy?

The Flesch Reading Scale measures the reading ease of text using a complex formula. The higher the score out of 100, the easier the page is to read. Can you guess what this page scored? I’ll tell you at the bottom.

I would also recommend reading your copy out loud, possibly to a friend or colleague. If your friend curls an eyebrow, or if something doesn’t sound quite right, chances are it won’t read well. Novelists use this technique all the time.

Also, consider your customer’s level of understanding of your product or service. Put yourself in their shoes. Would they really understand all the impressive technical words you’re using? If not, time to reconsider your strategy.

Still wondering how this page scored? It got a 69.8%, which is considered OK to read.

For this, I blame Salesman #1.

Questions? Contact us at info@editorsdesk.net.

Reprinted from The Editor’s Desk.

If you’re a writer, write. And if you’re a reader, keep reading. We need you

Author Richard S. Todd

Richard Todd is a novelist, screenwriter, and president at The Editor’s Desk. Visit him online at www.richard-todd.com.

Writing Good Copy for Author Websites

author website,content,writer,copywriting

“It’s important for the author to have a hand in what the web copy says, yet some authors have a really hard time writing about themselves…” Lissa M. Cowan, Associate Copywriter for The Editor’s Desk

The Inside View’s first instalment features Lissa M. Cowan, Associate Copywriter for The Editor’s Desk. Lissa shares her insights on writing copy for author websites.

1)   What are some of the most important aspects of  an author’s website? 

Give visitors a taste of his or her latest book to draw them in right away. That might mean presenting them with a video teaser on the homepage that recounts or reenacts some of the book without giving away the ending, or maybe it’s a hypnotizing paragraph from the book that is prominently displayed on the homepage. Another important aspect is for an author to provide two or three testimonials from readers and media that clearly showcase his or her talents, and make people want to buy the book. And finally, an author needs to give readers a way to contact him or her, and to follow the author on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Google+, Pinterest or Instagram. Choose just one or two of these social media. Also, don’t forget to ask them to share, share, share the website with their friends!

2)   Should an author write his or her own web copy or hire a professional copywriter? 

I think it’s important for the author to have a hand in what the web copy says, yet some authors have a really hard time writing about themselves and so, for something like a bio, it makes sense to have someone else write it, or at the every least, edit it. If an author does write his or her own copy, then I suggest having it edited by a professional, as even writers make writing mistakes.

3)   How often should an author update his or her blog? What kind of topics should they write about? 

It’s important to update blog content regularly as it will help an author’s website rank better online, which means driving more traffic to the site. I suggest posting once a week or twice a month. To determine what kinds of topics to write about, an author need to figure out who his or her audience is. For example, if it’s crime readers, then it makes sense to post on topics that interest these readers. It’s important for authors to remember that they don’t have to write a new post from scratch each time. Authors can comment on something they’ve read in the news, or post captivating pictures or illustrations. Depending on how long the author has been blogging, he or she can recycle and update content from previous posts, and can also request guest posts from other authors in a similar genre. If you’re not sure what topics to post about, then ask your readers via a survey. People love filling in surveys and it will give authors some useful information to draw from.

4)   Most authors are on some type of social media platform these days. Which, in your opinion, is the most effective for authors? 

I think this really depends on what kind of books the author writes, and also his or her readership. For Young Adult authors I would seriously recommend Twitter and Instagram, as young people are moving away from Facebook and spending more time on these social media. Facebook is good for some audiences, and makes it easy to set up a fan page and to send out invites for book-related events. Pinterest is really popular these days so I would definitely suggest that authors look into how this platform might work in their favour. As an example, if an author writes cookbooks then something like Pinterest or Instagram would be perfect as it is visually based. Although it’s important to be on social media for connecting to readers, I think one can overdo. Better to pick one or two and to post regularly than to be on all of them and not keep up-to-date.

5)   What’s the one thing you can recommend for an author websites that many authors haven’t thought of? 

I find that many authors still don’t have video on their websites, and video is one of the most popular ways of communicating online. In fact, experts say that in a few years it will replace social media altogether. Not sure about that, yet it’s super popular and super shareable so definitely worth doing. Author videos can range from an author reading his or her work, to a Q&A, to an animated video explaining a book’s storyline.

Questions for Lissa? Send them to info@editorsdesk.net.

Reprinted from The Editor’s Desk series: The Inside View.

If you’re a writer, write. And if you’re a reader, keep reading. We need you

Author Richard S. Todd

Richard Todd is a novelist, screenwriter, and president at The Editor’s Desk. Visit him online at www.richard-todd.com.