The Frugal Editor

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The Frugal Editor


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The Frugal Editor

Have you ever run across a gremlin?

From the Introduction of The Frugal Editor. I chose this so that readers could see that, though this book is full of nitty-gritty essentials on everything from choosing and editor to grammar horrors frequently seen by agents and editors, it's light and entertaining reading.

(c) Copyright 2007

Teachers interested in reproducing portions of this book at no cost need only contact me. 

If he were only the guy in the Lamisil ad with purple warts on his head I wouldn't worry about him. You know, the one who causes toenails to yellow, the one you try to eradicate at the risk of executing your liver. According to the commercials, that gremlin is easy to avoid. Simply ask your doctor for Lamisil.

 If you imagine the gremlin as the guy you had nightmares about when you were a kid, the one who hid under your bed and cleverly disappeared when your parents peeked under to search for him, well, he hasn't reappeared in decades. If he is the chap who showed up in fairytales so we wouldn't get bored, we authors might welcome him as inspiration for a short story.

 But no. He is the dirty, lowdown creep who will make the passive tense  reappear in your manuscript after you've edited it twice, maybe three times. And he has relatives. Enough of them to plague every writer in existence. You won't be able to see them, won't know where they come from, but you'll know they have been at work when your book appears in print. Telltale signs will crop up in typos, grammar errors, widows , and other ugly formatting problems, and so I worry about them a lot. You should, too.

I can't tell you how to eliminate these gremlins. After all, there are homicide laws. But I can tell you how to make their lives harder. You recognize they exist and then purge any inclination you might have to let someone else bring them to justice. For as real as these gremlins are--regardless of how often we're told they're "only imaginary"--there is a myth that's passed on to us as honest-to-goodness truth. That's the story authors believe about editors and publishers.

 We writers believe the stories because it's convenient to think that magical personages hired by publishers make books come off the press in immaculate form. Perfect. Pristine. That can happen, but I've come upon an occasional typo in books that are published by revered names in our industry. Worse, a few exist in my own books--more in some than in others. Some showed up before I knew I had to take charge of my own books' destinies. Some showed up after I knew that, but didn't know much about my part in editing . So, you can trust my hard-won experience when I tell you it behooves an author to do the very best she can--on her own--to eradicate the gremlins' work. If these guys get one up on Random House and Farrar, Straus & Giroux, other publishers and authors are easy touches.

So, how to do what seems to elude the best and brightest of word warriors? That's what I'm here for. I can't possibly cover all the possible tracks that gremlins leave, but I can pass along antidotes for what I see most frequently in the critique groups I facilitate and the classes I teach.

 Some of this information will seem pretty basic, but you need to know the gremlin's secret. His motto is, "When authors and editors are looking for the big stuff, I'll diddle with the puny mistakes they're not likely to see." Of course, this guy is devious. He's not above going after more humiliating errors like using apostrophes  in plurals. He knows your weak moments, your tired moments.

This book isn't only about what to watch for. It's also about how to make the editing  process easier. You’ll find lots of information; some that you will refer to time and again is in the sidebars. The sidebars are not listed in the Contents. Mark them by creasing your page corners (you can tell I believe in making a book your own) or use your index.

 You'll also learn both manual and electronic techniques for digging errors out of your copy and keeping them out.

The most important part of the process is getting over the idea that someone else will do this for you or that it doesn't matter. It matters big. When you submit queries to agents. When you submit proposals to publishers. When your publisher submits a galley for you to examine and authorize. So bear with me. Make the guidelines in this book part of your working habits. You'll need several tricks up your own sleeve to keep all the gremlins at bay.

The Frugal Editor is complete with a helpful index and appendixes.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson's promotion campaign for the Frugal Editor won New Generation's Award for Marketing and the book was a finalist in the how-to category.





Agents, Agents:
Questions About Agents!

Reprinted from Carolyn's Sharing with Writers newsletter

Note: The Frugal Editor includes a chapter
summarizing pet peeves of the more than 100 well-known agents
Carolyn interviewed for that book.


I have a client who has pitched her book to several agents and publishers at once. She has received at least a dozen requests to see the full proposal; some asked for the manuscript. An unknown agent (not listed in the AAR website or in the Writers Market) is interested in having her sign an agreement for a 1-year exclusive to try to place the book with a publisher.

How much time should we give the other agencies to respond? Should we write them to let them know that we have an agent asking for an exclusive? Knowing how difficult it is for an unknown first time writer to get an agent, let alone a publishing contract, I don’t want to lose the agent’s interest while waiting to see if someone better comes along. Any advice?

Please keep me Anonymous to protect my client.

Answer from Carolyn

Yes, if you've done your homework and are pretty certain the agent is on the up and up in spite of the lack of listing, write to the other agents. Tell them you have another offer. Say something like "I hope to hear from you by XXX, for I feel that we are the best fit. But you can well guess that I am also eager to proceed with the publishing process." 

A letter like that can only give your client credibility and might spur the others to make a decision in her favor. Remember, good agents know well how to get an auction going among publishers. They will not be offended if you use a similar skill on them. But one must always come from a position of authenticity.

BTW, one year is a long time. You might want to try to negotiate that: Say, "I would feel more comfortable with a six month trial." You might also ask if she has any specific contacts that she feels might be interested and who they might be. That may be pushing it a bit but considering this agent has no apparent credentials, a question like that may be a good precaution.

Tip from a Frugal Editor Sidebar

Your Essential Desk References

  • The Chicago Manual of Style.
  • Associated Press Stylebook.
  • Elements of Style  by Strunk, White, and Angell. (Don't use one from 1950!)
  • Your favorite thesaurus.
  • A good dictionary (Microsoft's Word language functions are not a substitute).
  • Special vocabulary dictionaries for dialect, jargon, scientific or tech terms.
  • Rhyming dictionary.
  • The Describer's Dictionary.
  • Need a guide to help you style computer terms? Go to: http://www.geocities.com/ikind_babel/babel/babel.html.

Those who are computer savvy will want to put important references for their work into their computer's My Favorites and add to it as they proceed with different tasks.

 Find at least one tip on writing, promotion or tech on every page of this Web site. 

Buy Links for Carolyn's Books


Great Fiction
HARKENING at Amazon in their new and used feature.

Great Poetry
Purchase TRACINGS (Finishing Line Press) at Amazon.
IMPERFECT ECHOES: Writing Truth and Justice with Capital Letters,
lie and oppression with Small

Give the gift of poetry with a chapbook from Magdalena Ball's
My Celebration Series

CHERISHED PULSE: Unconventional Love Poetry
IMAGINING THE FUTURE: Ruminations on Fathers and Other Masculine Apparitions
SHE WORE EMERALD THEN: Reflections on Motherhood
BLOOMING RED: Christmas Poetry for the Rational
DEEPER INTO THE POND: Celebration of Femininity
SUBLIME PLANET: Celebrating Earth and the Universe

HowToDoItFrugally Series for Writers
Second Edition

Survive and Thrive Series of HowToDoItFrugally Books for Retailers

Most of Carolyn's books are also available for the Kindle reader.
Did you know that with the Free app, Kindle can be adapted to any reader--even your PC!

 "Careers that are not fed die as readily as
any living organism given no sustenance." 
Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Studio photography by Uriah Carr
3 Dimensional Book Cover Images by iFOGO
Logo by Lloyd King


Frugal E-Book Tip

Kindle E-Books Aren't
Just for Kindle Anymore

Did you know that Amazon’s Kindle e-books are a low-cost/no-cost way to access books even if you don’t have a dedicated Kindle reader? You can read Kindle's e-books on smartphones, desktop computers and any e-device in between. You can even store the books on the Amazon cloud.

~ Quote from Diana Schneidman, author and marketer

To subscribe to Carolyn's FREE online newsletter send an e-mail.

Learn more about Carolyn's newsletter and blog.

Read past issues of Carolyn's Newsletter.


Other Links


Carolyn's Commercial Acting


Celebration Series of Poetry Chapbooks


This is the Place, a novel



Tracings, a chapbook and memoir in one

Harkening, true short stories

Carolyn's Poetry

Helps For Retailers

Helps For Writers

Full Published Works Almanac

Travel and Poetry

Published Books


Editing Tip

Here's a tip I picked up from Stephen King's On Writing: When you're writing dialogue and a character asks  a question, use a question mark at the end of the question or "he asked" as a tag. Not both. There are tons of tips like this in The Frugal Editor.

 Find at least one tip on writing, promotion, or tech on every page of this Web site. 


Subscribe to
Carolyn Howard-Johnson's Sharing with Writers Newsletter

and get a FREE copy of
Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips for Writers

"I have been a professional writer 40 years, and am also a tenured full professor of journalism. Carolyn's Sharing with Writers newsletter is  most useful for me--and for my students. I emphasize to them that while research is 90% of writing, and the actual writing is about 10%, there's another 100% out there called promotion. Carolyn shows numerous ways to get the message to the mass media."
~Walter Brasch, author and educator

"A decade of bettering writers' careers with how-tos, tips, and publishing news."

Find Carolyn on the Web

  writers retailers

Carolyn's Blogs

The Frugal Retailer Blog
Carolyn shares nearly three decades of retailing experience   with
an emphasis on marketing.

Sharing with Writers
All things publishing with
an emphasis on book
promotion. Named to
Writer's Digest
101 Best Website list.

The New Book Review
Great way for readers, authors, reviewers and publicists to get more
mileage out of
a great review.

The Frugal Editor Blog
This is the Frugal, Smart
and Tuned-In Editor blog.
Covers editing, grammar, formatting and more.
Get the answers you need.

Time to Kindle

The Frugal Editor Is Available as a Kindle Book
Click here to buy the big, powerful Kindle I love with free (Frugal!) WiFi  (Now in Paperwhite!)


Companion Reading

And here's the Frugal Editor's companion, Ta Da!

"After wading through half a dozen cut and paste marketing books, I found it refreshing to read Carolyn Howard-Johnson's down-to-earth approach to book promotion. The Frugal Book Promoter is the real deal, easy to read and easy to apply."
~Tom Barnes, author, actor and hurricane hunter

While You're Browsing...

...find at least one promotion, writing, or tech tip on every page on this site. Sometimes you'll find two or three! Happy browsing and collecting!

Carolyn's Awards

Awards for Carolyn's Books, Blogs and More

The New Book Review
Named to
Master's in English.org Online Universities'

101 Essential Sites for Voracious Readers

Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites
Sharing with Writers blog.


Best Book Award for The Frugal Book Promoter (2004) and The Frugal Editor (2008) and the Second Edition of The Frugal Book Promoter (2011).


Reader Views Literary Award for The Frugal Editor

New Generation Award for Marketing and Finalist for The Frugal Editor

Book Publicists of Southern California's Irwin Award

Military Writers Award of Excellence for
Tracings, A Chapbook of Poetry.

A Retailer's Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotion wins author Military Writers Society of America's Author of the Month award for March, 2010


Gold Medal Award from Military Writers Society of America, 2010. MWSA also gave a nod to She Wore Emerald Then, a chapbook of poetry honoring mothers.

The Frugal Editor Named #! on Top Ten Editing Books list.

Finalist New Generation Book Awards 2012, The Frugal Book Promoter; Finalist 2010 The Frugal Editor;
Winner 2010 Marketing Campaign for the Frugal Editor

The Oxford Award
the alumna who exemplifies the Delta Gamma precept of service to her community and who, through the years, devotes her talents to improve the quality of life around her.

The Frugal Book Promoter is runner-up in the how-to category for the Los Angeles Book Festival 2012 awards.

Glendale City Seal
Winner Diamond Award for Achievement in the Arts
Glendale California's Arts and Culture Commission and the City of Glendale Library,

And more than a dozen other awards for Carolyn's novel, short story collection and poetry. See the awards page on this site.

Published Works Almanac