Wednesday, September 28, 2016

When the Editor Pays You

Kathryn Page Camp
Sometimes the conversation between an author and an editor resembles this one between Alice, the Mad Hatter, the March Hare, and the Dormouse:
“Do you mean that you can find out the answer to it?” said the March Hare.
“Exactly so,” said Alice.
“Then you should say what you mean,” the March Hare went on.
“I do,” Alice hastily replied; “at least—at least I mean what I say—that’s the same thing, you know.”
“Not the same thing a bit!” said the Hatter. “Why, you might just as well say that ‘I see what I eat’ is the same thing as ‘I eat what I see’!”
“You might just as well say,” added the March Hare, “that ‘I like what I get’ is the same thing as ‘I get what I like’!”
“You might just as well say,” added the Dormouse, who seemed to be talking in his sleep, “that ‘I breathe when I sleep’ is the same thing as ‘I sleep when I breathe’!”
After you sell your book to a publisher, the editorial relationship changes. You are no longer the boss. Ideally, you will work with the publisher to reach a compromise that you can both live with. Or, as often happens, you may realize that the editor’s changes improve the book. You probably did mean “I breathe when I sleep” rather than “I sleep when I breathe.”
But what if, for whatever reason, you said “I sleep when I breathe” on purpose? Changing the wording could affect more than a single sentence or paragraph. If the publisher’s edits don’t change the focus or the overall style of the book, however, you may choose to shrug them off. That’s what I did with the first edition of In God We Trust. Actually, I had a good relationship with the editor. Still, there were some edits that weren’t worth arguing over.
It’s different when an editor wants to change the book’s philosophy or structure. What does a writer do then?
First, consider the editor’s suggestions. Maybe they make the book stronger. But if they change the overall philosophy of the book or violate your purpose in writing it, you may be left with two unattractive choices: (a) let the publisher have its way or (2) break the contract and take the consequences. The best way to avoid this issue is to do your research and know what you are getting into before signing the contract.
I wrote Writers in Wonderland for the average writer, not for academics or other lawyers. I needed a hook to get and keep my audience’s interest in what many consider a dry subject, so I went with a Lewis Carroll theme. When I submitted the proposal to publishers, I received a number of encouraging responses but only one bite. It came from an academic publisher that wanted me to tone down the Lewis Carroll references. Since that would have eliminated the hook and limited my audience, I declined the offer and ended up self-publishing.
If I had already entered into a contract, however, I probably would have given in and mourned the changes forever after. Unfortunately, that’s part of a writer’s reality.
So before you enter into a contract with a traditional publisher, consider what kind of editorial relationship you are likely to have. If you think you can live with it, go ahead and sign. But remember this:
When the editor pays you, it has the final say.
The drawing at the top of this post is by John Tenniel and was one of the original illustrations for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The quoted passage is also from that book. The image and the text are both in the public domain because of their age.
Kathryn Page Camp is a licensed attorney and full-time writer. Writers in Wonderland: Keeping Your Words Legal was a Kirkus’ Indie Books of the Month Selection for April 2014. The second edition of Kathryn’s first book, In God We Trust: How the Supreme Court’s First Amendment Decisions Affect Organized Religion, was released on September 30, 2015. You can learn more about Kathryn at

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

When You Pay the Editor

Kathryn Page Camp

What does a sleeping child have to do with editing?

Not much.

When I looked for a photograph to draw attention to this post, I couldn’t find any good ones about editing or editors that didn’t raise copyright issues. But I did have a cute picture of my daughter when she was about eleven months old, so I wondered if there was any way I could tie it in. Here’s what I came up with.

You’ve chosen an editor and handed over your baby, who is wide awake and ready to go on an action adventure. (Or at least that’s how you see it.) When you get your baby back, you discover that the editor has changed the action adventure into a bedtime story.

I admit that the analogy is a stretch, and a very long one at that. A good editor would tell me to eliminate the analogy—and the photo—and find another way to start the post.

So here’s the question: Do I have to take my editor’s advice?

Not if I’m paying the editor. I’m the boss and can do whatever I want, which includes rejecting any suggestions I don’t agree with.

But just because I can doesn’t mean I should.

I pay the editor for advice, so ignoring it is the same as wasting my money. Not that I take every piece of advice she gives me—I don’t. Still, I seldom reject her suggestions completely. I may not use her words, but I try to clarify the passage without changing the meaning.

When you pay the editor, you are the boss. You get to decide which suggestions to take and which to reject.

But remember why you hired an editor in the first place.


Kathryn Page Camp is a licensed attorney and full-time writer. Writers in Wonderland: Keeping Your Words Legal was a Kirkus’ Indie Books of the Month Selection for April 2014. The second edition of Kathryn’s first book, In God We Trust: How the Supreme Court’s First Amendment Decisions Affect Organized Religion, was released on September 30, 2015. You can learn more about Kathryn at

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Should You Hire an Editor?

This week’s post is a reprint of the November 13, 2013 IWC blog post, which was written by Kathryn Page Camp. The cost figures may be outdated, but the advice never is.

The original post was directed at self-publishing, but the information also applies when preparing a manuscript for submission to traditional publishers.


What do you think of when you hear the word, “self-published”? I think of substandard work. While there are many great self-published books, they aren’t the ones I remember. As a self-published author myself, I’m ashamed of anything that gives the category a bad name.

I like to support my fellow authors, and I’ve bought my share of self-published books. I also download those “free” Kindle books when the description sounds interesting. And some have been a pleasant surprise.

But most are riddled with typos, inconsistencies, and just plain bad writing.

That’s why every self-published author should hire a freelance editor.

Yes, I know it’s expensive, ranging anywhere from $500 to $10,000 for a 60,000 word manuscript. The actual price is based on a number of factors, including the type of edit and the experience of the editor. And the poorer the manuscript, the more it will cost to edit. But if your goal is to produce a professional-quality book you won’t be ashamed of five years from now, it’s well worth the money.

What types of services do editors provide? For our purposes, we will concentrate on three.

Proofreading is the cheapest and most basic service that editors provide. A proofreader looks for typos, misspellings, and grammar errors. If your book has been typeset or reformatted, a proofreader can also check the final copy against your original manuscript to make sure they match. The cost to proofread a 60,000 word manuscript may average from $500 to $950.

Copyediting is probably the most common. I always pay for a copyedit before finalizing a book manuscript, even when I am submitting to a traditional publisher. After all, why wouldn’t I want to submit my best work?

Like proofreading, copyediting looks for typos, misspellings, and grammar errors. But it also looks for inconsistencies and for words and sentences and paragraphs that are confusing or awkward. I own a self-published non-fiction book that is easy to read and gives me interesting information, but it mentions that a woman was 12 in 1817 and 76 in 1871. That means I can’t trust the facts without double-checking them with another source.

That error is evident on the face of the manuscript, and a good copyeditor would have caught it. If you request it, a copyeditor will also check other sources to verify facts and references. Obviously, however, the more you ask a copyeditor to do, the more it will cost. For that 60,000 word manuscript, a copyedit may average anywhere from $750 to $2,500. 

Substantive editing—sometimes called line editing—is the most expensive, but it is also the most comprehensive. Although it includes some of the elements of a good copyedit, a substantive edit also looks at the contents and tells you what works and what doesn't on both a macro and a micro level. The editor may go so far as to recommend that you reorder your chapters to make the plot more suspenseful or eliminate your favorite passage because it’s irrelevant. For a 60,000 word manuscript, a substantive edit will average between $2,000 and $10,000.

What type of edit you need depends on your human resources. Do you belong to a writers’ critique group that includes knowledgeable members and provides honest feedback on both craft and clarity? Do you have someone (preferably not a family member or good friend) from your target audience who will give you candid comments from a reader’s perspective? And do you take full advantage of these resources? If so, you may not need a substantive edit.

I’m a grammar geek and, given time to do a careful read, am also good at catching typos and confusing words and phrases. Even so, it’s hard for me to edit my own work. I know what I wanted to say, and my mind reads it that way. And I’m not alone. Very few people can edit their own work and end up with an acceptable product.

Of course, not everyone has the financial resources to hire an editor. Still, there may be a way. What about giving up that cappuccino you always buy on the way to work? Or do you have skills you can barter?

Start by asking yourself why you are writing and publishing. Because if you want to produce your best work, you will find a way to polish it before releasing it to the public.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Before You Hire an Editor

Kathryn Page Camp

I always hire an editor before submitting my manuscripts to publishers. After all, shouldn’t I submit my best work? I’m not taking about perfection, because then I would never finish a book. But I do want to submit the best book I can to a potential publisher.

It’s the same with an editor.

Too many writers dispense with self-editing because “that’s what I pay my editor for,” or even “the publisher will fix it.” But that thinking is na├»ve. The more work you leave for the editor, the more the editor will cost. And expecting the publisher to fix it may mean that you attract no publisher at all.

Even more importantly, nobody knows what the writer intends better than the writer does. The more a writer leaves to an editor, the less it will be the writer’s work.

That’s why I believe that self-editing is a prerequisite to hiring an editor.

Self-editing is too large a subject to cover in one blog post—or even in a series. That’s why I’m going to refer you to some of the many books that are out there. There may be others that are better, but these are the ones on my bookshelves.

·         Revision & Self-Editing by James Scott Bell (part of the Write Great Fiction series published by Writer’s Digest Books);

·         Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself Into Print by Renni Browne and Dave King; and

·         The chapter on revision from Stein on Writing by Sol Stein.

So do yourself and your readers a favor. Learn about and apply self-editing techniques before you hire an editor.


Kathryn Page Camp is a licensed attorney and full-time writer. Writers in Wonderland: Keeping Your Words Legal was a Kirkus’ Indie Books of the Month Selection for April 2014. The second edition of Kathryn’s first book, In God We Trust: How the Supreme Court’s First Amendment Decisions Affect Organized Religion, was released on September 30, 2015. You can learn more about Kathryn at

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Meet Cathy Day, Keynote Speaker for the 2016 Steel Pen Creative Writers' Conference

The Steel Pen Writers’ Conference Committee is please that Cathy Day has signed on as the Featured Speaker at this year’s event. It is always inspiring when a leader in the writing community shares their excitement. I had the honor of tapping into Cathy’s thoughts and ideas surrounding her creative process and commitment to the writing/reading community. I hope you enjoy what Cathy has to offer here, and you can hear her speak more on these subjects at the Steel Pen Writers’ Conference on November 12, 2016. Registration is ongoing and can be accessed through

Julie Demoff-Larson: The Steel Pen Conference hosts a wide variety of attendees in various states of their writing career. What benefits do you feel emerging writers can gain from conferences/workshops?
Cathy Day: The chance to feel like a “real writer” for the day. Once you experience this, you’ll want to do whatever you can to keep that feeling with you when you go home. It inspires you to commit to a writing regimen, to become part of a writing community, and to send your work out into the world.
JDL: What will you be offering at the Steel Pen Conference this year?
CD: I’ll be delivering the keynote address about a subject that’s near and dear to my heart: literary citizenship. So many people come to conferences looking for an answer to the question: “What’s the secret to getting published?” I think that the answer is to worry a whole lot less about your own needs and to make the world a better place for books in general. We’re living in a historical moment when more and more people want to be writers but bookstores are closing and publishers can’t make ends meet. If we devoted even a little bit of our energy to addressing this, we’d all be better off.
JDL: Tell us about the genre you write in. How do you go about gathering research? What inspires you to pursue a specific topic or plot-line? 
CD: Most of my fiction is based on truth. I call it fictional nonfiction. I’m usually inspired by Indiana subjects—the circus, the Colts, Cole Porter—and then I start reading and digging around. This phase of this process is about discovery. I don’t know what I’m looking for exactly, but some things just grab me. Then I ask myself why these things have traction. Usually, it’s because they touch on what really matters to me—as a human being and as a writer. I also look for what’s not there. Fiction is a great way to tell the untold story or to offer another explanation.  
JDL: What was the path that led you to novel writing? Or was novel writing a natural fit and where you first started? How has your writing voice, style, and method changed over time?
CD: Honestly, I don’t consider myself a novelist yet. My first book was a collection of linked stories, what some call a novel in stories. My second book was a memoir. The book I’m working on now is a novel—so if it gets published, then I’ll be a novelist! I was taught to write using the short story as a model (something I've written about at length), and I’ve figured out how to write a novel by teaching the subject, by studying a lot of novels, and (honestly) by watching great television series like Mad Men, Friday Night Lights, Breaking Bad, and The Wire—which have become the great social novels of our time.
JDL: What are you working on right now? What did you do to prepare for this work?
CD: About nine years ago, I thought I’d write a novel about Cole Porter. He and I share a hometown. I got a research grant to visit his archives at Yale and visit his homes in New York and Williamstown, MA. But I quickly realized that I was more interested in Linda, his wife. She had a fascinating life long before she met Cole. I know that “The Famous Cole Porter” is what will bring readers to my book and to my character, but I’m trying to minimize his presence so that the reader can really see Linda.
JDL: What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
CD: Nobody—no degree-granting institution, no teacher, no editor, no association—grants you the status of writer. You don’t need anyone’s permission to be a writer. You have to give yourself permission. It’s an almost completely internal “switch” that you have to turn on and (this is harder) keep on.
Cathy Day teaches the craft of fiction and creative nonfiction. She’s the author of The Circus in Winter, a novel-in-stories, and Comeback Season, a memoir. She’s been teaching creative writing for over 20 years, most recently at Ball State University. She speaks on topics related to her historical research and teaches literary citizenship (how to advocate for books and writers in the digital age). She maintains numerous blogs related to her interests, which enjoy approximately 75,000 unique visitors a year. You can find her website at

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Sell Your Books and Your Services at the 2016 Steel Pen Creative Writers' Conference

As mentioned in last week’s post, this year the conference book fair will be hard to miss because it will be in the open near the registration desk. Something new this year is a bookstore, also prominently located near the registration desk. This gives you two ways to sell your books. It also preserves the book fair opportunity to sell your services and your organization.

You can take advantage of these opportunities at the 2016 Steel Pen Creative Writers’ Conference. The date and location are Saturday, November 12, 2016, at the Radisson Star Plaza in Merrillville, Indiana.

The book fair will work much as it has in past years. Each table costs $20, and vendors do not have to pay for and attend the conference. This year they must, however, provide the names of all individuals who will be staffing the table. For those who are not registered for the conference, box lunches may be purchased at $20 each. All vendor applications and fees must be received by October 15. For additional terms and conditions, or to reserve a table, see the application at this link:

The bookstore is a new service this year and is available to all conference attendees and to all IWC members. The bookstore does not have storage facilities for inventory, however, so IWC members who do not attend the conference or who leave early must make arrangements to drop their books off in the morning and pick them up in the late afternoon. The bookstore will take a 15% consignment fee on each book sold. Authors using the bookstore also agree to pay the credit card fees if the purchaser uses a credit card. The bookstore will collect the sales taxes and remit them to the State of Indiana. All bookstore applications must be received by October 15 to give bookstore personnel time to enter the book information into the system. For additional terms and conditions, or to request consignment, see the application at this link:

If you are selling a service or an organization, the book fair is for you. But if you have books to sell, which option is better? Here is a checklist to help you decide.

Book Fair
I would rather attend the conference sessions than staff a table (check bookstore).
I get higher sales by promoting the book myself (check book fair).
I have books to sell, but I am also selling my services or promoting an opportunity (check book fair).
I don’t enjoy selling myself or my books (check bookstore).
I am an IWC member and can get my books to and from the conference but can’t attend myself (check bookstore).
I prefer the personal touch (check book fair).

To learn more and to register for the conference, visit the conference page on the Indiana Writers’ Consortium website at Also check out our Facebook page at


The photograph is from last year’s book fair.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Perfect Venue for the 2016 Steel Pen Creative Writers' Conference


This will be Steel Pen’s second year at the Radisson Star Plaza in Merrillville, Indiana. The venue received rave reviews last year, and it will be even better this year after making two small adjustments to the conference set-up (described below).

So why is the venue perfect? It starts with location, location, location. The complex is located in Merrillville, Indiana, on U.S. 30 just off of I-65, making it easy to reach from all directions.

Then there are the amenities for those who want to spend a little extra time in the area. The Radisson Star Plaza is a full-service hotel with a restaurant, a coffee shop, an indoor swimming pool, and a fitness center. If you are staying Saturday evening, you can buy tickets to see Buddy Guy at the Star Plaza Theater, enjoy the show at the Wisecracker Comedy Club, or listen to live music at T.J. Maloney's, Irish Pub, all without leaving the complex. There are dozens of restaurants nearby, and Chicago is only about an hour away.

The food, the service, and the rooms received high grades from last year’s conference goers. The only complaints about the facility involved the stairs and the location of the book fair. Both of those issues have been resolved for the 2016 conference.

Last year, conference activities were spread out over two floors. Although there is an elevator, some attendees would have preferred having everything on a single level. The book fair was given two rooms to itself in order to provide a dedicated area with plenty of space for exhibitors, but vendors complained that it was too out-of-the-way to attract business. This year everything will be on one floor and the bookfair will be in an open area near the registration desk. Since the Radisson books up quickly, we had to move the conference from October to November to accommodate these needs, but it was worth it. The Conference Committee is confident that we have the perfect set-up for 2016.

Unfortunately, 2016 will be Steel Pen’s last year at the Radisson Star Plaza. The facility is slated for demolition in the spring of 2017 so that the owners can build a more upscale hotel on the site. The Steel Pen Conference Committee will have to find another venue for next year, but you can be part of history by attending one of the last conferences at the landmark hotel that has brought tourism and conferences to Northwest Indiana for almost fifty years.  

We hope to see you there.


To learn more and to register for the conference, visit the conference page on the Indiana Writers’ Consortium website at Also check out our Facebook page at

The photographs show the Radisson Star Plaza, which is the location for the 2016 Steel Pen Creative Writers’ Conference.