To the right is a picture of JK Rowling. Notice that she is not me. As with Highlander, “There can be only one!” I’m sorry this has become necessary to point out.
One of the posts here is a neat spreadsheet that shows how JK Rowling plotted out Harry Potter. Recently I got an email with several errors addressing me as JK Rowling that asked me to email the writer so I could read some of her work. Billionaire authors don’t do that much. In fact, as presented, I wouldn’t do it, either.
I’d feel bad about pointing out this error so publicly, but it’s apparent the writer is not someone who reads this blog. Please read the blog (and also www.chazzwrites.vpweb.ca). When someone jumps from my bio page to ask about my bio, it just feels like spam and carelessness. Writers are detail-oriented and email, no matter how casual you want to appear, should reflect that. (In fact, I’ve sometimes gone through several drafts on queries to make them appear breezy and casual.) Whether you’re sending a manuscript, a query or a short email, you must pay attention to the details.
I know what you’re thinking. You already know this. Okay, but obviously many people still don’t. One writer told me she had already written several books. That’s a good sign. However, in one short paragraph, she made seven errors. That went into my evaluation of how much I could help her right away. I decided editing her book would be time and cost-prohibitive for me and for her.
When I take on a project, I have to take into account how much time I will have to invest in the book. From that short paragraph, I had to conclude that, were I to take her on, the job would be rewriting, not editing and proofing. When it starts out that bad, it doesn’t make me confident about larger issues like attention to detail, story arcs, characterizations and narrative logic and consistency. I have ghosted a couple texts. Writing and rewriting are not out of the question, but I have to know the scale of what the job requires going in (or I may as well be working behind a counter wearing a paper hat and slinging fries.)
Does your project have to be perfect for me to work on it? Of course not. If it were perfect you wouldn’t need anyone (and you’d be god.) I’m not being nitpicky or cranky. It’s just that when I get a query, I’m looking for signs the author is serious. If you’re asking me to take your work more seriously than you do, that’s a bad sign.
Queries and sample chapters give you an idea of how I work and they tell me how much time your book will take up. That’s one of the main variables in determining my rate, so please, don’t shoot off an email—to me or any other editor—before reading what you wrote at least once.
I’m trying to end on a positive note, so I’ll add that I just took on an editing project that excites me. The author’s serious, nice and I can’t wait to dig into her book and take it from great to fantastic. In fact, the antidote to amateurish folks is waiting on my desk. I’m off to work on the manuscript.
- POTD: J.K. Rowling’s Plot Spreadsheet for ‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix’ | /Film (slashfilm.com)
- Writers: The mire of conflicting advice & unfair criticism (chazzwrites.wordpress.com)
- Writers: Does the term “wannabe” irk you? (chazzwrites.wordpress.com)
- Writers: Don’t Set Your Self-Worth By a Publisher’s Opinion (blogher.com)
- Lit Agent Tells the Cold Hard Truth (psychologytoday.com)
- J.K Rowling Website (harrypotterfanworld.wordpress.com)
- Stop Sending Emails that Trick me into a Conversation. (customerthink.com)
- Writing The Perfect Query Letter (write4kids.com)
- Five Writers Explain How They Got, Kept and Fired Agents (theawl.com)