Once again, I'm a day late and a dollar short. Therefore, I'm posting an article previously written and offered for sale on nDash.com.
With the plethora of niche industries that festoon today’s marketplace, businesses clamor for specialists. They want people with deep, intimate knowledge of the products or services they sell. That makes sense. Someone with specialized knowledge can hit the ground running rather than take up valuable time to get up to speed on the ins and outs of a particular business.
Unfortunately, specialists don’t always possess the critical communication skills to convey their fascination and love for the subject, nor to inspire the interest of others. That requires a specialist of a different kind, someone who can learn about the subject and who specializes in effective communication.
Nowhere is that more obvious or evident than in written content.
Many professional and trade associations use newsletters to share information among members within an industry. That information does not necessarily focus upon the unique facets of that product or service, but frequently includes other topics pertinent to business. For instance, newsletters for the North American Power Sweeping Association include articles focusing on business management practices. A newsletter produced by an equine breed association will also include information on proper vaccination and deworming, barn maintenance, and general equine health concerns as well as breed-specific content.
Using another example, an expert in internet law wrote a book about GDPR in Europe. Although the editor had no background in such legal matters, the editor had the specialized expertise necessary to focus on improving the language for proper and effective conveyance of the message. In still another example, an editor’s general knowledge serves well to catch discrepancies and errors in fiction: e.g., the Rubik’s Cube did not hit U.S. shores until 1980, so a character’s play with the toy in the early 1970s could not have occurred.
Generalists have the advantage of knowing a little bit about a lot of stuff. That enables them to detect errors and discrepancies that specialists may not catch. Generalization lends itself to adaptability: the generalist can adjust to the circumstances or project demands as needed.
When it comes to content creation, the specialist is the subject matter expert and the generalist is the translator who communicates the complexities of a topic so that laymen understand that topic—at least at a basic level.
The benefit of using a generalist is that such a person does many things well, even if he or she does not have the in-depth knowledge to truly excel at a particular subject. The generalist knows to use the resources available, including tapping subject matter experts for specialized insight.
The concept is not new. In the 1950s, Lawrence D. Miles recognized the value of bringing in outside perspectives for the value insight they contributed and which subject matter experts missed entirely. One such example concerned a group of engineers who attempted to develop a valve that could be opened and closed quickly under a great deal of pressure. They came up blank, until someone mentioned that firefighters used such valves on their hoses already. The engineers had no need to reinvent the wheel; they could use an existing product—but they would not have realized that if someone from outside their field of expertise had not mentioned it to them. Miles, known in certain circles as the “father of value engineering,” launched a philosophy that split into various quality management and cost reduction techniques, not the least of which was labeled “Voice of the Customer.”
Don’t discount the value of the generalist. Everyone has his or her own special expertise; that it’s not yours makes affords your business insight it otherwise would not achieve.
#henhousepublishing #writinglife #freelancewriting
I've been recently informed by no fewer than two professionals in book marketing that several of my books' covers need improvement. This came as no surprise. Book covers, especially for genre fiction, have tropes. They have characteristic color schemes and styles. There are good and bad points to such standardization, the main "pro" being that potential readers know what kind of book your book is right off the bat. One of the cons is that it tends to stifle originality: covers within a genre tend toward boring monotony. Frankly, I get a bit tired of seeing bare male chests emblazoned on the covers of romance novels. The beefcake has become a bit too ubiquitous, rather like the Fabio-inspired covers of the 1980s and 1990s.
After an emotionally rough week, I found myself on Sunday afternoon revamping the book covers for Daughter of the Twin Moons and Ulfbehrt's Legacy.
For Daughter of the Twin Moons, I used the original background image, because I really like it. I think it gives off that fantasy vibe without shrieking "sword and sorcery." I have nothing against sword-and-sorcery fantasy--I like the fantasy genre and that aspect of it especially--but that wasn't the audience I'm aiming for in this story. The original cover was created by the "cover creator" in CreateSpace, which no longer exists. With little experience under my belt, that was the best I could do. I like to think I've gotten better.
For Ulfbehrt's Legacy, I also reused the original cover graphic and added more, a picture of a Norwegian Fjord pony and a modern Norwegian Navy warboat. The additional images relate to the story inside: our heroine, Zoe, gets a job caring for ponies and our hero, Lars, is an elite sailor in the Norwegian Navy. The back cover of the printed copy has a picture of one of Norway's many beautiful and dramatic fjords. I'm still not entirely happy with that cover, but it's better than the original.
I just love royalty free stock photography!
The Diamond Gate and Willow might be the next up for new covers.
Perhaps the next step in creative recovery might be updating and revising some of my older stories. We'll see. At this point, I'm making no promises. What I can promise is that the next story I write will be dedicated to my older son, Matthew. It won't be a story he would have read and it will likely be a story that would have greatly embarrassed him, if only because his mother wrote it and middle-aged moms aren't supposed to know about such things, much less write about them. But Matt's always on my mind and his memory infiltrates everything I do.
Every so often I post about unreasonable expectations held by potential clients who want to hire professional writers and editors for paltry wages. Their requirements differ, some more interested in quantity than quality; however, none offer what could even remotely be considered a professional wage commensurate with the professional service they demand.
You'll notice a theme here: the word professional.
Here's one I just found: "I would love a romance book 50,000 words, $48 budget, Deadline 5 Days. Only apply if you can complete this within the time and budget and kindly don't waste my time if you have a problem with the budget and deadline."
The buyer then provides a plot summary that I'm not going to comment on and ends with this: "If you can complete this properly I have 200 more stories to write and have to submit them by this year and I am not a story writer so I need someone's help to complete this. The budget will be double if your writing will be accepted by my boss."
As I've done before, let's break down the project to get a good understanding of what this will entail:
Now, assuming the writer does an incredible job and gets the contract to produce 200 more books at one per week, that's nearly four years of steady work at $38.40 per 40-hour week producing 1,250 words per hour eight hours every weekday. That works out to a 4-year salary of $7,680.
I enjoy long-term clients and projects as much as anyone, but this is insane and entirely unreasonable.
I bring this issue up, because it's not just outrageous bid requests like that which have me shaking my head in disgust. Many authors, especially new authors, fail to understand that professional services deserve and command professional fees. On Facebook, one author complained that she paid her editor $1,000 to edit her novel and the published book received criticism regarding errors.
There's a whole host of misunderstanding going into that, not the least of which are a mismatch between her expectations and the service received and the cost of editing. Sure, $1,000 is a tidy chunk of money, especially when you're thinking of plonking it down on a hope and prayer. However, your conviction that your story will be the next breakout despite a limited budget, bestselling novel doesn't justify stiffing a professional editor of fair compensation.
Most editors base their fees on two basic factors: the length (word count) of the manuscript and the depth of editing required. Longer length and deeper editing both require more of the editor's time. That's one reason why editors appreciate authors who do their very best to make their manuscripts as good as they can before submitting them for editing.
If you really want to get a good feel for what you should be paying when you hire a ghostwriter or editor, check out the rate guideline published by the Editorial Freelancers Association. Then start saving up, because professional service doesn't come cheaply, nor should you expect it to.