• Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us!

Book Finished, what now?

Mad Swede

Maester
And now I'm going to argue against both you and Skip. Editing matters. There's lots of self-published authors out there, and yes, you too could be one of them. The quality of those books varies to put it mildly. The readers don't care I hear you say. Well, maybe not those readers. But the readers who matter are the professional reviewers, because they are the ones who can get you noticed by agents, big publishers, etc. And those reviewers do care about quality. I guess the question is what you want to achieve? Is it just to get a book published? Or do you want more than that, do you want the option of making it a career?

My advice, for what its worth as a published author, is to spend your cash on a developmental edit. A good developmental editor will help you get the story arcs, structure and characterisation right, so that the book flows. They will also suggest ways to further improve things, like the background details of your setting, smells, sounds etc. You may think you don't need help with these things, but trust me when I tell you that even after you've written several books a good developmental editor will still find things to improve. I know my editor does.

As for the cost, yes, a good editor is expensive. So is a good cover. And marketing copy. You pay for what you get. And that's why publishers take such a large cut. Publishing a good book doesn't get any cheaper if you do it all yourself - but you do end up paying up front.
 

ThinkerX

Myth Weaver
With the cover art...

...I see a lot of spectacularly good covers for rather mediocre books. I also see way too many 'dramatic pose' covers, period - the ones with a bold hero or heroine or three in a 'fight' stance - enough to the point to where my reaction is more 'meh' than ought else. I have seen some ludicrously simple/basic covers on books that turned out to be very good - literally nothing more than very basic landscapes or childish lines or simply almost blank, with an oversized title. Then again, my view is likely in the minority here because I'm a bit jaded.

My covers...the one the artist came up with for 'Empire: Country' came pretty close to what I had in mind. 'Empire: Capital,'...not so much, I'd prefer something different...but it'll do. 'Empire: Estate' is good, I think, but not quite what I'd envisioned. 'Empire: Metropolis' and 'Empire: Spiral' - well, we'll see. I have visions of sorts for both, found pics on the web not too far off for the first, but we'll see.

Titles are another possible issue. 'Dragon' and 'God' and close variants of both turn up a bit too often for my tastes. Complex names on the cover tend to make my eyes glaze over, but overly simple ones can turn up a lot of false positives on the searches. Thus far, when I punch 'Empire: Country' into the Amazon Kindle search box, it pops up in the first several entries - not bad for an indie E-book. Other titles I've done that with can come out ten or fifteen spots down the page.
 
In a perfect world, spend money on cover AND editing. Just don't break the bank because you will need to advertise. Now, let's say you are a solid editor... as I mentioned, I haven't spent a dime on Whispers of Ghosts for editing and it's pretty clean now (see below). Outside of errors, a good editor can also ask questions that inspire you to make an improvement. I good editor, in my case one who used to be a publisher, can nail what readers might be thinking better than a dozen beta readers. Eve of Snows storywise didn't change much because of my editor, but she inspired two added scenes, one that made her say "holy shit" and no doubt helps make the book what it is. That is because she asked the right question. Now, that is where it gets tricky, finding an editor who can do that.

IF you plan on doing audiobooks, doing a recording of your book is awesome for catching flaws. It's better than just reading aloud because you'll find yourself repeating sections over and over... a pain in the ass, but oh my, it helped me find corrections in Trail of Pyres even after a mid-priced editor.
 

skip.knox

toujours gai, archie
Moderator
>something a copy editor might find
just wanted to reiterate that copyediting is (or should be) more than just grammar. The place where I really need other eyes is where a character behaves inconsistently between, say, Ch.2 and Ch.19. Or when I say there's a moon in one place but not in another. IOW, consistency and continuity. These can be very hard to spot if you're focused on commas or, indeed, hard to spot at all.

Also, you might think about how you'd feel if you never got back to zero. Because that's the likelihood.

For me, I'm fine with that. Breaking even is merely a target. Writing, telling stories, is unavoidable to me. Selling them is an entirely separate activity. I'm content to lose a certain amount of money annually on that, because at least *some* people have read and enjoyed my stories. How important is it that more people read and enjoy? How many is "enough"? *shrug* I have a copy of my books in my local library. That right there is success for me. The rest is (affordable) gravy.
 

skip.knox

toujours gai, archie
Moderator
>A good developmental editor
Well and that's the big question, ain't it?

How is the new author supposed to judge? Not only judge in terms of choosing the editor in the first place, but then to evaluate whether the job done was well done.

Got a leak in your home? Don't try to fix it yourself, hire a good plumber. Sure. And how do you know you hired a bad one? Only after you've paid them and the leak recurs. And even then, how can you be sure of the next one?

You can't. It's the same with editors. You can drop two or three grand on a developmental editor, go through all the additional expenses of publication, and then your book does the usual sales, which means you've lost money and your book sinks back into oblivion. So you do it again. And again.

There is a place, I believe, for the author who can tell good stories but is never going to earn a living at it, and is content to spend a bit of cash annually. How that cash gets spent is sort of up to them. If a developmental editor helps them feel like they now can tell their stories better, then that's money well spent. Regardless of publication. I can say objectively, based on reviews and sales, that the books where I hired an editor have done less well that the books where I did my own work. I can also say that the sample size is so small as to be meaningless.

One thing to keep in mind about advice on a forum is that you're getting anecdotes, not data. And even if you had data, there's no guarantee the data will apply to your specific case, or even down to one specific book. It's aggregated or derived data. That's useful in looking at trends. I like anecdotes. They're a thousand songs and they will resonate differently to different people. Whatever resonates for you, choose that, and ignore the rest. ... as long as you can afford the choice!
 
The only data applicable to editors might be track record, but how the hell to find it? I went with an ex-publisher figuring they had a different POV, and one of the reasons for that would be a small publisher would go over thousands of books in their slush pile and also work with writers while editors would work at a specific thing and on fewer items. But, I also did sample chapters with multiple editors to see what they would do to my work. Only one impressed me. Seeing a sample edit of someone else's work might be useful, but if an editor won't do a sample of your work for free while wanting to bill you thousands, I'd skip them.

Other potential information, if entering the big time, are editors who freelance on the side but also work with major publishers. But still, finding what the editor worked on isn't always easy. The editor I worked with gave lots of examples of books she worked with, which included Piers Anthony as a publisher, so, perusing her stable I liked the horses. That still doesn't guarantee a win at the race track, but it can't hurt.
 
Another side note: I'm not a promotional guru, I muddle my way through everything (maybe I've even drowned a coupla times, so it's good I have nine lives) so what I have found the most effective for driving street cred with a book are professional reviews and award wins. Editor's Pick at Booklife, 5 Stars at Indie Reader, positive review from Kirkus, etc: Less likely without a pro edit, plain and simple. Awards, in particular, the bigger awards like Next Gen and Independent Publisher Awards, I doubt are going to be won by a self-edit unless you are really good and the amount of time devoted is a lot of time not writing the next book. Doable? Sure. But, less likely. Much like chasing a traditional publisher these days, where they want things polished as possible.

But, all that depends on your goals and what you're going after.
 

Mad Swede

Maester
As I wrote earlier, it all depends on your aims. If all you want to do is self-publish a book and cross out something on your bucket list, then sure, you don't need an editor. But if you're wanting to be more serious then you do need an editor.

And, if you're aiming to publish several books then you need the same editor over the series. It's the only way to build a constructive working relationship where you get to know one another, where you both contribute to the quality of the finished books and where the finished books are consistent in their style and quality. My experience is that the longer you work with your editor the more you get out of it.

Editing is very much a matter of trust, and that takes time to develop. So you need to find someone you're comfortable working with. It is worth spending the time to find that editor. How do you find them? Well, ask around for recommendations. Ask the ones who have been recommended if they'll tell you who they've worked with. Ask for a sample edit. Arrange a meeting over Skype or Zoom or Teams. It's like being interviewed for a job - you both need to be comfortable and feel the working relationship will work. And, when you've found one you like and who is willing to work with you, then you ask about prices. If you're prepared to make a long term committment for several books then you may get a better price - most editors you hire when self-publishing are freelance and they too like a steady income.
 
In the end, the dirty little secret of publishing (in whatever form by the way), is that no one knows how to sell books consistently. Sure, people have a general idea of what works, but there is no magic formula that ensures that your book becomes a bestseller. If there was then traditional publishers would only be publishing bestsellers. But they're not. Like everyone else, they're just throwing stuff out there in the hope that it catches fire.

A second thing to note is that what worked yesterday or last year or a decade ago might not work tomorrow. It's why all the publishing advice should be taken with a grain of salt. What worked for someone 10 years ago won't work today, and what works for someone writing a romance novel a month will not work for someone who publishes 2 epic fantasy novels a year and so on.

With that in mind:
- some people swear by editors, others say they are unnecessary and simply a drain on resources and time.
- Covers are the same. Some say grab the cheapest cover you can find and slap it on there, others advocate paying more.

You will find examples of people being bestsellers in all categories. And you will find people who published a book only to have it sink without a single sale with all kinds as well.

An editor doesn't guarantee sales. Neither does a cover, or a blurb, or a tiktok account or a newsletter, or a huge ad budget.

Having said that, I do think that the better the book is, the higher the chance of succes becomes. Does this make an editor 100% necessary? No. But it helps. Even if you're an editor it can help to have impartial eyes judge your book. You might want someone who focusses on slightly diferent things than a regular editor, because perhaps you write differently because you're an editor (I have no idea, I'm just a writer...).

On the other hand, it's hard to judge someones wallet. An editor worth his money is expensive. $1.000+ easily, depending on size of the novel and the type of edit. I do think you'll learn a lot from the edit, and I do think it will make your book better. However, there is no way to know if the lesson is worth the money, and if the quality difference will result in more sales or not. So in the end, only you can say if you want to pay for the edit.
 

skip.knox

toujours gai, archie
Moderator
>I do think you'll learn a lot from the edit, and I do think it will make your book better
OK, sure, for the first book. What about on the fourth or fifth book?
The editors I hired did not make the book better, except at the margins, and I certainly didn't learn anything from then I didn't already know. But more problematic is this: a fairly inexperienced author (one or two books, or none), is ill equipped to judge whether the edit is truly good or is merely something that appeared good enough to them.

It's not at all unlikely that an author might go through three or four editors--which means three or four books, which means three or four years or more--before finding a good one. And there's absolutely no guarantee that that editor is going to stick around. So that starts to look like a pretty expensive form of betting. An author can get lucky, sure. They get a winner the first time, they learn much from their mentor-editor, and go on to write better books. But I see nothing in any of the advice that would help a new author land such a prize fish.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Ban

pmmg

Vala
So, I have gotten a few quotes. They are all about the same from Reedsy. Maybe I went for too high a caliber. I am not sure they know the difference between Editorial Assessment, Developmental Edit, and Line Edit. I think those quoting are combining them all into one.

In my mind, a Editorial assessment should be fairly cheap, and the developmental one should draw the prices I have been quoted. All of them have said they are booked for some months... I am beginning to think I should be an editor. Seems they are busy and can make some spending money.

I'm gonna shoot for some more, and see if the range increases. I am not really thinking I need to spend $1500 for an editorial assessment. I'd more expect they would assess and say....hey, you need the developmental one, and that is $1500. But, they'd have to convince me of that.

I might look beyond reedsy. One of the Vids I watched today pointed me to some other sites to look at.
 

ThinkerX

Myth Weaver
Reading through this thread, I am becoming more and more tempted to offer my services as a developmental editor of sorts. I like to think I'm fairly good at spotting world building and plot logic issues, anyhow...
 

skip.knox

toujours gai, archie
Moderator
>Reedsy. Maybe I went for too high a caliber.
Not too high. I'd place Reedsy in the middle of a broad road. Within that space you'll find variance in quality and professionalism, but you won't fall out the bottom end. But you also won't get brilliance and a life partner, unless you are very, very lucky.

The benefits I see there (I've hired from there before) is ease of shopping and vetting, and having a place to lodge complaints if things go badly. I would give the same advice I used to give my students regarding using Wikipedia in research: it's a good place to start, but a bad place to stop. Do more research.
 
It's a complicated decision-making process. Most editors are looking to go the full shebang because that's where the money is. Structure and blah blah blah aren't things I'm worried about but if an editor sees a major issue, I sure as hell want them to say something rather than not worrying about it because they're focused on commas, heh heh. Really, the biggest thing any editor has done for me outside of base corrections is asking questions, and in the process of answering those, I find some deeper elements I want to emphasize. Is that worth the money? Hmmm. Depends on which day you ask, LOL. I am bipolar on editors, but for Eve of Snows, my first book, I figure it was worth it. The trouble is, it didn't settle my opinion on whether editors of varying levels are worth it, heh heh.
 
Some people say you only get one shot to make a good first impression. That doesn't have to be the case with writing. You can always publish under multiple pen names. To test the waters, you might consider writing some relatively short books under a pen name, self-editing, self-proofreading, having simple DIY covers, formatting using Draft2Digital, running no paid ads, hitting social media for free promotion, and not sending out any ARCs. Set your expectations at zero. But get the experience with no monetary outlay to do it and learn what you can. If you sell any books, you've made money. Proceed from there.
 

pmmg

Vala
Some people say you only get one shot to make a good first impression. That doesn't have to be the case with writing. You can always publish under multiple pen names. To test the waters, you might consider writing some relatively short books under a pen name, self-editing, self-proofreading, having simple DIY covers, formatting using Draft2Digital, running no paid ads, hitting social media for free promotion, and not sending out any ARCs. Set your expectations at zero. But get the experience with no monetary outlay to do it and learn what you can. If you sell any books, you've made money. Proceed from there.

My head is spinning just thinking on that. Multiple Pen names? Seems unconventional to me. But...
 
My head is spinning just thinking on that. Multiple Pen names? Seems unconventional to me. But...
Some big name authors have used pen names, and some of them have used multiple pen names in addition to their most-well-known by-line. Stephen King and J.K. Rowling, for starters, each used a pen name in addition to their main by-lines, and Michael Crichton has used a couple. Plenty of not-so-well-known authors do it, too, for various reasons. It's not as unconventional as you might think.
 
My head is spinning just thinking on that. Multiple Pen names? Seems unconventional to me. But...
It's actually very common in the indie space. Common advice is to get a pen name for each sub-genre you write in. This is especially true apparently for the different romance genres where readers (alledgedly) tend to stick to a specific sub-genre. But it can also be true elsewhere.

Of course, the idea of pen-names should be taken loosely. Plenty of people publish under roughly the same name. It's common to see people publish fiction under one name, and non-fiction under the same name only with initials added in. Or something similar.
 
Top