If you are new to the world of writing, allow me to peel back the curtain a little. This will be the first blog entry where I try to expose the complicated world of independent authors (Indie Authors). Maybe these will help other wannabe authors out there on their road to becoming an author.
This first article will address editing.
Indie Authors and Failure to Edit
There are a number of Indie Authors who do not take the time, money and effort to have their work polished. I was guilty of this error with my first novel – sort of. Reasoning can be varied why new indie authors don’t follow this simple rule: always have your work edited.
There are a variety of resources for editing. They range from amateur to professional and by very little money to a lot of money. For my first novel, I found (after very little searching online) a woman who offered inexpensive editing. I paid for this and thought I had received good feedback and results. In hindsight, it was very poor work. My mother always said “you get what you pay for” and I believe that. I had a beta reader (and now a good friend) for my fourth novel read my first novel and she sent me pages and pages of errors. My ego took a hit that day. And I felt shame. And I loved her for it.
The truth is, it is expensive to get really good editing. There are tools today that will greatly help you; such as ProWritingAid and Grammarly. They improve your style, grammar, highlight overused words, score your readability, expose clichés, and variety of other fantastic tools. I use ProWritingAid and bought a lifetime premium licence. Even better for me, ProWritingAid works seamlessly with Scrivener 3. I can load my *.scriv file directly into ProWritingAid, make changes, save it, and open the book in Scrivener and all is well. Both ProWritingAid and Grammarly will embed within Microsoft Word, so there is that if you use Word to write (shudder).
What these tools don’t do is make your novel sing. They won’t point out plot holes and character flaws, and how that sentence doesn’t help your story, or how you keep telling the reader what they are seeing rather than showing them. The tools are great but they are not a replacement for humans who specialise in editing.
What can an editor do for you? Easy answer: their job is to make your story better. They provide clarity, a better enjoyment for the reader, clear up logic, flow, sentence structure, character development, and a variety of other issues. They also correct typos, but this is a minuscule service compared to the polish they apply. It’s the difference between wiping down a kitchen counter and having someone reorganise your kitchen, put in new cupboards, replace worn out appliances, and disinfect the whole thing. Get it?
You need to understand their services and what they provide:
- critique: get an expert opinion on your novel’s prospects with advice on how to improve it
- proofread: to read and mark corrections
- edit: to prepare for publication
A critique is valuable in allowing you to determine just how much work you are looking to pay for. It tells you what works and doesn’t work. They’ll tell you what state your novel is in and should provide an estimate for the amount of editing required. I don’t value this services very much. I prefer tools and beta readers to get my novel to a final draft state.
Proofreading is not as difficult as editing and therefore can be a cheaper service, but it still performs a vital role. Proofreading will only correct grammatical, spelling, punctuation and other language mistakes. If you go this route, take the time to finalise your manuscript first. Don’t give them a first or second draft. You will piss them off. I proof tons of stuff at work. Being an author means my co-workers think I have some special powers or something. So I get everything. I can immediately tell when someone hands me something they wrote sitting on the toilet. I give it back and say “nice try”.
BETA READER POWER
Use the tools I mentioned above to get your novel as close to a final product as possible. Then send it out to your beta readers (yes, you need beta readers!). They are fantastic as another set of eyes who can find the typos you no longer can see because you are too close to the work. They will also advise on areas they don’t like (or really like!) in your novel. Do yourself a favour: if a beta reader says they don’t like something, listen to them. No one likes it when they say your baby looks ugly in those clothes. Don’t argue. They might be right and probably are. Sometimes they are wrong, but usually only because they don’t have the whole plot of your series in mind (like you do).
Don’t use family as beta readers. They will blow well-meaning sunshine up your nether regions. You need constructive criticism. Only the power of a stranger who doesn’t care for your feelings will deliver this. Some beta readers take immense pleasure in ripping your novel apart. Gaea bless them! They are wonderful.
NOW THE EDITOR
It is possible that you have managed to get your novel into a perfect state. Typos are gone. Plot holes are filled. Characters are rich and vibrant. Congratulations. You might still want a proofreader. You will need to judge that. If you didn’t have beta readers, you might want to pause here and consider the value of hiring a proofreader. Once you decide, and either use a proofreader or not, you need an editor. Resist the urge to plop your novel on Amazon and expect instant recognition. The first typo or bullshit plot line your reader encounters WILL result in a negative review. You need to avoid that. Indie authors live and die based on reviews.
Depending on your financial state, it might limit your options. You could try fiverr.com or freelancer.com for inexpensive editors. You can try some start-up publishing houses or even find an English major holding a diploma with the ink still wet on it. Your call. But please try the internet and research editors. Also, go to indie author Facebook sites that specialise in this area and ask for guidance and recommendations. One thing I learned right away as an indie author is that other indie authors are the best people in the world I have met so far. They will gladly help. Don’t be afraid to ask.
As said already, costs will vary. I would suggest a $200 editing job for a 100K word manuscript is a risk. Most editors will charge per word. Usually around $0.025 per word (or 2.5 cents per word). Yup. Around $2500 CAD. You should expect unlimited revisions with that. You are paying for a final product that is polished. There are middle ground editors. There are maybe friends who say they can edit. Be careful of said friends. There is a world of difference between a friend who think they can write really well (just like you, actually) and someone with years in the industry getting novels ready for publication. Using my previous kitchen analogy, it’s the difference between knowing that friend who can replace your dishwasher and the hired professional who completely renovates your kitchen to a modern world standard. You can hire a cheap contractor, or go all out. Your manuscript is your baby. You decide its future.