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Writer's Digest presents an excerpt from my webinar for them, 'Three Secrets of the Greats: Structure Your Story for Ultimate Reader Addiction.'

Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn, one of the Top 10 Blogs for Writers, interviews me about storytelling, writing, independent editing, and the difference between literary fiction and genre, with an impromptu exercise on her own Work-in-Progress.

Editing client Stu Wakefield, author of the Kindle #1 Best Seller Body of Water, talks about our work together on Memory of Water, the second novel of his Water trilogy.
  • By Victoria Mixon

    Hi Victoria. I have a question for you. Hope you don’t mind. A friend who raises service dogs has written a children’s book. Her story is about a service dog & puppy raiser, pills intended to teach children about disabilities. She’s wondering where to go next. I know it’s hard for you to say, order not having seen the book, but what would be her best next step? Submitting to agent or editor? I was wondering if you had any insight into children’s lit publishing, as I don’t, and my friend has finished her book 🙂 —TamaraNFamily

    Hi, Tamara! I know you work for a nonprofit foundation that helps pets, so this sounds like a story close to your heart.

    If your friend has never published before, she needs to get an editor before querying. Children’s lit has very special requirements, which is complicated by the fact that kids change so much as they age, so a book about raising service puppies for Young Adults will be quite different from one for Middle Grade, which again will be vastly different from a Beginning Reader, which is very different from a picture book.

    Your friends needs an editor who can help her develop and polish her manuscript for that magic click in the mind of the child of the age she wants to reach. And she’ll need some help understanding the market for her audience so she’ll know how to present the book to an agent.

    For children’s lit, in particular, she’ll need a good fit with her editor. While it’s true that a professional editor should be able to work effectively in any genre in which they have experience, there are some professionals who choose not to develop their skills in certain genres. (This is even more true of agents.) And, at this point in history, probably 90% of the aspiring editors out there right now hanging out their shingles have no experience in most genres, much less specialized ones like children’s lit. (These aspiring editors are cheap because they’re not professionals. I’m a very cheap gardener, myself. I wouldn’t know a radish from a rutabaga, but I’m willing to let you pay me $35/hour to find out!)

    So your friend should be careful. She should research every editor she considers, to make sure they really do have the necessary experience for her special book. She can write to them and ask about their background in her genre. Find out how long they’ve been editing professionally. She can even ask for referrals. Otherwise she runs the risk, at best, of wasting her money and, at worst, of getting exactly the wrong advice—especially in a specialized genre—from someone guessing blindly in the hopes that she won’t be able to tell.

    Children’s lit is a hoppin’ genre right now, although that’s mainly YA. Educational books for MG and younger will always have a smaller niche audience. In fact, self-publishing has a long and varied history in those smaller niches.

    You may find yourself one day selling her book through the auspices of your nonprofit! A lovely partnership indeed.





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Authors


MILLLICENT G. DILLON, represented by Harold Ober Associates, is the world's expert on authors Jane and Paul Bowles. She has won five O. Henry Awards and been nominated for the PEN/Faulkner. I worked with Dillon on her memoir, The Absolute Elsewhere, in which she describes in luminous prose her private meeting with Albert Einstein to discuss the ethics of the atomic bomb. Read more. . .


BHAICHAND PATEL, retired after an illustrious career with the United Nations, is now a journalist based out of New Dehli and Bombay, an expert on Bollywood, and author of three non-fiction books published by Penguin. I edited Patel’s best-selling debut novel, Mothers, Lovers, and Other Strangers, published by PanMacmillan. Read more. . .


LUCIA ORTH is the author of the debut novel, Baby Jesus Pawn Shop, which received critical acclaim from Publisher’s Weekly, NPR, Booklist, Library Journal and Small Press Reviews. I have edited a number of essays and articles for Orth. Read more. . .


SCOTT WARRENDER is a professional musician and Annie Award-nominated lyricist specializing in musical theater. I work with Warrender regularly on his short stories and debut novel, Putaway. Read more. . .


STUART WAKEFIELD is the #1 Kindle Best Selling author of Body of Water, the first novel in his Orcadian Trilogy. Body of Water was 1 of 10 books long-listed for the Polari First Book Prize. I edited Wakefield's second novel, Memory of Water, and look forward to editing the final novel of his Orcadian Trilogy, Spirit of Water. Read more. . .


ANIA VESENNY, represented by Beverly Slopen Literary Agency, is a recipient of the Evelyn Sullivan Gilbertson Award for Emerging Artist in Literature and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. I edited Vesenny's debut novel, Swearing in Russian at the Northern Lights, and her second novel, Sandara. Read more. . .


TERISA GREEN, represented by Dystel and Goderich Literary Management, is widely considered the foremost American authority on tattooing through her tattoo books published by Simon & Schuster, which have sold over 45,000 copies. Under the name M. TERRY GREEN, she writes her techno-shaman sci-fi/fantasy series. I am working with Green to develop a new speculative fiction series. Read more. . .


GERALDINE EVANS is a best-selling British author. Her historical novel, Reluctant Queen, is a Category No 1 Best Seller on Amazon UK. I edited Death Dues, #11 in Evans' fifteen popular Rafferty and Llewellyn cozy police procedurals, which received a glowing review from the Midwest Book Review. Read more. . .


SCOTT WILBANKS, represented by Barbara Poelle of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency, is the author of the debut novel, The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster, forthcoming from Sourcebooks in August, 2015. I'm working with Wilbanks on his sophomore novel, Easy Pickens, the story of the world’s only medically-diagnosed case of chronic naiveté. Read more. . .


LISA MERCADO-FERNANDEZ writes literary novels of love, loss, and friendship set in the small coastal towns of New England. I edited Mercado-Fernandez' debut novel, The Shoebox, and her up-coming The Eighth Summer. Read more. . .


JUDY LEE DUNN is an award-winning marketing blogger. I am working with Dunn to develop and line edit her memoir of reconciling liberal activism with her emotional difficulty accepting the lesbianism of her beloved daughter, Tonight Show comedienne Kellye Rowland. Read more. . .


LEN JOY is the author of the debut novel, American Past Time. I worked with Len to develop his novel from its core: a short story about the self-destructive ambitions of a Minor League baseball star, which agents had told him to throw away. Read more. . .


JEFF RUSSELL is the author of the debut novel, The Rules of Love and Law, based upon Jeff's abiding passions for legal history and justice. Read more. . .


In addition, I work with dozens of aspiring writers in their apprenticeship to this literary art and craft.

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