“No author dislikes to be edited as much as he dislikes not to be published.” – J. Russell Lynes
Welcome to the third in the series of the Amanda Hocking case study here at Online Writing Pro. In case you aren’t familiar with her story, she’s the self-published Kindle author who is now a millionaire with a book deal.
As part of the Great Kindle eBook Publishing Experiment, I’ll be doing in-depth case studies on very successful Kindle authors, and since Amanda Hocking is among the best-known for her self-publishing success on that platform, she’s the first one I’m profiling.
Today, we’re going to touch on her editing process, much of which was developed during the time she spent submitting manuscripts to editors who ultimately rejected them.
See the first two posts in the series here:
Editor’s advice leads to higher quality manuscripts
As I mentioned in my previous post, Amanda Hocking didn’t fall right into success – she spent years dealing with rejection after rejection. Then, she’d rewrite, revise, re-edit and resubmit – and all for “naught” – more rejections followed.
But all wasn’t hopeless, she says. Sometimes, in fact, she even received personal advice from the editors who rejected her many submissions.
Getting over herself – a key to improving her manuscripts
Though the initial feeling of being criticized likely stung a bit, Hocking says she quickly figured out that there was something to it. It was a good thing – because the editors were offering valuable advice that would one day help her to make literary history.
And, of course, that’s when she started digging into her manuscripts and killing her darlings, as it were.
The advice that made all the difference
Hocking says she started cutting out about 1/3 of her initial drafts in the final edit. (She notes also that it was more like half with her recently published book Switched.) And on her “old” blog, Hocking lists the following editing tips as her favorites.
- -Use any forms of “to be” as minimally as possibly (e.g. was, were, am, be, been)
- -The word “said” reads better than flashier words like “vowed, grumbled, declared”
- -Never start a book with too much backstory, a phone ringing, or someone waking up
- -Describe things that only need description – if its not relevant, move on
- -Adverbs are not your friend
- -Topical ideas and pop culture are fun, but they date your book and make it stale
- -Be consistent – if your protaganist has brown hair on page 1, make sure it isn’t blond on page 100
- -Outlines are vital
- -Do not query until you’re revised your manuscript, then revised it again, and again
- -When revising, ask yourself “does this need to be here? does it move the story along? develop a character? build tension?” every line, and if it doesn’t, then cut it out
- -Over 100,000 words is probably too much (unless your writing fantasy) and under 70,000 words probably isn’t enough (unless your writing children’s)
- -Dialogue is important, but make sure it’s necessary, and give you unique speech patterns to each character, without being cliched, repetitive, or over the top
- -Never use a longer word when a smaller one will do
- -When revising, watch out for modifiers, including “very,” “pretty,” “rarely,” “usually”
- -Use the least amount of words as possible – if a sentence can be shortened, shorten it
- -Proper editing is a vital skill
- -Look at examples of query letters and make sure you read and understand the agents submissions guidelines
- -Read constantly, especially in the genre you are writing, but don’t limit yourself to that
- -Utilize feedback and don’t take criticism personally – having a thick skin is essential
- -Read agents blogs – they’re the most useful resources out there
- -Use twitter and blogs to connect with other writers – search for #pubtip and #writetip on twitter
- -Don’t ever give up. Constantly write, edit, and read, and don’t constrict yourself to one book or genre.
I get it – and she’s totally right. As an editor, I can agree with these points 100 percent.
Taking a chance on Kindle ebook publishing
In 2008, Hocking says, she decided to take her publishing fate in her own hands. She wasn’t getting anywhere with standard publishers, and my bet is she was tired of waiting tables when she really wanted to be writing.
After many attempts to take the standard route when it came to publishing her work, she was ready to try something different – if nothing else, she’d have a few people reading her work, and that was better than sitting on all of those manuscripts.
What do you think about Amanda Hocking’s editing tips? Which ones do you use? Share your thoughts below, or hit me up on Facebook.
Next time, we’ll cover the next leg in Hocking’s journey into self-publishing and the lessons she picked up along the way.
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