Editing: Expense or Investment?

Expense or Investment

Expense or Investment?

If you are an Indie Author you are no doubt still working your day job, and you most probably always will be. What you bring in from the job may scarcely cover rent or mortgage, utilities, car payments, insurance, groceries, clothes, school, sports…

(Hint: Do not depend on a blockbuster to provide your retirement fund. Your chances of winning the lottery are greater in today’s market.)

Can you afford to pay for editing?

Can you afford not to?

OK, so you don’t want to take out a second mortgage but you are wise enough to realize that if you publish sub-standard work you will be reviewed mercilessly and may forever after have great difficulty selling a book. Credibility can be impossible to re-establish. Readers have long memories. ‘Folks is fickle’.

How much editing do you really need? 

There is no easy answer. You cannot rush to publish if you want to do this well. Slow down. Once your book is ‘out there’ you must live with the fallout.

Every manuscript needs several edits. It is not possible for one person to do each type of edit simultaneously.

I know you cannot afford to pay for seven edits, so let’s look at what you can do to keep costs down without sacrificing too much in quality.

Write, rewrite, edit, condense, revise, and edit again.

Do this yourself.

Delete overly descriptive passages, slash and burn redundancies, don’t bog the action down with staging and scene setting.

Watch for inconsistencies, discrepancies, loose ends that are not tied up, especially if you are writing over long periods of time. You may have forgotten something significant that happened two chapters back.

When you think it is perfect, ask several people to read it.

Choose people who know an adjective from an adverb and who will be honest and frank, not looking to stroke your ego. Take their comments, criticisms and suggestions seriously.  Be aware that even English majors can have bad habits and therefore miss errors.

Adjust and rewrite. Yes. Again.

Have the manuscript as clean and polished as possible.

When it is as sharp as you can make it the time has arrived to shop for an editor.

Contact several. Ask other authors to tell you about their editor. Check editor websites and don’t be shy about contacting an editor’s existing clients.

Rates are not the only thing to consider. Mutual respect is paramount. The two of you must be compatible. Your editor should care about your vision for your work while also being direct about what is not working.

This is where I must  speak only for myself. I don’t know what others do.

We will begin with a sample edit. I look over 2000 words of your work and determine if it is ready for a professional edit and if I think I am a good fit for the project. I have turned manuscripts down.

If we agree to go ahead, I charge a $200 deposit, payable by E-mail money transfer.

We agree on a start date. Sometimes I am booked well in advance, and sometimes you get lucky. Projects can wrap up ahead of the anticipated completion date, or they may unexpectedly become more drawn out. I use the word count to estimate the time required, but there can be other determining factors.

I will go through your work looking for obvious things first. Misused words, improper punctuation, spelling, grammar, sentence and paragraph structure.

This should be a separate edit, but I accept the reality that money is tight.

I therefore also attempt to spot poor plot or character development, things which don’t sound plausible, dropped threads which need to be tightened up. As I said, that should be a totally separate edit. Things can be missed easily. That is reality.

In my pricing structure, at this time, that first in-depth edit is all you pay for, but at $30 per hour you have another reason to do as much in advance as you possibly can. The more time I invest the more money you will pay me.

If there is time I may zip through it a second time before I send it back to you.

You pay your bill, and I send your edited document back.

Now what?

You will then go through all of my notations and changes. Patiently, with purpose.

You are going to have questions and I am happy to answer them. I do not work on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. Invest time at this stage. Be scrupulously thorough. Go slowly.

Ironically, you will see things I missed and that neither you nor your beta readers spotted earlier. Are we having fun yet?

Then here is your bonus.

Once you have asked your questions and made the necessary changes, or we have discussed why you don’t agree with a change, you send the document back to me for a final proofread.

The proofread is part of the package. I used to charge for it, but unfortunately many skipped that stage. Mistake. There is more to find. I promise you.

Then you go through it yet again. Yes, I know, but if you won’t invest time in creating a quality product the only person you hurt is yourself.

To recap:

Have that manuscript as clean as it can possibly be, spending the time to alter, modify, clarify, rephrase, trim and tweak it before the professional edit. When you get the edited document back, do it all again.

Then after the proofread, repeat the entire process.

I am available to answer client questions right up until they publish.

Will it go to publication totally devoid of errors?

Not in the real world. (Be cautious if you find an editor who guarantees that.) But invest enough in yourself to give it a fighting chance. You are in for quite a humbling education.

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12 thoughts on “Editing: Expense or Investment?

  1. Pingback: Editing: Expense or Investment? | Yvonne Hertzberger

  2. Yep, editing is an essential part of the process; copy edit AND proofread. I have a rather wonderful editor whose judgement and professionalism I trust implicitly. She is worth her weight in rejected manuscripts 🙂

    Actually, I have given up my day job and now write full time. I am an Indie author and sell my work exclusively on Amazon at the moment (boo, hiss?). Things are going well and my new crime thriller is out in May 2013.

    Thanks for the very wise post!

    Scott Hunter

  3. Great post Wendy. I particularly liked the bit about editors and their clients needing to work well together. I was lucky enough to find someone I trust completely, and I learned a great deal in the process. That’s something else good editors do – they teach by example. 🙂

  4. Pingback: To Hire an Editor or Not to Hire an Editor…That is the Question! | Author M.J. Kane

  5. Pingback: Three Truths on Editing | Self Publishing Daily

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