I'm an established full-time author - willing to answer questions if you have them



Of course you have. I don’t think there is ANY book that is 100% error free. There are just too many possible ways to screw something up, and even with an army of people going over a book, they won’t all be found.

Yep, multiple eyes help. The more the better.

Beta readers are fabulous. Each book I publish has between 20 and 50. Some are people who have beta’d multiple books for me, but there are always new people added to the group. A well run beta can provide an incredible amount of valuable feedback, but all of it has to be weighed carefully. Any book is the cumulation of a thousand individual decision, and your choices won’t resonate with all the people all of the time. I’ve had people who “tore my book apart” but in those cases it was because they wanted a “different” book than what I was writing. Telling when something is “on point” or would derail the entire story is a skill that can take years to master. Being 57 (and starting to write when I was 13) has really helped me with that.

Hey, if it worked, it worked. I advise A LOT of authors, and that makes me have to speak in generalities from time to time. My comments are exactly that…guidelines for a large swatch of authors, but that doesn’t mean on an individual basis, I’d suggest otherwise.

You are absolutely correct, and I’d add another to your list - line editors. Sometimes they are overlooked because many copy editors will also do line editing at the same time, but they require very different skill sets.

One thing I have…and it’s the single biggest contributor to my final product is a fabulous ALPHA editor. In my case, this is my wife, and it works out well for us because after 40 years we have a level of communication that is difficult to replicate. I can take criticism from her, because I know she’s (a) brilliant and (b) has the best interest of the me AND my readers. We can “fight” over an issue without either party becoming upset when they don’t get their way (well, most of the time) but more than anything, she knows where my strengths are and my weaknesses lie and I’m willing to LISTEN and LEARN from her comments.

Can every author find that very special alpha reader? I don’t know. It takes an unprecedented level of trust and mutual respect. But for those that do, they’ll be very fortunate indeed.


The problem with this approach is you have no idea how much of the final product was the editor and how much was the writer. If I wrote a fabulous book, hired an editor who had to do very little, than what did they do?

Likewise if the editor was handed a “hot mess” and they were able to turn that sow’s ear into a silk purse, then they are absolutely someone worth using.

But all you can see is the final result. The only thing that would truly tell the tale is to see the book before and after the editor, but there isn’t any way to do that.


It might tell you who you shouldn’t hire, if the book has been edited and still has lots of problems. (Or it might tell you the author has a bad case of Golden Word Syndrome and ignored most of the editor’s changes.)


That’s very true. You’re definitely right here. I think what I was implying here as well is that I see a lot of cases where authors are ghosted by ‘editors’. (Yes, sadly, it’s a thing). And in many cases, it’s partially an author’s fault for not doing the research. If the editor has a website and a Facebook page and no testimonials, that’s a red flag for me. I think reading a book that has that editor’s name on a copyright page is all part of the bigger ‘safe package’ for me. That way I know this editor is read, worked on books, and won’t disappear after I put up a deposit. The reason I brought this up is because this has happened to a few people I know of. And when the name surfaced and I tried to research the editor, I couldn’t find a record of a single book edited by that person or anything legitimate on the website hinting on where to look for testimonials or samples of edited work.

But I think this is a little off-topic. Yet, I still like to read some of the works edited by the person I’m hiring. I think in this case, I pay more attention to this particular tidbit more when it comes to line-editor search, not developmental. Because you are right. There’s no saying how much changes manuscript has gone through before it reached the reader.


I am just an amateur writer, however, i would love to improve my skills. How do you go about improving your “descriptive writing” (describing a scenery, conveying the emotions of the main character, details of his past)?
Thanks in advance for your help :slight_smile:


I’m not Michael, but I might be able to help a little bit.
Are you talking about the “setting as a character” concept? Basically, the scenery/setting carries past memories that trigger responses in the protagonist and colour the way she perceives her surroundings. This can go as far as personification i.e. a setting almost becomes a presence.
I use that concept in my novel, where a character returns to the village that “killed first my parents, then my aunt.”
A village does not kill anybody.
She then “screamed at the window and meant the village.”
Or, during a ramble through the rain-sodden fields and bare branches, she observes that "Soon a frothy veil draw over the landscape … The eternal surf of the seasons…Only for my aunt the tide had gone out)
Sorry for bothering you with quotes from my own novel, but those I did not have to search for, I’ve got them in my head.
This is all about describing a setting, that triggers an emotional response from your protagonist, because of her experience.
If you “just” mean setting per se, that too is very important as it anchors your reader. You need to give them props to visualise the scene in their head. They will not see what you are trying to describe. Well, they might if you go to the n-th degree or give them something everybody is familiar with
“In front of us rose the crumbly facade of the Colloseum”
Most of us will have a picture of the colloseum in mind, and in most cases we will see seomthing very similar.
If you describe your own settings, however, you need to give pointers - the so-called telling details.
During the same ramble I describe above my poor protagonist also sees the village from afar, “a huddle of houses” and “the churchtower was reaching for the heavens but failed to scratch even the scudding clouds.”
I don’t say anything else about what she sees but I believe this gives enough “anchor points” for the reader (who knows the novel is set in the UK) to have an image in their mind.
If you have any more questions, do let me know. This is one of my pet topics (the reason why I barged in here, sorry @MichaelJSullivan) - I wrote quite a few travel articles at one time and there descriptiveness is key!


I’m late to this thread, which started before I joined Wattpad. But it’s an excellent and thought-provoking one. Thanks @MichaelJSullivan for starting it and answering so many questions.

The earlier sub-thread on permafree begs a question, doesn’t it? For a great number of writers posting on Wattpad, that’s what Wattpad is - permafree. Or am I missing something? The value prop for readers is clear: free reads at the cost of dodgy grammar and irritating ads. The value prop for Wattpad shareholders is clear: can’t beat the margin on free content. This high-quality thread evinces the value prop for users of its social forums.

What’s in it for anyone who posts a work - unless they have a solid backlist and are hoping to pick up new future paying readers? It can’t be the feedback, which is sparse at best - many critique sites are better for that. And a couple of posters in this thread have already suggested that Wattpad is not likely to be the best spot to build a loyal following.

Just mulling. Love the dialog, and appreciate the insights!


Thank you very much for your advice!!! This has definitely helped me a lot))


A small suggestion that might be helpful for new authors who find it hard to make drastic edits, that is, to "kill their darlings’ (and it’s often the case that newer and slower writers find this hard): absolutely do use an editing program that tracks changes. Not because they have much value. Not because you’ll even want them back (if you’re like me, you won’t). But because psychologically, it frees you from the inhibiting feeling that you’re killing your darlings and they’ll be crying in their graves.

If you know those bloated paragraphs have been safely squirreled away so that if called, they could return in all their oozing, ragged, rotten glory like zombies from the grave … then you can let them go with equanimity.

Personally, I like Scrivener for that, and found it liberating early on. Google Docs is another. Word is not so good, because its way of tracking changes is heavily influenced by the needs of lawyers collaborating on legal documents - too fine-grained.


I have something called the “dodo” (as in dead as one) file. While editing, I have a copy of the manuscript to be mauled open, and - once mauled - I drag the corpses from the copy into the dodo file. Like that, they can be used later.
Scrivener is another possibility, but I prefer to focus not so much on full versions of a document but on the dead darlings, which I can then revive at my leasure.
Oh, the copy of the manuscript I’m working on is called the “carcass” file.
Once I’m finished with a chapter and have rewritten and copied what I wanted to keep, I delete the text. So, the carcass gets smaller as I go along.
I’m sure there are other ways of doing things, but this approach makes sure I keep what I want to keep and I can rewrite and still have the old version of the chapter at my fingertips (swithcing from Scrivener to the word files I find too complex)


Finally made it to the end of this fascinating thread. Lots of great info to mull.

There was a fair amount of discussion and advice on editors, beta readers, etc. My small suggestion, esp. for those near the start of their journey, and maybe those in the middle, too: join an online critique site. In fact, I’d strongly recommend it over the ‘family and friends’ approach, because, while the critiques might not be professional, they will generally be unbiased.

The ones I’m familiar with don’t cost $, but aren’t free: they have a work-for-work economy. People critique your work, you critique theirs.

Personally, I like Critique Circle (critiquecircle.com). It’s free to join, has a lively community, and the credit-based economy does a pretty good job of ensuring roughly equal give-and-get for its members. The majority are not yet published, but many are serious about craft and work hard (if they don’t like hard work, they drop out). So you won’t get ‘professional’ critiques, but when you have 15 or 20 people reading and commenting heavily on all aspects of you work from grammar to plot to character sympathy, it’s an eye-opener. Compared to Wattpad, where you feel lucky if you get a few emojis from readers, in CC, the comments from a single reviewer are sometimes half the length of the work being reviewed. The main problem can be too much work. There’s significant pressure to give back what you got. But the site does have good mechanisms for narrowing the circle to small set of critique partners, once you’ve identified some you can work with.

They also have brutal (in a good way) monthly, anonymous ‘hook’ critiques.

The best aspect of this sort of thing is not even the feedback you get on your work. It’s the reader’s eye training you get by writing serious critiques of the works of others. After a few dozen, flaws start to stand out starkly that you were only subconsciously aware of before. You go from a vague feeling of dissatisfaction in some writing that would have made you shelve the work, to being able to articulate exactly what is wrong. “As a reader, you’re losing me right here because the MC is keeping a secret from me.” or “This forced me to backtrack because you’ve started your chapter in medias res and didn’t give me enough context to understand the jump from the previous chapter.” or “This cost your character too much sympathy - I’m hating her for it; you’re losing me.”

Maybe it’s not everone’s cup of tea, and maybe it’s not as fantastic as Michael J. Sullivan’s Alpha wife :slight_smile: but it’s a heckofalot better than your average doting mother.


Again, the problem is you don’t know what was the contribution of the editor and what was the author? What if the editor struck all those Golden Words and the author decided, “Nope I’m going to keep them in!”


Best thing to do with line or copyeditors is to send them 3 - 5 pages of your work and see what they come back with regarding changes. Again, reading “other” work tells you nothing because it depends on what the work started out like. Any decent editor will edit 3 - 5 pages to show the level of editing they do. Some will be to heavy handed, others will be too light. After looking at a number of samples you’ll be able to find the “just right” candidate.


Critique partners are the best for helping in this area. Not only will you learn from their critique of your works, but you’ll learn a lot when describing to them what just doesn’t work – because it forces you to read “critically.”


I think it’s great what you’re doing. A true inspiration!


Sorry for the confusion. When I was referring to “permafree” I meant that it was available at retailers to be purchased without cost. So, no, being free on Wattpad doesn’t count, because it’s not where book BUYERS are going.

As for what value Wattpad as a writer…well I don’t use this site for the reasons that most do. Yes, I have some things posted but it’s more for others than for whatever I get out of it. The reason I’m here is to answer questions, keep up to date on what’s going on in the industry, and learn things about the publishing business that I didn’t know. I SUSPECT that most writers put stuff here so that someone will read it. The critiques might not be often or even well thought out, but sometimes just hearing some voice in the void sayin, “Hey I liked what you wrote” is enough to make a writer feel like it was worth creating in the first place.


I’m not sure I understand the statement, you can just turn the track changes off. So the fact that the program has such a feature shouldn’t make you shy away from it.

I’m not following you at all here.

I, too, write in Scrivener, and like it, but at some point you do need to get to word and have editors make their changes with track changes on.


Yep, I recommend critique groups often to new writers. I personally think you learn more by commenting on other’s works than receiving feedback on your own. So even though you are spending time reading other’s work it’s not time lost.

Thanks for bringing up Critique Circle - I’ve used them in the past (I’m pretty sure) but these days it’s my alpha and beta readers that get the job done.


Glad you find it helpful.


Curiosity brought me here (again) if you don’t mind…

I was wondering how much publishers had to pay book stores to make the books appear on the shelves? Is it a fixed value or does a percentage (say 15%) of the revenue go to the store??

Or how do self-publishers put their book in stores (if they do)? Is it the same way and do they pay the same?

I am also curious to know why only some books can appear on the shelves while others are restricted to online purchase.