Saturday, May 18, 2013

More About Editing

I'm 9 weeks away from having my third baby, and I just moved into a new house.  You know, with a yard that has developed a weed problem, and a patch of mushrooms in the back that I can't get rid of, but can't keep the dog away from, either.  Writing time is precious, and almost non-existent these days.  So I'm editing, instead.

Now I think most of us Prosers have taken a crack at posts dealing with the editing process, and there are just about a billion books out there that give varying degrees of advice on the subject.  I'm not going to rehash all that this week.  Instead, I want to tackle something that I've been wondering about this last month or so, ever since I started this red-pen-on-paper-while-trying-to-eat-dinner adventure.  Namely, what are the benefits of paying for an edit?

From what I can tell, it depends on what you want to do with your story, and what kind of editing you are looking for.  Need someone to bounce ideas off of, or just get a general sense of plot and pacing?  You're probably best sticking with a critique group.  It's free, and a perfect starting point.

If you're ready to submit a story to an agent, you can stay with the critique group, but here's the problem I've had with that: you have to give exactly what you want in return.  If you're asking for a line-by-line edit, you'd better be prepared to offer the same for the other person.  You can also get stuck in a mismatched critique situation.  This has happened to me.  No matter how much you respect the other writer, you find yourself critiquing, let's say horror, when you write young adult romance.  I've heard from a few people that they enjoy this kind of feedback because it puts a fresh spin on their work, but in my own dealings, it's never quite worked out that way.  It's hard to give advice on a subject you don't read, and even harder to take criticism from someone when they have no clue what is acceptable for your genre.

So maybe you decide to invest in a professional edit before you send out to agents.  Okay, that's reasonable, but keep in mind, you're going to spend somewhere between $300 up to $3,000 for this service.  To me, that seems a bit steep, even on the low end, but if you simply don't have the time to develop a solid critique group, then it might be just what you need.

Once you start talking about self-publishing, I think it's time to shell out a little bit of money.  However, this comes down to what you hope to accomplish.  Want to be the next Hugh Howey?  Spring for the editor.  Want to finally see your name on Amazon as something other than a reviewer?  You can probably skip it, or skimp on it.

Ultimately, it is up to you to decide what your story needs, but in my own experience, it's essential to get someone to look at your work.  And no, not your mom.  Or sister.  Or spouse.  (Asking my husband to read for me is about equal to saying, "Do I look fat in this?"  It's just not fair.)  You might be the next Charlaine Harris or Dan Brown, but when you've spent 80,000 words (or more) on a story, you probably aren't going to be the most objective reader, so find someone that will be objective.

Yesterday, the illustrious Nathan Bransford announced that he's paying an editor to go over a how-to book on writing, and gave some fantastic reasons why.  (You can read the post here.)  He also linked to more information about whether to pay for editing or not in that post.  It goes into a lot more detail than I can, as he's speaking from his personal, first-hand experience.

So guys, what are your thoughts on professional editing services?  Better yet, has anyone out there been through the process and want to share the experience?


  1. I agree - it's tough. One answer to the unequal review is to get in a good relationship with another writer who understands that someone who is, say, a busy mom like you, doesn't have time for a line edit. The only problem with that is that if you become friends with that person, sometimes some of the honesty in the critique is lost. Or maybe that's just me being too afraid to hurt people's feelings?

    Anyway, I think maybe the best thing to do with un-paid edits is to state up front what you can and cannot give in response to an edit. Just let them know what's going on with you, and hopefully you'll find a few people who understand.

    As for the paid aspect, I suppose I haven't thought about that much - perhaps because line edits are kind of my strength (I do them in a different form for work) so I'm almost always looking for just overall reviews - sort of I like I'm forever losing track of the forest for the trees!

    1. I'm a line edits oriented person, too. I'll usually catch typos, but I can miss a gaping plot hole no problem.

      I'd probably stick with a critique group personally, but mostly because I'm not ready to go down the self-publishing path. Not because I think I've got a shot with traditional publishing, but because I don't feel ready to send anything out into the great wide world just yet. I just found it interesting that a whole new world of publishing options meant new options in editing, too.

  2. This is an interesting conversation, and I have thought a lot about this. I know I wouldn't pay an editor if I'm going to go the traditional publishing route. One of the perks about going that route is to get your stuff professionally edited without having to pay for it. At least that is how I see it. Of course you do need to have a strong well-edited manuscript to get a publisher interested, but some amazing beta readers are great for that. I'm lucky to know a few I can count on. :)

    And I'm happy to beta read for you Trisha, just so you know. :)

    Self-publishing is a different story. I'm not sure what I would do if I ever choose to got that route. Professional editing is very expensive, but I feel that if you want to be competitive, you need to put out a professional quality product. I'm sure there are some amazing writers who can do that without hiring a professional editor, but I'm not sure if I could. That is a tough one.

    Great post.

    1. I've been meaning to get back to you and Sabrina this week, but things have been rough. I will be happy to trade stories with you, and Sabrina any time you guys need it. (You know, after the baby comes and I'm past the first few months.) I'm still re-plotting parts I don't like, and trying to get things good enough to let someone else read, so when I get there, I'll let you both know. :) Thank you guys.

  3. I agree with MaryAnn. The thing I see with self-publishing is that you don't want your novel to be one of THOSE novels--the ones that really were never good enough to begin with. However, sometimes our fellow novelists make pretty great critiquers. If we're willing to trade work, we can get a high quality manuscript.

    As someone who is seriously working toward getting several books self-published in the near future, I've decided that the place to invest some money is on the coverwork. People use covers to decide what they are going to read next. It's unfortunate but true. And have you looked at some of the slipshod work that people are using as covers on some of these stories???

    1. I'd probably stick with a critique group for as long as possible, but if I ever got over my stage fright, or whatever it is holding me back, I would invest in a copy editor to make sure I was as ready as possible before making the jump into self publishing.

      Cover art is another story. I dream about cover art like crazy. Can't hurt to dream, right? is my favorite. If I ever DO go down that road, I'm dropping whatever money I can get my hands on to get one of her prints for my cover. Love her stuff.

  4. Even traditionally published books have copy edit errors. I did about 20 read throughs to catch for errors, hired someone who copyedits for a living for FTCM, and then had an awesome detail oriented friend(Hi April!)who found 30 individual errors.

    I've already found a few we all missed.

    That's one of the advantages of indie publishing. When you are in control of the story, you can change it, even if it's months after publication. I know several people who hire out for editing, covers, and inside work, months and even years after book launch.

    That's one of the things you can do, you can refuel all profits back into the book, make it as professional, and perfect as you can.


    1. I was really hoping to hear what you'd done with FTCM. It's something that I never really considered hiring out for editing services until Nathan Bransford talked about it on his blog several months ago. But when he posted about it again, I remembered I'd meant to invest time and energy into researching it. I'm glad to hear from someone who has been down that path. I think I lean toward what you did, and sort of split between a copy editor and a writing friend/grammar guru that I know more personally.

      I think your point on indie publishing is 100% true, too. You have that option to keep perfecting it. I can't tell you how many times I've read a book (BIG name authors, too!) who go to print with errors. Although, it's also nice to know they aren't as perfect as I like to think they are. :)


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