Jenn: Hey Mark. How’s it going?
Mark: Great. How are you today? It’s great to see you.
Jenn: I am doing fantastic. However, I’m curious to see how you’re doing, based on our last call. We haven’t even talked since that call. It’s kind of interesting to be debriefing live for people. Here we are!
Mark: Exposed once again. And you say that with a devilish little tone in your voice. I’ll tell them exactly what you did to me in a second.
Jenn: You know what? It’s all strategy. There’s rhyme and reason. We’ll get there.
What Mark and I are alluding to is basically… we had our developmental edit call. In the publishing process, Mark (or the author) provides the manuscript to us, and then our team goes hog wild with it.
The first step in that process is the developmental edit. And that’s really the 30,000 foot view, top down, does this make sense? What needs to be moved?
Heather, on our team, is the one that provides the report that basically just says “Here are all the things that I noticed. Here’s what we want to be considering, tweaking, modifying,” you know – this that and the other. So that call is usually really nerve wracking for authors because it’s the first time that you are getting professional feedback from someone on what you have been pouring your heart out into for a really long time.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on how that went.
Mark: Well, talk about having that unique relationship with your publisher, because boy, did you know me! I’ll tell you what was happening prior to the call. I spend my Sunday… I get ready for the team call; I just get ready for the week, like most people do. Mr. Wonderful is seeing that there’s a heightened level of preparation going on, I’m creating PowerPoints, and PDF hand-outs, and I’m ready to brief everything I’ve been doing for the last two weeks in-between the team calls. I am a little bit of an over-achiever, so I want to make sure that I’ve covered everything. I’m sure you must have been laughing at the other end because you’re like “Ah ha, grasshopper, this is wonderful!”
I get everything done, it’s Sunday night, I have everything locked down. I’ve prepped the house and everything. I’m getting ready. [The meeting’s] Monday and we’re both off that day. Mr. Wonderful could join us and give his briefing (I had him prepped). He’s ready to go. He’s going to give his briefing on social media. Ten minutes before show time, that’s when I am really settling down, I’m shutting off all things that go beep. I’m putting phones in airplane mode. I’m getting water. I’m ready to go. Beep. There’s an email. And the email is from my awesome, lovely publisher. “Oh, I’ll read this later.” But then, I read the subject line. “oh no, no, no. Wait a minute. Wait just another minute.” The time is ticking away, and I hate to be late. But there’s this email that is an editorial summary for the book.
Like you just said, you’re handing it off for the first time. You’re trusting your book baby to somebody else for the weekend, and you’ve had to release and let go. Not being a parent, I don’t know what that’s like. I know what it’s like for my manuscript. Which was fine. It really was. I’m sure that other people know… I don’t know if other people have had the same experience with their editors, but so far so good. It’s been fantastic. I get this… so now I’m like “uh oh.” I’m like a cat on a hot tin roof. I’ve got this summary. I want to read this.
We go right into the one o’clock and Jenn announces “Yeah, about all that. About your agenda. We’re going to put that on hold for just a minute. Because we’re going to talk to Heather, the editor, and we’re going to go over your executive summary review of your book.”
I can’t even explain to you all the amount of emotions going through, around, and Aaron is sitting across the table from me. “Mark doesn’t like surprises; this is going to be interesting. Let’s see how this goes.” In all fairness, again it’s with that darn process thing, you do trust the process. Had you sent that to me Friday night and said “Here’s a little something that we’re going to take a look at on Monday,” I don’t know what would have happened. I probably would have all come unglued. Not that the content, the review or the critique… I could handle that… but it is…it’s just that you’re so raw with emotion. You’re just so raw with feelings about “Is it good enough?” You’re doing an exhaustive amount of debate in your head to begin with. So that could either just tip you right over the edge. Very, very smart! You do know very, very well… that was well played. I hung up after that call and said “All right. Yep. She’s got my number (and other author’s numbers.) You know that that was an interesting ace in the hole that you played that particular card game.
Jenn: And we do it very intentionally. I preface, that it looks last minute. It looks like “Oh shit, we forgot to send the author the review!” Oh no, no, no, no. We do it ten minutes before the call, on purpose, because you have no time to prepare, stress out, get yourself wrapped in knots about, freaking out, misreading whatever’s there. We’ve learned that if you give people too much time to review this, it’s not helpful. And it really just stressed people out unnecessarily.
And, on the flip side, when we have the document and now we have Heather who can actually review the document line by line with you, to provide context; to provide all of the emotional support that goes with it, you’re not just looking at words on a paper thinking “Oh my G-d. I still don’t know is it bad, is it good?” because there’s a lot of feedback that’s good and there’s feedback that is things to improve. But looking at that you might go into a sheer panic and that would have derailed your entire weekend. So, WE know. We know how to play this. I will take that Ace-in-the-hole. I’m glad that you at least understood the strategy after the fact.
Mark: Yeah. After the fact. Being a military guy – don’t like surprises. I like to plan, plan, plan. You could even see (probably the time stamps of your email box on Monday morning when you got to work), I was sending screen shots. I was going to turn on the PowerPoint into a [prez E pee] and pdf documents and all kinds of stuff. Very well played. The real brass tacks of the conversation was that all of that planning and those details, yes, bar none, that’s very important. But vitally important is the care and feeding of this manuscript and what a great way to do it where, I think you even said, we have to go back and look and you either alluded to it, or said “Are you okay Mark? It’s okay. I’ve got you. I’ve got this. This is the process. Hang in there and we’re going to walk through it.”
You don’t spend a lot of time there either. You immediately went right into “Okay, Paragraph one, Heather… Go!” It wasn’t a lot of room for debate. How many times have we heard, “Have a nice day!” [pleasant] or “Have a nice DAY!” [sarcastically] Same thing… it’s all the tone and inflection. For the Author’s Academy. we spent a great deal (don’t remember which week it was but it was very powerful), you explaining the relationship between the editor, and how vitally important that is, for the success of the manuscript and the health of the manuscript. And, again, PDP just rocks. They know how to do it. Because now I have that relationship, not only with you, but also with Heather. She had never read Served in Silence before. She didn’t know Served in Silence even existed a month ago. And so, for her to give her first 30,000 foot view, review and summary, it was powerful. It was good. And I left the meeting, very constructive, nobody is poking holes at the baby [begin]
Jenn: Walk people through this. This is a conversation that every author will have eventually with an editor. This is why finding the right editor is so important. There are editors out there that will just rip the baby apart. Red line it. And then send it back to you and not even have a call with you to say “Hey, here’s what I found.” That is not overly uncommon to have as an experience.
Obviously, that is not how we operate. We are all about the emotional well-being of everyone that’s on the team and the authors, and making sure that everyone is on the same page. Talk through, for someone who is the stage right now where they’re just about to hand their manuscript baby to another human; first time anyone’s ever seeing this. Let’s just talk about once Heather has started speaking. I did just drop it. “Heather – Go.” “Heather – your turn.” And then she was talking for a solid forty minutes in terms of all of her reviews. Getting the nods and okays.
We do our calls on Zoom so I was able to be paying attention to your body language – which is what I was up to. Making sure that you weren’t going to go running out of the room. You never know when something is going to be that trigger point, like really spooks an author. So that was what I was doing, while listening to Heather. She and I had already talked and talked about what she was going to say and how and all that stuff.
Then we have Fern. This is the first time that Fern’s getting feedback on the work too. The two of you have been a team. Let’s just walk through your emotional state, perhaps. And your high-level take-away. When you left the call, what emotions were there as well? I’m curious to walk through the evolution. It was about an hour, 45 of which was the editing piece. And then you had to cram your entire agenda (that you had previously had) into the last fifteen minutes, without your visuals and presentations and what not. Trust the process. Talk to me. I want the listeners and viewers to really understand what this process feels like.
Mark: We just talked about getting ready for the call. It’s like you’re steering the ship and you’re going in this direction (and a ship doesn’t turn that easily or that fast), you turned it on a dime. And under ten minutes we’re going “No, no, no… we’re going this way.” I think I just sat back in my chair, looked over at Mr. Wonderful, and then looked up on the screen on Zoom. You have the little thumbnails of everybody that has joined in the session. I think after I realized, after I talked myself into doing this… this all happened very quickly. It wasn’t a calculated… And I looked up and I saw everybody up there and a sudden peace just came over me. I think I explained it at the meeting too.
Typically, if I’m going to be critiqued or I’m going to have a one on one with my boss or something like that, it’s not that I get defensive, I just get very much on edge because I want to be perfect. I have that A personality that I strive for the gold star. I strive for A’s in class. (Don’t let my parents hear this now because they would have wondered where this kid was in school.) There you have all of that going on. “Am I good enough?”
You dropped the mic like it was hot, turned it over to Heather, and I look across at Mr. Wonderful. I have this incredible and talented team that is right behind me. It was really beautiful. Everybody was just joining hands or standing shoulder to shoulder to say “We’ve got you. Let’s talk about this. It’s okay.” It really set me back in my chair and made me comfortable.
When Heather started talking, two things happened. I immediately got into receive-mode. I wasn’t on defense; I wasn’t trying to protect the baby. No. I was in total relax, receive mode. Pen in hand. Able to take notes. (I didn’t take as many notes, which is why I’m really glad you record these!)
The other thing is that once again, Heather (the editor) (cue the music as the grim reaper enters the room from the side) starts with this beautiful introduction of thank you. “Thank you for the opportunity to read this. To be involved in this.” That really levels the playing field as far as those emotions (at least it did for me) for not only do you have someone that is in your corner, an entire team that’s in your corner, but you have someone that’s thanking me! And I’m like “No, no, thank You!” And so, it all that happened very quickly; by design, I later figured out. Heather just goes. She started at the top and worked her way down. I think I felt Heather in the room. Like an over-achiever, I’m trying to read ahead, and she’s like “No, no, back over here, right here, we’re talking about this.” And it really was great. Heather, I think, felt bad. She said “I’m not the grim reaper!”
[18:00 – 19:50 commercial break]
Mark: I think we’re going to call this episode “It’s not that bad.”
Jenn: Yeah. Yes, because I said that phrase multiple times. And she’s like “Don’t say that! That’s not helping anybody!” And I’m like “No, it’s a phrase, it’s not that bad.” You know, she has a tough job. I think the editing part of the process is the toughest part of the entire publishing process, secondary to the writing of course. She’s always the Grim Reaper, because she’s the one that’s delivering that news. (The Grim Reaper are her words, not mine! She called herself that on our call.) She’s got the tough task of how to present her feedback in a constructive way that the author is going to be receptive to what is being said and not tune out, and not, not want to move forward. At the end of the day, the beauty (in a way), in the model that we have, is that you’re the author and you have the end say. So, if she says you should do five things, and you only want to do three of them and you want to pooh, pooh the other two ideas, at the end of the day, it’s your book; you are the author; you have the control vs. working with a traditional publisher who might not grant you that kind of control (and probably wouldn’t.)
We care and we want it to go from the A to the A+. Our entire team is filled with Type A over-achievers. That is just who we are and who our authors are most of the time as well.
Now we have the Grim Reaper (I can’t wait to have her on so people can actually get a visual of what she looks like because she’s the least menacing person I know! Let’s throw that out there.)
Mark: She’s beautiful. And then when she speaks, she’s very calm and deliberate and passionate about what she’s talking about. You’re going to have to tune in to meet the editor. Because it’s not like what we’re painting it out to be.
Jenn: She will be a guest at some point in the near future.
Now let’s fast forward. We’re talking about how you’re feeling in the moment, getting the feedback, top down level, and then we pivot back to the marketing. You go through your sixty minutes of material within probably 12 would be my guess. Really crunched it down. What actions did you take after we hung up and you had time to be “what the hell just happened?” Tell us what happened once the cameras off until today. Like I said in the beginning, we haven’t actually debriefed on this. Walk us through that.
Mark: Everything ends on a very high note. I rattled off twenty something slides and handouts in twelve minutes. There’s your update, gotta go, bye. I just sat there and got quiet. Mr. Wonderful took his cues from the quietness and waited. And said “Are you okay?” and I said “I really am.” And I really was okay. That really was good. It was so constructive.
There were some things that were recommended on the call, never once did I feel like this is my way and yanking that baby, you’re never gettin’ it back. It was very much a team spirit of “this is what we think. This is what we think will make it better.” I don’t think I was defensive about not willing to listen to recommendations. Everything really did sound very logical. “We’re going to rework a couple of things at the beginning of the book.” If you had told me this a month ago, that probably would have sent me on a downward spiral because I couldn’t even think about how many times have we been writing chapter one and now you’re telling me chapter one is going to be chapter four, how, what, wait, how did that happen?
After the call, I felt relieved. More and more that we’re involved in this process, that I’m getting involved in PDP, it really increases my comfort level and with that; it makes me more of a fresh white board for those new ideas. It will help me clear the battle space and the brain fog and be able to take chapter seven and take a deeper dive into that and make it a little bit better, or what have you. I really appreciated that.
The other thing I appreciated is realizing that my list of stuff, it was really important, but those are my task list of things to do. And I think Fern’s very happy about that. If it gives Mark something to do, while the manuscript is in editing, I guess I leave her alone, I leave everybody else alone; I could do my own stuff. Build the website. Get the collateral and the business stuff. It was just a really good experience. I felt great.
Jenn: That is good news to hear. I was expecting that I was going to get the SOS call. We did end on a high note. I genuinely feel that the conversation went perfect and very smooth. It is delivering feedback that doesn’t always land well and authors don’t always receive the feedback well. It’s a gamble. But at the end of the day we’re all trying to get the best product possible. I was almost expecting some kind of call or a hand of “Hey.”
We talked about this on a previous podcast, we were talking about how I had to talk you off the ledge “Just go run.” I think it was at the hand-off to Fern. It was something around there. I was expecting it and I didn’t get it and I was shocked. Pleasantly surprised.
In a future episode, we will discuss is all the marketing stuff. I think that we’re brewing on the top of the surface right now. Once you actually hand the manuscript to the editor, it’s like all of a sudden, all this free time just magically appears overnight. You’re like “oh shit, I’ve been running around like a crazy person forever and now I don’t have to touch it!? In fact, I’m not supposed to be touching it. That is what I’ve been told. Do not go near it.” Without getting into the details of how you transfer that energy onto 700 different tasks, (that’s a whole podcast by itself) what was that feeling like? The baby’s been in the womb for nine months and now the baby is not with you; how did that feel?
Mark: It felt good. I felt relief. I don’t know if you parents feel this way… I guess you always have a parent’s ear or eye or something, you never really sleep with kids in the house because you’re always listening. I slept really sound. I was like WooHoo.
Jenn: The baby’s at camp.
Mark: Yeah. At Grandma’s. Whatever. That was great.
I know me. It doesn’t happen very happen often, but I can get a little lazy. I can binge watch Game of Thrones for a weekend or something like that. I’ll feel guilty about it afterwards, but I’ll do it.
I just had one of those crazy talks in the mirror. “Well, what’s next?” And the next thing was… I’ve got three pages of flip chart paper of tasks and notes from the Author’s Academy. Hey, when you get time, look into this and do some more research. We’ll save all that for another podcast. It’s important. I think some of the stuff that I’ve learned through the Academy with your advice and guidance, and then learning even more what’s out there after, would be beneficial [for that five]. It definitely was important to have busy work for Mark to do.
Jenn: That might be an indicator of your personality. That may not be the case for others. Other people might take a weekend away at a spa or something more relaxing or something completely unrelated. You just dial it up in a different direction. I appreciate. And the amount of output that I’ve seen in the last week has been ridiculous! But fantastic at the same time. So, as we’re wrapping up, getting to the end here, if you were to share any top nuggets of wisdom to someone who still has their manuscript in their hand and they’re about to hand it off to an editor (whomever that editor may be), how would you summarize your top tips, expectations, any of that. What’s your take-away?
Mark: I learned this in the Academy as well… in this short process so far. Hopefully, by now in your process, in your journey, you have developed your support system; whatever that is, you just need it. You need someone else beside the person in the mirror. It was so vitally important to ask permission for you to ask the editor questions. You need to be very comfortable (you might not be on Christmas card or birthday card lists in the future, that’s fine), in understanding their process and what they’re doing and that they understand your intent and your process. The nugget of wisdom is make sure that you are plugged in squarely with your support system to get ready to go through this. You have to have this ready and prepared to help you make the manuscript better. You’re going to have kaflama dramas, but hopefully you don’t stay down there too long, because it will detract. It will steer you and your priorities away from the actual task at hand, which is making the manuscript better.
Jenn: I think that’s solid advice. We talk about the whole process; about having that support system. Whoever that support system is. Whether it’s your publishing company, friends and family, whether it’s a mastermind group, you just have to have someone there to be your cheerleader and then take you off the edge when you happen to be on it in all these different phases of the process.
I’m thrilled with our impromptu chat here. Our purpose is for someone else who is following in your footsteps to not have a bad experience. That’s what we’re going for.
Jenn: This concludes another fantastic episode of Publish your Purpose, if I do say so myself.
Jenn: Talk to you very soon.
Mark: Okay. Great. Take care. See you next time.
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