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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. PatrickRichardson

    PatrickRichardson New Member

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    Excuse me?

    Aware as I am that David can be a bit strident at times, I'd appreciate it if you would refrain from libeling my character and background when you do not know me. Indeed I have written for both the Daily Caller and PJ Media. Indeed I am a conservative, and proudly so. I also have nearly 20 years in the community newspaper business. That you've worked for largely liberal rags like Newsday does not impress me. Nor does the Pulitzer prize these days, hag-ridden with with political correctness as it is.

    I've broken national news stories, including Operation Fast and Furious and the fact that the Department of Labor was promulgating rules which would have kept farm kids from working on the family farm.

    Sarah A. Hoyt, who is a well respected and award-winning author trusts me enough to beta-read her work and trusts my opinions on said work. She has, in fact, said that with a bit of seasoning I may be a top fiction editor.

    You may continue to inhabit your ivory tower sir, and I shall continue to give your opinions the weight they deserve.
     
  2. Zero Angel

    Zero Angel Auror

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    If your question is sincere: Mark Twain was an editor, so it's possible he was his own, but he probably had an editor as well, but regardless, editors usually are the unsung heroes of writing. They do a lot of work, save a lot of works, and then they are very lucky to get mentioned in the afterword or foreword and even less likely to get copyright page mention.

    If Homer existed at all, then please be aware that his work was the precipitate of centuries of oral storytelling and I don't think editors existed (for that matter, publishers didn't either) back then. I don't know much about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's editor(s).

    If I'm being dense, I apologize, but I figured there were only two ways to take your questions: (1) sincerely or (2) sarcastically as an implication that since these bulwarks of language didn't have editors that we being their peers didn't need them. Since I figured you weren't comparing us to Homer, Mark Twain and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, I took it sincerely.
     
  3. Zero Angel

    Zero Angel Auror

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    I think the particular ego/superego/id relationship of those people is probably why they are finding it condescending. My opinion is that I think you will find that the more experience you get writing, the less you will need the content editing (what I call directorial guidance) that you hold in such high esteem and the more that you will just value them as another pair of eyes offering a fresh perspective. I'm very glad that you found that direction and I am sure that it helped you, but I just don't think it was a given, a guarantee, or even necessarily worth it monetarily...even in your particular case.

    You've said it's made your novel better, and I will trust you on that, but we don't know if better in that regard is better in the sales department. I have a feeling that you will do well with your novel because of your other skills and the determination that you are going to bring to bear on it, and because of the fact that you will continue following the formula of continuing to write and eventually, anyone that's not in the lower 50% will be able to do OK with their writing so long as they keep publishing, but is the editor an expense that will translate to sales this early in the game? I view it like infrastructure. You are at the point where you can afford the infrastructure. I can't afford the infrastructure, so I have to keep scraping by until I can make enough to afford the improvement to my infrastructure that an editor will bring. It's possible I am going to have to bulldoze these early works once the infrastructure is in place to support greater ones, and if that's the case, then that is what will happen for me, but it's the only option that fits right with me.

    If you market an average-sized novel for $2.99 to $4.99, then you're going to make between $2 and $3.50 per book, less for larger books, but the assumption is that you'd probably charge more or split it if it is significantly cutting into your royalties. Paying $550 for an editor comes out to ~160-275 sales of said book (and that's actually a pretty good price for an editor by the way. I mean, I wouldn't charge that much for a novel, but I'm not established. I've charged anywhere from $20-100 for articles and essays and the like).

    I know you're all-in with the self-publishing route Brian, but that's a HUGE return you have to get to pay for the editor. Is that editor going to guarantee 200+ sales more than you would get going the other route?

    My math books are international bestsellers, topping their respective charts and I'm just now getting into the triple digits of sales. My first math book is only $0.99 (so I'm only getting $0.35 per sale...although $2+ per Kindle borrow!), so that's something like $50 I've made off it. I understand math is not as popular as fantasy, but that 1st book has been out since last November and has been breaking into the charts since then and I'm just now getting to that point. The second book has been out since February and gets a quarter of the sales the first does every month (it's also three times more expensive). Maybe by the time the 10th book comes out I can get my infrastructure to the point I want it to be at, but I'm not going to dilly-dally in the meantime.

    There are a couple situations we can examine. Please feel free to add to them.

    1) Your book is crap. No amount of polish will improve it. Releasing this will negatively affect your reputation if it ever rises beyond obscurity in the first place (unlikely). Note: an editor would probably not tell you that your book is crap if they want to keep getting work from you, but they're at least going to tell you that it's not ready to publish (unless they're gaming you).

    2) Your book is solid, but needs polish. An editor would help. Pertinent questions: Is the cost of the editor worth the increase of chances of a break-out? Is the cost of the editor worth avoiding the minority of 1 and 2-star reviews you will garner for not having that polish (with the assumption that a solid book will probably return mostly 3 and 4 star reviews)? Is the cost of the editor less than the sacrifice to your reputation for not releasing high-quality material?

    3) Your book is solid and doesn't need polish. The editor is superfluous, but if you end up doing well enough, the investment may not be noticed.

    I'm *ALWAYS* going to recommend an editor...IF you can afford it. I just don't think it's a necessity. I view my writing as art and a hobby and a business and as the air I breathe, but I don't think editors are a necessity. I think they're a luxury and that their lack can be compensated for...but you have to work darn hard to compensate for that lack.

    I absolutely agree that most selfers probably underestimate the value of an editor and are delusional as to the quality of their work. But if you approach editors with a cost-gain analysis in mind, then I think most people will come to the right decision (unless they're super delusional)
     
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  4. Zero Angel

    Zero Angel Auror

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    There's a lot of reasons why this wasn't the right choice for me, personally, but I'm sure everyone has different answers. I think that you bring up a great point and that a lot of people assume they are going to fail before they really try, or they try at one or two places and fail and then give up and go it alone.

    I have a few comments. First, I think you are overestimating the publishing houses in that they accept quality work. I think if you have quality work you can probably get an agent eventually, and then farther down the line get a publishing contract, but that's just as likely to screw you as not where you'll be reliant on yourself for marketing and if you don't move that first printing your rights will be tied up AND the books will be pulled. On the other hand, you're reliant on yourself for marketing in the self-publishing option too, you just don't have to worry about your rights or about pulling your books.

    For me, I'm really arrogant and probably have some ego/superego/id issues of my own, and I couldn't stand the thought of giving up my opus. Hunger is starting to erode my pride though, and if I was approached with a reasonable offer, I could imagine me selling out now, but I'm not going to go looking to sell out.

    Another major issue for me was time. I had written a novel years ago (11 years ago in fact) and gave up on it, and pretty much since then I have been writing in this other series. The novel I have out now first solidified somewhere in 2003-2005, and it took me years and years to become the writer I am today where I could sit and write and be disciplined and not get distracted with world-building, prequels, sequels, side-stories and more. When I finished it, it was one of the greatest feelings of my life (I'm sure all of us that have finished novels have felt that), but it was unpolished and needed re-written, and I spent at least a year doing that. I started looking at agents then, but I just kept feeling time ticking by. The more time I spent on queries and submissions, the more I felt I was losing my series until it begged me to get it up.

    I spent another month formatting for Kindle and Nook, and then I went back and edited again and again and again, and then I released it. And it was spectacular.

    I'm embarrassed to admit that I made a couple of references to modern day sayings that were out of place and which were admonished in a review by Pauline. Those should have been caught. In fact, a couple WERE caught by a beta reader, but I guess I got defensive or didn't acknowledge the advice until it was in irrevocable print as a review of my novel. Then I was like, "AW CRAP" and my beta reader was like, "Told ya' so." It was a mistake of knowing the world of my novel instead of knowing the novel describing my world.

    Still, in spite of my math books being way more popular than my fantasy novel and short story, I wouldn't go any other route than this one that I'm still on today. I like being in charge of my time and I like that my novel is released and published today and not in a slush pile or being passed around behind closed doors.
     
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  5. GeekDavid

    GeekDavid Auror

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    I should point out that, according to the reports from the my beta readers, Librarian was in the second category. Note that, in addition to finding the best editor my budget will allow, I am now shelving that project in order to come back to it later after I've gained more skill and experience. In other words, I am not pushing forward with putting a book out there that is clearly Not Ready For Primetime, as some indy authors seem to be guilty of.

    My biggest beef with certain people on this thread has been the either/or tone of their statements. I won't name names at this point (I reserve the right to do so later), but the one that really struck me was either you have an editor, or your book will be terrible. That's just not the way the world works. There are books out there, as you point out, Zero, that are not in need of an editor, and then there are those that cannot be saved by anything short of a complete rewrite. In writing, as in any art, there are many shades of gray, so black-and-white proclamations just don't work for me.
     
  6. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Hi Brian, it isn't the only option. And I can only speak (type) for myself when I say that self-publishing is the option that feels right. I have my personal reasons for it, and that does not include thinking that I'm just not good enough to make it in traditional publishing. Perhaps I'm misunderstanding you here and correct me if I am, but choosing self-publishing over traditional depends on the individual and his/her choices--not quality or experience in writing.

    You've mentioned you are self-publishing, correct? Is that ok for you to do because you hired an editor? We can agree to disagree, the world won't stop turning unless the zombie apocalypse happens, but perhaps having a bit more compassion might help clear the air here on this thread. How about all of us holding each other up as a community instead of saying it needs to be done one way? We're all here on these forums to learn and hone our craft...which is a different attitude than the author in the article posted on the OP seemed to have.
     
  7. GeekDavid

    GeekDavid Auror

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    For the record, my reason for self-publishing is simple. I want a bigger cut of the profits than traditional publishers are going to give out. My family also has a history of entrepreneurship, in various industries, so the idea of being my own boss without having to answer to the publisher's deadlines is another strong draw for me.

    It used to be that you had no choice but to go through a traditional publisher, so they set all the rules. The Kindle Revolution changed all that, now authors don't have to jump through all the traditional publishing hoops if they don't want to, and I'm glad of that.
     
  8. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

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    As someone else has already said, the choice to self-publish is a complex one, and depends on a number of factors - including cut per sale, control over the book, title, cover and price, deadlines. I don't want to default to traditional publishing just because it would take me two or more years to save up enough money for a professional editor (money, I might add, that could be spent on a rental deposit, a car service, or a year's worth of heating). When money is as tight as it is now (hint: I'm living rent free in my mother-in-law's house because I can't afford to pay rent anywhere, not because I like her house; I hate her house) the cost of a professional editor is not one that can be justified in terms of personal finance; whether it can be justified as an author trying to be successful doesn't even come into it. It cannot be afforded, whatever worth it may prove to have in the future.

    But the fact that it cannot be afforded shouldn't mean I have to attempt the ratrun that is traditional publishing when it's not the route I've decided is best for me. Especially when the work involved is no less - especially as far as marketing is concerned - and the timescales are seriously exaggerated as it takes the publisher months or even years to get from signing a contract to putting the book on shelves. And then when it's selling at £7 I'm still getting less per sale than if I'd self-published at £3.

    Why does not being able to afford an editor mean someone shouldn't self-publish?
     
  9. GeekDavid

    GeekDavid Auror

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    Thank you, Chilari.

    On another topic that you touched on, perhaps I should start a thread where people can list their perceived pros and cons for self-publishing and traditional publishing. In fact, I think I will.
     
  10. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    I concur. I know this thread has went on forever, but my opening qualification was that my advice is directed to the beginning author who is considering self publishing. I don't feel qualified to offer advice to experienced authors and, frankly, I have no idea how useful editors are to those who meet that description. I have read books from bestselling authors that I thought would have benefited from more content editing, but examples of such really prove nothing.

    I understand where you're coming from.

    I seriously doubt that an editor will pay for themselves this early in the game. My proposed "path to success" is:

    1. Write a good book.
    2. Repeat step 1.

    My argument is really that too many authors think they have met what is demanded for step 1 but haven't. My solution to remedy that is to hire a professional editor.

    I understand your problem; you don't have the money available. However, I think you do great damage to your potential career by putting out material that is substandard. Let's say you find a way to attract someone to one of your fiction books (note that, as this is a site for fantasy fiction writers, I do not intend my advice to be in any way applied to non fiction):

    First, congratulations! It's hard to get someone to notice your book. That you got them to your Amazon (or other similar market) page is an accomplishment.

    Second, let's say they're interested and end up buying your book. Double congrats! Fantastic on you.

    Third, now they read it. One of three things happen: they like it, they're ambivalent, or they dislike it. If the first, you've gained a fan. They are now likely to buy just about anything you write and tell their friends! If the second, you've likely lost them as a future customer. At best, they bear you no ill will, but they are certainly not going to be looking to buy more from you. If the third, you've now lost a customer for life and, if they feel strongly enough, they may even tell others the same.

    You missed in your calculations that this is a series, probably six books. No matter how much better my writing gets, customers will always start with the first one. If they don't like it, I have no shot of them buying the future ones.

    Truthfully, though, I don't think even that matters. The fact is that I think the damage to my reputation caused by putting out something truly dreadful is well worth it no matter if I get the sales or not. If I would have put this out without going to an editor, it would have been dreadful. I'm not saying it's the best book ever written, but it's much better than dreadful now.

    We're actually pretty close in our views, but there are two main difference:

    1. Your cost/benefit computations are centered on immediate gain. If that's the case, there's no way the cost can be justified. I feel that, if you take a longterm view, the cost is much easier to justify.

    2. You feel that it's much easier to become successful selling fiction books without the editor than I believe it is. Again, my only argument comes from my experience, both in working with professional editors and in reading self published dreck that hasn't been through the process.
     
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  11. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    Zero,

    I've read this four times (with the paragraph that follows) and have no idea what you're saying. Can you clarify?
     
  12. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    Hi, Chesterama!

    I think that I'm still being misunderstood, but I'm not quite sure why.

    Part of the problem, which I think Zero's responses clued me in on, is that I feel that improving your skill as a writer is so much more valuable than improving your book. Kinda the "teach a man to fish" thing.

    First, please understand that I am not saying in any way that you should not self publish. I'm saying that, if you self publish and your book is not good enough, I feel you're hurting your longterm chances of success.

    Does the difference between those two statements make sense? Truthfully, I don't care terribly much what route you choose; I'm simply saying that:

    1. If you put out a book that isn't very good, I don't see how it's going to help you much and that it's probably going to end up hurting your potential career.

    2. The best way to make sure that you put out a book that helps you succeed is to engage a professional editor. Keep in mind that a lot of people, all thinking they know what they're doing, have put out books that are simply dreadful.

    Are either of those statements offensive? It seems, from the reaction that I'm getting, that they are. Seriously, I don't get why...

    The problem is that I don't see how I'm not displaying compassion. My only desire here is to help the people of this forum succeed in their goals.

    If I think that the best way for you to succeed is for you to hire a professional editor, isn't the best, most compassion-filled, way from me to proceed is to tell you to hire a professional editor?

    EDIT (forgot an important point): The reason I mention traditional publishing is because of an article I read about Joe Hill. In order to prove to himself that he could succeed on his own merits instead of simply following in his father's footsteps, he honed his craft through years of submissions, learning with each rejection that what he was putting out there wasn't ready. Once you write well enough for a traditional publisher/agent to accept you, it's a good indication that your writing is good enough to put out there. If you truly don't have the money for an editor, perhaps this is a good option.
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2013
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  13. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

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    I took it to understand that publishers are both capable of refusing quality work and publishing sub-standard work. Relying on a traditional publisher doesn't mean your work will get published if it's good nor that it won't get published if it's bad. Thus they are are an unreliable measurement of quality.
     
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  14. GeekDavid

    GeekDavid Auror

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    That's what I got from it too. Flops happen all the time, even from Big Name Authors that are writing for Big Publishing Houses.
     
  15. Scribble

    Scribble Archmage

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    I have to agree with Brian, though I am inexperienced in publishing.

    I'm not going to do all that work of writing and revising and unleash what might be garbage and poison my brand.

    A year's work is worth the $1000 or whatever it will cost. If the book has serious problems that I, my writing group, my friends, and close colleagues are not able to spot, and I release it - that's a year wasted. Doesn't seem very wise.

    I write software, and I pay professional testers to make sure it works well. They certify quality, I don't just "hope" it's okay. All that effort can be wasted and worse, I poison my brand and nobody will buy from me again.
     
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  16. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    Chilari,

    See the response at the end of my previous post regarding why I suggest traditional.

    My belief, again, is that putting out a bad book will hurt your career. I think that it is exceedingly difficult for you to produce a good book without a professional editor.

    I think that, out of those two statements, you most disagree with the second one. In the end, it's your responsibility to make sure you're putting out good work. Only you can make the call. I just ask that you seriously consider what I've said.
     
  17. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    If that's the view, I think, again, self publishers are deluding themselves a bit.

    Yes, you can find an example where you like a self published book is pretty good. You can find an example of a traditionally published book that you don't like.

    Overall, the quality I've read of traditionally published books versus self published books has absolutely no comparison. At the low end, this is especially true. A bad self published book is terrible. A bad tradition is at least readable. The two draw closer the higher the overall quality of the book, but, on average, traditional is much better than self published.

    Take Weeks' latest series. It's not fantastic by any means. That being said, it's much better than the vast, vast majority of what I've read by indie authors.

    If you really think that the quality being put out by indies, on the whole, matches in any way the quality by traditionally published, maybe that's somewhere we're going to have to agree to disagree.
     
  18. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    I recently read an awesome Indie book that kept me up for 2 nights in a row immersed in story. I don't know if this author hired an editor, but my guess is probably not because there were a lot of things that could have been cleaned up. Towards the middle, the story dragged on and on but I stayed with it and got an interesting reward at the end. With a house clean, that book could be the stronger, but even so I have recommended it to several friends and posted a review on it. It was a fantastic story and I really enjoyed it. This author is doing well by the reads of her web page. Granted, she could be that needle in the haystack but it just goes to show that for readers, certain things don't matter.

    I get that we don't want to ruin our reputations. I won't be putting my two books out until I am confident that the manuscripts are as good as they can be. I haven't dismissed the idea of an editor. In fact, I'm trying to schmooze my parents to help me pay for one as a birthday gift, so we'll see how that goes. But if all else fails, then I'm not going to spend the next 10 years trying to get published traditionally. I know you mean well, Brian, but I disagree with you. I do wonder what has brought you to this certain opinion, though, even though you are self-publishing. Maybe you've read a lot of crappy Indie books? We can't judge all books by their covers. ;)
     
  19. Scribble

    Scribble Archmage

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    I'm sure there are writers who have written great books through their own meticulous and merciless self-editing, but I think they are rare in experienced writers, and extremely rare in novice writers. My life is too short to consider submitting the same book for ten years hoping it sells. I'll do a little of that, but there will be an expiry date on each effort. If it doesn't get lucky in a few months, it will go self-pub. Either way, I will make some sacrifices in order to have the funds to pay for an editor.

    I'm luckier than some of you younger writers in that I am 20 years into a paying career, I have a little more cash to play with. The downside is that I have 20 less years to get good as a writer. :)
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2013
  20. GeekDavid

    GeekDavid Auror

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    I don't think anyone is saying skip the editor completely. I certainly am not.

    What I am saying is, if you cannot afford a professional editor that charges four figures and has a big snazzy website, poll your friends and find one with a solid command of the language who loves to read fantasy, and ask them to edit it.

    In other words, if you can't drive a Mercedes, drive a Hyundai. Some people here seem to be (I may be wrong, but that's the impression I get) arguing that if you can't drive a Mercedes, you have to take the bus.

    Edited to add: If anyone is curious, I do drive a Hyundai... and I love it.
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2013
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