The PSAs have been saying: if you want to be an amateur writer, self-publish; if you want to go pro, get an editor — a good editor.
Writer Unboxed recently posted on thebenefits of a good editor from a writer’s point of view. And that was the kindly worded version. Melissa Foster and Amy Edelman at IndieReader.com and later the Huffington Post were not nearly so kind in their wording as they pointed out the four main reasons whyno one wants to take “indie authors” seriously.
The biggest offenders: egregious editing and hideous covers — both of which can be fixed when a writer works with a decent editor and publishing company. And neither is particularly earth-shattering. Writers, readers, and bloggers have been saying the same thing for some time now.
Foster and Edelman quote Gary Henry, @LiteraryGary and writer of Honest Indie Reviews, as saying,
“I look at indie books the same way I look at amateur athletics. It’s about fun. As long as they’re free or 99 cents, all they need to cover for editing are the basic mechanics of spelling, grammar and punctuation. Indie writers who want to charge more — turn pro essentially — owe their readers a more highly edited story — one that’s edited professionally for style, as well as mechanics.”
Maybe it’s time to go pro.
Time to sign on with an editor, publicist, and art department who won’t let you get away with shoddy, occasionally confusing prose, or suspect online authorial practices, or — heaven forbid — nasty cover art.
You can buy these services á la cart from sundry businesses. Paying out of pocket to contract editors, publicists and artists who may or may not be reputable. Have you ever gone to small claims court? Trust me, not fun. Or you can sign on with a publishing company.
I hear ya: the whole reason for going the indie route was to avoid traditional publishing companies and the enormous amount of time they take to publish a book.
But what if it’s not a traditional publishing house?
Non-tradtional publishers such as World Weaver Press provide editorial, artistic and publicity services to writers without the writer having to pay anything out of pocket. A reputable publisher will take a percentage of sales, never charge an upfront fee.
I once met a writer who didn’t understand how the editing process could take anyonemonths. Or even weeks. She claimed to have fairly good grammar and thought that a few passes should find most of the typos. My news for her was that that wasn’t editing. (And given the quote above, I’d say Gary Henry agrees.)
Finding typos and fixing grammar mistakes as well as misused words is what we more often call proofreading or (when done by a professional) copyediting.
The true acts of substantive editing don’t have to do as much with improving the sentence mechanics as improving the storytelling.
Is your storytelling voice consistent? Is the style clear? How can we tighten the plot, the individual scenes? Is the character motivation working, can it be strengthened? Does the setting need more detail and description? Does the backstory need to be cut or amplified?The editor’s job is to eradicate any and all confusion that the reader might encounter and to improve the story so that the reader has the best reading experience possible.
Sure, you might find an editor at a publishing house that’s not as “hands on” as this, but not at World Weaver Press. We are definitely “hands on” until we feel the story has reached its fullest potential.
When you buy an editor, whether paying him or her per page, per hour, or per project, you’re likely getting copyediting services. The editor has no real investment in you or your story except for getting the project done and the paycheck cashed. And you can’t blame those people; not only do they have to eat just like everyone else, but most of their clients are corporations looking to have clean copy in their brochures and manuals.
When you sign a publishing contract with World Weaver Press (and here we’re being specific because we most certainly cannot speak for other publishing houses whether they be traditional or non-traditional), you sign on with a team. A team dedicated to polishing the manuscript and presenting for sale the best possible story in the most attractive packaging. And we don’t get paid until the writer does — it might seem cliché, but it’s the truth. We work as a team and collect profits as a team. Together, we’re pro.
Edited to add 6/5/12: Related article with statistics about what makes (or keeps) self-published books from earning suggests you need professional help with covers, editing, etc. “Self Publishing Statistics: Who Are the Top Earners?“