Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Welcome Justine Darkholme

Hi everyone. When I decided to start inviting guests to my blog for these Wednesday spots, I'd hoped to 'acquire' a variety of guests, from all the varied sides of the publishing world. Many of my guests have been authors, and I'm extremely pleased about the quality and diversity of the content they've all sent. (Might I add hot? Sure, it's my blog)

This week, I'm thrilled to have a very special guest.The lovely, Justine Darkholme has joined us. Justine works with Muse it Up Publishing and I'll allow her to tell you all about her job.

Welcome Justine!

Hi, I’m Justine. (Waits for the *Hi Justine*) I’m a content editor for Muse it Up Publishing. I’m also part of the acquisitions editor team at Muse it Up Publishing. Jude has been kind enough to ask me to do a guest post here on her blog. After Jude found out I was a content editor, during our initial emails, she asked me a few questions and I’ve agreed—quite happily, might I add—to answer them as part of this nifty (if I can say so myself) article.

1. How did you get into the business?
Believe it or not, I was kind of bullied into becoming a freelance editor. No, seriously. My critique partner is very persistent. I’ve always been an editor at heart. I know a lot of people say they’ve been story-tellers/writers since they could string together a semi-cohesive sentence. Well, I think I’ve always been an editor at heart. Don’t get me wrong, I love writing but I’m a perfectionist. Therefore, it takes me twice as long to write my own books.  

2. What kinds of things do you look for when you’re sifting through submissions?
A few things I look for are: an interesting premise, a strong voice, and a clean submission. Voice is important and I’ve found that it will make or break an author’s chances at being contracted. Another important issue a lot of authors seem to neglect is grammar. If you’re submission is littered with grammar and or punctuation errors, it doesn’t matter how wonderful the book is; we won’t contract it. Also, believe or not, the skill and professionalism demonstrated in the author’s query and or synopsis color my perspective on their submission. If the query and or synopsis are horrible, I tend to be leery of what the submission is going to be like.

3. What are some things that drive you crazy about submissions and or working with authors?
I have two pet peeves when it comes to working with authors. The first one being: when an author doesn’t reply or acknowledge an email I’ve sent. That is one of my biggest pet peeves. I’m your editor, damn it. Please take the time to let me know you’ve received the email, even if you haven’t the time to reply in detail right then and there. Frankly, I almost consider it impolite when an author doesn’t respond or at least give me a heads up and I’m leery about working with them in the future.

The second pet peeve: when an author doesn’t apply a number of edits I’ve made in their manuscript, and doesn’t even bother to leave me a little comment explaining WHY they’ve rejected the edit. This irritates me because most of the time I have to go back through the manuscript and re-edit things I’ve already edited. I don’t have time for those kinds of shenanigans. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not upset the author didn’t take my editorial advice as gospel. I’m upset because the author didn’t give me an explanation. Instead, they just took it upon themselves to delete or change something back. And usually, it’s been my experience that the naughty author in question refuses to change things, it’s usually things that absolutely need to be changed. There are some things you can’t argue with, especially things like grammar and punctuation.

4. What are some things authors consistently do wrong?
The Un-readable Synopsis: Once again, the synopsis is important. If your synopsis is un-readable, you’re more likely to be rejected. And believe me, we receive a slew of synopsis that look like they were thrown together at the last minute. Stop that. Take the time to write a synopsis worth reading. It might actually turn a ‘no’ into a ‘yes.’

Starting in the Wrong Place: This is tricky. However, it’s important. The very first page of the story is critical. Knowing when and how to start your story can make or break your chances at being accepted. Personally, by the time I’ve read the first page, I already have a pretty good idea as to whether or not I’m going to vote for an acceptance or rejection. Now, I’m not saying the story needs to start with action, etc. It just needs to start in the right place. One thing I can advise is: don’t start your story with a flashback and or dream. It’s jarring and very likely your manuscript will be rejected because you haven’t given us time to even meet the characters before you’re hurling us into their subconscious.

Submitting Unedited Manuscripts: First off, I know a lot of authors already know this, but I’m going to say it here just in case: every author needs a critique partner.  Yep. Even multi-published authors need a critique partner. Nothing says amateur author like a submission that looks like it hasn’t been edited. I don’t think authors are sending us their first drafts, I just think they’ve never had a second pair of eyes on it.  We get a lot of those kinds of submissions and every time we do, we suggest they enlist a frank critique partner along with whatever feedback we’ve provided in their rejection notice.

5. What are some things authors consistently do right?
There are a number of things authors consistently do right. To name a few: meeting deadlines, being courteous, accepting criticism, participating in book marketing and promotion, and querying.  Believe me; we editors appreciate all of an author’s efforts. These efforts make our lives much easier, and a happy editor is an approachable editor—and we all love approachable editors. :-]

Well, that’s all for now folks! Thank you so much, Jude. I’ve really enjoyed writing this article and I hope to be a regular guest here on your blog. 
(From Jude: Thank you so much, Justine. I've really enjoyed learning a little more about you, and I'd love to have you on my blog again.)


For more information about Justine please see the following links:

Justine Darkholme’s Editor Page on Muse it Up Publishing webpage

Justine Darkholme’s Submission Calls on Muse it Up Publishing’s industry blog
Justine Darkholme’s Blog: Paranormal Passions


Charlie Richards said...

Hi Justine!

Thanks for the great reminders on dos and don'ts. I'm with you on the reply to my email thing, but from the other side. I like to know my editor received my edits back. lol.

And thanks to both Jude and Justine for the great interview!

M. S. Spencer said...

Thanks Justine--it's always very interesting to hear what's important (and not) to an editor. It thrills me to know I'm not the only one out there who insists on proper grammar! M. S. Spencer, Author of 4 books of romantic suspense.