Over the next few weeks, I’ll be talking to my editor, my cover designer, and my cartographer about what they do and why they’re important to authors. Today, I give you a little overview so you know what to expect and to give you a first idea of why you need these pros on your team.
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Hello, and welcome to the Writing Sparrow podcast. I’m Sarina Langer and this podcast is all about writing, publishing, and marketing your book. You can find transcripts on my website at sarinalanger.com. Let’s get started.
Welcome back, friends and Sparrows! It’s the 22nd March, this is Episode 24, and before we start today I just want to very quickly say first that a few days ago I had an email informing that this little podcast is somehow ranking #32 in Canada, so erm, hello Canada! I’m so thrilled that I have so many listeners over there, this is very exciting. And… welcome!
NOW, today I want to tell you about the three most important pros you can hire for your book: your editor, your cover designer, and, if you’re writing something set in a world of your own creation, your cartographer – or as I call it, the Holy Trinity of Authoring. Over the following weeks, I’ll be talking to my own team, one pro per episode, so you can hear from them directly, but today I just wanted to give you an overview.
Pro #1: Your Editor
Say it with me, friends: I need an editor. Once more for the people in the back: I. Need. An. Editor! Why? Because it’s notoriously hard to edit your own words. Hell yeah you know your own book better than anyone else – that’s the problem. You’re biased. You know the story so well your brain fills in the gaps.
Now, I may be biased here because I’m an editor myself, but there’s an art to doing a thorough developmental edit, for example, if you ask me. There’s a lot of skill involved. It takes a lot of time, sometimes nerves, and patience to do a developmental edit followed by a line edit followed by a proofread, and whatever else you might need. This isn’t something you can wing. This isn’t something you can shove at the cheapest bidder and hope for the best.
I especially recommend a full edit of all of the above when it’s your first book or you’ve never worked with an editor before. There’s a lot you can learn from this work relationship!
I’ve once read that, your editor… It’s almost like, or it’s similar to a marriage relationship because you’ll be working so close together, and by the end of it, by the time you publish your book, you will both know your book probably exactly the same. So, it’s an important step, and it’s not one you should be skipping.
When I published my debut novel Rise of the Sparrows, I only got a proofread. If you didn’t cringe at that, bless your inexperienced heart. You will soon know why that was a terrible idea. Fast forward a few years, and I re-published Rise of the Sparrows because I was an idiot and only got a proofread in 2016. Fear not, it’s now got the full works, but at the time, Cale’s horse changed gender and I didn’t notice – and neither did my beta readers or my critique partners. Look, if your horse wants to change gender at any point, that is totally fine as long as it’s explained, but it turns out if your horse starts off as male, and then partway through the stories starts being referred to as a female, and maybe then at some point becomes a male again without any explanation whatsoever, that’s a little bit confusing for your readers. So if you think you’re the only editor your book needs because you’ve written it, think on Barnaby, the gender changing horse. Don’t think this can happen to you? Think again. Or learn the hard way. Either way.
Pro #2: Your Cover Designer
Don’t trust the saying ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, because we all do. How do you think you choose which book you buy when you enter a bookstore? What’s the first thing you see? It’s not the blurb. It’s not the first line. It’s the cover. It’s what makes you go over there, pick up the book, and investigate further, but first the cover needs to drag you in.
Many new writers think they can easily do this themselves, but it’s not as simple as just quickly throwing something together. Your cover is your first impression on a potential reader, and if it doesn’t get their attention in a good way, they’ll keep looking.
Cover designers bear all kinds of things in mind when they’re designing your cover, from backgrounds to colours to the right fonts. Not every font works for every genre, for example—if you look on your shelf, the epic fantasy books likely look very different to the historical romances or the crime novels, and there’s a reason for that.
Cover designers know what works and why it works, and that’s why you want one on your team.
The free cover creator you can use on Amazon is not a substitute. It might be okay to use if you just quickly need a cover for, say, your NaNo project, but I don’t recommend it for any serious marketing or publishing. You want something personal for your cover that really sings of your author voice and the story and the genre and your target audience, and a program just can’t cough up anything that combines all of those into one stunning cover that’s unique to you. Besides, anyone can use it. You want something that’s personal to you and your book. You don’t want something that makes people shrug and move on when they see it—you want something that makes them want your book.
Pro #3: Your Cartographer
If you write a book set in our world, you may not need a cartographer. If your book is set in London or New York, for example, and your readers want to get a feel for the layout of the city or the whole country, it doesn’t take much to find a map on Google. But if you’ve created a whole world from scratch, your readers can’t do that.
Here’s why including a map is a good idea: a professional map will almost always make a great second impression (that’s second after your cover, of course!). Many readers like to refer to a map as they read to help them get their bearings, and if you’ve created your own world, then there’s no other way for them to do that. It’s also become pretty normal for epic fantasy novels to include a map, so if you don’t have one, chances are your readers will notice.
Again, designing a map for your world isn’t as simple or as quick as throwing something together. A lot of consideration needs to go into this, and some of that has to do with how the world works. Sounds dramatic, but it’s really very simple. Say, if you want to have rivers that flow uphill in your epic fantasy, that’s fine, but there needs to be a very good reason for it. However, if you want to have a river that flows uphill in Northern Hampshire, for example, then that’s not gonna happen, because that’s not something that happens in nature. A good cartographer will see your error in your sketch, let you know why it doesn’t work, and fix it for you.
A map of your world also looks pretty good on your wall, so it’s also pretty good art and a good conversation starter next time you have friends over.
And that’s it for today! Next week I will kick things off by welcoming Briana Morgan back onto my podcast to talk about what goes into editing your book and why you need it. Until then, friends! Bye bye! Have a good week!
If you enjoyed today’s episode, maybe learned something along the way, hit the subscribe button. You can also connect with me on Twitter @sarina_langer, at Instagram and Facebook @sarinalangerwriter, and of course on my website at sarinalanger.com. Until next time, bye.
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This transcript was done by Sarina Langer.
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