Editing – Why Not to Do-It-Yourself

Every independent author wants to cut as many corners as possible when it comes to publishing a new work.  But what many don’t realize is they may be costing themselves money in the long run by putting out a poorly edited book.

Reviews are the life’s blood of any product.  Whether it’s a book, a car, or a box of cereal, a bad review or worse, a series of bad reviews, can be the death knell of whatever it is you’re trying to sell.  So aside from the ‘exorbitant’ cost of hiring a professional editor, what other reasons to go it alone?

  1. Nobody knows my story as well as me. -While true, this is a double-edged sword.  Writers have a tendency to be too close to their manuscript, falling in love with their words and keeping words, sentences, and entire sections that take away from the overall story.
  2. An editor will change my words or rewrite my story. –This is completely untrue of any editor worth his or her salt.  I look at editing as sandpapering the rough edges off a marble statue (I have no idea if you actually sandpaper a statue, but you get the idea).  Do I sometimes suggest a better word in places?  Absolutely.  But that’s what an editor does: suggest.  Every single change an editor makes to your story should be plain and evident so the author can agree or disagree upon review.  If your editor operates differently, fire him or her immediately.
  3. I can just get my friend to read it for me, he likes my stuff.  –Another potential mistake.  People too close to an author may tend to hedge edits.  Sometimes, I’ll look at a page I just finished and see a whole lotta red and I wonder if I’m being overly critical.  But then I remember, that’s what I’m being paid for.  And if the client does feel like the edits on any particular page are heavy-handed, he can always not take the ones he doesn’t like.  Back when I used to write a lot of poetry I was on a site where we would post poems and critique each other and there was nothing worse than someone who just couldn’t handle people saying anything other than how magnificent their piece was.
  4. It’s just not affordable.  –Now that is a potential drawback.  A professional editor can cost as little as a half cent a word to several cents.  But it’s really a ‘what’s it worth to you’ situation.  Do you believe this is a book people have to read?  Will it change lives?  Do you have a plan in place and editing is just one cog in the wheel to creating a best-selling juggernaut?  If it is, then the cost of an editor is only a drop in the bucket compared to what you’ll eventually rake in.  If it’s not, then why exactly are you writing it?  Don’t put a speedbump in your way by having a story a lot of people may set their eyes on and quickly cast aside as unreadable.  And there are levels of editing.  For simple proofreading, I charge only a half cent.  That means I read the story to correct for grammar errors and punctuation.  So if you had a 100,000 word manuscript, I would charge a meager $500 to proofread it.  The cover of my novella, Fleshbags, was $400 and that was on the less expensive side so far as cover art.  I charge more when I check for things like syntax errors, sentence flow, and proper word usage.  I also will solicit the author for more information to understand confusing sentences and do follow-ups with clients to make sure they understand all the edits.

Think about the last book you purchased.  Whether you wound up liking it or not, I’d bet it had a nice cover.  As an independent author, unless you are also a graphic artist, professional photographer, or painter, you’re not qualified to design your own cover.  Editing is just as important as an eye-catching cover.  In some ways, it is more important than a cover.  There have been a few books I’ve read that impressed me on the outside and I was completely letdown when I turned to the first page.  At least with a crappy cover my expectations would have been lower.  Covers also periodically change and vary depending on the country.  But save for being translated into a different language, all those different covers are wrapped around the same story.

Before you put out your next novel or novella, set yourself up for success.  I don’t know the statistics, but the heaviest cluster of sales of books occur somewhere in the first few weeks after release.  Just like the three L’s of real estate—location, location, location—the more books that sell in a cluster, the closer an author gets to finding their book located on a best-seller list.  An independent author/publisher can do it.  Just look at the Fifty Shades trilogy, which have been ranked 1-3 on the NY Times Bestseller list for the last 20+ weeks.  I can’t vouch for how well-written these books are, but the point is, word-of-mouth rocketed them into the American lexicon.  And more people will be talking about an author’s book when it is not only well-written, but seen under a scrutinizing eye to make it the best possible story it can be.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s