Episode 80

What Makes a Good Editor?

In this episode, we’re talking about a predatory publisher. We’re also discussing the difference between a good editor, a great editor, and your ideal editor.

Music licensed from Storyblocks:

“More Jam Please” by Raighes Factory

"Hola Amigos" by Oleksii Abramovych

"Dreamboat Farewell (Trumpet & Acoustic Guitar)" by zoze

"Coast Of Mexico" by Ben Bostick

"Acapulco Sunset" by zoze

"Over The Ocean" by Sondé

Rosemi Mederos:

If you have plot bunnies coming out of your plot holes, it’s time for a writing break.

In this episode, we’re talking about a predatory publisher. We’re also discussing the difference between a good editor, a great editor, and your ideal editor.

The Writing Break cafe is open, so let’s grab a table and I’ll fill you in on some publishing news.

A federal judge blocked the enforcement of a Texas law that would have required booksellers to review and rate books for sexual content. The law, known as HB 900, was signed by Texas Governor Greg Abbott in June and was immediately challenged by authors, librarians, and book publishers.

Judge Alan Albright issued a preliminary injunction blocking the law on August 31st, the day before the law was set to go into effect. Judge Albright said that the law violated the First Amendment right to free speech.

The law would have required booksellers to rate books as "sexually explicit" or "sexually relevant" based on a vague standard. Books rated "sexually explicit" would have been banned from Texas schools, while books rated "sexually relevant" would have required students to have written parental permission to access them.

Judge Albright said the law was too broad and gave too much discretion to booksellers to decide which books should be banned. He also said the law would have a chilling effect on free speech, as it would discourage authors and publishers from writing or publishing books that deal with sexual content.

The judge's decision is a temporary measure, and the law could still be upheld if it is challenged again in court.

As you might have heard, Barnes & Noble CEO James Daunt gave the keynote address at the U.S. Book Show in May. During his speech, he said that Barnes & Noble had become “not very good” and that they were working on it. He said that booksellers are the experts on…well…selling books, and that they should be given the freedom to choose the books they want to sell and how they want to present them in their own stores. Daunt also said that the Barnes & Noble website was "not very good" and that it needed to be more user-friendly and responsive. They’re working on that too.

A few episodes ago I told you about the additional incentives Barnes & Noble added to their membership. As a member myself, it’s been quite nice and my local store is, indeed, looking less like a toy store and more like a bookstore.

Amazon, on the other hand, is doing what it can to give authors and readers less all around. We already know they’re paying authors less money, and now they’re pulling back on the incentives offered by the Kindle Rewards Beta program, which they launched just last October. The program allows customers to earn points for purchasing Kindle ebooks and print books.

The points per dollar spent was reduced from 5 points to 3 points for Kindle ebooks and from 2 points to 1 point for print books. But, wait, there’s less: the time to cash in points for credit was reduced from 6 months to 3 months. This means that readers will need to spend $100 every 3 months in order to earn a $3 credit.

Some other “less is less” changes from Amazon include the discontinuation of magazine and newspaper subscriptions on the Kindle platform and a $2-a-month increase to its Kindle Unlimited membership.

Thank goodness the Libby app offers free magazines and newspapers from your local library.

IngramSpark is forcing authors to offer their books at a minimum 40% wholesale discount. The previous wholesale discount minimum was 30%. We’re going to discuss this in depth in the next episode.

Adelaide Books, a small, independent publisher based in New York City, has been accused of predatory publishing practices, including: failing to provide authors with royalty statements and royalties; delaying publication dates; performing little to no editing of books; failing to follow through on marketing promises; and requiring authors to order 45 books up front for $653. That’s $14.51 per book.

The Authors Guild said that it has received complaints from over 50 authors about Adelaide Books. In response to the controversy, the owner of Adelaide Books, Stevan Nikolic, promised to make things right with its authors. He said that he would provide royalty statements and royalties, publish books on time, provide editing services, and follow through on marketing promises. However, according to The Authors Guild, Nikolic has not met any of these promises. Nikolic has ignored repeated requests from The Authors Guild for information about the status of the author complaints. He has also refused to return rights to authors who have requested to terminate their contracts with Adelaide Books.

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The Authors Guild is considering taking legal action against Adelaide Books. If you are an author who has had a negative experience with Adelaide Books, contact The Authors Guild for assistance.

Links to all of these news stories can be found in the show notes of this episode and on writingbreak.com. Let’s head over to the Overthinking Couch to discuss one way to assist Adelaide Books’ injured authors while also protecting yourself.

What’s happening at Adelaide Books has happened at other publishing houses, and it will undoubtedly happen again. Authors should be careful about what contracts they sign, but many first-time authors don’t know what should or shouldn’t be in a publishing contract. A publishing house might be in business for years with dozens of successful books and happy authors before things start going wrong.

We’ve discussed a lot of injustices against authors in the past year, and one thing you might have noticed is that The Authors Guild is always doing what it can to advocate for writers. The Authors Guild is a nonprofit organization for professional writers in the United States. As we’ve seen time and time again, The Authors Guild provides legal advice and representation to its members in cases of copyright infringement, contract disputes, and other legal issues. They’ll even review literary agent and publishing contracts for you. Joining The Author’s Guild is one way you can support authors while also gaining access to their legal services.

In addition to legal services, The Authors Guild provides its members with information about the publishing industry, including trends, contracts, and royalties. It also offers its members discounts on services and products related to writing, such as editing, marketing, and insurance. And members get access to a variety of educational resources, such as webinars, workshops, and publications. Plus, they provide opportunities to network with other writers and industry professionals.

Annual membership dues range from $35 to $135, depending on an author’s eligibility. Check the link in the show notes to see if you’re eligible to join The Author’s Guild.

Now, how about a day at the beach? I know the kids are back in school, coffee shops are selling fall drinks, and some stores are already putting out Halloween decorations, but in the USA the first day of autumn this year is September 23, which means we still have a few weeks of summer left. So, let’s head south of the border to visit a beachside bookstore.

Just a one-minute stroll from the ocean in Puerto Morelos, Mexico, you’ll find Alma Libre Bookstore, a bright yellow bookshop selling new and used books in English and Spanish.

“The Alma Libre shelves house modern and classic Mexican fiction, Mayan history, cookbooks, children’s books…Mexico guides, politics, philosophy, yoga, self-help, and much, much more.”

In addition to books, the store sells local and regional arts and crafts, or what they like to call hidden treasures: “hand painted pottery necklaces, finely embroidered pouches and bags, local weaving, [and] unique photography. We are constantly on the lookout for new treasures and unique arts and craft oddities.”

Let’s see what treasures we can dig up among these mismatched bookshelves.

Today we’re looking at a book with a unique concept. Where They Burn Books, They Also Burn People by Marcos Antonio Hernandez is composed of “two standalone books with alternating chapters—the way the combination is meant to be read. One pulled from the pages of history, the other imagining its implications for the present.”

But what are they about?


2010. Cortez Vuscar is convinced his father will return if he can grow their church’s congregation. Certain he’s found his true love and believing they can attract churchgoers together, Cortez sets out to win her from her wealthy and unfaithful boyfriend. But his fascination with the famous literature she’s reading infects his mind with a deadly descent into madness…

Can these men save their religion without destroying what they love?

Where They Burn Books, They Also Burn People is the gripping combination of two books in the Hispanic American Heritage Stories series, based on historical events. If you like indigenous revenge, villain origin stories, and the consuming force of religious fervor, then you’ll love this illuminating tale about Catholicism’s shadowed past.”

This book is available in hardcover, paperback, audiobook, and ebook formats, and it’s free to read with Kindle Unlimited.

Now, let’s take that one-minute stroll to the beach to discuss editors: the good, the great, and the ideal.

Once upon a book signing, the featured author (who shall remain nameless) was asking the people in line what they did for a living. Based on their reply, he wrote something witty in their books before signing his name. When it was my turn, I told him I was a book editor. He said nothing and signed his name. Just his name. No witty comment. No further eye contact. I think it’s safe to say that he does not have a good relationship with his editor.

The question writers should be asking isn’t, “Do I need an editor?” Even editors need editors. The real question a serious writer should ask is, “Who will be my editor?” Your editor will be your and your manuscript’s long-term friend and enemy—frenemy, if you will. Typically, your editor will love your manuscript, and you will dislike your editor for making you change any of it.

A good fiction editor reviews your manuscript’s premise, plot structure, pacing, characters, dialogue, and marketability. They identify weak points and make useful suggestions for story and character development while ensuring continuity. A good fiction editor is professional, always meets deadlines, keeps a style sheet, and treats you with respect.

A great fiction editor does all of the things a good editor does while understanding your vision, loving your characters, and preserving your voice and writing style.

Your ideal fiction editor does all of the things a great fiction editor does but also knows when to motivate and guide you and when to keep their mouth shut. They get to know your personality and writing process, and they offer only as much help as you actually need. An ideal fiction editor might suggest that there is a character that will eventually need to die but won’t name names. When all is said and done, the story remains yours.

I do not think that I am everyone’s ideal editor nor is everyone my ideal client. I do not give my literary heart to just anyone. Likewise, an author should be careful about who they allow to edit their manuscript.

If you are serious about having a long-term, successful career as an author, the sooner you cultivate the right author–editor relationship, the better it will be for your writing.

That’s all for this writing break. Let’s get back to our works in progress and rendezvous in two weeks. Until then, thanks for listening, and remember, you deserved this break.

If you would like us to visit your favorite independent bookstore, feature your favorite independent author (even if it’s you), or discuss something you’re overthinking about, please email me at podcast@writingbreak.com.

Thank you for making space in your mind for The Muse today.

Writing Break is hosted by America’s Editor and produced by Allon Media with technical direction by Gus Aviles. Visit us at writingbreak.com or contact us at podcast@writingbreak.com.

About the Podcast

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About your host

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Rosemi Mederos


Rosemi is the founder of America's Editor, a book editing company.