Friday, January 24, 2014

Frugal Editing from Carolyn Howard Johnson

Quote from The Frugal Editor: “Language is a fluid lifeform. To assume that because we once learned grammar one way, it will always be accepted is fallacious. To neglect researching the language we write in when we so assiduously research the facts for what we write is folly.”
There are gremlins out there determined to keep your work from being published, your book from being promoted. Resolved to embarrass you before the gatekeepers who can turn the key of success for you—they lurk in your subconscious and the depths of your computer programs. Whether you are a new or experienced author,The Frugal Editor will help you present whistle-clean copy (from a one-page cover letter to your entire manuscript) to those who have the power to say “yea” or “nay.”

Absolutely essential for beginning writers and a necessary reminder for the more advanced.  The mentor you've been looking for.  This book won't collect dust!”~Christina Francine, review for Fjords Review

"Using the basic computer and editing tricks from The Frugal Editor, authors can prevent headaches and save themselves time—and even money—during the editing process. It’s well worth your effort to learn them." ~ Barbara McNichol, Barbara McNichol Editorial


I found The Frugal Editor helpful, so I asked Carolyn some questions that other writers might find useful.

  1. Why did you start writing the Frugal series?
After I saw how many authors were struggling with the basics (even the ethics!) of promotion on the Web, I pitched a class in book marketing to UCLA Extension's world renowned Writers' Program and when they said yes, I realized that there were no books I could recommend that covered both the basics of writing queries, media releases, media kits, etc. and helped authors with promotions, too.  Then when I pitched an editing class because I could see that editing is an important part of knowing the publishing industry, the marketing of a book and more, I ran into the same problem.  Both books are now a series of four HowToDoItFrugally books for writers with more to come.  I'm passionate about sharing the joy of writing with others, but I know it's a more joyful process when we're successful.  
  1. You said in the Frugal Editor that editing contributes to branding. What to you mean?
If an author sends something out that is unprofessional--and I don't mean just has poor grammar, but all the aspects that the publishing industry expects from authors--they risk  being seen by editors, agents, radio hosts, contest judges and more as unprofessional.  That's really not great branding from the get-go!
  1. How far should you go in editing on your own before you think about hiring an editor?
As far as you can. I say that because the more an author knows, the better prepared she is to work with an editor--whether she hires one or ends up working with one assigned by a publisher.  The more she knows, the better writer she'll be. The better writer, the more successful. Editing is a carousel that leads to success.
  1. Many sites for writers urge writers to hire an editor. What qualifications should one look for in an editor
This seems as if it should be an easy question to answer but I devote a whole chapter in The Frugal Editor ( to finding the right editor--one compatible with the author and with the title the author is working on.  The two major things I hope to get across are: 1. How to avoid scams and/or unprofessional editors  and 2. How to use references effectively. We need to ask questions we never needed to ask when hiring a plumber or a contractor.
  1. What can you expect from your editor? Finding typos? Grammar rules? Help with style?
Nancy, there are all kinds of editor. And an author has all kinds of needs. Authors learn exactly what they most need as they learn more about editing on their own.  Much has to do with how they plan to publish, how new they are to the publishing industry (notice I didn't say "to writing"), how willing they are to learn more about writing and editing on their own. Here's how I see it. A great editor who checks for everything--style, structure, writing techniques, typos, grammars--even formatting--is  a bargain. Think of it like paying top price for an editor but getting at least one extra class at the university level in everything else. I happen to know those university classes can cost upward of $500 each--on or offline. I took many of them myself and I taught many of them.
  1. Will your editor help with finding inconsistencies in the text?
An editor won't if he or she isn't qualified.  There are lots of people passing themselves off as editors. Having written a book doth not an editor make.  I give several specific resources for editors I've worked with personally in The Frugal Editor and--reallly--that's how I go about writing all my how-to books. Hearsay just doesn't cut it when you're trying to point others in the right direction.
  1. Is there anything else you'd like to add about your new book?
Well, let's see. Let me just list a few things that this book will give a writer that will make him or her seem like a professional to the gatekeepers who can say yes or no to their project:
  • Do you know how to format ellipses? It's not essential, but it's one more little thing that indicates to professionals that you know what you're doing.
  • Do you want to know how to avoid those pesky double spaces that appear throughout your copy. And do it quickly instead of trying to delete them one at a time.
  • Do you know why perfectly good grammar (things like helping verbs) may look unprofessional?
  • Do you know enough about the intricacies of writing and punctuating dialogue. Yes, that includes nonfiction writers. If you're a nonfiction writer who never uses dialogue and/or rarely uses anecdote, the information in this book will improve the salability of your work. 
You can tell I'm passionate about the topic!  Editing is about so much more than finding typos and grammar errors. Your readers will love the tips that the agents I interviewed give them. I interviewed more than 100 and some of the things that tick them off will amaze you!

Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s brings her experience as a publicist, journalist, marketer, and retailer to the advice she gives in her HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers and the classes she has taught for UCLA Extension’s world-renown Writers’ Program.
The first edition of The Frugal Book Promoter was named USA Book News’ “Best Professional Book” and won the coveted Irwin Award. Now in its second edition, it’s also a USA Book News award winner and received a nod from Dan Poynter’s Global Ebook Awards. Her The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success was also honored by USA Book News and won Readers’ Views Literary Award. Her marketing campaign for that book won the marketing award from New Generation Indie Book Awards.
Howard-Johnson is the recipient of the California Legislature’s Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment Award, and her community’s Character and Ethics award for her work promoting tolerance with her writing. She was also named to Pasadena Weekly’s list of 14 women of “San Gabriel Valley women who make life happen” and was given her community’s Diamond Award for Achievement in the Arts. 


  1. Nancy, I hope your readers take editing to heart. I know my book has great advice because my readers tell me so. Of course, they can ignore the messy office syndrome as evidenced by the photo! (-:

    Thank you for letting me expound on editing--of of my three favorite subjects. One of the others is marketing. And the third? It's found in my poetry and fiction. We'll talk about that another day. Ha!


  2. Thank you for being on my blog. The book is a helpful tool for us writers. I hope lots of people get the idea and start using it. I will.

  3. What a great interview, Carolyn. The Frugal Editor is one of my key resources for self-editing. Language is indeed fluid and we never stop learning.

  4. Great interview, Carolyn. The Frugal Editor has always been my favourite resource for editing my work. You are right, language is fluid and we need to continually learn.

  5. Thanks for dropping by, Magdalena. Maybe it's the poet in you! I do mention editing for poets in this book---especially in the part about hyphens and making up words. (-:

  6. Excellent interview, and Carolyn's Frugal books are also excellent resources for us!

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