Tag Archive | editing

Can you afford to be a writer?

Everybody and his uncle is writing books and self-publishing. While it is exciting to be able hold your own book in your mitts it will be expensive to get to that point and it is a gamble. Don’t kid yourself. The odds against you being able to recover your costs, let alone turn a profit, are astronomical. You need to know that. You need to be prepared to deal with that, and absorb the loss if you are determined to brave the fray.

Don’t bet more than you can afford to lose

Thousands of new books hit the market every single day. The market is saturated. If you want to stand a chance of success you  must invest. It is imperative, however, that you not invest your retirement funds or education savings. Don’t put your nest egg into the self-publishing basket.

NEVER count on book sales to bring you income.

Counting the cost

There are things on which you dare not scrimp. Once your book is up on Amazon you will have a difficult time recovering from a dreadful first impression, although I know authors who have managed to do it by pulling the book down, having it edited and releasing it again with a new cover. With all of the additional costs involved. But those success stories are rare. The fickle reading public will not buy twice from a writer with substandard work, and they post bad reviews, too.

Cover art, editing, PR coaching/marketing, technical assistance

Editing is not optional. I am not saying that because I am an editor. The quality of English knowledge and usage is deteriorating and you may believe you have written a manuscript which is error free. Please believe me, you haven’t. Don’t assume you have “dumbed down” readers who won’t notice. Don’t insult your audience and don’t set your standards that close to the ground.

Cover art is your greatest selling tool and it has to be top-notch. I have seen some covers with lousy drawings and graphic design and I scratch my head and say, “Are you serious?”. Don’t get a friend or neighbor or computer geek to do this for you. Hire professionals with a proven track record.

Know this: 100% of the marketing and publicity is your responsibility. You must attract attention, do interviews (yes, even radio and TV) and connect with people who can help you make this happen. You will need to devote at least half of your time to marketing. Even big publishing houses are leaving more and more of this to the authors. You are on the hook. It all is riding on you.

If you cannot figure out how to upload your PROPERLY FORMATTED work to Smashwords, Kobo, Apple, Amazon and others then you must hire people who can. I know a handful of authors who have sweated this out successfully, but most cannot or simply don’t want to. (Hint: Don’t expect your editor to do this. I can’t, nor do I want to pull time from my field of choice to do the technical stuff.)

Try publishing the smallest run possible through outfits such as Lulu and see how well you do at lining up your own launches and book signings. Find out if you really have what it takes to market yourself aggressively.

Manage your own Amazon account

Know how to check your stats, your royalties, know the tax laws in the countries you market to. Yes, you will have to answer to their revenue people. Unless you have an agent or a manager who can oversee this for you, you are on your own.

Freelance individuals or full-service companies

I am a freelance fiction editor. I edit. That is all I do. If you are hiring individuals for every specialty (I can’t believe I am about to say this) you may not be making the best use of your dollar. You can find full-service businesses which provide editing, cover design, formatting and uploading to multiple marketing venues.

Beware of any person or business which guarantees success

There is not a person alive who can promise you success. In fact, the truth is that you are unlikely to recover your investment costs.

We all post platitudes on Facebook about chasing your dreams, never giving up, not becoming discouraged, not letting others rain on your parade. The philosophy is positive, but may not be realistic. If your self-esteem is riding on this venture please pull out now.

Spare your words, save your money.

Dollars and Sense

Dollars and Sense

Word Count

I see dozens of authors posting their daily word count on Facebook. I understand the sense of accomplishment and I know the precarious perch of self worth on which most authors are balancing. But volume is not necessarily productivity. Quality over quantity.

Editing Budget

Independent authors usually have day jobs. There are mortgage and car payments, daycare, food, utilities…red ink. It is easy to hope you can get by without professional editing, but if you ask a few who have done it and then had to eat crow while pulling their books down and reloading them after an edit, you can grasp the fact that you are much better off to do it right the first time. Which does cost money.

How much?

Please fix this permanently in your mind. Every word you use is a cent you spend. It doesn’t matter if your editor charges by the hour or by the word. Tightening up writing consumes time. If your editor has to do it for you, it will show on the bottom line. I charge a cent per word of your original word count. I just did a 2000 word sample edit in which I deleted over 500 dead-weight words. See what I mean?

Readers become bored quickly. Keep the action moving along. Don’t waste time and space with inner dialogue and musings in your characters. This is not a journal or diary. Don’t get bogged down in flowery descriptions. If it is not critical to the plot the fashion commentary is just so much bilge.  Details about decor are superfluous. Keep it simple.

You work hard for your money.

Some people do shoot the messenger…

…or would like to. Blaming the editor is common.

Editing is my dream job; there is nothing I would rather do.  That’s the good news.

The bad news is having to deliver bad news. Or ‘much room for improvement’ messages.

The ‘Don’t call us, we’ll call you’ messages are easier by comparison. The manuscript is not ready for a professional edit. End of story. An editor doesn’t invest time in the project.

Can this novel be saved?

The good ones, the ones with the bones of a good story  but with a number of holes or inconsistencies, insufficient or improbable character development, ah, those are painful. The pain is evenly distributed between editor and author, although the author doesn’t understand that.  The news that is excruciating to deliver is unbearable to receive.

We don’t want the author to throw the work out or give up on it.

The very fact that the manuscript is accepted and the edit is done is clear evidence that it is not a lost cause. It may need a major renovation but it can be turned into a solid structure which will stand the test of time and get good reviews.


Bad reviews can be the kiss of death, not just for a particular book, but for every book the author has on the market. Bad reviews can stop new readers from giving the author a chance, even if the other books on offer are top-notch.

Reviews are not the only form of negative press that should concern a writer. With social media and the conversations that take place there, thousands more people than the few who may read a review will see a slam against a book or writer.

Editors get paid for the service they provide whether or not a book does well, so we don’t point these weaknesses out to line our own pockets. But consider what it is we are getting paid to do. We want authors to make money, too. You hire us as experts, for our knowledge and experience in getting manuscripts  market-ready.

While personal preferences affect the genres an editor may accept, the comments made on accepted manuscripts are not personal opinions. They are things which will damage your credibility as an author. Be careful about deciding to publish things that are not working based only on the opinions gathered from friends or inexperienced beta readers.

Editors are not executioners. We want you to succeed. To thrive. We are on the same team and you have a lot at stake.


Unedited version sent to the printer?

It can and does happen.

It has happened to me. If you ever purchase a book with my name in it, and suspect some gremlins have run amok through the printing-house, please contact me and I can clear things up.

I now have a clause in my editing contract which states:


Other: Author is responsible for insuring that the FINAL EDITED DOCUMENT is the one sent to the printer or publisher and any discrepancy between said document and the final version the editor authorized is the sole responsibility of the author and in no way a reflection of the quality of the editorial work. (Please initial)  ______ 

That little legal escape hatch helps not at all out in book buying land.

Both the author and editor can survive this seeming fiasco. When we receive emails pointing out our ineptitude we respond with good humor. Nasty reviews don’t go down as easily. Sometimes all you can do is say ‘Oh well’.

Never hesitate to ask an author or editor if some unfortunate slip-up has occurred.

Do not just blindly assume that they are incompetent nincompoops. Any self-published author is only too aware of the cost of printing. Trashing the entire print run (“Off with their heads!”) only sounds like a solution to a lottery winner.


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.