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Tuesday, June 5, 2007

How To Beat Six Million Other Writers to the Publish Line

The Frugal EditorPut your best book forward to avoid humiliation and ensure success.
by Carolyn Howard-Johnson
ISBN 978-0-97851-7-4
Red Engine Press
Reviewed by Billie A Williams
Listmom at

In this day an age, when according to some studies, over 81 percent of Americans feel they should write a book and more than six million of them actually have at least written the manuscripts. What are your chances of getting published when that is just over two percent of the population? Most of these manuscripts however, are doomed to failure because they don’t understand the intricacies of polishing (read that as editing) their manuscripts before sending them out, and/or hiring an editor to give it the final tweak before they send them off.

According to a recent article by Robert McCrum in The Observer and I quote,
“…according to the New York Times, there's a new book published in the United States every half an hour, and - wait for it - that's just fiction. RR Bowker, the company that compiles the Books in Print database in the USA, has calculated that no fewer than 175,000 new titles were published in 2003. That's one book roughly every 20 seconds.” And as you can imagine that trend has only increased since then. As McCrum says, the new books have the shelf life of yogurt, but that quality will always stand above the rest and will persevere. So how do you bring that quality to your own work?

The Frugal Editor by Carolyn Howard-Johnson is like having an editor in a box, or more correctly, between two covers of a book. Concise down-to-earth advice about how to edit your manuscript before you even begin to think about sending it out into the red pencil world of publishers, where their editors get the first chance to evaluate your hard work.

Frugal Editor is a veritable thesaurus of how to spot the gremlins that can mess up your prose. If edits and editors paralyze you with fear, take heart. Carolyn Howard-Johnson makes the whole process palatable. She intersperses her directives with light hearted humor making the whole process nearly enjoyable.

If there is an error your manuscript could contain, you’ll find the method for search and eradication in this delightful book. You’ll want to read it cover to cover, but then you will keep it by your side as you write, rewrite and edit so you can be frugal when you do decided to hire that editor to give it one last polish before you submit it anywhere. As Howard-Johnson says; “The lesson here for all of us is that attention to detail and craft counts, and that even experienced writers can flub an opportunity if they don’t pay attention to the last great step toward publishing, a good edit.”

Howard-Johnson explains the difference between and editor and a typo hunter. She also cautions that “…no matter how skilled an editor is, the author needs to know a lot about the process too. The cleaner the copy you hand over to your editor, the more accurate she can be and her edit may cost you less in time and money.” When Howard-Johnson says frugal in her book titles she means it and she goes to great lengths to insure the reader gets her/his money worth by providing resources with links, examples of the often scary Query letter construction, and more. She doesn’t leave the reader high and dry at any point. Further advice or learning is a matter of using the comprehensive index to find the detail you need and then following the advice, link or resource mentioned to guide you in your search for excellence.

The twenty plus pages of appendices is not mere fluff or padding of book length or word count, it is more than a bibliography of recommended reading (though it also contains that). You will find samples and links such as the query letters mentioned above, helpful groups to investigate, grammar helps and books. It’s hard to believe more could be contained in any book on your shelf. Spare no gremlin—search and destroy, polish and perfect before you send out your hard work. This book is the tool to help you do that. I highly recommend this power house of methods and means that will not only enhance your chances of publication, it will help you make any publishing house sit up and take notice – perhaps even pushing your book to the coveted best-seller lists faster than you ever imagined.

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