I have a client who self-published her book last fall. Three months later, she pulled it from sale. Why in the world would someone do that? Well, frankly, because she made a huge mistake: she published without editing.
This writer spent four years crafting her memoir. She’s an educated, articulate woman. Here’s what happened when she thought she was ready to publish:
A year ago, I subscribed to an editorial service and found myself having to work twice as hard un-doing what they had done—mostly because the foreign words were consistently converted by spell-check. I decided to abandon the project, and then spent hundreds of hours editing and re-editing this manuscript before publishing it. While I received copious compliments about my writing, I was reminded that no one should ever publish a book without an editor. There were some punctuation errors and spelling mistakes; e.g., “weak” when I meant “week,” etc. That was when I decided to have someone proofread the manuscript.”
That’s when she found a professional freelance editor—me. Over the course of several e-mails, several phone calls, and several days, we discussed what she thought she needed, what I thought she needed, and how we each imagined the process might proceed. I offered to do a sample edit of several pages to show her what I believed would improve her book.
Here are just a few of the things I found in those sample pages: one of her characters was “reaping havoc,” her lover “raptured me in ecstasy,” and something important happened “eventually, in less than a few days.” Virtually every voice tag was “said,” she used semicolons like commas, and there are very few paragraphs that don’t include multiple (and incorrect) ellipses.
If she had hired a professional copyeditor, or even a professional proofreader before she published, this author would have saved herself a great deal of time, anxiety, and money.
A few days ago, I read a very informative Huffington Post guest blog by Mark Coker, the founder of e-book distributor Smashwords. Titled “21 Book Publishing Predictions for 2013: Indy Ebook Authors Take Charge,” it is a thoughtful examination of how Coker views the near future of the publishing—traditional, independent, self, print, and e-book. There is a lot of material covered in his blog, which you can read here in its entirety.
Prediction #14 is the one that really caught my eye:
In the self-publishing gold rush, more money will be made in author services than in book sales.
This means writers must invest time and talent in their books, and if outside talent is required, it usually costs money. With this burgeoning demand for professional publishing services, thousands of service providers will open up virtual author services shops in 2013. The challenge for writers is to procure the highest quality services at the lowest cost. Plenty of scamsters and over-priced service providers will be standing by to help.”
So how do authors protect themselves from “service providers” who charge exorbitant fees for “editing services”? Coker’s suggestion:
Work directly with the individual providing your service. When you hire professionals (cover artist, editor, proofreader, marketing pro), hire the professional directly, so your money goes straight to them, and not to some author services firm who will farm the job out to someone then mark up the fee several-fold.”
Don’t be like my client and pay for editing that isn’t editing at all. There are many talented professional freelancers out there—do yourself a favor before you push “send” and:
- Ask other authors for references. Word-of-mouth is often the best way to find a service provider, and finding an editor is no exception. Don’t trust just any service you find on the web. Check out websites, do a phone interview with prospective editors, and ask for both references and a sample edit. The relationship between an author and an editor is like a marriage: it can only be successful if there is good communication. You put your soul into your writing, and you deserve an editor who respects that.
- Discuss the mechanics of the editing or proofreading process. Every editor works a little differently and, as the author, you have to be comfortable with the process, so don’t be afraid to ask questions, and speak up if something doesn’t sit right with you. If an editor is too busy for your questions, you probably won’t find the level of support you need and deserve with that person.
- Remember that as the author, you are the boss. I find many writers fear a heavy-handed editor will change everything so they err on the side of doing nothing. Your mom or your best friends are not going to be totally honest with you, but a professional editor is. Consider every suggestion carefully, and again, don’t be afraid to ask for an explanation.
If Mark Coker is correct in his predictions, your work-in-progress will be ready for publication during a time that is publishing-friendly. Whether your goal is to get a publishing contract or to self-publish, make it your mission to find the perfect partner—a freelance editor—who is familiar with your genre, has impeccable references, and with whom you connect on a personal level. Chat on the phone, get a sample edit, correspond with his or her references, and then make a decision that will propel your writing to the next level.