By Natasa Lekic, NY Book Editors
Advice columnist K.T. Edwards started working on her first book in 2011. She wanted to write about her own experiences being unlucky in love. While she was comfortable writing about dating, she was less comfortable writing about herself. By working with a professional editor she was able to overcome that hurdle, and turn her collection of dating vignettes into a cohesive narrative.
Natasa Lekic: How did you get into writing about dating and love?
K.T. Edwards: I began writing dating advice articles for professional women. Although I had little dating experience myself at the time, the online platform I wrote for required me to create content from interviews with various people who were branded as dating experts: psychologists, sexologists, dating columnists, etc.
When did you start working on your book, Whatever Happened to Romance?
I conceived of the book in 2011. I’d had all these discussions with my girlfriends and saw the trends that we were experiencing in the dating world, so I started to document all the funny, wacky and sometimes-heartbreaking encounters we were having. Eventually, I had quite a collection of stories and, by the end of 2012, I started writing the book.
The book, which is nonfiction, explores your own dating life. Did you have any concerns about what to leave in – and what to leave out?
I wanted to be as candid as possible, without being nasty to any third parties. I also wanted to let my sense of humor shine through. In the book I obviously talk about men I met, and dated. While I didn’t want to write about any one person too negatively, I wanted the book to demonstrate the frustration I felt at various moments in the process. So it was really about striking the right balance.
After you finished your first draft, did you immediately start submitting it to agents?
I actually kept the first draft to myself. There were some parts of the manuscript that I realized needed work. I felt the tense was a little awkward at times, and certain sentences didn’t flow very well. I knew I needed a set of professional eyes on the book. I needed someone to help me figure out how I could improve the manuscript. I knew it wasn’t working in certain ways, but I couldn’t pinpoint how to fix it.
What, specifically, were your concerns about tense?
Writing the book, I struggled with the decision of whether to write in the present tense, or in the past tense. I felt writing in the present tense would make the book feel more like fiction, and less like a biography. But I didn’t quite know how to accomplish that, how to write my nonfiction work in a way that would make it feel more like fiction. I wanted readers to get invested in a story and characters, and not feel as though they were reading someone else’s life story.
How did your editor at New York Book Editors, a company that pairs authors with editors from the Big Five publishers, help you with this?
She was able to adjust certain passages in the book to show me what I needed to do to improve the book. She was able to give me examples that taught me how I could rewrite the parts of the book that weren’t working, and make them more compelling. Also, at first each chapter was a standalone, featuring one particular story. However, at my editor’s suggestion, I ended up adjusting the book so that each chapter would flow into the next. This gave the book a sense of continuity.
She really zoned in on some of my bad habits as a writer. She pointed out, for example, that I tend to repeat and over-explain certain things. In a bigger picture way, she taught me how to use my words to paint a visual picture for the reader. She reminded me that this would be more effective than trying to tell them what they should be seeing.
You wound-up self-publishing your book but, initially, had conversations with a publisher. What made you go the DIY route?
When I initially met with a publisher I had put bits and pieces of the book together. But, during that first meeting, I didn’t really have a grasp on what I wanted the book to be. After a few months of writing, though, I realized that I wanted to write a satirical book about dating and relationships, and not a how-to. The publisher really wanted the latter.
How did you promote the book on your own and find readers?
I published the book in January 2015 and, for two years before that, I worked to create an audience for it. I contributed articles to various platforms that spoke to my book’s demographic. I wrote a lot of free content, looking at it as an investment in my book and in building a readership. I also leveraged my own social networks and did a lot of research about SEO and social media marketing. I created my own website. Once the book came out I saw that a lot of readers would find the book through word-of-mouth. A lot of people also found my website after searching for dating-related content on Google.
Did you try anything that didn’t work very well?
Directly asking people to read the book didn’t really work. I sent out a ton of Facebook messages and emails with this request, to no avail. I learned that people don’t really like being told what to do. Instead, once you create enough content and build a strong brand, interest around the book generates on its own.
What advice would you give someone who’s working on their first manuscript?
Trust your creative vision, because it’s the originality that will get you noticed. Take risks, and throw your whole heart into it. Also, getting your manuscript professionally edited makes a world of difference! Even if you think that it’s perfect you’ll be surprised what a difference a professional polish can make. And, beyond that, just try to enjoy the entire process. No matter what happens with your first manuscript, the fact that you finished it should make you proud. There is no better feeling than looking at a finished piece of work that you created!
K.T. EDWARDS believes that the dating game is harder than it’s ever been but that true love does still exist. She’s based in Toronto, where she lives with her boyfriend and no longer brings home stray men; as an animal activist, she brings home stray dogs instead.
NATASA LEKIC is the Founder of NY Book Editors, a premiere affiliation of editors with extensive experience from New York’s major publishing houses. NYBE helps authors attract agents and publish using the high standards of the traditional industry.