This Page

has moved to a new address:


Sorry for the inconvenience…

Redirection provided by Blogger to WordPress Migration Service
----------------------------------------------------- Blogger Template Style Sheet Name: Scribe Designer: Todd Dominey URL: domineydesign.com / whatdoiknow.org Date: 27 Feb 2004 ------------------------------------------------------ */ /* Defaults ----------------------------------------------- */ body { margin:0; padding:0; font-family: Georgia, Times, Times New Roman, sans-serif; font-size: small; text-align:center; color:#29303B; line-height:1.3; background:#483521 url("http://www.blogblog.com/scribe/bg.gif") repeat; } blockquote { font-style:italic; padding:0 32px; line-height:1.6; margin:0 0 .6em 0; } p {margin:0;padding:0}; abbr, acronym { cursor:help; font-style:normal; } code {font:12px monospace;white-space:normal;color:#666;} hr {display:none;} img {border:0;} /* Link styles */ a:link {color:#473624;text-decoration:underline;} a:visited {color:#716E6C;text-decoration:underline;} a:hover {color:#956839;text-decoration:underline;} a:active {color:#956839;} /* Layout ----------------------------------------------- */ @media all { #wrap { background-color:#473624; border-left:1px solid #332A24; border-right:1px solid #332A24; width:700px; margin:0 auto; padding:8px; text-align:center; } #main-top { width:700px; height:49px; background:#FFF3DB url("http://www.blogblog.com/scribe/bg_paper_top.jpg") no-repeat top left; margin:0;padding:0; display:block; } #main-bot { width:700px; height:81px; background:#FFF3DB url("http://www.blogblog.com/scribe/bg_paper_bot.jpg") no-repeat top left; margin:0; padding:0; display:block; } #main-content { width:700px; background:#FFF3DB url("http://www.blogblog.com/scribe/bg_paper_mid.jpg") repeat-y; margin:0; text-align:left; display:block; } } @media handheld { #wrap { width:90%; } #main-top { width:100%; background:#FFF3DB; } #main-bot { width:100%; background:#FFF3DB; } #main-content { width:100%; background:#FFF3DB; } } #inner-wrap { padding:0 50px; } #blog-header { margin-bottom:12px; } #blog-header h1 { margin:0; padding:0 0 6px 0; font-size:225%; font-weight:normal; color:#612E00; } #blog-header h1 a:link { text-decoration:none; } #blog-header h1 a:visited { text-decoration:none; } #blog-header h1 a:hover { border:0; text-decoration:none; } #blog-header p { margin:0; padding:0; font-style:italic; font-size:94%; line-height:1.5em; } div.clearer { clear:left; line-height:0; height:10px; margin-bottom:12px; _margin-top:-4px; /* IE Windows target */ background:url("http://www.blogblog.com/scribe/divider.gif") no-repeat bottom left; } @media all { #main { width:430px; float:right; padding:8px 0; margin:0; } #sidebar { width:150px; float:left; padding:8px 0; margin:0; } } @media handheld { #main { width:100%; float:none; } #sidebar { width:100%; float:none; } } #footer { clear:both; background:url("http://www.blogblog.com/scribe/divider.gif") no-repeat top left; padding-top:10px; _padding-top:6px; /* IE Windows target */ } #footer p { line-height:1.5em; font-family:Verdana, sans-serif; font-size:75%; } /* Typography :: Main entry ----------------------------------------------- */ h2.date-header { font-weight:normal; text-transform:uppercase; letter-spacing:.1em; font-size:90%; margin:0; padding:0; } .post { margin:8px 0 24px 0; line-height:1.5em; } h3.post-title { font-weight:normal; font-size:140%; color:#1B0431; margin:0; padding:0; } .post-body p { margin:0 0 .6em 0; } .post-footer { font-family:Verdana, sans-serif; color:#211104; font-size:74%; border-top:1px solid #BFB186; padding-top:6px; } .post ul { margin:0; padding:0; } .post li { line-height:1.5em; list-style:none; background:url("http://www.blogblog.com/scribe/list_icon.gif") no-repeat 0px .3em; vertical-align:top; padding: 0 0 .6em 17px; margin:0; } /* Typography :: Sidebar ----------------------------------------------- */ h2.sidebar-title { font-weight:normal; font-size:120%; margin:0; padding:0; color:#211104; } h2.sidebar-title img { margin-bottom:-4px; } #sidebar ul { font-family:Verdana, sans-serif; font-size:86%; margin:6px 0 12px 0; padding:0; } #sidebar ul li { list-style: none; padding-bottom:6px; margin:0; } #sidebar p { font-family:Verdana,sans-serif; font-size:86%; margin:0 0 .6em 0; } /* Comments ----------------------------------------------- */ #comments {} #comments h4 { font-weight:normal; font-size:120%; color:#29303B; margin:0; padding:0; } #comments-block { line-height:1.5em; } .comment-poster { background:url("http://www.blogblog.com/scribe/list_icon.gif") no-repeat 2px .35em; margin:.5em 0 0; padding:0 0 0 20px; font-weight:bold; } .comment-body { margin:0; padding:0 0 0 20px; } .comment-body p { font-size:100%; margin:0 0 .2em 0; } .comment-timestamp { font-family:Verdana, sans-serif; color:#29303B; font-size:74%; margin:0 0 10px; padding:0 0 .75em 20px; } .comment-timestamp a:link { color:#473624; text-decoration:underline; } .comment-timestamp a:visited { color:#716E6C; text-decoration:underline; } .comment-timestamp a:hover { color:#956839; text-decoration:underline; } .comment-timestamp a:active { color:#956839; text-decoration:none; } .deleted-comment { font-style:italic; color:gray; } .paging-control-container { float: right; margin: 0px 6px 0px 0px; font-size: 80%; } .unneeded-paging-control { visibility: hidden; } /* Profile ----------------------------------------------- */ #profile-container { margin-top:12px; padding-top:12px; height:auto; background:url("http://www.blogblog.com/scribe/divider.gif") no-repeat top left; } .profile-datablock { margin:0 0 4px 0; } .profile-data { display:inline; margin:0; padding:0 8px 0 0; text-transform:uppercase; letter-spacing:.1em; font-size:90%; color:#211104; } .profile-img {display:inline;} .profile-img img { float:left; margin:0 8px 0 0; border:1px solid #A2907D; padding:2px; } .profile-textblock { font-family:Verdana, sans-serif;font-size:86%;margin:0;padding:0; } .profile-link { margin-top:5px; font-family:Verdana,sans-serif; font-size:86%; } /* Post photos ----------------------------------------------- */ img.post-photo { border:1px solid #A2907D; padding:4px; } /* Feeds ----------------------------------------------- */ #blogfeeds { } #postfeeds { padding:0 0 12px 20px; }

Anne R. Allen's Blog


My Photo

Anne writes funny mysteries and how-to-books for writers. She also writes poetry and short stories on occasion. Oh, yes, and she blogs. She's a contributor to Writer's Digest and the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market for 2016. 

Her bestselling Camilla Randall Mystery Series features perennially down-on-her-luck former socialite Camilla Randall—who is a magnet for murder, mayhem and Mr. Wrong, but always solves the mystery in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way.

Anne lives on the Central Coast of California, near San Luis Obispo, the town Oprah called "The Happiest City in America."

Anne blogs at Anne R. Allen's Blog...with Ruth Harris 
and at Anne R. Allen's Books

Sunday, March 18, 2012

When Should an Author Hire an Editor? How to Avoid Scams

First: This week marks the anniversary of that fateful day three years ago when I started this blog...and then promptly lost it. But luckily I found it about four months later, and this blog now gets an average of 12,000 hits a month on its four monthly posts (Slow Blogging rules!) and I have a blog partner, Ruth Harris, who is one of my favorite best-selling authors--someone I'd never have dreamed of meeting three years ago. Plus this blog got the attention of my two publishers, Popcorn Press and MWiDP. Without blogging, I'm sure my five novels would still be languishing in query hell. 

So in honor of this blogiversary, I'm giving away A FREE EBOOK to one lucky commenter--your choice. You can read descriptions of all the books on my book page. Just put your title of choice in the comment thread. All the books are available for Kindle and should all be available for Nook by the end of the week. The winner will be chosen by random.org and announced in next week's post.

Hiring an Editor: When, Who, and How to Avoid Scams

As I said in my last post: Learning to write books is hard. Earning money from books is even harder.

 So questions keep coming up:

  • How much money should you put into polishing a novel?
  • How much can you reasonably expect to recoup?
  • Should you hire an editor if you hope to get traditionally published?
  • When should you hire an editor if you plan to self-publish?
Self publishing has been a great boon to freelance book editors. But an awful lot of writers aren’t totally clear about their function. 

When I was doing freelance editing, I was amazed by the people who came to me with over-inflated ideas of what an editor can do. They’d arrive with collections of raw taped interviews, notebooks full of verses and random jottings, or old letters they wanted me to make into a salable book.

There are people who do these things. They’re called ghostwriters. They’re going to cost a lot of money. And unless you’re Justin Bieber, you’ll never make back the money you put into them.

(That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t publish them for yourself. Sometimes a personal or family history can be a fantastic gift to your children and grandchildren—for more see my post on writing memoir.) 

The term “editor” has several meanings in the book business. The “in-house” editors at publishing companies—the ones who decide what manuscripts to publish—don’t do a lot of literal “editing” these days. According to agent Jenny Bent, the amount of hands-on work they do, “varies wildly from editor to editor…because many editors simply don't have the time or desire to actually edit.” You’ll probably get more editing from some smaller and midsized presses than you will from the Big Six. But there, too things vary wildly from one editor to the next. I’m lucky to have had great editors at all three small presses who have published me.

But no matter what the size of the publishing house, by the time a manuscript lands on an editor’s desk, it needs to be pretty close to print-ready. Agents can help you polish, but they don’t have much time for nitty-gritty text-honing either, so most won’t look at manuscripts that aren’t carefully proofed and edited.

The truth is, the majority of professional writers learn to edit themselves, with the help of a beta reader or two.

Too many newbies hire editors when what they really need is a few basic writing classes and some knowledge of the industry.

I’ve seen some great posts in the blogosphere this week about how a lot of new writers are getting caught up in premature marketing frenzies and fail to learn basic craft. It’s not their fault. Some very successful self-publishers are telling writers “every day your book isn’t for sale you’re losing money.” This true for established authors with an out of print backlist, but it’s very bad advice for a fledgling writer who’s just finished a first novel.  

YA author Natalie Whipple wrote an amazingly candid blogpost a couple of weeks ago about what she wishes she’d done differently in her career. Here’s #4 “I wish I'd spent more time studying the craft. I used to think my natural talent would get me through the gate. I would write stories without much thought to if the plot worked or not, if the characters were real or not, if the world made sense or not. I feel like I squandered my talent for a long time because I relied solely on talent instead of pushing myself to get better."

And Kristen Lamb has been hammering us this week about the importance of honing writing skills before we publish. “We aren’t born knowing three-act structure or how to layer complex characters or how to infuse theme and symbol into a work spanning 60-100,000 words. All of that is learned through struggle.” (Yes. Struggle. She didn’t say “hiring somebody to do the hard work for us.”)      

Agents have been saying the same thing for years: The number one mistake new writers make is trying to publish too early. With the self-publishing revolution, the problem has become much worse.

No amount of editing can fix a book that is seriously flawed or amateurish. I see many self-published writers who blame bad reviews on a hired editor. But I wonder how many are expecting their editors to work miracles with a flawed manuscript.

Of course, if price is no object, you can hire an editor to be your personal writing teacher. Some editors offer “writing coaching” services.

But most professional writers didn’t start out wealthy, so they learned their craft through workshops, extensive reading, critique groups, and years of trial and error.

The people who benefit most from a freelance editor’s work are:

  • Self-publishers. If you’re not working with a publisher, you do need to hire an independent editor before uploading your book. Most writers are blind to typos and our own pet crutches and quirks. 
  • Experts whose primary field is not the written word. This includes self-help books by psychologists or medical professionals, specialty cookbooks, local history, etc.
  • Memoirists who have a unique, marketable tale to tell, but are not planning a career in writing.
  • Writers who have been requested by an interested agent or publisher to give the book a polish. Many agents will ask a writer to hire an independent editor at this stage. (Just don’t hire one owned by the agency, because that can be a major conflict of interest.)
  • Novelists who have polished their work in workshops and critique groups, but after many rejections, can’t pinpoint what is keeping them in the slush pile.
If you decide to hire an editor, do some research and be clear in your goals. You don’t want just any out-of-work English major. If the editor doesn’t have a good knowledge of the publishing industry, your money will be wasted. I’ve seen “professionally edited” manuscripts that are ridiculously long or too short to be considered by a contemporary publisher, or contain song lyrics (prohibitively expensive) or copyrighted characters. You want an editor who knows the business. Preferably somebody who knows what’s selling now and how to write for today’s marketplace.

The best way to find a good editor is by referral from satisfied clients. A lot of self-published authors will sing the praises of their editors, so visit their blogs. Or ask a favorite indie author for a recommendation. The standard pay scale for editorial services is posted by the Editorial and Freelancers Association. Plan to spend from five hundred to several thousand dollars for a book-length manuscript. 

There are also a lot of scammers out there, who just run your book through spellcheck or give you bogus advice. Check Writer Beware for in-depth advice and a list of some hair-raising editing scamsThe Edit Ink scam of the late ’90s bilked thousands. Here are some warning signs: 
  • Extravagant praise and promises. Anybody who guarantees you a place on the best-seller list is either crooked or delusional.
  • Claims that all publishers require a professionally edited ms. Not true. It’s also not true that an edit will get you a read. In fact, do not say in a query that your work has been “professionally edited.” Agents don’t care who you’ve hired. They care how well YOU can write.
  • An agent or publisher who recommends their own editing services or gives a specific referral. As I said above: beware conflicts of interest. Edit Ink scammed writers by giving agents kickbacks for referrals and even setting up fake agencies to tell all queriers they’d get representation if they used Edit Ink’s expensive, useless services.
  • One-size-fits-all. You need somebody who’s familiar with your genre. I can’t picture sex with elves without laughing, and torture scenes make me retch. You do NOT want my help with your paranormal erotica or horror novel. Conventions that are required in one genre, like romance, can be poison in something literary or action-oriented.
  • Direct solicitation. Scam editors purchase mailing lists from writing magazine subscriber lists. Beware.
  • Sales pressure. “Limited time offers” are rarely good deals.
  • No client list on their website. You should be able to get a list of clients and a sample of the editor’s work. Some editors often will offer a sample edit of a few pages before any money changes hands.
There are many kinds of edits, priced differently, so be aware of what you need.
  • Manuscript evaluation: A broad overall assessment of the book.
  • Content editing: Help with structure and style.
  • Line editing: Reworking text at the sentence level.
  • Copy editing: Attention to grammar, spelling, punctuation and continuity.
  • Proofreading: Checking for typos and other minor problems.
A good editor can make the difference between a successful book and a dud. Just choose your editor carefully and wait until you have a marketable project.

And most of all, don’t hire an editor too soon. Editing is polishing, not re-writing. First you have to put in those 10,000 hours that Malcolm Gladwell says are necessary to learn a craft. That’s a lot of hours. Go write.

What about you, scriveners? Have you used a freelance editor? What kind of experience did you have? Have you ever been scammed by a bogus editor?

Labels: , , , , , , , ,


Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Anne, all excellent points that will be very helpful. I've been a writer for a long time, an editor for even longer, and here are a few things I've discovered along the way:

1) There is no right or wrong & the writer is ALWAYS the boss. Sometimes negotiation is necessary and even desirable to come up with best solution, usually IME when a plot point or character issue is involved. At other times, a decision must be made and it's the writer's job to make it.

2) Editing is essentially a matter of taste. Some editors get elbow-deep into a ms; others prefer to let the writer's style/intention rule and will edit with a light touch. Be sure to decide which style you're looking for before you hire an editor, ie if your style is jeans & Tee's, you don't want an editor who's all about lace & ribbons.

3) Free lance editors will often a brief edit w/o charge as a trial to see if ed & writer are "on the same page"--literally & metaphorically. Be sure to ask and be wary of the editor who refuses.

4) Editors aren't (& shouldn't be) dictators. It takes a lot of self-confidence for both the writer & the editor to work together well. If you feel you are being bullied, grow a spine or run like hell!

5) Remember that "the book is the boss" and avoid an editor with a cookie cutter approach. Every book will present different problems leading to different solutions—it's the nature of creativity—so make sure you & your editor are working in the service of the book, not of anyone's ego or formula.

March 18, 2012 at 10:34 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Ruth--This is incredibly valuable advice. I should have asked for your input in the body of the post. I hope everybody will read this. It's so true--"cookie cutter" editing can destroy a book. Asking for a sample edit is a very good idea. I think most good editors will do that. Thanks for adding these super-important points!

March 18, 2012 at 10:42 AM  
Blogger christine A said...

It continues to amaze me how I overlook my own typos. I had a chapter of my new novel read by a small group of fellow writers and they ALL saw that I typed "heals" when I meant "heels". If I had been reading their manuscript and they made that mistake I would have seen it. Amazing. And kind of scary! I most assuredly need editing if for no other reason than to see what my writer eye is blind to. Thanks again for the good advice!

March 18, 2012 at 10:43 AM  
Blogger Donna Hole said...

Great advice from both Ruth and Anne. I got scammed by a literary agency back when I first finished my women's fiction novel. I did have to grow a spine to walk away.

But following awesome bloggers Like Anne and legit industry professionals taught me most of what I know about submitting to agents and publishers. And I've gained some valuable critique partners, which saved me bundles cuz I don't have to hire an editor.

Again though, whenever I've thought about it, I have gained valuable resources and recommendations from the blogs.

Thanks for sharing your tips Anne.

Oh, and I haven't picked up the Gatsby book yet, so I'd love to win it :)


March 18, 2012 at 10:48 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Mark Williams--who happens to be one of my editors--has left a comment which got blocked by Blogger's spam elves, who seem to think anything from Africa is suspect. Here's what he said:

Great post, Anne. As a writer, editor and publisher I can wholeheartedly endorse the sentiments here.

All books need good editors, and unless you’re a professional in the field yourself then you’re probably not the best person to edit your own work. And even if you are, it’s not necessarily the best option.

But beware paying for services too early, as Anne says. Use bêta readers and critique groups to iron out as many wrinkles as possible. And beware paying at all for an editor who doesn’t know your genre, has no references or past books to their credit, or has no professional experience.

English teachers and librarians are NOT the right people to edit your book! Nor are English majors who can argue in nauseating detail the pros and cons of the Oxford comma but have no idea how to construct a story, let alone what might be commercially acceptable as a book in today’s market.

As Ruth says above, YOU are the boss. The exception being if you have a publishing contract, where the in-house editor can demand changes you might not like, but will have few options over.

--Mark Williams

March 18, 2012 at 10:50 AM  
Blogger fOIS In The City said...

Thank you, Anne. I appreciate both your comments and of course, the sage Ruth Harris. I've heard stories from those in my local writer's group and those of my on-line group that mirror what you have outlined. There is nothing to add to your great advice.

What I take from this and what I believe is the most important point I hope other people take from this is WHAT'S THE RUSH?? I know it's not WAR AND PEACE ...but it should be the best and most thoughtful work you can do.

Two years ago, I read a great interview with Tess Gerritsen, the NYTBS of forensic thrillers. I keep her answer to one question with me always as I work: The intervier asked, "When do you know your book is ready?"

Her answer, "When I finish the eleventh draft I feel like I'm almost there."

With that, and Stephan King's advice to find HONEST readers, I have learned to enjoy the process and relax :)

March 18, 2012 at 10:52 AM  
Blogger Ranae Rose said...

Good post, Anne. :) I've never been scammed by an editor (fortunately!). But the subject does remind me of a time when I submitted a book to a small press (which I'd never worked with before). The editor that responded, requesting revisions, was...well, a little crazy. Or at least, her requests were absurd. Needless to say, I went with another publisher instead (where I was assigned a good editor). When I look back, I can't help but think what a dismal failure of a book it would have been if I'd gone with that first publisher and complied with that editor's vision for my story. Just goes to show that a good editor matters, and all editors aren't necessarily appropriate for your work.

As for the contest, if I win (fingers crossed ;), my title of choice would be 'Ghost Writers in the Sky'.

March 18, 2012 at 11:25 AM  
Blogger Anna Soliveres said...

Anne, there were many things I loved about this post. First, congrats on your blog anniversary! It has given me hope that my efforts in blogging are worthwhile. Onto the part about hiring an editor, I decided after completing my novel, getting extensive feedback and critique along the entire way from my writer's group, and spending countless hours studying and putting into practice everything I had learned, that I was ready to take a leap of faith and find an editor.

I am so happy with the editor I went with, Susan Malone, who I felt met all my expectations. I am waiting for my final draft and hope to sell my novel this year.

Thank you for the awesome advice and encouraging post!

Anna Soliveres

March 18, 2012 at 11:25 AM  
Anonymous www.judysalamacha.com said...

Thanks for the post...the edit process is amazing...one could revise forever, but each pass it content is not destroyed it gets better and better...11th??? I'm on the 29th I think!

Sherwood, Ltd. would be a fun read...meant to get it but behind in my reading since I'm pumping the writing. Judy Salamacha

March 18, 2012 at 11:32 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Christine—Isn’t it amazing how eagle-eyed you can be with somebody else’s ms. And blind to your own? I leave out articles and other small words and never see the fact they’re missing.

Donna—It’s so great to hear that our blog has helped you. And sorry to hear you got scammed. You’re not alone. There are so many scammers out there. Luckily, the publishing blogosphere is helping educate a lot more new writers to the dangers.

Mark—You’re so right that you need publishing professionals, not just grammarians. Someone who’s versed in the classics can steer you very wrong as to length and how much description is acceptable. What a contemporary reader wants is very different from what Dickens' or George Elliot’s readers wanted.

Florence—Great quote from Tess Gerritson. I think publishing gurus who advise writers to get in print as soon as possible are causing a lot of harm.

Ranae—How awful to have to deal with a nut-job editor. Glad to hear you stood your ground. Although I know it can be hard to walk away. I had some similar crazy requests from an agent once—a request to dumb down the book and take out everything that made it interesting or unique.

Anna—Thanks a bunch. So glad you found a good editor, and thanks for the recommendation!

Judy—29 edits sounds about like my average. I used to re-do a book every time I got a rejection. I finally had to learn to stand up for my own muse.

March 18, 2012 at 11:53 AM  
Blogger Charley Robson said...

Thanks so much for this post Anne! I ran into my first phony publisher a few months ago (I ratted them out ot the mods of the site they were lurking on - I knew what to look for, but she'd been trying to hook some younger authors, and THAT got my goat).

The book my co-writer and I are working on right now, due to be published later this year, is going to be a self-edited affair we think - two of the four writers are publishers in their own right, you know Mark Williams and Saffi I presume? Yeah, them. We're going to edit it all together and then publish it, to save cash and time, we think. Especially as Mim and i are first timers and want to be shown the ropes. It being an indie enterprise makes that a lot easier, haha!

That doesn't mean to say I'm not thinking of finding an editor for works I go to get published later, because I can totally see why they'd be fantastic, and your points are so helpful when it comes to knowing what to look for! Thanks again! :D

March 18, 2012 at 12:11 PM  
Blogger Charley Robson said...

Thanks so much for this post Anne! I ran into my first phony publisher a few months ago (I ratted them out ot the mods of the site they were lurking on - I knew what to look for, but she'd been trying to hook some younger authors, and THAT got my goat).

The book my co-writer and I are working on right now, due to be published later this year, is going to be a self-edited affair we think - two of the four writers are publishers in their own right, you know Mark Williams and Saffi I presume? Yeah, them. We're going to edit it all together and then publish it, to save cash and time, we think. Especially as Mim and i are first timers and want to be shown the ropes. It being an indie enterprise makes that a lot easier, haha!

That doesn't mean to say I'm not thinking of finding an editor for works I go to get published later, because I can totally see why they'd be fantastic, and your points are so helpful when it comes to knowing what to look for! Thanks again! :D

March 18, 2012 at 12:11 PM  
Blogger Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Elf sex would make me laugh!
My small publisher prefers work that has already been through at least a line editor, but they have their own staff editor as well. I still use my test readers and critique partners before sending anything though.

March 18, 2012 at 12:15 PM  
Blogger Vera Soroka said...

This is a timely post as I've been thinking about editors and I started to look up what was in my own back yard. I did find some but I am not ready for that stage yet. I have to revise on my own first and I think I will be busy in that department.

March 18, 2012 at 3:30 PM  
Anonymous Phyllis Humphrey said...

If I'm picked I'd .like GHOST WRITERS. My backlist is composed of novels that were edited by the publisher, and just reading them taught me a lot. But my critique group has three newbies and they often reject my suggestions, saying, "I'm going to self-publish anyway so it doesn't matter." What can one do?

March 18, 2012 at 5:38 PM  
Blogger Ann Best said...

To both of you "ladies": fantastic post. You do have to learn the craft. It has taken me over 60 years. I look at my "older" stuff and just smile. But I kept writing. Got an MFA in creative writing: went to workshops, conferences. Kept writing, writing, writing, reading, reading, reading. The reading is VERY important, as I would tell my freshman English students. There's no shortcuts if you want to be a successful author.

Anne: I've bought several of your books and will buy more when I can -- and will read them! So don't put me in the random drawing.

(I lost a blog way back when I first started; rather it go damaged and I couldn't figure out how to fix it!! We've come a long way....!!!!)
Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror & Other Memoirs

March 18, 2012 at 6:17 PM  
Blogger Lee Lopez said...

I use beta readers. I have five. They do a fabulous job of spotting the problems. I compare what they've said, if it all jives, most likely they're right and I need to make the changes.
I used a editor once, demanded by writing partners in a anthology. I regretted it, as soon as I read his draft of work. He edited out my voice completely, and changed so much of my heroines personality it didn't sound like the same book. And I was told he didn't cost that much, he cost me a bundle.

March 18, 2012 at 8:00 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Charley—I’ve never had a co-author until now, but editing each other probably works pretty well, especially when one's a professional editor.

Alex—Yeah, elves and trolls don’t say hot sex to me either, but I think I must be weird.

Vera—Very wise to wait until you’re ready for that final polish.

Phyllis—Ooooh doesn’t that just make your blood boil? That’s why self-publishers get a bad name.

Ann—I think you said it all: there are no shortcuts. I feel the same way about my old writing. It stays in the drawer!

Lee—What a nightmare. That’s when Ruth’s advice is so important. Even if somebody is a great editor for somebody, she may not be a great editor for everybody. A cookie-cutter editor who erases your voice and tries to turn you into somebody else is worse than no editor at all

March 18, 2012 at 10:02 PM  
Blogger Cathryn Leigh said...

Thanks fro such a wonderful post! :}
(I'll go for Sherwood Ltd, since it sounded awesome from your interview with Catherine R. Hyde and I already have Food of Love and The Gatsby Game.)

Hm.. yes I do think that your advice has solidified my resolve. I'm going to go take some writing classes. I think I've been pushing myself too much to get my Trilogy out there. I can tell because I"m dragging my feet to work on editing the first book.

I'm totally going to be looking for an editor when I get to the point I want it. I know it might be expensive, but I'd love a manuscript evaluation and content edit. but I have a nice paying day job and I'm saving my money for just that sort of thing.

Still it's hard to wait sometimes. But I will do it!

:} Cathryn / Elorithryn

March 19, 2012 at 6:20 AM  
Blogger Sarah Pearson said...

Happy blog anniversary to you :-)

Thank you for this post. It, and the comments left by others, are so valuable to people like me. I'm on the first step and, as you can imagine, gobbling up information and advice like mad! In an ideal world I'd hire an editor at the time I thought my work was ready to be submitted. When you think you've fixed it all is the perfect time for someone to show you what you've missed!

If I win your contest I'd love to read Food of Love, since it seems to be based on something very near to my heart :-)

March 19, 2012 at 9:16 AM  
Blogger Meghan Ward said...

Anne, this is great advice. I'll tweet this. As a freelance editor and someone who has hired freelance editors, I would remind writers to be sure they know what type of editing you need. If you JUST finished your book, what you really need is some good critique partners to sit down and read your whole manuscript, but if you decide to hire an editor, have them do developmental editing only. It doesn't make sense to pay someone to copyedit a book that likely still needs a lot of revision. I'll elaborate on this in my post tomorrow.

March 19, 2012 at 9:36 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Cathryn--I'm glad I'm helping you make the decision to get your craft to its very best level before you hit the marketplace. I'm glad you enjoyed the interview with Catherine. She does wonderfully in-depth interviews.

Sarah--Thanks :-) I'm glad you're taking it slow. Patience is one of the most important things for a writer to learn.

Meghan--I'm so glad you're going to be addressing this'! This was one of the most frustrating things about editing for me. I hated taking money to proofread or line edit an unpublishable manuscript. I really look forward to your post.

March 19, 2012 at 10:18 AM  
Anonymous Martha Reynolds said...

Anne, I'm not entering the contest, because I lucked out recently, winning the fabulous Ruth Harris's (Harris'? I'm never sure!) book DECADES.
Thanks for an excellent (and to Ruth as well for her comments). I think I'm on the right track, and have found an established, published editor who is reasonable, recommended, and will fix my ms so it's ready.

March 19, 2012 at 11:53 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Martha--Congrats on winning Ruth's wonderful DECADES in our last contest. Glad to hear you've found a good editor who is compatible and "gets" your work. Getting that final polish can make the difference between a good book and a great one.

March 20, 2012 at 9:33 AM  
Anonymous Sue McGinty said...

After my experience with "Murder at Cuyamaca Beach," I'll never again send a manuscript to a publisher of any stripe without it being thoroughly copy edited. Writing groups like SLO NightWriters and Sisters in Crime can be a good source of copyeditors who don't charge like the pros.

"The Gatsby Game" for me.

March 20, 2012 at 9:41 AM  
OpenID ninabadzin.com said...

Such a helpful post as usual, Anne!

March 20, 2012 at 10:37 AM  
OpenID ninabadzin.com said...

Such a helpful post as usual, Anne!

March 20, 2012 at 10:37 AM  
Blogger Veronika Walker said...

Great stuff, Anne! I tried to make sure I did my research when I was first setting up my editing business, and I'm constantly looking for ways to hone it and make sure I'm offering the best services for the best rates.

I think authors should definitely be honing their craft as much as they can on their own before even thinking about hiring an editor. I've had several interested parties who want a critique of their work...and it's all I can do not to tell them to quit now. I'm not a miracle worker; you can't expect to write a first or second draft and then send it to an editor...we're here to help you get better, not rewrite you into a bestseller!

Great advice as always!

March 20, 2012 at 12:21 PM  
Blogger Lauri Meyers said...

My first visit to your blog. I found the piece very helpful and informative. Thank you!

March 20, 2012 at 12:37 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Sue--I think exchanging proofing and copy editing duties with another author is a great way to go. Win/win. As long as you're at equal skill levels, it saves a lot of money. Doesn't work if your book needs major editing, but great for proofing and copy edits.


Veronika--I feel your pain. That was my experience all too often. "Here's a first draft: make it a bestseller," is not the way to approach an editor.

Lauri--Welcome. I hope you'll be back often. Next week Ruth is going to be posting on some great ways to jumpstart a stalled novel.

March 20, 2012 at 1:43 PM  
Blogger Kathryn Craft said...

A lot of great points here! Like Veronika, I am a developmental editor and would like to address the title question: When should you hire an editor?

• When you have taken the project as far as you can possibly go with the feedback of your critique partners, and you still feel unsure if it's ready.

• When one of those partners says your inciting incident doesn't align with your dark moment, climax, and/or denouement—and you have no clue what she's talking about.

• When you love your characters and their dilemmas, yet your readers remain curiously unmoved.

• When you've written so many drafts that they continue to live on and mix in your head, so that you have no clue what's actually on the page anymore.

• When you have submitted 30 or so times and are either getting no nibbles (in which case you might also need a submission package review); or are receiving requests for the full, but are being rejected either with form letters or for consistent reasons.

• You are self-publishing with the goal of having a writing career (as opposed to buying a book with your name on it for your friends).

March 22, 2012 at 11:10 AM  
Blogger Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

I did hire an editor to help me, and I was very pleased with the result. However, it took two years of looking to find her. Seriously...it took me two years.

March 22, 2012 at 1:21 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Kathryn--Thanks bunches. What a great list!!

Michael--Two years is a long time. It's like looking for true love, isn't it? I have a feeling there were probably some painful interactions along the way. Glad to hear you finally found her.

March 22, 2012 at 2:49 PM  
Blogger Linda Gray said...

Love this post. Especially the part about how long it truly does take to get to the point where the work is good enough to be polished by a good editor. That's the big lesson! I did hire a professional editor after two years of creating, workshopping, beta readers etc. I was at the point where I thought the work was worthwhile, but I knew I just couldn't make it any better on my own any more. The editor was amazing. Loved her professional but supportive insights. Book now out with agents. Fingers crossed.

For the blog anniversary . . . Congratulations! I'd love to enter to win a copy of the Gatsby book!

March 23, 2012 at 8:45 AM  
Blogger The Editors said...

If I win I would like GHOSTWRITERS IN THE SKY so I can take it off my birthday list.

Happy anniversary!

Great post, I plan on sharing it with a friend who is at the point of thinking about if she needs an editor.

March 23, 2012 at 12:03 PM  
Blogger The Editors said...

Note: I'm not a proffesional editor the name is based off of my title at the newsletter I put out that my blog is named after.

March 23, 2012 at 12:10 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Linda--Congrats on getting your book to that point, and on finding the right editor. I'm sure your book will find a home soon. But writers sure have to learn a whole lot of patience, don't we?

The Editors--I hope the post will help your friend. It's hard to be objective and know when a book is ready. Sometimes a critique group will tell you: we're done. Take it to the editor!

March 24, 2012 at 10:53 AM  
Blogger Tracy said...

Hi Anne, I'm coming to this post late, but I'm glad I found it.

I'm not at the point where an editor would be the next step, but this is good information to have. Breaking down the kinds of editing (content, line, etc.) is helpful too. Thank you!

March 27, 2012 at 4:56 AM  
Blogger Russell Blake said...

Great blog. As a vocal proponent for self-pubbed authors using professional editing, it's nice to see others break it down in such useful fashion.

Too often, I get contacted by folks who have mistaken having a proofreader check for typos and missing words with a copy editor who works at the sentence and story level.

I actually run my books through an editor for structure and sentence by sentence input, the a proofreader to catch nits, missing words, typos, etc. I used to use a third layer, a second proofreader, but I found they would only catch a few issues in any given book after the first two rounds, so it didn't make a lot of sense.

But truthfully, the most valuable thing I've learned working with my editing team is how to self-edit - to ask myself what the purpose of each chapter, paragraph, sentence, and ultimately, word is. To be sensitive to echoes. To avoid pandering or cliches. And to be open to suggestions from others - nobody is perfect, and there are often better ways to express ideas than only yours.

Having turned out 20 novels by end of 2012, I can honestly say that the drive to do it better each time one sits down to write or polish one's work (I typically do 3 drafts, at least) is the largest factor in developing a compelling voice and keeping your readers happy. By demanding more out of yourself, you are honoring your readers' time and money. Anything less is, well, less.

Russell Blake
Suspense Author

September 18, 2012 at 7:52 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Russell--Thanks for your valuable input. People have so many misconceptions about what editors do. I've had people come to me with a shoebox full of old cassette tapes or a bunch of letters and journals--asking me to to "edit" them into a book. And others got furious if I did anything more than correct spelling. And a whole lot of newbies, eager to jump on the self-publishing bandwagon, think that hiring an editor is a substitute for learning to write. Things like that made me give up editing. But a good editor is the difference between a good book and a great book.

September 19, 2012 at 9:53 AM  
Blogger Daniel Amspaugh said...

So, a friend suggested I use one of our mutual friends to edit my first book for $300 - $400. He has never edited a book. He was, however, an editor for a few magazines and he does good work I guess. The magazines he edited are quite different than my book. But my suggestion was to use a professional editor, a company that is known, and he thinks it's a scam. He only thought this when I told him the professional company suggested a consultation prior to editing that would run $300/hr. The consultation would discuss the first two chapters of the book and any trouble areas we might see.

So, the question remains: do I trust our mutual friend to edit well and pay him a third (and quite possibly less) than the professional company, or do I pay the professional company the price they want for something I know they will do well? I don’t know their asking price. My friend thinks professional editors are for writers who fancy themselves as writers. He thinks I should use my own resources and pay cheap. And I think professional editors are for writers who want the best for their work. You pay cheap and you get cheap. What do you think? Email me and discuss: amspaugh@gmail.com. My name is Daniel. Thanks.

February 26, 2014 at 12:32 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Daniel--I wouldn't trust a company that charges $300 an hour for editorial work. Just because people overcharge doesn't mean they're good. Here's a link to the going rates for editors http://www.the-efa.org/res/rates.php. You might want to go through them (Editorial Freelancers association.) A magazine editor might do a fine job. It depends on what kind of edit you need. If it's a novel and you're a newbie, you might want a developmental editor, who will be pricey, but not $300 an hour pricey. And if it's line editing you need, jump on your friend's offer.

February 26, 2014 at 12:47 PM  
Blogger scott grin said...

So what would be the best way of finding a competent, reputable editor?
essay writing

March 13, 2014 at 4:55 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Scott, the Editorial Freelancer's Association (EFA) has a list of prices and vetted editors on their site. Author Jami Gold's blog has a lot of in-depth info on how to choose the right editor. But the best way of all is to ask an indie author in your genre who's work you admire if they'll give you the name of their editor. Somebody who's great at editing scifi may not get romance and vice versa.

March 13, 2014 at 9:43 AM  
Blogger Emmanuel Nataf said...

Indie authors should take a look at Reedsy, a community of top publishing professionals (editors, illustrators and marketers) to work with authors: https://reedsy.com/

February 12, 2015 at 9:26 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Emmanuel--Yes. Reedsy didn't exist when we posted this, but it's a wonderful new resource where you can find vetted editors, designers and other book professionals that indie authors are looking for. I have recommended them in other posts. Thanks!

February 12, 2015 at 9:48 AM  

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home