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On NOT Hiring an Editor (Interview)

Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Philip Overby, Sep 26, 2013.

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  1. Lord Ben

    Lord Ben Minstrel

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    If I had any skill in editing whatsoever I think a useful addition to the self-published ebooks industry would be editing and/or art in exchange for a percentage of future sales instead of an upfront fee or a traditional publisher. Perhaps it exists already and I just don't know of it but there seems to be a lot of middle ground between getting accepted by an agent/publisher and going full self-publish.

    If the editor had a good enough eye for stories it wouldn't take long for people to start checking out other stuff they'd done. Even so far as to have it all linked to the same "author" page in Amazon or whatever so people would easily see everything.
     
  2. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    It's very difficult to find a good critique partner. I mean, a lot of people push their beta readers and critique partners into simple responses because the whole process is loaded with tension and distrust.

    I think a critique / review service with people who were actually trained to provide stronger feedback with tact would definitely be able to offer some people a lot of value.
     
  3. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    I also agree the interview was combative. That said, the reader reviews speak for themselves. So my question is this: if the author is getting such poor reviews, how the heck is he selling that many books and making a living from it? There's got to be something he's doing right. And perhaps he's stating he doesn't have time because his purpose is to write books and get them out for the fans.

    That point I can see.

    The one thing that bugged me about the author though was that he said the writing was fine. Editor or not, I think as writers we should always be open to improvement. Writing is an art form and we should want to constantly hone it.

    PS: I can't remember which author this was but I read an article once where the author suggested that Indie publishers learn how to edit their own work. He mentioned that its possible to get good enough were you don't need a professional editor. I would love to have a professional editor but I don't know if I can afford it. I definitely want an editor though. So although I do think the interviewer here was pushing for writers to hire professional editors, it may not be necessary for all...especially an erotica writer. Come on, with that type of material I wouldn't have an editor either. ;)
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 29, 2013
  4. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

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    The author is writing erotica and publishing enough stories that sheer force of numbers provides an income. When you've got 25 books out, you need only sell on average 57 per book per month at $2.09 royalties to earn an income of $3,000 a month. Over 25 books, you're going to build a fanbase of at least that many.

    True, but again, it depends on your aim - selling lots of erotica books to earn a living so you have time for writing real stuff? It doesn't need to improve that much. Going back to the business-writing vs craft-writing, the business-writer needs only be good enough. Sure, improvement is a good idea, but if you're selling and you don't want to put any more time into it than you need to, then why bother when that extra time you have is spent on what you really care about?

    I suspect it might be possible, though I still think you'd need a different perspective on it at the editing stage, preferably more. Still, I think it'd be possible to learn it well enough - by editing your own shorts, editing others' work and so on.
     
    Zero Angel likes this.
  5. Zero Angel

    Zero Angel Auror

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    Pretty right on with all the relevant points I would have made, Chilari.

    If your only interest is to sell, then all you need to do is write "good enough". Also, it bears noting that we have no idea how bad or how good the author is. It could be that the author really isn't very bad at all and the blogger is just being a jerk...seeing as how we know the blogger in question is being a jerk, I wouldn't be surprised if the "there are mistakes on every page" claim was unfounded or stylistic choices as opposed to actual errors.

    Now, I am reasonably confident that there are errors as well, just maybe not on every page.

    Also, I found it interesting that the blogger offered to provide a marked up proof of a novel for the author. If all I have to do is be held in contempt by this guy in order to get free copyediting, then let me know what I need to do for that.
     
  6. brokethepoint

    brokethepoint Troubadour

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    If you dig through some of the articles, it looks like he has an editing service. Sorta puts things into perspective.
     
    Zero Angel likes this.
  7. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    The central conflict of the interview is Business vs Art. The author obviously believes that the sales validate his writing. The interviewer believes that a certain minimum level of quality should be maintained regardless of the finances involved.

    I see both sides but tend to agree more with the author. If you've found your audience and you're happy with your sales, why should you put more effort into polishing?

    If you've followed any of my posts, this opinion might surprise you as I tend to advocate highly polished work. I advocate such because I believe that it's the best way for a new author to find an audience. If you've already got an audience, the advice doesn't really apply.

    I will say (write) this: incredible numbers of books are being published. It's hard to stand out from the crowd. If you're a relatively new author and you're not using a professional content editor, I'm pretty sure that:

    1. Your work does not have enough tension
    2. You're telling too much instead of showing (to forestall the argument, note that I did not say you can't tell at all, just that you're telling when you should be showing)
    3. You have character and story arc mistakes

    Lack of tension, too much telling, and story/character mistakes don't seem to me to be a good way to find an audience.

    I have good beta readers. I'm a smart guy.

    I had all three of these problems, and it took a good content editor to find them.

    EDIT to clarify: If you got your audience with low quality work, there's no reason to improve unless you're trying to expand your base. If you get your audience with high quality, dropping the quality will lose you readers. It's all about meeting expectations.
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2013
  8. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    See, I totally agree with the points made here. Its not like erotica is literature anyway (though some might disagree with me haha). I've never read the stuff frankly because I'm too immature not to laugh my way through it, so I side with the line of thinking that writing as an art form means honing your skill--always.

    But the author in this article has met his goal a thousandfold. And it seems to me that he agreed to the wrong interview. ;)

    I would like to self-publish, mainly because I'm already self-employed and its something I can see myself being good at. I still need an editor. The only problem is I have X amount of money. I like the priority list given by a couple users here (sorry to forget the names) a few pages back. I would pay for the cover art first, then the format, then an editor. And when I make a decent revenue from sales, I will be able to afford an editor first when budget isn't such an issue. Hopefully my books sell though.
     
  9. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    Am I missing something on the format? Why is it necessary to pay someone for that? It seems like an easy DIY part of the process.
     
  10. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    I have no idea how to do that, so I would pay. Although my goal is to learn how to do it. I just wouldn't want to mess up my very first book I put out there.
     
  11. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

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    A book I bought yesterday, published by Penguin no less, had rubbish formatting and the only way I could get it to display well was to flip my Kindle sideways and read landscape. That was the Aeneid - so formatting had to account for line numbers and I believe it also matches the existing printed text for line breaks, but when shown in portrait every line had a big indent and went over two lines, with the odd line number in there too.

    But if the big guys can get it wrong, with a well known text (albeit one with particular needs), then I think I can forgive less-than-perfect formatting from an indie, provided it is at least readable - the other translation of the Aeneid I bought didn't even have a space where there was meant to be a linebreak, so one word ran right into the next, making it very hard to read indeed - and again, this was set by a traditional publisher. And that one does not go right when flipped horizontal. Which is a shame, because I was enjoying the rhyme to it, but the formatting makes it so hard to read.
     
  12. Zero Angel

    Zero Angel Auror

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    For print books, formatting is pretty complicated and error-prone. It easily took up 20-80 hours of nothing-but-formatting work when I first did it for The Throne of Ao (and because I'm never happy, I've done it multiple times, although I'm much faster and more proficient on it now).

    It involves things like increasing the line spacing by 0.01 over ten lines in order to get an entire paragraph to fit on a final page instead of a few words, making the chapters start on the right side, widow/orphan control, headings, page numbers. The final copy of a book before it goes to print is more a picture than a document. It's all doable on your own, but it involves significant proficiency in your program of choice (preferably a publishing program, but DIYers can probably manage with Word and a pdf).

    Ebook formatting is much more straightforward, but it is yet again something that some people might not be comfortable with. Things like hyperlinks are probably the most under-utilized options, but a lot of the formatting and options we take for granted in Word may not be present in the ebooks. For fiction it's usually very easy for most people to convert a document into a ready-to-convert file using something like Amazon's mobi-converter. And it is even easier (although less pretty) to use Smashwords's meatgrinder. But for the best choices, you really should be working directly with the .epub file, and that is out of a lot of people's depths as well.

    For the record, I like Amazon's converter just fine, and use it exclusively for my math books. Unfortunately, the meatgrinder grinds up my equations too much to use and I don't have time to learn the epub math codes. What I do is convert every equation I can't type into a gif file (Amazon recommended) and it has worked out for me so far in my math books. One of the big things a lot of self-publishers don't do is re-read their book after it is converted (yes, things change and you have to compensate for that).

    I would say that most people think they have more proficiency with editing than they probably do, but they usually know they don't have proficiency with formatting, so it frequently gets bumped up the list. Still, for the frugal author, formatting is something that really just needs a time investment and mistakes are easy to recognize and see when they're made. I would say if you can't afford an editor, then you should strongly consider learning the skills of formatting. Both Kindle and Smashwords have "style guides" that you can follow to make your files ready to upload for ebooks and they're not that difficult to follow (and they're free to download: Building Your Book for Kindle and Smashwords Style Guide).

    For print, you almost *need* to have a formatter unless the DIY is strong in you and this is a difference that everyone can see as soon as they open your book if it is done poorly.
     
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2013
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  13. Zero Angel

    Zero Angel Auror

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    One of the big issues with some of the converters are that "breaks" are not maintained. For instance, in Smashwords you have to use four carriage returns instead of a page break. My first conversion of The Throne of Ao had the chapter headings occur in line with the last line of the previous chapter -_-
     
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2013
  14. tlbodine

    tlbodine Troubadour

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    Yes. What Zero Angel said. eBook formatting is pretty straightforward (especially if you're smart enough to set up the file properly in the first place and don't then have to go back through it and nuke all of your tabs, for example), but print formatting is a fiasco. I don't know how many times I had to redo the formatting of Nezumi's Children, and I'm still not 100% happy with it. I wrestled with that thing for like a week straight.
     
  15. Sanctified

    Sanctified Minstrel

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    This is like network television, just @#%#-ing out content, throwing it at the wall and seeing what sticks. This author found what sticks and is making money off it, and if making money is the ultimate goal, why bother?

    I applaud the honesty. Obviously there's a market for garbage, and this author is happy to supply that garbage.

    However, that's quite a bit different than having personal pride in the material, trying to win literary awards, etc. The sad truth is that garbage can and often does appeal to the masses, while literary novels often don't. This is why one of the teen moms from MTV is a New York Times bestselling author, while David Mitchell is not.

    Messed up, isn't it?
     
  16. GeekDavid

    GeekDavid Auror

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    Very messed up.

    What's probably even worse is that I'll bet that at least 50% never read that MTV teen mom's book, they just bought it so they could lay it in plain sight somewhere when their friends are coming over so they could look like they're part of "the cool group."

    Maybe I'm just a curmudgeon. After all, I do remember when MTV stood for MUSIC Television, and actually played music videos the majority of their broadcast day.
     
  17. Sanctified

    Sanctified Minstrel

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    Hah...remember Yo! MTV Raps and the birth of alternative when they only played that stuff late at night? Hell, even The Grind looks tame in comparison to what's on now.

    Teen mom probably also makes a killing on the autographs, moving more copies. For a while I thought the NYT book staff would be horrified to see what's on their list, but then I realized it's always garbage...Long Island Medium's book, diet book of the month, ghostwritten "autobiography" of some celebrity, yadda yadda yadda. In that sense I guess it's not different from the music industry.
     
  18. GeekDavid

    GeekDavid Auror

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    Don't forget the disgruntled employee dishing all the dirt on their famous employer... whether said dirt is real or just a vindictive fantasy.
     
  19. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    It is quite a shame, but I bet there are musicians, artists, actors, etc out there that feel the same way about their craft. There are always going to be those willing to provide crap like Sanctified said.

    Returning to the topic though, I think that a writer's willingness to have his/her work looked at by an editor or beta readers shows a desire to get better. At the end of the day, winning a literary award (for me anyway) would be way more valuable than money.
     
  20. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

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    And sometimes literary awards come with money attached, which is nice.
     
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