Tips for Getting Your Author Ready for an Instagram Takeover

Social media is a great way to generate publicity for a book, and one trend that has recently gained popularity is Instagram takeovers. For authors who aren’t familiar with Instagram, the platform can look incredibly complicated at first glance. Knowing the basics of the platform is crucial, especially given the frequency with which it’s updated. In this post I will offer tips to get your Instagram-newbie author ready for a takeover in no time!

  1. Get Them Familiar with the Platform
  2. Most takeovers usually happen on Instagram stories, but the buttons to add this content may not come across clearly. Make sure your author knows that in order to access this button, they will need to either swipe left or locate the circle at the top left of their screen. I always find that screenshots and examples are incredibly helpful in this step! A great way to get comfortable with this feature is to practice—have them create test posts on a private or personal account so that they have a better idea of what to do when the time comes. This will also allow you to gauge their understanding of the platform as well.

  3. Set Expectations
  4. The idea of a takeover may seem overwhelming to authors who don’t know what to expect. They may ask questions like “How often should I post?” and “What kind of content do I share?” Giving your author some guidelines can help soothe some of this anxiety. Let them know specifics like how often they should post (i.e. once an hour vs. ten posts total), what the time frame is for their takeover, and what you and your viewers expect to see during that time. Make sure they know what they are getting into. I always recommend that authors share fun facts about themselves, pictures of their pets, and other material that allows viewers to get to know them. This will look different for everyone, so make sure you are as clear as possible every step of the way.

  5. Communicate
  6. Given everything going on in the world with social distancing, virtual meetings, and geographical limitations, it is more important than ever to establish effective communication. While emailing back and forth is convenient, giving a step-by-step tutorial in text can be overwhelming. Sharing screens or having an audio connection is a great alternative that will help take stress off your author and make them feel like they aren’t alone in figuring this out.

  7. Know Your Resources
  8. One of the great things about the “new normal” of virtual meetings is that it is easier than ever to find a video tutorial that can do some of the work for you. This video by Louise Henry is very in-depth and effective at covering all of the options that Instagram stories has to offer. In his tutorial, Dusty Porter offers a quick, but thorough, rundown on Instagram stories. These are just a few examples, but you always have the option to take matters into your own hands and screen-record your own tutorials as well.

  9. When in Doubt, Take Over
  10. Some authors just won’t get the hang of Instagram, and that is okay! I recommend that you sit down with your author and plan out content that you can post for them: choose photos to share and create captions with together, or offer a Q&A session via email so followers can still have authentic engagement with the author. There are endless possibilities!

  11. Move On
  12. An Instagram takeover will not make or break a campaign, so if things really aren’t working out, then it’s time to move on. With that being said, always be patient and allow your author the time and space to acclimate to Instagram. Only move on as a last resort.

Instagram takeovers are a fun and low-stress marketing tool that anyone can take advantage of. With these tips, you may be able to help your author in a big way! Just make sure to do your own research, because in the world of social media, the platforms we know and love can change in an instant.

Thumb hovering over Instagram app on a smart phone.

Learning the ABCs of Bookstagram

I started my bookstagram page at the end of September 2020. In under half a year, I have amassed 3,400 plus followers, held conversations with some of my favorite authors, and made many bookish friends. There are many tips and tricks only accessible to those engaging with other accounts, consuming a lot of content, and running an actual bookstagram account. Thus, I have gathered my most useful tips and tricks on how to create, operate, and brand a successful bookstagram account.

  1. Realize your definition of success.
    1. What do you want to get out of your account? Do likes matter? Do followers matter?
    2. Know your own value. Likes and followers only hold the weight you place on them. Big or small, this account is ultimately for you!
  2. Develop your content strategy.
    1. Will you be posting book reviews? Do you want your feed to be aesthetically pleasing and uniform in style or color? Will you post other content besides books?
    2. Many followers first engage with your image—this is Instagram, after all. Having good lighting and photo quality are a great first step to running a professional account. Many bookstagrammers use props like fake flowers, bookish merch, and other knickknacks to create a theme, while others use a consistent filter or color scheme.
    3. Your inaugural post is a great way to introduce yourself to the bookstagram community! Why did you choose to begin? What books do you like? Why is your account unique?
  3. Design your profile.
    1. Start with your account name, a.k.a. your @ handle. Making it book related helps alert others to your interests.
    2. Another critical part of your account is the profile picture. Some choose to pay for a designed logo, but you can make your own in many different apps, Adobe Creative Cloud, or even Word. A picture of books or you with books would work, just make sure it is recognizably your account. This is your chance to stand out!
    3. Many times people decide to follow and follow back based on your @ handle, profile picture, and bio. If you choose a random selfie or obscure name, other bookstagrammers may not recognize your account as a book page.
    4. You have the option to switch your account to a “business profile.” It is not required, but it can be worthwhile because you are able to see the best times to post, the demographics of your followers, and engagement rates of your posts.
    5. You can also create highlights on your profile from the Instagram story feature. You are able to further brand your account by creating cover images for different highlights.
  4. Extra tips.
    1. Engage. With. Other. Accounts. If you follow an account, like a few of their photos, and even comment, they are more likely to return the favor! You will also create friendships and start to carve out your own space in the bookstagram community.
    2. A big part of success on Instagram (and beating the algorithm) is consistency. Most recommend posting at least once a day. However, post as much or as little as you can manage. Do not overwhelm yourself!
    3. If you choose to use hashtags on your posts, choose ones with fewer than fifteen thousand posts and more than one thousand. This will help your post be shown to more accounts.
    4. There are many apps you can employ to help you. Instagram layout apps are great for planning your feed, follower apps can help you keep track of any spam accounts or bots, and editing apps can make your images pop!
    5. Follow trains are useful for beginners looking to make new friends and find new accounts to follow; you can often find them under hashtags and around general bookstagram.
    6. Do not follow too many accounts or like too many posts in a short period of time, especially when you have a new Instagram account. They will temporarily block your account. Since the numbers frequently change, you can google the current Instagram algorithm and rules.

Ultimately, successful accounts bring something new to the table! Convey your unique voice via your reviews, use unique props, or just find your people. If you are confused about any steps or features of Instagram, Google will most likely have the answer. You are also free to message me on Instagram, @fringebookreviews, and I will try to address your questions! You can also use my account as an example. Good luck, and happy reading!

How to Build Community with Other Editors

Editing can be a lonely profession. The number of in-house editing positions has declined in recent years, and more and more editors are working as freelancers. This means editors spend a lot of time at home, toiling away in Track Changes with only Merriam-Webster and The Chicago Manual of Style for company. But although editors are a notoriously introverted bunch, we all stand to benefit from a little social connection. What happens when you run into a truly perplexing problem—be it a difficult client or a questionable comma—and you need to turn to other editors for advice? Where can editors go to receive mentoring and to swap war stories? This post outlines some of the ways in which editors can connect with each other—virtually as well as in person—in order to grow as professionals and build a sense of community.

Social Media
Unsurprisingly, one of the best ways to connect with other editors is through social media. Joining online editors’ groups will enable you to tap into vast networks of editors from all over the world—many of whom are sitting at home alone, faces illuminated by the bluish glow of their computer screens, just like you! There are various Facebook groups specifically for editors, the most prominent of which is probably the Editors’ Association of Earth. Boasting over ten thousand members, this robust online community includes various forums and subgroups where editors of all stripes come together to share tips and tools, ask each other for advice, vent their professional frustrations, and have a good chuckle over language-related jokes and memes.

It’s also a good idea to maintain an active presence on platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn, which allow you to follow other editors and publishing professionals and maintain a solid network. (It’s worth noting here that Merriam-Webster has an insightful, entertaining, and often combative Twitter presence—all editors should follow this sassy dictionary.)

Editors’ Associations and Guilds
While communities on social media are fun and free to take part in, editors should also consider joining professional associations. These usually cost money to join, but the benefits are often worth it. One of the major editors’ associations is ACES: The Society for Editing, which hosts an annual conference (although the 2020 conference was sadly canceled due to COVID-19) and offers membership benefits that include a free listing in a freelancer directory, access to the society’s quarterly journal, and discounts on editing-related conferences, publications, and tools. Membership costs $75 a year for regular members and $40 a year for students.

Another organization to consider joining is the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA). The cost of membership with the EFA is steeper: $145 a year (or $260 for two years), plus an initial processing fee of $35. However, the EFA does offer some valuable perks, like discounts on editing courses, access to the EFA job list, and—in some regions—discounts on healthcare.

And then there are local editors’ associations, which offer more opportunities to get to know local editors and network face-to-face. For example, editors based in the Pacific Northwest might consider joining the Northwest Editors Guild. Membership costs $65 a year, and benefits include access to an online job board, local networking happy hours, and mentoring sessions with more experienced editors.

Conferences
Another great way to meet editors, writers, and publishing professionals is to attend conferences. In addition to the annual ACES conference, there are a variety of editing- and publishing-related conferences held across the U.S. every year (pandemics notwithstanding). These include large-scale national conferences like AWP, along with smaller local conferences like those hosted by PubWest and Willamette Writers.

In Conclusion
No matter what kind of editor you are, you’re never alone! By reaching out to other editors through social media, professional associations, and conferences, you can grow your professional network and develop a support system of like-minded word nerds.

Mind Your Style Sheet

I once took a class on book editing, and one of our assignments was to copyedit a section of a manuscript. When the instructor returned my graded assignment, she included the following comment: “I wish you had made more use of the style sheet.”

She was right—I hadn’t made good use of the style sheet, and that was because I didn’t fully understand what style sheets were or how best to use them. I knew the style sheet was a document where I was supposed to record all the editorial decisions I made while copyediting the manuscript, but I was fuzzy on the details.

It wasn’t until I started copyediting manuscripts for Ooligan that I really grasped the concept of the style sheet. I learned that while resources like CMOS, Merriam-Webster, and house style guides are extremely useful when it comes to general rules, there are always going to be exceptions. Every manuscript is different—perhaps you’re working on a book that uses terminology not found in Merriam-Webster, or perhaps the author has some strong stylistic preferences that differ from the publisher’s house style guidelines—and the copyeditor is going to have to make decisions. When this happens, these decisions need to be recorded in the manuscript’s individualized style sheet to ensure consistency.

Imagine this scenario: You’re copyediting a manuscript, and you notice that the author has used the word alright. You suspect that the correct spelling is all right, but when you look it up in Merriam-Webster, you find that both forms are acceptable. Now you have a decision to make. You search the manuscript and find that alright occurs five times, while all right occurs twice. Since the author has shown a slight preference for alright, you decide to go with that spelling. You then turn to the “word list” section of your style sheet, and under “A” (because style sheet entries should always be alphabetized), you type, “alright (not all right).” Now, as you continue the copyedit, every time you run into an alright or an all right, you can refer back to the style sheet to remind yourself of your decision. When you’ve completed this pass, you can search the manuscript for every term on the list to ensure that they’re all being treated consistently. If you didn’t keep a style sheet, maintaining consistency would be much harder.

In addition to word lists, style sheets also include rules for things like punctuation, the use of italics, and the treatment of numbers. For example, a style sheet might specify that all internal thoughts should be expressed in italics. Style sheets for fiction manuscripts should include lists of character names to ensure consistent spelling, and editors should also make note of some distinguishing features for each character. If you note that Billy is described as having blue eyes on page 4, then you’ll notice something is amiss when he suddenly has brown eyes on page 203.

It can be tricky to figure out what to put in a style sheet and what to leave out. You obviously don’t need to list every single rule in CMOS or make an entry for every typo. But what should you include? As Amy Einsohn and Marilyn Schwartz observe in The Copyeditor’s Handbook, it depends on the editor. On page 59 of the recently published fourth edition, they write, “Instead of listing every individual change and decision, experienced copyeditors reduce the work of recordkeeping by simply noting the style followed in certain well-defined categories (e.g., ‘Chicago numbers style throughout’) and then just recording exceptions.… But novice copyeditors should err on the side of overdocumentation until they master the intricacies of various editorial styles.” Include whatever you think might be helpful to you, your managing editor, and the author (who should receive a copy of the style sheet alongside the copyedited manuscript).

Though style sheets can seem confusing at first, they are among the most important tools at a copyeditor’s disposal. As long as you keep your style sheet organized and record all of your decisions related to mechanics and style, you should be all right. (Or is it alright? Better check the style sheet.)

A Quick Guide to Planning a Writing Conference

I am writing this blog post as a little time capsule that is part instructional guide and part philosophy on communicating and coordinating with people. My hope is that the future managers in charge of the Write to Publish conference will read this and get some useful information.

This blog post will be a little less reflective and a little more reactive, as I am currently still in the thick of planning the 2020 conference, which will take place on January 11 at the Smith Memorial Student Union—less than a month away (how terrifying)!

However, what I want to talk to you about, future managers of Write to Publish, is the way in which you invite speakers to participate in the conference, because I believe that is the most important part of the planning process.

The term “speakers” refers to everyone from the keynote to additional panelists, instructors, moderators, and facilitators—they go by many names and do many things, but the most important thing you need to know is that they are people who are giving you their time, often without any guaranteed benefit for them in return.

If you are planning a conference, it is vital that you take this to heart when communicating with panelists. Take the time to be engaged with speakers and show your appreciation for both their work and the unique individuals that they are.

This begins with your very first email: the pitch. The pitch is your first step—maybe your only step—and it needs to do three things:

  1. Define your vision for the conference. In other words, it should communicate what is so wonderful about your conference. This should be unique every year, but it should align with our main goal: demystifying the publishing industry. This vision should have a broad appeal to your potential speakers so that they can start to see their work aligning with it.
  2. Show how the panelist fits in with your vision. This requires you to research each individual panelist and find something about their work that connects back to your vision for the conference. It’s a lot of work, but it pays off exponentially. It shows that you are engaged with their work and that you are sincere in your invitation.
  3. Invite the panelist to the conference. This is what oftentimes is called “the ask.” Be clear about what you want panelists to do, but also be flexible. Not everyone feels comfortable with speaking on a panel; some speakers may feel more comfortable facilitating a workshop. Allow yourself enough flexibility with your program to accommodate panelists’ interests and abilities.

Now comes the hard part: the time between sending out your pitch and getting a reply. Many anxious thoughts will fill your mind, but you have to ignore them, because at this point you will be sending out so many invites that you will be too busy to be anxious about it! Take comfort in routine: research potential speaker, write invite, send invite, repeat over and over again until you have enough speakers. A comfortable number of invites for a panel is anywhere between five and ten potential speakers. Yes, I have invited ten people to participate in a panel and gotten three replies. That is normal. Don’t panic. Just keep sending invites!

It may take an hour (bless them!), a few days, or even a month, but most people will reply to your initial email. In a few cases you may have to send a follow-up. These follow-up emails should be short and polite and should refer back to your previous email. Never assume that someone intentionally ignored your email or that their lack of reply is a rejection. Many potential speakers are very busy and get a great many emails every day.

A new email pops up in the inbox. It’s a reply! Exciting but also scary. Rejection is not great, and you run the risk of it. Take a deep breath and click that email! If it is a rejection, your reply is simple: a quick thank-you and you are out. If it is an acceptance, your reply should also be a thank-you, but you are in! If the newly confirmed speaker has any questions, feel free to answer them. Always be quick to reply to their email. It shows that you are engaged, invested, and respectful of their time.

The difficult question: “Do you offer an honorarium?”

It is difficult to talk about money in any situation, especially when you don’t have any to offer. At this time, Ooligan does not offer an honorarium for speakers at the Write to Publish conference (a future goal, I hope). Write to Publish is many things—a publishing conference, a networking event, an open house for the graduate program in book publishing—but at its core, it is a fundraising event for Ooligan Press, so our budget is tight. Most speakers will understand this, but for some, this lack of compensation will be a deal breaker. Publishing is a field full of passionate people who also need to get paid; respect that. Just as we don’t have the budget to pay people, speakers don’t always have the budget to attend the conference unless they are being paid. Thank them for their time and consideration and allow them the opportunity to bow out of the conference as gracefully as possible.

A final note: Your sincerity is the most vital asset you have in planning this conference. It is your social capital—the only currency you have to offer people. Caring about the speakers and having their best interests at heart is an essential part of planning this event. Your goal should always be to ensure that everyone involved has a good time and gets the most out of their experience. If you can hold onto this idea amid all the chaos, you will do great work and hold a wonderful conference that I hope to attend.

Best of luck!

How to Edit Your Own Short Story

Congratulations! You’ve finished your short story. The next step before turning it over to publishers is to edit it for vital story properties such as clarity, intrigue, flow, and mechanics. Finding an editor can prove difficult and expensive, but if you go about it with tact and strategy, editing your short story yourself might yield good results. Though editing can be exhausting, there are a few strategies I find helpful when I write creatively. (For a more detailed step-by-step guide to editing your own story, check out this article on The Write Practice.)

One of the most important parts of editing is to take a break between when you’ve finished writing and when you begin your editing. I’m not exactly sure why, but I find that I always catch more errors when I revisit a story I haven’t worked on in a while.

Once you’ve given it a sufficient amount of time, the next step is to start your revision on a broader scale (rather than focusing on the details) by looking over the story structure. One suggestion is to take notes in the margins about what each paragraph does. Each paragraph should move your story forward in some way and should contribute to the story’s key structural components: the inciting incident, the buildup, the climax, and the resolution.

Your next steps are to revise for key story elements: setting, clarity, and intrigue. You want to make sure to give as many sensory details as possible in order to build the world your character lives in and make it feel more vivid and real. Then you want to make sure that you’re getting your point across to the reader and not hiding it behind confusing or distracting subplots. Finally, you should get rid of any parts you find boring or tedious to read, as you might lose your readers there.

Now that you’ve gotten the heavy lifting done, it’s time to go back and edit for grammar, punctuation, dialogue, clichés, and undescriptive or vague language. In this stage, it’s a good idea to make sure that your story consists of showing and not telling and that you don’t begin too many sentences with “I.”

The final piece of advice I have is to read your story out loud to yourself. The British literary editor, novelist, and memoirist Diana Athill once said of the writing process: “read it aloud to yourself because that’s the only way to be sure the rhythms of the sentences are okay. (Prose rhythms are too subtle and complex to be thought out—they can be got right only by ear.)” I’ve adhered strictly to this advice, because as Athill suggests, I’ve found no other way to ensure that my story sounds right, and I always end up making changes after hearing the difference.

You’ve reached the end of your journey! Not every publisher needs your work to be 100 percent polished and ready to go, but doing as much editing as possible before submitting your story is the best way to increase your chances of getting published and having your voice heard by the world.

How to Make a Good Giveaway Booklet

Many people now use books as collateral (or swag) to introduce themselves and their services, to showcase their portfolios, or to promote their expertise. These “books” might be produced by a team or service who takes the basic content and makes it look professional, taking care of everything from image quality to order tracking and personalized photographs.

But what if you’re not looking to create something quite that high end? What if you have a tight deadline and you want to make something that’s quicker and less expensive, such as a cookbook for your PTA fundraiser or an anniversary memento for your grandparents? Or even a booklet to use as a wedding favor?

Have you considered making one of these? Perhaps as a chapbook, or a booklet, or even a spiral-bound collection? Not everything has to be perfect bound, which can be more expensive. However, in the age of Pinterest and Instagram, a three-ring binder with skewed, blurry, photocopied photos to give away just isn’t going to cut it.

After you decide on basics such as the length, the size, and the audience, you need to think about the whole look. Fear not! Higher standards can easily be met. Design is a big part of making your efforts look professional. Although booklet design is more than just picking a fitting cover image, it doesn’t have to be onerous or complicated, and it doesn’t even have to require specialized software such as InDesign.

According to Ooligan graduate and designer Bryn Kristi, you just need to follow the classic principle of KISS (which stands for “keep it simple, stupid”) by adhering to these guidelines:

  • Keep it clean: Please, please, please ask someone else to proofread it for you. No one can ever find all the typos. And repeat this step once the booklet is printed.

  • Keep it brief: The content should be as tight as you can make it, and copyediting is a must!

  • Use consistent formatting: For example, if you choose to indent paragraphs, do this consistently. The same goes for how you style bulleted lists or how you refer to fractions: half or ½? Choose one and stick with it.

  • Keep the interior font simple: Choose only one element for a title: bold or CAPS. Fancy fonts are for covers or other materials, like posters.

Other things to keep in mind:

  • Make a dummy book or print out a draft! If it’s the same “section” (such as a long recipe), make sure it stays on facing pages so it doesn’t have to be flipped over. (Tip: odd numbers are always on right-hand pages.)

  • If there are two brief items on one page, there should be a graphic element to differentiate them (e.g., a horizontal line, an image, etc.).

  • More than ten pages? Time for page numbers! How big is the paper? (8.5″ x 11″
    paper needs the page numbers to be printed in the outer corners for easier flipping and navigation.) Consider a table of contents for even easier use.

  • Graphics are good, but if you make sure they are high quality with decent resolution and lined up evenly on the page, it will make a much better impression. If you didn’t create them, it’s also important to know if they’re free. Here’s a source for royalty-free images.

  • Think about your specific audience. Don’t just use a template if you don’t have to. If you do need to (hey, everyone runs into tight deadlines sometimes), try using basic word-processing software such as Microsoft Word or Google Docs, and refer to these guidelines. For example, does your font need to be larger for easier reading for a younger or older market?

For more detailed design tips, take a look at this previous Ooligan blog post, and don’t hesitate to do your own research on best practices for book design

Good luck on your basic booklet efforts, and please feel free to share images of
yours in the comments.

The Book Launch Party

Literary launch parties can go a number of ways. There are always worries over doing too much or too little, decisions about sticking with cheap beer or splurging on champagne (and perhaps questions about whether alcohol should even be involved at all). As with other marketing matters in the twenty-first century, so much of what we do when we promote a book’s release is done online and through various social media outlets. Facebook release parties have become not only an accepted industry format for release but also a more relevant option for certain types of author-reader relationships. On the other end of the spectrum, children’s book releases and fantasy and sci-fi book releases can often be events to get dressed up for, and they really can take on a life of their own that’s altogether separate from the book itself.

Regardless of what type of book is being promoted, the decisions a publishing company makes when planning a launch party can have an impact on the sales of a book as well as on the perception of what that book stands for. Given the importance of these considerations, the sheer number of lists that one finds when simply googling “book launch party” shouldn’t come as a surprise, but these results can be quite overwhelming to sift through. There are lists on how to organize a party on a budget, lists on how to plan a book party so no time is wasted, and articles describing how parties can be organized on Twitter. And yet this seems like a lot of effort to go through when it’s always possible that the increase in sales and publicity may end up being marginal no matter how much planning you do.

Thus, the best way to actually plan a launch party is to make sure to incorporate marketing collaborations of some kind. Much like the benefits of special sales for publishing companies and writers, the benefits of cross-marketing with other industries can be significant. For example, partnering with local food and liquor vendors so that all parties involved can gain extra exposure is a good move to boost local community solidarity. Another approach to cross-marketing would be to donate a portion of profits—from both the book sales and the sales of other cross-marketed items, like food and liquor—to a social cause.

Political books of multiple varieties were the most profitable books last year, and this is due in no small part to the fact that consumers can connect these books to particular political views and to their own political involvement. Marketing departments should lean into these political associations rather than shy away from them, and book launches can incorporate elements that further drive the association between a book and a particular political cause. This can mean reaching out to local or national organizations that relate to a theme in the book, or it can mean throwing the party at a venue connected to that political cause. This is a heated political moment, and parties themselves can often turn into political debates. We in the publishing industry shouldn’t feel the need to deny this reality.

Breaking Common Bad Habits in Writing

My first attempt at writing a novel wasn’t as successful as I imagined it would be. I was confident in my concept, and when I described how my novel unfolded, I received an overwhelming show of support and interest from other writers and readers in my community. But as I sat at my laptop describing the events my imagination had concocted, I noticed an unfortunate problem. I was a mediocre writer. My prose suffered from several bad writing habits. After climbing out of the pit of despair with a renewed sense of determination, I decided to break them.

Every writer has a few bad habits. One of the easiest ways to improve your writing is to identify and correct the bad habits that impede your readers’ ability to see the heart of your story. Writing is just like basketball or singing; you have to put in the hours to hone your craft. However, there are some simple things you can do polish up your prose.

Here are three tips to help you break free of a few common bad habits:

  • 1.Let’s talk about redundancies. Sometimes repetition is important and helps create a beautiful cadence. Other times, it’s just distracting. Every word should add meaning to the content of your narrative. Example: He was in a difficult dilemma. Dilemmas are difficult, so saying his dilemma was difficult is redundant. If you don’t want to edit out the word difficult, try changing it to a word that would bring more meaning to the dilemma, like comical or deadly. Dilemmas are all difficult but that isn’t all that defines them. (For more help with redundancies, check out this article from Daily Writing Tips.)
  • 2.Editing out overused words. For many, unnecessary words are bogging down their writing—words that in many situations, can be deleted. I personally used the word that so often in my prose that it seemed if I deleted them all, I would lose a quarter of my word count. But they didn’t add anything to the content of the story. Editing out the unnecessary words and phrases like that, very, and kind of will smooth out your prose and make your writing more concise. (For more examples of overused words, check out these tips from Lara Willard.)
  • 3.Commonly-used phrases you need to let rest in peace. We’ve all heard the phrase needless to say, which is a bizarre foretelling because it’s always followed by a needless statement. What does this phrase add to your content? I love a well-used cliche, but usually, they are simply cliche. Commonly-used phrases rob your writing of its depth. (Here is a great article to read on cliches from the University of North Carolina.)
  • I hope you find these tips helpful. I know it can be excruciating to spend months and years of your life pounding away at your keyboard, pouring all of your creativity into a genuine work of art (aka, your baby), only to have it ripped apart by editors like me, who are focused more on your voice than content. But it’s necessary. Editors are a writer’s best friend and often your biggest fan. Try every suggestion an editor gives you. Even if you change it back, you will have learned something from the experience.

    Getting Started If You’re Not an Editor

    Not sure where to start? Don’t know what a style guide is or why it’s important? Generally confused?

    If you answered yes to any of those questions, you should first know that you’re not alone. Secondly, know that there are some wonderful resources you can turn to when you are confused. The Subversive Copyeditor by Carol Fisher Saller has been helpful for my own understanding of editing, specifically copyediting. If you’re curious about editing, finding books by editors can be useful in learning about the craft. Similarly, your colleagues are great resources for when you have questions. To get you started, here are five tips that are good for any type of editor to keep in mind.

      1) Get to know the style guide. If you’re working for an established company, they’ll likely have some rules already in place. That’s exactly what a style guide is—a set of rules (these can always be broken, but it’s important to understand them first). Whether they work exclusively with the Chicago Manual of Style or take what they like from several different style guides, you’ll need to know what references are necessary to edit the manuscript assigned to you. (Note: there are also in-house styles in addition to a general style guide.)
      2) Do your research. After you’ve gotten all of your references and are able to sit down with the text, questions will probably arise. When this happens, you’ll want to determine whether the answer can be found with a quick browse through your guides or on the internet. If not, you may need to get clarification from another source.
      3) Don’t be afraid to ask. Communication is key! Once you’ve determined that you can’t find the answer on your own, ask someone. If necessary, query the author, since they’re the most knowledgeable about their particular manuscript (though this should not be your first stop). Your colleagues or other professionals in the field are also excellent resources when you have questions about changes you’re making or need information about how to resolve an issue.
      4) Know your assignment. What type of edit are you doing? Usually, you’ll be presented with a particular kind of edit: copyedit, proofread, or line edit. Once that is established, you may need to know what level edit you are tasked with. (For a general guide of copyedit levels check out The Copyeditor’s Handbook: A Guide for Book Publishing and Corporate Communications by Amy Einsohn.)
      5) Give the author a reason to trust you. Quality communication with the author is a must. Regardless of whether you disagree with them or they with your edit, it’s important to keep arguments civil. Saller believes you can, and should, set up this sort of relationship by making sure there is clear communication from the outset. This will help you and the author throughout the entire editing process. After all, this is something they’ve spent months or, more likely, years creating.

    These tips will help you get started and give you a general know-how. But for the nitty gritty stuff, I recommend seeking out and familiarizing yourself with the guides you’ll be using during the actual editing process. Those are the resources you’ll use to find out if you should use the Oxford comma or spell out numerals. If you want to find out what these processes are like from someone who has worked as an editor, check out books that will give you insight into their experiences. And remember, your colleagues wherever you’re editing are going to be instrumental in your information gathering, so seek them out.

    Of course, now that you’ve learned all of this, it’s time to get started on your editing project. Good luck!