Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Six Questions for Chris Speakman, Content Editor, MuseItUp Publishing

MuseItUp Publishing is a new publisher (Launch date: December 2010) focusing on mystery & suspense, paranormal & fantasy, sci-fi, romance, dark fiction & thriller, and young adult novels. The company accepts submissions from new and seasoned Canadian and American authors. Learn more here.

SQF: I interviewed Lea Schizas shortly after she announced her new venture, MuseItUp Publishing, and published her responses in July. I'm sure much has changed since then. Can you provide us with an update on the genres MuseItUp is accepting? For example, the original announcement didn't include the MuseItHot imprint.

CS: Gladly, there are so many ideas bouncing.

MuseItHOT are all the romance erotica stories that may be sweet, paranormal, mystery, etc., but include erotic scenes.

In both houses, MuseItUp and MuseItHOT (if there is erotica within a story, it should be submitted as a MuseItHOT submission), we have three themes and will be introducing several more before September:

Muse Divaz
Muse Redemption
Muse Dark Sleuths

In MuseItUp we now also have our MuseItYoung section which are ‘tween crossover chapter books for 10 - 14 year olds.

SQF: You're a content editor for MuseItUp. What are your specific responsibilities?

CS: As with all our editors, content or line, we each read as many new submissions as we can.  I don’t read the MuseItHOT submissions because I’m not familiar with the genre.  I also tend to leave the romance to my fellow editors who enjoy this genre. I’m a mystery, suspense, thrills, science fiction, fantasy, and horror lover. Not to say these genres can’t be mixed with romance or erotica.

Once a submission is read, we try to give honest feedback on how we believe the writing could improve when declining a piece. This is difficult because we all know the work that goes into each story. Sometimes we’ll ask the writer to make the changes and resubmit. This doesn’t guarantee an auto-accept, but gives them a chance to retry.

Once a story is accepted and Lea has placed in our editing files—via Yahoo Groups database programs—each editor downloads the MS they want to work on. Prior to the download, Lea has already listed a release date, a content edits due date, and a line edit due date. Plus our cover artist has her own file with all the information needed to create our great covers.

To give you an example of our timeframes, these are the dates for one of the pieces I worked on:

Release Date:  December 1, 2010
Content Edits: June 1, 2010
Line Edits: August 1, 2010

This book is already in the final formatting stages, having gone through at least three rounds of edits with me and another two or three with the line editor.

My specific responsibilities are twofold, in my opinion. First I need to keep the ‘office’ paperwork updated. Lea has set up databases and files where we list the books we’re working on and their status. Whether that status is just downloaded for first edits or with the author for the third edits. Once I have our content edits done I upload the file to our line edit file folder and let the line editors know there’s a new MS for them, giving them all the notes and information I can.

My main responsibility is to be another set of eyes for the author. I run a quick check through for any spellings or new words or grammar areas that need a closer look. I count the usage of such words as: but, that, which, and, and sentences starting with and. Every writer has habits, and these have become my trigger words. These words are triggers because we may use them while we talk, but writing them out only slows the story and, overused, they can be annoying to the reader.  My own word habit is the overuse of “of course.”  I tend to say "actually" far too many times.

Once this is noted, either by highlighting or notes through Track Changes, I read through the MS and make notes of any typos, or sentence changes, or just ideas where I think the story could be tighter.

Never ever do I make changes without the author’s okay. They finalize any acceptance or rejection. With our house style and the format of eBooks, we require one space after each sentence. Well, like me, a couple of our authors are still used to typing two spaces after a sentence. I don’t correct this simple area without first emailing the authors and having their okay.

The author’s voice is first and foremost. My job is to be the other eyes to see where anything needs more explaining, maybe a little tightening in the writing, a bit more showing and not telling, or something as simple as a character name or hair colour change.

Even then, if I’ve missed something, our line editors are there as fresh eyes, too.

Any questions on style or wording or when I’ve had a brain freeze, I’ll post a question/call for help to our editors’ group; and we’ll talk things over and work on suggestions to find the answer. Right there an author has the advantage of five to six sets of eyes on the tricky or tough calls.

SQF: What other services does MuseItUp Publishing provide to authors?

CS: Using my dad’s favourite phrase, first and foremost an author pays MuseItUp, MuseItHOT, or any of our imprints…NOTHING at any time.

Every author, editor, and artist has his/her own contract with Lea, and that is the only area where money is discussed.

Lea is non-stop thinking brilliance. She has set up an editors’ Yahoo Group, an authors’ Yahoo Group, and a readers’ Yahoo Group. Every day I open my email to more promotional and marketing ideas, which everyone is free to discuss and offer their opinions and ideas.

A few examples are:

- promotional days on different Yahoo Groups, like PublishingTrove and right here at Six Questions For. . .

- guest spotlights on our own blog, author blogs, and others, where our authors speak for themselves or have their characters interviewed

- blog tours for each release

- reviews for each release

- our eBooks being set up for every reader available; and, yes, Lea is searching down how to get our authors’ books in every mainstay online bookstore--Kindle, Nook, and Kobo

- our own bookstore is under construction

- lately there’s been discussion on how to get into physical bookstores for author signings

- as I previously mentioned, each book goes through at least two editors numerous times

This is the norm for each and every author and MS that is accepted through our doors.

SQF: What major mistakes do authors make in either pitching their books or submitting their manuscripts? (You don't have to cover both areas in your response.)

CS: I’ll answer for submitting manuscripts, because I haven’t been involved in pitches, yet.  Read the guidelines, and then read them again, and then again.  Whether for our house or any other publishing house, this is the first area of errors many authors make. Don’t send an erotica story to a publisher who states they don’t publish erotica. Don’t send poetry to a house that doesn’t publish poetry. It irritates everyone involved in the submission process and can leave a negative impression when you do submit something under the guidelines.

If unsure, ask.

Next in line of mistakes is not having a polished MS. I’ve read submissions for MuseItUp and other houses where the MS needed major work because it was too close to a first draft. Have others read your work with a critical eye. Find a critique group and work with them to finesse your MS to the point it’s near perfect…near, because every MS still needs editing before publishing even if only to match the house style.

Someone told me there’s a flood of new submissions to publishing houses in December, right after Nanowrimo, because writers are in the thrills of finishing their first draft. Every first draft needs a rewrite, if not a few rewrites.

The last comment on mistakes for a submission is to make sure you give the publisher all the important information—name, up-to-date, in-use contact email address, simple and clear synopsis, and genre, especially if you are thinking mainstream vs. erotica vs. tween.

SQF: What is your advice to new, unpublished authors looking for a publisher or agent?

CS: Research.  As a member of many Yahoo writers’ and genres’ groups, I find the information discussed in these groups a treasure.  Even then, if someone has had a bad experience with a publisher or agent, I’ll still research through Preditors and Editors, the company’s website, and their authors’ websites.

There are new publishers and agents all the time and some discussion boards, having been burned before, may at first dismiss these new names. It’s up to each publisher/agent, whether new or established, to keep proving themselves worthy of all our attention.

The only method to weed out who you want to work with and who you don’t is by research. Once you feel you have all the information—good and bad—go with your gut instincts. Some of our authors came to us because they knew Lea or her reputation, and others came because they followed their gut.

A major pet peeve of mine is a writer should never have to pay for their book to be published. If someone or some publishing house wants money from you in order to publish your book, take that as a large warning bell. We’re all eager for our books to make it to eBook or print form; however, take your time in reading all the fine print. Never stop asking questions until you are fully satisfied with the answers. Lea has suggested and mentioned to all of our Muse authors that when they submit to any house the first thing a writer should do is track down a few authors of the publishing house and email them with questions to get a good feel of a company before you submit or commit.

SQF: What question do you wish I’d asked that I didn’t? And how would you answer it?

CS: Hmm, I can’t think of a question, but would like to share our house motto with you and your readers…

~Building the team to achieve the dream~

I invite everyone to join our bookstore launch this October and our official launch party in December at

Thank you, Chris. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

NEXT POST: 09/10--Six Questions for Sandra Ruttan, Editor-in-Chief, Spinetingler Magazine


  1. Bravo, Chris, enjoyed your thorough and informative answers. Thank you, Jim, for hosting Christine.

  2. What a wonderful blog. It was great as an author to see the editor's point of view. Very informative. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Thanks, Charlie. Glad you find this helpful. Please share the link with your writing friends.

    And you're welcome, Lea. Glad to help get the word out.

  4. Excellent responses, Chris and wonderful questions, Jim. You did a great job of explaining how MuseItUp Publishing works and the role the editor plays in bringing a manuscript to publication.

  5. Hi,

    Sorry for getting on late; however, I thoroughly enjoyed this experience and can't wait for more promotional opportunities.

    Chris S

  6. Thank you, Lea, and Chris, and congratulations on your new venture!