Posts Tagged ‘cops’

More Police Procedural Writer’s Questions Answered

August 13, 2016

Here’s a second round of questions from a writer seeking advice about police policies and procedures for a book she’s writing. I’m including the Q&A in a blog so that other writers tackling police issues can benefit from the information. My answers are in bold.

Q.  I have a couple more questions. Can my rookie cop have the same partner after she completes her probation period?

A.  Here’s where things get a little complicated. This may depend upon the size, and or, policies of the department. First, it’s important to point out that there’s a difference between a rookie and a trainee. If she’s a trainee, it’s likely the department would like her to work alone or with a different partner than her training officer upon graduating from the training program. However, that’s not set in stone. If she’s a rookie who’s on probation, then it’s probable there wouldn’t be any problem with her continuing to work with the same partner when her probationary period ends.

Q.  And what is the chain of command? I have her having a Sergeant as well as the Captain. But I watched Southland and they referred to the Watch Commander as the boss, and the rookie had to be assigned a different partner after graduation.

A. This situation is also more complicated than it appears at first glance. The chain of command is likely to differ depending upon the size of the department. If it’s a large department, then the rank structure is likely to be officer, sergeant, lieutenant, then captain. Ranks above captain are likely to vary depending upon the individual policies of the department.

The watch commander position is actually outside of the normal chain of command. He or she is likely to be the ranking officer in charge of the patrol functions of a specific shift. They may also be responsible for approving bookings to verify that the arresting officer has met all of the standards of probable cause, department policy etc.

If you’re a writer with questions regarding police issues, feel free to send them along. I’ll respond and turn the exchange into a blog for the benefit of others.                                                     ~T.B.  Smith 

 

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Editor Jean Jenkins, with a Crime Fiction Affinity, Q & A

July 26, 2016

Jean Jenkins is a freelance editor par excellence. Her efforts have improved the works of many talented and successful writers. Her input can be invaluable for authors who intend to produce superior product. She’s agreed to answer some questions that should prove helpful for writers who are trying to break into the industry. This is the first of a two part Q&A interview.

Q.  Your email contact information has the number 187 in it, the California penal code section for murder. Does that imply a preference for working with writers who produce crime fiction in its various forms?

A.   Mystery/thriller/procedural/crime fiction has always been my favorite genre to read and to work with as an editor. With a medical background and a fair number of forensics classes under my belt, as well as 25-plus years of editing for members of the law enforcement community, I have a good understanding of their world, the policies and procedures and codes, and what restraints and talents LEOs bring to the table. My email handle, 187writer, says exactly who I am—a writer/editor with a particular interest in the genre. And although I read and edit almost all genres, from biography to romance to young adult, crime fiction in all its forms remains my favorite to work with.

 

Q.   You’re active working with the Southern California Writers Conference which helps you keep up on current publishing trends. Do you encourage your clients to go the traditional route of trying to secure an agent who will shop their work to a major New York publisher, or do you guide them more toward smaller publishers or publishing themselves?

A.   There are myriad ways writers can go these days, and all have their good and not-so-good points. For the most part, I think story and talent are huge factors in choosing the publishing path a writer should take. These days, the Big Five (major publishers) and smaller publishers are not far apart in what they can offer a writer’s career. Granted, the larger publishers may pay a bigger advance and have a bit more bucks to add to a publicity campaign, but the days of big advances and whole-page ads for a book are pretty much gone. In fact, a writer may get more attention and care from a smaller publisher than from one of the bigs. I try to encourage all writers to work with an agent because that’s their voice into the industry. A good agent will fight your battles, raise necessary questions, and work hard to reserve (or sell) foreign and film rights when appropriate. Most writers know little if anything about various rights, and huge mistakes are sometimes made with one stroke of the pen. As for self-publishing, I have seen writers with limited talent and small stories who are right to make the choice to self-publish. But all too often, I see writers who sell themselves short by self-pubbing and taking on all the effort of marketing when their writing/story is by far good enough to stand up to a publishers’ requirements. One of the biggest mistakes a writer can make is typing ‘the end’ then deciding that their story has to get out immediately so they self-publish. We’re hearing outcries about typos and story problems with self-published books and those happen because the writer was in a hurry. Remember, your name is on that book; you want to be proud of it.

 

Q.   Burgeoning writers are constantly encouraged to grab the reader’s attention with the first line, paragraph and page. It’s logical from there to have a solid grasp on their prospective climax. My experience is that maintaining the reader’s interest throughout the seemingly interminable bridge that takes you from one end to the other is a lot more difficult. Do you have any advice for holding the thread together throughout the book?

A.   Two words that the writer should keep top-of-mind are Focus and Motivation. A character is the sum total of his life experience that he brings to the scene. He or she will act and react based upon training, yes, but will also reason and react based upon prior situations, knowledge and experiences. That’s a nuanced character, someone who comes alive on the page. A character who reaches out and grabs the reader. What motivates this character to take the next logical step will lie in his training and/or background. That’s why Motivation is so important. Without it, a character just moves around the page doing things the writer thinks up; he’s not acting logically. And when that happens, the story falters. As for Focus, the main character starts with a goal—find the kid, recover the money, uncover the corruption, loose the gang’s stranglehold on a neighborhood—and every move he makes (if his motivation is true) brings him closer to that goal. Motivation keeps your character taking the next logical step, and Focus keeps you, the writer, centered on the crux of the story—what your main character is trying to achieve. It’s also important to remember that no one exists or operates in a bubble, so everyone your main character comes in contact with is a potential mini-story or relationship or pithy scene that brings heart to the overall story and adds dimension to your main character. As long as you, the writer, focus on the story while your characters are driven with honest Motivation, you’ll be fine.

 

 Q.   Is it safe to assume that you have more prospective clients than you’re actually able to accommodate? If so, what do you look for to decide who has the goods to make it worth the time and effort?

 A.   An editor’s schedule is always a bit of feast or famine. At times there is more work than you can do, and at other times, while writers begin new projects or their work goes more slowly than expected, gaps appear in the editor’s calendar. I delight in finding a writer who’s almost ready to publish and lifting their product, and their skills, to the next level. I never consider if a project is worth my time and effort because this is someone’s dream, and I never want to take away a dream. I approach it more from a ‘how can I help’ perspective. Sometimes I’ll suggest a writer slow down and find a weekly or bi-weekly workshop where they can get hands-on help from other writers for a while. But most of the time, writers are able to take the notes I give them (length varies from a few pages to a 50-page editorial letter) and work from those notes to transform their story from second draft to commercially marketable. It’s the writer’s job to make their story the very best it can be, then it’s my job to show them how to make it better. Remember, as so many have said, good writing is rewriting and more rewriting, then knowing when to let go.

The Current State of Publishing: Q & A with Hellgate Press

July 12, 2016
hellgateHi Harley: Thanks for agreeing to take the time to answer some questions about the current state of publishing.
You’re the publisher of Hellgate Press that primarily publishes war memoirs but also has a small fiction component and has recently begun publishing children’s books.
Q:  How much are you focused on eBooks and what do you think the next five years holds for that niche in the publishing market?
A:  We simultaneously publish print and ebook versions of every title. Over the past 5 years, we’ve seen a tremendous growth in ebook sales, to the point where now they regularly outsell the print versions. I see no reason for that trend to change over the next 5 years. While I think the printed book will always be with us, it definitely now shares the marketplace with its ebook counterpart. And for authors and publishers alike, that’s a great trend, as there is more profit in ebooks because you eliminate the  cost of printing—which is substantial.
Q: Do you think that the increase in self published works has had a negative or positive impact on the quality of the books in the marketplace?
A:  I guess it depends on how we define the “marketplace.” The mainstream booksellers, such as Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Millions and others, don’t typically sell self-published works, so that marketplace really hasn’t been affected. Amazon and other online sellers do, and I think, while there are many well-written, even well-regarded self-published works, many of those authors are new to the world of writing (particularly fiction) and labor under the false notion that all you have to do to write a book is sit down at a computer and start typing. Many of the manuscripts that come across my desk, and even some previously self-published works that are submitted to Hellgate Press, are frankly not ready for publishing. For those, we recommend  that the authors find a professional editor/proofreader who can work with them to get the book ready for publication. Once they do that, we will then reconsider the book for publication. On the upside, while self-publishing may have brought many amateur writers to the marketplace who are not quite ready for it, it has also resulted in some wonderful books that might not have otherwise been published.
Q:  Which is more important to you when approached by a new author, their credentials to write the book, or the quality of the writing in your correspondence?
A:  It depends, and is probably more often than not a combination of the two. An author who has no direct experience with his/her subject matter may be able to craft lovely prose, but the facts need to be accurate and reflect either a good deal of research and/or personal experience. If not, then it really won’t matter how good the writing is. And if the expertise is there, but the writing is less than perfect, well that’s where a good editor comes in. But of course editors are no substitute for experience with the subject matter. And this is true whether we’re talking fiction or nonfiction. In the area of military history, for example, a writer better have the facts, the jargon, the specifics, etc., absolutely correct, or we’ll hear about it. But we rarely hear complaints about the writing style. Of course I attribute some of that to the fact that we do work with our authors to make sure they’re putting their best writing foot forward.
Q:  What does your publishing experience teach you about the viability of fiction vs. non-fiction? In other words, what type of book sells best and should there be a stronger incentive to write one form over the other?
A:  To be honest, neither type of book is selling in the numbers that they used to. According to Publishers’ Weekly, “The average U.S. nonfiction book is now selling less than 250 copies per year and less than 3,000 copies over its lifetime.” Numbers for fiction books are even lower. Consider that every book published is competing with more than 10 million other books for sale at the same time! At Hellgate Press, we sell many more (maybe twice as many) nonfiction books than fiction. But that could be due to our main niche being military related topics. I would imagine that if we published romance-related titles, our novels might well outsell our “how-to” books.
I personally think nonfiction is an easier sell, particularly because of the competition in fiction writing. If you write well, have intimate knowledge of your subject matter, and, if necessary are willing to work with a good editor/proofreader, you can produce a high quality, marketable non-fiction book in relatively short order. But if you’re working on the great American novel, or a lengthy piece of historical fiction, you’re competing with the very best writers in the world, or at least writers who have studied and practiced the craft for a long time. And you better have an excellent mastery of prose, dialog, pacing, plot, metaphor, structure, etc., or the reviews could be brutal. And while good reviews may or may not help with sales, a bad review definitely hurts. So I think the old advice is the best advice: Write what you know. And if you know how to write well, then give fiction a go. But if writing is something you’ve always wanted to do, but really haven’t studied it (and I mean formally, at a well-respected university or with a professional mentor), then non-fiction may be the better choice.
Q:  You’re planning on establishing a new imprint called Copworld Press that will exclusively publish authors with a law enforcement background. Why is that group of writers important to you and what do you think they can bring to the marketplace?
A:  This speaks to my earlier comments about writing what you know. While I don’t think you have to be a military veteran to write about military topics, it’s been my experience over the last 16 years that it certainly helps. I believe the same is true when writing within the law enforcement/true crime genre. Like the military, law enforcement has its own community, its own jargon, rules of conduct, etc. And although not impossible, it’s more difficult for an outsider to “get it right.” And getting it right can make the difference between success and failure when writing about a particular group or profession.
I enjoy publishing books written by those who serve and are affected by that service, and law enforcement professionals certainly fall into that category. And as a publisher, I know that the genre is a popular one, and one that can only benefit by an influx of writers who know what they’re writing about. So, I’m seeing it as a win-win opportunity to bring new writers with solid credentials and a wealth of experience to the genre, and, in so doing, provide a publishing opportunity for those who perhaps have found it difficult to get their work into the mainstream. And, of course, sell some books in the process!
Learn more about Hellgate Press at https://hellgatepress.com