Update: the book is coming along swimmingly.
Part of the reason the recent editing of the book is going so well is the clear lines of communication between my editor and myself. Like any endeavor – writing, military operations, power plant maintenance, family – communication is key. I find over-communication tends to be better (though perhaps a little annoying) than under-communication.
Now I’m not going to write a whole lot on this. I am going to put a lot more into “A Tale of Two Editors – Part 2”. But it has been such a good experience that I wanted to cover it.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Throughout the whole editing process this last month, my editor and I have been in regular communication through phone calls, emails, and face-to-face meetings.
Some people may think that this could become cumbersome, even annoying. At times my first reaction is just that.
But the high level of communication has allowed us to deconflict issues we’ve had, reschedule meetings without issue, and to verify next steps and expectations.
Talking through things has allowed my editor to have a much deeper grasp of where I want to go with my story, and the background to it. Sometimes I feel uncomfortable talking about all the nerdy stuff in my book. But the more I explain, the more my editor has been able to guide me in a better direction, and my book is really shaping up because of it.
Now Communicate Some More
I’m going to go back to the possibility of annoyance for a second.
I am very straight forward, concise, to-the-point kind of guy. I want the facts, and then to tackle the solution. I don’t need fluff or prolonged discussion.
I quickly found that this would not work in this case.
First and foremost, while my editor and I have gotten to know one another better, we still really don’t know each other well. We have both had to learn to understand how the other operates, reads, and understands things.
While I am a straight to the point kind of person, my editor needs more discussion. That, and I found that greater discussion in greater detail was required so that my editor could really grasp what I am trying to do with my book. It was a bit of a mental stretch for me, but once I got past my mental block, my editor has come to understand my book better and, as I said before, has helped me change it for the better.
For example, I wanted to ensure that the culture of the Star Folk, the main peoples described in my book, had a lot of examples without just info dumping. Info dumps make the writing boring and interrupt the flow. At first I tried to describe this and my editor had a difficult time helping me. But once I described the culture more, where and how I wanted to describe it, and examples of info dumps, my editor was able to give me suggestions and help me brainstorm.
The issue with this kind of communication is it’s a soft skill. It’s more difficult to make it into a procedure, or to document a process.
I have to understand myself and how I communicate, and learn how the other person receives information, processes it, and communicates back. And I have to do this each time with different people, whether writing, at work, or with family and friends.
As many may know, it takes time, practice, and many iterations of trial and error.
Communication through the editing process has been key to helping my book become better. Sometimes the over-communication has at first seemed unnecessary, but I’ve learned it’s required if I want my editor to really be able to help me. Perhaps if I had done this more in the past, my book would be further along that it is.
The book is, in fact, coming along really well! I wouldn’t normally say that – I would say good, or decent, or it doesn’t quite suck. But I can honestly say the book is making some real leaps to something much more organized, professional, and almost ready for publishing. I will have more updates in the weeks to come.
Until next time. . .
So I’m back into the actual writing schtick. My book previously published under the title “Der Sternvolker” (which, by the way, is terribly improper German grammar; Es tut mir leid) went through a major edit last year, and is going through another one as we speak.
My experience with the two different editors I’ve used has been like night and day. One barely communicated at all, the other communicates a lot. One had a very definitive vision of where they wanted to go, the other looks to me for more guidance.
I’m sure other new writers are going, or will go through similar experiences. Here I will describe my experiences, and welcome input from other just starting authors who working with their first or second editor.
Part One covers my first editor. NOTE: This isn’t a positive or negative, and I attempt to simply relate things as they occurred. I do, however, write several lessons learned at the end.
I won’t use names in this article. So the first editor I used shall be dubbed: Editor One.
Editor One was an experienced editor with quite a few titles under her belt, as well as a few titles she wrote herself. I was excited to work with her as she seemed to generally understand the more sci-fi sort of things I was trying to get through, such as Cowboy Bebop and Firefly references. I was in geek heaven. She also had a firm grasp of the Turkey City Lexicon which has become the standard in a lot of writing circles, specifically in sci-fi/fantasy writing.
When I solicited her editing services she sent me a sample edit of the first few pages of my manuscript, and upon receipt of her edits confirmed I wanted her to edit my work.
It was the price tag that hit me: $2,400.
I had just received my tax return back, and instead of paying off some more debt, I decided to take the leap and pay her for her services.
And so the editing began.
I heard nothing for about four weeks.
And then, one day, my edited manuscript appeared in my inbox! I was ecstatic.
I went through the manuscript to see what she had done. It was diced, chopped, sliced, and beaten. And it needed to be. There was so much in my old manuscript that needed work, and that was just downright bad.
But, most of her notes were comments or recommendations. No hard “change this” or “move this here and it will really pop” or “delete this garbage and rewrite it.”
Included in her fee was a 1 hour consultation on her edits. I sought further information on many of her comments, and where things should go and how I should rewrite certain parts. She didn’t offer much. One of the recommendations I remember after asking if I should write a certain part a certain way was, “Really that’s up to you.”
At the end of our conversation I made the comment that I had a lot of deleting and rewriting to do, and she responded with, “And that’s one of the great parts of writing. You get your edits, and then you get to rewrite, sometimes the entire book!”
And that was that. My hour was up and I had exhausted my services with her.
I delved into the task of rewriting my manuscript – again. And then I re-rewrote it, and eventually stumbled upon my current editor…
First and foremost I felt some confusion with the process, especially at the end. My thought was that, while the editor can’t tell me exactly what to write, shouldn’t they at least be able to help with how to write it?
And that is where clearer communication would come in. I should have asked more questions about exactly what more of her editing looked like, maybe have check-ins throughout the process to get a feel for what she was saying and recommending, and get clarity on the details of the 1-hour consultation at the end. Maybe ask how such conversations went over with her other clients, what they covered, and what she absolutely would not/could not do.
I did look into other editors before I chose the one that edited my MS. Pricing for the length of my book (110k words) was about the same, give or take $50. With my contracts/procurement background I definitely got a wide selection of pricing and compare their editing styles and what they offered in their services (ie. post-edit consultation). Ultimately she was the best bang for my buck.
Perhaps I should have looked harder for editors, maybe there were veteran editors out there who could have offered better pricing for the same/similar services. And I would recommend to any readers to absolutely do so. Solicit examples and pricing from at least seven (7) different editors, and I recommend going all the way up to ten (10). Understand their editing style, personality, what they will do, and what they won’t do in the editing process.
Make sure everything is clear, and preferably in writing so there are no questions, disagreements, or misunderstandings down the road.
To Be Continued
I am currently working with my latest editor. Part 2 will be posted upon completion of her editing services, upon which time I will write about the experience, and lessons learned.
I hope this is helpful for new writers like me. If you’re a new writer, or even a veteran writer, tell me about some of your experiences – good, bad, and indifferent, and the lessons you learned. Are there any editors you would recommend to others?
Until next time. . .
You, like many of your supply chain/procurement brothers and sisters in the United States, and probably around the world, have dealt with stakeholders in your organization getting cozy with the vendors you purchase from. This coziness leads to shady sole source justifications, or that vendor always being the preferred vendor even if they aren’t the low bid or the best service level.
Your vendors are selling your stakeholders, and your stakeholders are helping them out, usually by jumping at the latest shiny thing the vendor has to offer. Sometimes there’s even some tit-for-tat deals. Other times, your stakeholders, or even your very own supply chain organization, have become comfortable with the “demon they know” as opposed to the one they don’t.
In this post we will take managing your stakeholders and your vendors, and the many challenges that come with that.
Stakeholders and Vendors
I’d like to start off by saying that your organization and your vendors have a good working relationship is not a bad thing. It’s a great thing! It helps both the company and the vendor communicate candidly with one another about what’s going on in both of their organizations and their respective markets, and how the two are interacting with one another. A great working relationship with your vendor can ensure that any problems that come up are handled quickly and efficiently, and that both parties are kept generally happy.
A good working relationship can be an open door to work with the vendor’s key decision makers. Have you ever had a problem with your salesman, and a quick talk with the supplier’s head manager seems to smooth everything over? It can also ensure that head manager understands the importance of your account, how much you appreciate them, and keeps them updated on their own company’s performance. A quick word about a supplier’s lagging performance and, generally, that head manager or corporate office is digging into his people to shape up.
There’s a flip side to all of this, of course. Such a working relationship can also be open door for vendor to subvert you and your supply chain/procurement department. The worst case scenario happens, and one of your offices demands that you buy Product Z from Vendor C. No formal request for quote process. No negotiations. No pitting the vendor off against others. Their Division Manager or Director comes to tell you that, yes, you are buying Product Z, despite your protests to the vendor’s quotation and the fact that other suppliers could provide a similar product for less.
The vendor marketed “the latest shiny thing” and sold your stakeholder(s) on it.
But how do you prevent this?
There are several ways that your supply chain organization, and the company has a whole, can manage internal stakeholders.
Written policies go a long way to prevent the kind of supplier subversion so many buyers and contract specialists despise. Things like “single point of contact for RFPs/RFQs” and “formal bidding process requirements” can stop over-zealous project managers in their tracks. Having a review process/team that vets the business need and budgetary requirements can also help this.
Of course with policies comes the need to communicate said polices. In his book “Leading Change”, John Kotter states that the change agent must communicate the change vision (Kotter, 1996). Whether your polices are part of a change, or have been part of the organization’s policies for years, the supply chain organization, along with upper management, must constantly communicate these policies. Kotter provides an excellent framework: keep it simple; utilizing metaphor, analogy, and example; multiple forums; repetition; leadership by example; explanation of seeming inconsistencies; and give-and-take (Kotter, 1996, p. 90).
Along with this communication comes relationship building. You cannot have your supply chain/procurement organization sit secluded from the rest of the company. Constant interaction with your regular stakeholders, their management, and upper management helps build that open communication and flow of ideas so that written policies, new and old, are repeated regularly and don’t blindside people.
And any good policy needs enforcement. You can have HR include as much written policy on procurement activities and contracts as you want. It is for nothing if no one in the organization with the power to do so doesn’t enforce it. If that’s the case, your policies are nothing but a paper tiger. But, if senior management gets the directors and their staff to toe the line on theses policies, then such policies have teeth and those who break them can be dealt with. It’s not nice to think about, but those that break the rules, some that could hurt your company, must be dealt with.
Stakeholders aren’t the only ones that need managing. Your suppliers and contractors have to be watched, too.
First and foremost don’t give out an organizational chart of your company. Sure there are those websites that promise “the most accurate organizational charts for companies across the United States.” In my experience those websites are five to ten years behind, and you want to keep them that way. Giving a supplier an organizational chart is like giving the opposing team in football a list of all of your plays. Suddenly they know the vice president of the group that deals with the project they are bidding for and will work to bend his ear towards their cause. Such influence can hurt negotiations with them, or even other vendors.
Next, only put supply chain points of contact on RFPs/RFQs. Force the suppliers to only go through you for any and all communication. This can get tiresome, and your project managers and other stakeholders will get sick of it. But it keeps the suppliers from applying undue influence on the decision makers. If everything goes through you, all information from all bidders are given equal consideration, and information returned to them is consistent, as opposed to a stakeholder playing favorites with what information is given to which supplier.
There will be instances where the vendors already have key points of contact in your organization. Many times it’s just part of the business you do. Just ensure your stakeholders refer vendors back to the supply chain organization, and not make any decisions, written or verbal, without first communicating what’s going on with you first. (This goes back to that whole written policies and managing stakeholders thing.)
I cannot stress the importance of having key Directors, Division Managers, VPs, and board members on board policies and the need to distance themselves as much as possible from vendors. Having a VP that gets a call from the VP of the supplier organization telling them no, and routing them back to you speaks volumes, makes your job easier, and the supplier’s job harder – especially if that supplier is a bidder on a RFP/RFQ.
Back to communication, make sure that the supply chain organization and the higher ups are on the same page. I find it’s better to over communicate a little as opposed to under communicate. The more they know, the more informed decisions vice presidents and boards can make in favor of the company. It also ensures they are brushed up on the latest policies and support them. If they don’t support them, such communication can facilitate working out what their issues are, and addressing them before that VP becomes a liability to your, and the company’s, efforts.
In “Leading Change” John Kotter states that you need to create a guiding coalition for your change initiative, and the key de jure and de facto decision makers within the organization are key to that whether policies and initiatives are just being rolled out or have been out there for decades (Kotter, 1996).
What If You Get Derailed?
At some point in your career you will get derailed from everything you are trying to do to effectively and responsibly manage your supply chain/procurement department/group. A bidder snags the right ear in your organization and gets them on board with their offering. Someone in your company is absolute poison to any cost savings initiatives, but no one will fire them. So what do you do?
First to the stakeholder: – what happened, how it affects the organization as a whole, and why it’s a risk to the organization.
They just bought offer A without consulting anybody and signed the supplier’s very stringent, disadvantageous terms and conditions? Express to them how they hurt the budget of the whole company, and how if the company decides they don’t like the offering anymore there could be even more money lost, or how it could lead to legal proceedings.
Document it for your own records to cover your own skin, and as a lessons learned. Having documentation can keep you out of legal trouble. It can also serve as a guide for others in your company, new and old, if organized, published, and distributed properly.
Take it to upper management – yours and theirs.
Yours so that your higher ups know what’s going on and what you did to try to stop it.
Theirs for the very same reason. And, of course, it’s about covering your own skin as much as it’s about helping the company.
Sometimes, though, there’s nothing you can do. The stakeholder has more political clout than you, or the project is a “company initiative” and no amount of argument, numbers, kicking, or screaming will change it. That $12 million was a rip off? Well it’s gone now, and the board and VPs all approved it. (I have run into the “company initiative” issue a lot lately in the organization I work for, and it’s frustrating because I know we could get better pricing, but those at the top say “jump”, and we jump and ask how high later.)
Sometimes you can’t win. Don’t get down. Document it. And work harder on the next project next time.
Managing your stakeholder and your vendors is just as important as managing the master purchase agreements and contracts that keep your company running. Communication with those within your organization and those within the suppliers’ organizations goes a long way in deconflicting a lot of issues, but sometimes things get derailed and your company loses out.
Remember to keep building those good working relationships, consistent, regular communication, and to keep working your hardest to ensure that you are getting the best pricing and service for your company. You may not always win, but when you do it will be noticed and appreciated.
“Leading Change”, John P. Kotter, Harvard Business Press, Brighton, MA, 1996.