Thursday, February 6, 2014

Carolyn Howard-Johnson Shares Five Editing Myths and Five Things to Avoid for a Pristine Query Letter Plus Giveaway

Today is a special day on the J.Q. Rose blog because Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning  HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers, is here with helpful information for authors. She shares five editing myths and five things to avoid for a pristine query letter. I know I can use all the advice I can get on query letters. How about you?

Carolyn is generously offering a free e-book of the newly formatted, expanded and updated Frugal Editor. Just leave a comment to be eligible to win the random drawing. Winner will be announced on Sunday after 9 pm EST. Look for more information on this dynamite book for authors after the article.
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Editing IS Marketing: Boning Up on First Impressions
By Carolyn Howard-Johnson
First impressions are important. We all are aware of that as we brush our teeth and try to unknot the rat's nests from the back of our hair each morning. In fact, first impressions are part of our marketing efforts, too. Whether we authors are trying to get an interview or a TV appearance or marketing our books using e-mail or social networks, editing is an essential part of that first-impression effort. Generally that first effort is a query letter or proposal. Thus editing equals great first impression. That makes it an integral part of a marketing campaign.
Here are a scattering of helps gleaned from my HowToDoItFrugally Series of books, but especially the new second edition of my Frugal Editor that’s been newly formatted, expanded and updated.
Five Editing Myths Waiting To Trip Up Your Campaign to Market Your Work
  • If your English teacher told you something is OK, it is.
(Nope. Language rules and style guidelines have changed since you were a sophomore.)
  • If a manuscript or query is grammar-perfect, you'll make a great first impression.
(No! Lots of things that are grammatically correct will annoy publishers, agents, and other gatekeepers like feature editors.)
  • Always use your Spell and Grammar Checker.
(Maybe. Some well-known editors suggest you don't use the spell and grammar tools that come with your word processor at all, but The Frugal Editor gives you dozens of ways to make it your partner instead of your enemy.)
  • Your publisher will assign a top-flight editor so you don't need to worry about your manuscript.
(Maybe, but don't count on it. Besides you can be a better partner for an editor—whether she is assigned to you by your editor or you hire one for yourself—if you know something about the process. For one thing, you'll feel more confident about nixing her suggestions! In any case, I suggest hiring an editor of your own before you submit your manuscript.)
  • Formatters and editors will take care of the hyphens, ellipses, and all the other grungy little punctuation marks that English teachers avoided teaching because they didn't know how to use them either.
(Chances are, you'll catch even great formatters and editors in an error or two if you know your stuff!)
Five Things to Avoid for a Pristine Query Letter
We are selling our work when we approach any gatekeeper, an editor, an agent, a contest judge. Here are five little things to avoid so you'll look like the professional you are.
  • Don't tell the gatekeeper you always wanted to write. You can think of something more pertinent to your cause (and something more original!) than that.
  • Don't use the verb quote when you want the noun quotation. Some stylebooks will tell you that it's OK to use them interchangeably, but agents can be a picky lot. Use zero-tolerance grammar rules for your queries.
  • Don't pitch more than one book at time. You want to give just one your best shot.
  • Don't call your novel a fictional novel. By definition, a novel is fiction.
  • Don't overdo exclamation marks, question marks, or the use of sentence fragments. (Yes, fragments are acceptable when they're used for a good reason.)
Here's one last suggestion for fiction writers 'cause they're so often neglected when it comes to marketing. Avoid using italics for internal thought in the synopses sections of your marketing tools or in the sample chapters you must include. Italics are being used more and more these days, but using them can become a crutch that enables writers to avoid writing great transitions and being meticulous about point-of-view. The best agents and publishers will recognize it as such.
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Carolyn Howard-Johnson, an award-winning author of both fiction and nonfiction, a former publicist for a New York PR firm and an instructor for the renowned UCLA Extension Writers' Program. She is an editor with years of publishing and editing experience including national magazines, newspapers, and her own poetry and fiction. Learn more about the author at .Her The Frugal Book Promoter ( won USA Book News' best professional book award and the Irwin Award. The Frugal Editor, now subtitled Do-it-yourself editing secrets for authors: From your query letter to final manuscript to the marketing of your new bestseller in its second edition ( ) is top publishing book for USA Book News and Reader Views Literary Award. The Great First Impression Book Proposal: Everything You Need To Know To Sell Your Book in 30 Minutes or Less is a helpful little booklet available at And don’t miss another booklet Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips for Writers: The Ultimate Frugal Booklet for Avoiding Word Trippers and Crafting Gatekeeper-Perfect Copy,,

The Frugal Editor:
Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success
Second Edition Subtitle:

Do-it-yourself editing secrets for authors: From your query letter to final manuscript to the marketing of your new bestseller
From the HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers
Red Engine Press.
Awards: Winner USA Book News, Reader Views Literary Award, New Generation Marketing Award    
ISBN: 9780978515874
Quote from The Frugal Editor: “Language is a fluid lifeform. To assume that because we once learned grammar one way, it will always be accepted is fallacious. To neglect researching the language we write in when we so assiduously research the facts for what we write is folly.”
There are gremlins out there determined to keep your work from being published, your book from being promoted. Resolved to embarrass you before the gatekeepers who can turn the key of success for you—they lurk in your subconscious and the depths of your computer programs. Whether you are a new or experienced author, The Frugal Editor will help you present whistle-clean copy (from a one-page cover letter to your entire manuscript) to those who have the power to say “yea” or “nay.”
“Absolutely essential for beginning writers and a necessary reminder for the more advanced.  The mentor you've been looking for.  This book won't collect dust!”~Christina Francine, review for Fjords Review
"Using the basic computer and editing tricks from The Frugal Editor, authors can prevent headaches and save themselves time—and even money—during the editing process. It’s well worth your effort to learn them." ~ Barbara McNichol, Barbara McNichol Editorial

The Frugal Book Promoter:
How to get nearly free publicity on your own or partnering with your publisher
(Second Edition).
From the HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers
First Edition Awards: Winner USA Book News, coveted Irwin Award
Award for Second Edition: USA Book News winner, silver medal from Military Writers Society of America, honored b Global Ebook Awards
ISBN: 9781463743291
To order paperback from Amazon:
To order for Kindle and other e-readers:
Order e-book from Createspace:
For only a few cents a day The Frugal Book Promoter assures your book the best possible start in life. Full of nitty-gritty how-tos for getting nearly-free publicity, Carolyn Howard-Johnson, an instructor for UCLA’s Writers’ Program and former publicist and journalist, shares her professional experience as well as practical tips gleaned from the successes of her own book campaigns. She tells authors how to do what their publishers can’t or won’t and why authors can often do their own promotion better than a PR professional. The first edition is a multi award winner and the second edition is a USA Book News winner. It is updated and expanded by more than 100 pages.
A recommendation from Feather Schwartz Foster, an author, September 9, 2004, 5 out of 5 stars
Packed With Wonderful Information! For anyone who has written a book of any kind - this is a must-have, and must-keep guide! Every chapter is filled with insights and how-tos and a whole bunch of where to finds!”
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Which one (or more) of those myths have you always sworn by? What is your experience with query letters? We'd love to hear from you. Remember, leave a comment to win Carolyn's book.


Joylene Nowell Butler said...

I have Carolyn's book and refer to it often. The 2nd Edition sounds excellent. Thanks for all you do to help authors, Carolyn. Hi, Janet!

J.Q. Rose said...

Hi Joylene, good to hear the book is a great help to you. Thanks for coming by.

Anonymous said...

Carolyn's post has come at the perfect time for me, as I'm just putting together my query letter and synopsis. Great advice - thank you!

Anonymous said...

Carolyn's post has come at the perfect time for me, as I'm just putting together my query letter and synopsis. Great advice - thank you!

Marsha said...

Hey, JQ. Nice to meet you Carolyn. Sounds like you've got some great advice. I'm especially interested in your Promotion book.

J.Q. Rose said...

Helena, glad this is a timely post for you. Q-letter and synopsis are the hardest pieces to write! Good luck!

J.Q. Rose said...

Hi Marsha, Carolyn has a lot of helpful advice for us in our writing.

Miss Mae said...

Well, I certainly learned a few things from reading this! Don't use italics for thought? Hm, didn't know that! And okay, I enjoy exclamation points, but I don't overdo in my writing - honest! LOL

And can I just say that Carolyn's hair is gorgeous??? :)

J.Q. Rose said...

Hi MM--yes, I'll have to re-think the italics use too and I would so love for my short bob to look as beautiful as Carolyn's. Thank you.

Leona~Author said...

Hi JQ and Carolyn. Sounds like a lot of good information in the books. It would have helped me with mmy first book. I didn't realize that about italics either.

In Writer's Village University, Bob Hembree talks about a comback of Deep POV negating the use of italics. I think he's preparing a course study on the topic.

Thanks for a greaat post.

Tess Grant said...

I do okay when it comes to the dreaded exclamation point, but I'm probably over-fond of question marks and italics. Still drafting the WIP at thiis point but something to think about for the second and third go-rounds.

J.Q. Rose said...

Hi Leona,Now I know what you mean when you post about the WVU meeting on FB! LOL..When is that anyway? I'd love to learn about writing deep POV. Recently read an article saying readers are looking for rounded characters nowadays. Vampires have run their course. LOL..

J.Q. Rose said...

Greetings, Tess. Knowing not to overuse exclamation points, everytime I actually do, I worry if I shouldn't have !

J.Q. Rose said...

Thanks to all who stopped by the blog and commented. Carolyn's book goes to Marsha! Congrats Marsha!!

Thank you, Carolyn for your generous gift to my readers.

J.Q. Rose said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J Lenni Dorner said...

That is a VERY informative post!

I rewrote my entire book because someone told me that thoughts should be in italics, and am now rewritting it because several others have since debunked.
(Which I'm sort of grateful for, as I hated the italics anyway.)

Query letters are the bane of my existence. I never know what is to much information and what is not not enough. For example, when my MC meets the love interest, she isn't known as herself. (Like if you went to a costume party and met "The Queen of Hearts.") To my test group of readers, they figured out right away who she was- no problem. I recently learned, from a rejection letter, that "it's a red flag that we didn't meet the love interest in the first 3 chapters" ... when, really, the bulk of those chapters is about how he met her and their first interactions and how it alters their lives. But, because she wasn't going by the name in my query letter, it looked like she wasn't in the chapters. (I don't know if there was a ctrl+f used to hunt her name and it came up with no results, or if the rejector just didn't get the obvious pseudonym. Either way, that query failed because of it. And someone once told me that throwing the name info INTO the query was a mistake and waste of words... thanks.)

It's hard out there. I'd love to read the query letter of a popular well-known best seller. I searched for a few, and found out that my favs all failed at query writing. LOL. Not sure if that's a comfort, because it didn't give me the lesson I hoped it would. :\

J.Q. Rose said...

Hi J. Lenni--I think becoming a writer is definitely an on-the-job training experience. Don't give up! Thanks so much for stopping by.

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