editing

Review: Writing Your Non-Fiction Book by Alex Gazzola

Review: Writing Your Non-Fiction Book by Alex Gazzola

Writing Your Non-Fiction Book is a new, low-cost Kindle e-book by my colleague Alex Gazzola. Alex is a UK-based author and writing teacher who runs the popular Mistakes Writers Make.blog

Alex was kind enough to send me a review copy of Writing Your Non-Fiction Book, so here’s what I found…

Writing Your Non-Fiction Book is a guide to writing a non-fiction book and getting it published by a traditional (print) publisher. With all the attention devoted to self-publishing on Kindle, CreateSpace, and so on, this approach can almost seem old-fashioned nowadays. Nonetheless, there is still a strong argument for seeking a conventional print publisher, not least for the support with the publishing process and the potentially better financial returns. Most of my own books have been traditionally published non-fiction.

Those who have read Alex’s other books such as 50 Mistakes Beginner Writers Make and 50 More Mistakes Beginner Writers Make won’t be surprised to hear that Writing Your Non-Fiction Book is exceptionally well written and presented. It takes you step by step through planning, writing and promoting your book.

Alex starts by discussing why you might want to write a non-fiction book and what to write about. There is good, sensible advice about building your reputation as an ‘expert’ in your chosen field first, e.g. by writing articles and getting them published in magazines.

Alex doesn’t recommend writing a book and then casting around for a publisher. Rather, he advocates sending out a proposal first, and only going ahead with the writing once you have a contract from a publisher. This approach is discussed in detail, and I agree it is definitely the way to go with non-fiction books.

He goes on to discuss researching and writing your book, and the subsequent proofreading and editing process. The final part then covers promoting your book (working with your publisher’s publicist) and ways you can boost sales and generate additional income (e.g. by registering with the PLR Office and ALCS in the case of UK authors).

Writing Your Non-Fiction Book is quite concise, but it provides a great introduction to writing a non-fiction book and getting it published. At the low asking price (just $1.26 in the US Amazon store and 99p at Amazon UK) it would be a valuable addition to any aspiring author’s library.

  • If you are interested in writing a non-fiction book, you might also like to consider Write Any Book in Under 28 Days, my own top-selling course on non-fiction book writing. My course is obviously more expensive than Alex’s e-book, but it does go into a bit more detail about the writing and editing process.

If you have any comments or questions about Writing Your Non-Fiction Book, as ever, please feel free to post them below.

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Words'worth cover

Review: Words’Worth – A Fiction Writer’s Guide to Serious Editing

Words’Worth – A Fiction Writer’s Guide to Serious Editing is a book by Jane Riddell, available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle e-book form. Jane was kind enough to send me a review copy, so here are my thoughts…

Words’Worth (as I’ll call it for short) is a concise (54-page) guide for fiction writers who wish to edit their own work (or have no other option). The main content is set out in three chapters: Overview Editing, Line-by-line Editing, and Pace.

The idea is that you use the advice in the book as a kind of checklist once your first draft has been completed. The chapter on Overview Editing covers such matters as locating the reader in time, avoiding melodrama, and providing breaks from tension. Each item is described in a paragraph or two, and in most cases examples are given as well.

The chapter on line-by-line editing covers the sorts of thing typically covered in traditional copy editing, including avoiding cliches, using strong verb forms, active rather than passive voice, and so on. Finally, the chapter about Pace covers such matters as varying sentence length and deleting unnecessary adverbs and adjectives.

I thought that the advice was sound and the plentiful examples were helpful. If I was being picky I would say that there could have been a bit more about the key areas of viewpoint and showing not telling (writing in scenes, in other words). While the need to avoid telling after showing is covered, the fundamental principle of showing rather than telling isn’t discussed in any depth. That is a relatively minor criticism, though.

New fiction writers should find Words’Worth an invaluable guide to making their writing as tight and compelling as possible. Old hands will find much of the advice familiar, but the book can still serve as a useful checklist and aide memoire.

Words’Worth is not, of course, any substitute for a developmental editor: someone who can assess your book’s basic structure and suggest ways it can be revised and improved. For many new authors accessing such an individual may be difficult or impossible, however.

Likewise, this is not a proofreading guide, and some common mistakes in new writers’ work (the omission of the vocative comma, for example) aren’t covered here. If you’ll excuse a quick plug for my own work, you might find my own guide Essential English for Authors useful in this respect.

Nonetheless, Words’Worth is a book that new fiction writers in particular will find extremely helpful, and at its modest asking price it will definitely be a valuable addition to their resources library.

 

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Editing

Do All Writers Need to Hire an Editor? Here’s Why I Say No!

A trend I’ve noticed recently among writing blogs and websites is a growing consensus that to succeed as a writer, you MUST engage an editor for your work.

This is an assertion that I feel needs to be challenged. Yes, a good editor is a wonderful thing to have, but there are two major stumbling blocks.

First, finding a good freelance editor isn’t as easy as you might think. Bear in mind that anyone can call themselves an editor. As well as the genuinely good ones, there are plenty of deluded amateurs and some out-and-out fraudsters. Sorting out the good from the bad and the ugly is by no means a simple task.

And even if you are lucky and find a good editor, their services aren’t cheap. For a full-length book you can expect to pay several thousand pounds/dollars. If you are self publishing – on Kindle, for example – you need to think carefully whether any boost in sales that may result will cover this.

Self-publishing authors sometimes believe that a freelance editor will be able to help them with the deeper, structural aspects of their book as well. This is akin to the role performed by developmental editors in traditional publishing houses. Whether a freelance editor can realistically offer this service is in my view very doubtful, however.

Developmental editing tends to be a slow, iterative process. The editor typically reads and reflects carefully on the manuscript, then raises queries and offers suggestions to the author. The author duly reflects on this and gives his/her reactions, and so on. This can work very well with a salaried editor who is employed by a publishing house, but it is not really compatible with freelance editing, where you are charged by the page or the hour. If you hire a freelance editor, what you are basically getting is a copy editor. They may (or may not) make the odd structural suggestion as they go, but it is a long way from the in-depth feedback you will get from a developmental editor in a publishing house.

My advice is therefore to ignore anyone who tells you that you MUST hire an editor. Instead, I recommend a two-pronged approach. First, be sure you are fully up to speed with the basics of grammar and punctuation (my course Essential English for Authors might be helpful here – just saying!). Aim to be your own best editor (and proofreader) rather than relying on someone else.

And second, make full use of free and low-cost resources such as beta readers (other authors are often happy to reciprocate in this role) and online forums such as myWritersCircle. Off-line resources such as writers’ groups can be a big help as well. By this means you can get a lot of valuable feedback about your work without spending a fortune.

If you hear of a good editor and can afford their services, by all means use them too. But be realistic about how much benefit you are likely to get from their input, and weigh this carefully against the costs involved.

Remember, also, that with e-book (or POD) publishing, if someone tells you about a mistake, it is a very simple matter to correct and republish. Getting everything 100 percent correct before publishing, while still desirable, is therefore no longer so essential.

Of course, if you’re aiming to get published by a traditional publishing house, some of the above comments may not apply. But still, bear in mind that in-house editors provide their services free of charge if the publisher sees potential in your work. Your objective as an author should therefore be to ensure that your manuscript demonstrates such potential. No freelance editor will be able to ‘fix’ your manuscript if it is basically unpublishable. But that won’t stop them taking your money, of course.

So that’s my view, but what do you think? Should all aspiring writers be told to hire an editor for their work, or is this (as I think) unrealistic in many cases? Please post any comments you may have below.

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