Understand Your Unique Voice
“Honesty is the thing that takes your book from sounding like everything else on the market to sounding like your unique message.” —Ann Maynard
Ann Maynard came into editing by selling a very expensive bottle of wine to an author in Austin, Texas. The joke was that she was an English major who majored in Shakespeare—so she ended up bartending.
Ann had been a bartender for many years when one of her regular customers asked her why she was working at a bar when she spoke well and could tell a story. This customer was a New York Times bestselling author, and he soon introduced Ann to the brilliant editor, Nils Parker. That introduction helped to launch Ann’s career in editing.
Now Ann has her own editing firm, Command+Z Content, and she feels lucky that she has found a career doing the thing she loves and is best at.
On this episode of “Authors Who Lead,” Ann and I have a conversation about how we met, editing, how to find an editor, and how to make a good book great.
The Perfect Partnership
Ann and I first worked together on Pat Flynn’s book Will It Fly?: How to Test Your Next Business Idea So You Don’t Waste Your Time and Money. I was Pat’s book coach, and Ann was his editor. We had a little over two weeks to get the draft manuscript looking like a book. We didn’t know each other, yet we found we worked well together. My gift is working with the author to tap into what they truly want to express, and Ann has a magical way of looking into a manuscript, seeing what the possibilities are, and bringing clarity to the whole book.
While working on this project, we realized our gifts complemented each other, and we felt that we should continue our collaboration. Eight years later, we’re still working together, even though we’ve never met in person.
Making a Good Book Great
According to Ann, whether your book is a memoir, leadership book, or self-help book, what makes a good book great is honesty. No matter what you’re talking about in your book, do it honestly and say it yourself in your own voice. When Ann looks over a manuscript, she can see the thing that you’re trying to hide, and she’ll poke at it until you address it.
Your Unique Voice
Being honest in your book sounds simple, but in reality, it’s hard. I tell authors that everyone is just selling sunshine, meaning that they aren’t writing anything new under the sun. Unless they’re honest and put themselves into their books, they’re just writing one more cliché or similar idea.
These clichés and ideas are everywhere for a good reason. People love good ideas that resonate with them. The honesty you put into your book will separate you from the crowd—and even further, the unique slant you use will send the conversation toward you. Readers want to know you and how the idea resonated or worked in your own world. This honesty is where you start developing your writing voice.
Preparing for an Editor
I asked Ann what she recommends authors do to prepare their manuscript for an editor. She says the only thing she really needs is that complete first draft, or “cringe draft,” as she calls it. “Every author has got to have a starting point,” she explains. This draft doesn’t need to be pretty; it just needs to be honest and contain the message the author wants to share.
This clarity in the first draft is important to show that the author is clear not only on their message and goals for their book but also on what they are willing to fight for. As Ann says, “I can be ruthless.” If the author is clear and confident in their message, they can answer those hard questions that editors will ask.
Finding an Editor
There are many types of editors, from developmental editors to line editors and everything else in between. Ann believes the most important thing to look for in an editor is one that you “vibe with.” You will be on the editing journey with this editor or editors for a while, so it’s important to be able to trust them and work well with them.
Ann also encourages authors to find an editor before they think their manuscript is finished. A good developmental editor comes in to work their magic with that first cringe draft. They should see the potential for your manuscript and work together well with you. The right partnership will end up creating a book that, in Ann’s words, will do “so much more than you thought possible.”
Ann calls this type of editing “collaborative editing,” and that is what she specializes in with her business. She is hell-bent on taking the suck out of writing and revising manuscripts.
What was your biggest takeaway from this episode? What are your biggest editing concerns? Share in the comments below!
That’s all for this week. If you have a message inside you that needs to be written (or rewritten!), today is the day to start. Don’t delay—take action.