Time for a change

When I started my freelance editing business in 2012, I had no idea if it would be a success. I can now say, with all modesty, that it has been. It all began after I had edited the novel of a local author (thank you, RA!). He gave me such a glowing testimonial that it inspired me to create a website and advertise online. Apart from the times I have had to take a sabbatical, my inbox has been continually inundated with enquiries. To date, my count of actual clients totals a nice round thirty – not bad for six years’ work – and has included a variety of projects to include editing novels, short stories, and web articles; self-publishing paperbacks and e-books (that’s the editing, typesetting, and assisting with cover design); converting printed books with no electronic copy to Kindle! It has been an interesting, rewarding and fascinating journey, but extremely hard work for one person.

Back in 2012, I’d never worked in traditional publishing, and the only experience of editing I’d gained was as a trainee proofreader for a local vanity publishing company. Previously, my career was in different areas of IT. Having started as an accounts clerk for Thorn EMI Ferguson in in the 1980s, I worked my way through various IT-related jobs until I became a part-time lecturer at the University of Portsmouth in 1994. Four years later, I gave it up to be a stay-at-home mum. To join the dots from part-time lecturer to freelance editor, there’s my ten-year involvement in creative writing, where the transition from writer to editor seemed to happen organically.

Several courses and a reasonable amount of professional training later, I’ve learned  a lot about traditional publishing and its editing methods. I’ve enjoyed it immensely, and there is always more to learn. But, as someone who works from home, I’ve been directly exposed to all that life has thrown my way. In 2013, I suffered the death of my father; in 2014, I suffered the death of a close friend and business associate; in 2016, my mother became unwell. In 2017, I suffered the death of my mother. All of this (and more) has taken its toll. Each time, I was tempted to give up editing; but the truth is, my work helped me through those unhappy events. Perhaps not entirely unexpected, then, that editing has become synonymous with heartache and sorrow. It has become a constant reminder of people, places, and a way of life that no longer exists. I’m sure this would not have happened had I been directly employed (so out of the house and with other people), or had I run a business with staff, or worked from an office (which I did try for a while…too expensive!). After some consideration, I’ve decided that it is time for a change.

Although I am not retiring from editing completely, I shall limit myself to working with existing clients. I may  turn my attention to local authors; where, rather than spending my day in front of a computer screen, I can have face-to-face interaction.

For now, I shall keep this blog going. I shall also keep my website active as it contains useful information, but will remove all business-related sections. If anyone wishes to contact me, please do so via this blog. Contact details are on the right.

Thank you for your interest, and keep writing! 🙂

Fiction editor and bathroom installer…not so different after all

Those who know me on Facebook will be aware of the recent bathroom installation carried out at my house. It took a little longer than expected, due to a delay caused by the plumber’s van breaking down on the very first day. Eventually, all went well and everyone was pleased with the result.

I had been concerned that I wouldn’t get much work done due to the general noise and disturbance; usually, I work in complete silence, but I somehow found the ability to shut everything out around me for short periods of time, and so I was reasonably productive.

One day, the plumber (clearly intrigued as to why I spent most of my day glued to a chair staring at a computer monitor, pulling strange faces, talking to myself, and drumming away on a keyboard) asked me what I did for a living. I considered a range of glamorous responses, but finally admitted to being a freelance editor of fiction. After I had explained what this entailed, he nodded sagely and then went about his work.

The next time we spoke, some hours later, he said: ‘So the writer gets all the praise and you don’t get any.’

Astute thinking on his part. After consideration, I replied, ‘Yes, I guess it’s the same for you, then.’

That might have sounded like a snide reprisal, but it wasn’t meant that way. I had drawn several parallels between our respective jobs. We were both ‘fixing and fitting’ something that was somebody else’s original creation. We had no involvement at its conception and we wouldn’t benefit directly as a result of its completion (other than being paid for doing the job). We were simply working to a plan and a procedure for a paying customer. I’d be no more likely to see the words ‘This work of fiction was meticulously edited by Sue Shade’ within the prelim pages of a published novel I had worked on than the plumber would see a plaque on a bathroom wall bearing the inscription ‘This installation was painstakingly carried out by Lenny Atwell’.

(Name changed for privacy…apologies to any Lenny Atwells out there!)

Later, came the plumber’s riposte: ‘At least a visitor to your bathroom is more likely to ask who carried out the work.’

Ouch. ‘But, there’s potential for my client’s novel to be read worldwide…’


For any completed work of creation, third-party involvement is generally taken for granted, so this is a thumbs-up from me to all those – editors and bathroom fitters included – who slog tirelessly behind the scenes to turn someone else’s dreams into reality, but who aren’t directly recognised for doing so. 🙂


Mistaken identity and negative reviews

I recently discovered that a previous client, who published his first novel with an independent publishing company, had received a 1-star review on Amazon. As this was inconsistent with his other reviews, which were all 5-star, I had to investigate.

It became clear that the reviewer had mistaken my client with another author of the same name. He had written that, whilst the author’s first book was excellent, this one was disappointing. He then went on to post a sarcastic and unconstructive comment.

My client was understandably upset. Even though he realised that the reviewer had confused him with another author, it made him doubt his ability to complete his second novel, a sequel to the first. This got me thinking…

It seems obvious now, but one thing a new writer needs to think about is their nom de plume, especially if they plan to publish independently, and they happen to have a common name; although, not all may want to give themselves a fancy pseudonym. Most independent authors I have worked with use their actual name, so what can be done to differentiate them from another author whose name is the same?

Firstly, I suggest using their middle initial. That’s simple enough. Although, if this creates a negative acronym, I suggest choosing a random consonant instead. Just one initial following the first name is adequate. In my opinion, initialising both the first and middle name looks pretentious (sorry JK!), as does having more than one middle initial (sorry JRR!). If the pen name is decided upon at the outset, it will avoid the costly and time-consuming process of making alterations later on.

Secondly, on any website where the author’s book is marketed, I suggest they set up an author page. This should help the customer to find books written by the relevant author, as well as provide some publicity. Amazon use Author Central; Goodreads uses the Author Program…Other author pages are available.

The good news is that my client has now completed his sequel and has passed it to me for a beta-read, but I can tell that the negative review has shaken his confidence. Given the success of his first book, I am sure it will be fine. My advice to independent writers is to try and develop a thick skin; to focus on the doughnut, not the hole. If seven out of his eight reviews are all 5-star, then there can’t be much wrong with the story. Another positive is that, even though the reviewer mistook one author for another, he still paid to buy the book, providing my client with some royalties. Perhaps that’s what he was really sore about! 🙂

How to…Display dates (and a macro to transpose them)

My latest project is a 20,000-word diary about a cat and his cat friends. From what I’ve seen of it so far, it is an amusing and adventurous tale, with some lovely illustrations, but it is not a story aimed at children. It has strictly adult content!

Being a diary, it has daily dates. The British-English standard style convention is to display dates in the order day, month, and year; using cardinal numbers (1, 2, 3, 4…), not ordinal numbers (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th…), with no punctuation. Today’s date would be written as 29 June 2018. (In the US style, the order is month, day, year, with a comma after the day.)

A given day preceding the date is separated by a comma: Friday, 29 June 2018.
If being used in a sentence then a second comma is required:
On Friday, 29 June 2018, the sun rose at 4.53 a.m.

A writer would not necessarily be expected to know this, and so dates are presented to me in a variety of ways: with or without ordinal numbers, with or without commas, and in the wrong order.

Before I print a client’s typescript for editing, I always reformat the original version, using my own style, and save it as a new document. I carry out some basic formatting on headings and body text. This is usually a straightforward process, but numerous dates as headings can become somewhat tedious to correct. ‘There must be an easier way!’ I muttered, after spending many minutes cutting and pasting dates from the style Saturday November 3rd to Saturday 3 November.

Now, I’m not a whizz at programming, so creating macros (Word, or otherwise) is not something I actively engage in. I tend to google them, copy and paste them into my document, hope they work, and get frustrated if they don’t. Yesterday, I came across a macro that transposes two words. You simply place the cursor between the two words to be transposed and run the macro. Just what I wanted.

If anyone is interested in the macro, you can find it here, thanks to Allen Wyatt: https://word.tips.net/T000002_Transposing_Two_Words.html

If anyone wants to know how to add a macro to a Word document, you can find it here: https://support.office.com/en-us/article/create-or-run-a-macro-c6b99036-905c-49a6-818a-dfb98b7c3c9c

Now all I need to do now is find a way to get Word to transpose all of the date headings in one fell swoop! Any suggestions will be gratefully received.







Good news from me!

I am pleased to announce that I am once again offering editorial and self-publishing services.

I have updated my original website, which is not mobile-friendly (as Google keeps telling me!), but it works well enough for desktop users: www.sueshade.co.uk

Alternatively, you can now visit www.shadenetpublishing.co.uk for a mobile-friendly experience!

I shall soon start to transfer my blog to the new site, which is 99% ready.

I have made changes to the services I offer, and these are explained on both sites.

On a more exciting note: in 2019 I hope to be able to offer a one-to-one editorial service or full self-publishing service at a reduced cost (or free of charge if I can get funding) to a local writer. Watch this space for details. 😀

…Or maybe not such good news

In my last post, I propose that it might be beneficial for independent UK authors to self-publish paperback titles with Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), as member copies of books can be bought from the UK.

I transferred the anthology that I had originally published on CreateSpace – with the UK ISBN – to KDP (subsequently removed from CreateSpace), and then set about buying a copy. On the Order author copies page, I had to specify an order quantity, and then select the Marketplace of my order. I selected one copy, and Amazon.co.uk as my marketplace.

The price of one book (excluding shipping and taxes) is £1.90. This is the printing cost of the book as determined by trim size, interior type, and page count. I submit my order and the book is added to my Amazon cart, where I can then complete the purchase. (Note: the first time I did this, I had to wait for a ‘set-up’ email from Amazon.)

I find the book has been added to my Amazon Shopping Basket. I went straight to Checkout, and was disappointed to find that postage and packing would cost £2.73! The order total came to £4.63. Estimated delivery would be between 24-27 February (I ordered it on 19th).

To compare costs, I logged on to my CreateSpace account. My anthology with the CreateSpace ISBN still exists there. With the cheapest shipping option (April delivery), the total price for one member copy, converted to GBP, was £5.04.

One bit of good news then: UK ordering with KDP is cheaper and quicker, but is this method beneficial to authors who supply books to UK distributors? Let’s do the maths in the following scenario, whilst bearing in mind that distributors ask for at least 40% discount off the retail price of a book:

A book distributor wants five copies of my anthology to fulfil bookshop orders. The retail price of the book is £3.99. Five copies would fetch £19.95, but the distributor takes a 40% discount, meaning they will buy the books from me for £11.97. I order five member copies @ £1.90. This comes to £9.50. Postage and packing is calculated at £6.83, bringing the total order to £16.33. For me, this means an overall loss of £4.36, or £0.872 per book.

The discount required by the distributor, and the cost of shipping to the author is always going to cause a problem. To make a profit in the above scenario, I would have to set the retail price of my anthology at £5.99. This would give me a profit of £1.64 across the five books – that’s only £0.328 per book, and less than KDP’s royalty of £0.49! And I risk not selling it to customers who visit Amazon because it’s too expensive.

In conclusion, ordering member copies of books from KDP for UK distributors is not necessarily a viable option. It makes more sense to, tell the distributor to tell the bookshop to tell the customer to simply buy the book online. However, to end on a positive note: shipping to the UK is cheaper and quicker, and if I were to sell the five books privately, I would make £0.724 per book, which is more than KDP’s royalty!


Good news for UK self-publishers…?

It’s been a while since my last post, due to a series of unfortunate life events that have also led me to change the way I offer my editing services. Currently, I am only working with existing clients and new clients whose manuscripts do not exceed 50,000 words; however, this is not the good news I wanted to mention…

Something called KDP Jumpstart came to my attention recently. It’s been a few years since I have self-published on Amazon and as I’ve not been keeping up to date I thought I should investigate.

It used to be that if you wanted to self-publish through Amazon you used their CreateSpace platform for paperback books and their Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform for e-books.

KDP now offer the means to publish paperback books. You can even transfer previously published books from the CreateSpace platform to KDP, quoting the original ISBN used. This will disable it on CreateSpace, and they say this is not reversible. KDP do not support CreateSpace’s Expanded Distribution, so if this is important to you, they suggest keeping the book on CreateSpace. As far as I recall, there is no Expanded Distribution available in the UK with CreateSpace; it’s only available in the US, but I could be wrong.

Some years ago, I self-published a book of short stories on CreateSpace, using their free ISBN number. I won’t digress into the ISBN conundrum here, but I had been thinking about republishing using a UK ISBN. I shall do so, using this new KDP platform.

Although I have not completed the process yet, I believe that once you have set up a new paperback with KDP – or transferred a previous one from CreateSpace – you can then choose your nearest distribution centre from within the UK when ordering member copies of the book.

I can see advantages for UK authors when using this new platform. It provides an opportunity to set up a replacement publication using an UK ISBN, rather than a CreateSpace one, and if potential customers order your book directly from a UK bookshop, the retailer should not refuse to order copies that are sourced from the UK. (They have refused to order books that have to be shipped from the US, as costs do not make it financially viable.) Whether this will be worthwhile for the author will still depend on the costs for printing and shipping, but presumably this will be cheaper and more economical than having books supplied from the US.

Once I have explored further, I will either update this post or create a new one, but if anyone has any useful comments about this new service, please let me know and I can include them.