Editor Adam M Rosen on How Authors Screw Up Their Books

The traps self-publishing authors fall into

By Rob Fitzpatrick and featuring Adam M Rosen

Today, Adam M Rosen is joining us. A familiar face as part of the Useful Books crew. Adam was an associate editor at Oxford University Press and an editorial assistant at the Collins nonfiction imprint at HarperCollins before starting his own editorial services company; AMR Editorial. Working with so many authors, Adam has unique insights which he’ll share with us today.



Why do authors have such unruly manuscripts?

According to Adam, it’s a front-end issue. A problem with the scoping. Authors either don’t have much to say (“the blog post that gets turned into a book”) or they don’t know how.

He recommends to “word vomit” on a page in order to find out what you’re actually trying to say. Then, trim the fat.

Make sure you develop a clear picture of what you’re trying to say and don’t be afraid of plenty of revising.


What are some common mistakes indie authors make?

Well, aside from not having a clear understanding of what they’re trying to say, he also points to a lack of transistions.

“If you read the New York Times, for example, notice how seamless it feels.”

He recommends being mindful of how the sentences and chapters come together. What’s the glue or connective tissue there?


Give us your number one takeaway

“Structure over prose.”

You can alwasy make it beautiful later. First, make sure you have something to say and that the structure makes sense. Then you can make it beautiful. “It’s very hard to do. Even I fall into this trap sometimes.”


Other noteworthy remarks

  • With my clients, I love it when they have an openness to critique. That they realize, I’m trying to help them vs. taking it personally.
  • If you don’t know what advice to accept vs. reject, go with your gut. It’s tricky. Even the top 5 editors will disagree.
  • Self-publishing authors don’t always know how things are done, so they get taken advantage off. Make sure you do your research to find out who you’re working with.

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