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Wondering about Content Editors

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Prince of Spires, Nov 15, 2019.

  1. Prince of Spires

    Prince of Spires Inkling

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    Not sure if this is the correct place for this topic, but I couldn't find a better place.

    I'm wondering what people's thoughts on (freelance) content editors are and if anyone has experience with them.

    I've come across the blogs of several of them online (it seems like a default way for a freelance content editor to promote his/her services). Many offer all kinds of content editing services. Is it (potentially) worth the money to get a content edit? When should you get one? Is there a difference between getting a content edit and simply asking others to critique your work?
     
  2. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Getting a content editor brings another person deeply into your writing, so it naturally comes down to finding the right person. And also being open to changes, as a lot of people naturally want to push back against changes to their work. And also recognizing when your writing is ready for it. Sometimes people would be better off spending the money on a writing course to double down on the basics, or the time to push your own ideas farther. In my experience editing tends to work in layers. If you can clean up some of those layers yourself, an editor can get deeper into your writing and help push you over a threshold that really matters. But if you get the wrong person, if you push back, or if you beleaguer your editor with a slew of basic writing hurdles, you might not get much out of it.
     
  3. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    Tough and personal call, but I wouldn’t want to go there until I’m damned near finished. Content then polish then got for publishing, whether Trad or Indie.

    Worth it depends on the editor, your story, and how padded your wallet is, LOL.
     
  4. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Prince of SpiresPrince of Spires, have you worked with an editor (of any sort) before?
    How long is your novel?

    Editors aren't cheap. Finding a good one can be as hit-and-miss as finding a good car mechanic, and the only way to know is to keep spending money on bad ones until you find the good one. Unlike a car mechanic, though, it's about more than just finding the right person, it's finding the right *match*--both with you and with the specific book. It takes experience for the author to know what they want, what they need, where lie their own weaknesses. It takes experience to know how to make best use of criticism.

    All that is valuable, which is why all that costs. Best advice is what was offered above: take the time to do the very best (and most complete) job you can before you start spending money. Do a couple of beta reads--the experience you get in critiquing someone else will be as valuable as whatever feedback you get from your reader(s). Use all the free self-edit guides and techniques you can. Check back here in a couple of years. <gdr>
     
  5. CelestialGrace

    CelestialGrace Minstrel

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    I'm a writer that is also an editor. I see this topic come up frequently in the writing community. For indie creators I believe an editor is a must, if you can afford one. If you can't then please use beta-readers to spot any errors that you may have missed. It's easy to over-look errors as we are so close to the project, and we should never rely on a grammar/spell checker alone.
     
  6. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    The conversation seems to have spun to generic editing... Everybody could use a copy editor and should. A content editor is another animal. On Eve of Snows I went the nine yards because I wanted that neutral, professional observer to look at the story. Was it a waste of money? It depends. Did I make substantive changes because of what the editor said? Yeah, sure, a little. I made a couple points clearer, but for the most part it was her copy editing skills I needed, LOL. I won’t spend again on the in depth content edit stuff, I’ve studied story for years and paying for it convinced me I didn’t need to pay for it.

    Copy editing is another story...
     
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  7. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

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    I read a great many Indie books. I have come across more than a few, including several with multiple five star ratings, that were in dire need of either a content editor or a decent proofreader.
     
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  8. Ned Marcus

    Ned Marcus Sage

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    Some good advice on this thread.

    Specifically on this question, YES, there's a huge difference. Of course, this will vary depending on your beta readers and the particular editor. I've found a lot of value using content editors (and copy editors and proofreaders). The main difference is the incredible detail you'll get from an experienced professional—you just won't get that from a beta reader.

    Of course, it's important to find the right one. Having a sample edit of the first few chapters can help tell you this.
     
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  9. Prince of Spires

    Prince of Spires Inkling

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    A lot of great advice and opinions here. Thanks for all that.

    In regards to copy-editors, I think they are a must if you decide to self-publish. I at least will definitely mix up where and were in a few places or end up with grammatically challenge sentences after editing the same paragraph 3 times (or more). After read 3 or 4 I stop noticing the weird mistakes and just assume what I wrote was what I think I wrote. As a reader I find it jarring to come across many spelling / grammar mistakes and it just feels like the writer didn't care enough about the book to actually tidy it up.

    As such I was more interested in content-editors. I've come across all sorts on the web from those who edit finished stories up to those offering to content edit a story outline and everything in between. Ignoring cost for the moment, I can see the appeal of getting someone to give their opinion in many of the different stages of a work. Though you could wonder who's book you're actually writing if you get someone to look at it in the very early stages...
    I have not worked with any kind of editor before, which is part of the reason I'm curious. The novel itself isn't at a stage where I want to send it out to anyone yet. There's still a lot of cleaning up to do at least about things I see myself. Of course, I do wonder if it's still worth the money if you get someone later in the process to go through the whole work.

    This is good to know. I think writing is a skill, and as such detailed feedback is very valuable in showing where you can (and need to) improve. Any feedback helps of course, but some can be more valuable then others.
     
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  10. Malik

    Malik Auror

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    (Deep breath.)

    A major-league, professional novel edit takes about six months, and costs thousands of dollars. Mine goes like this:

    My final draft--I write several--goes to a developmental/structural editor, who doubles as my line editor once I've fixed developmental issues. She's not primarily a fantasy editor; she works on a lot of thrillers, but the hook for this series is that they're fantasy spy thrillers, and I wanted them to read and feel like modern technothrillers: omniscient voice, expository deviations to build out technical plot points, and so on. (Initial test passes by prospective fantasy editors ****ed up my voice and destroyed the whole feel.) Anyway, this the role of the developmental editor: chemistry, pacing, plot holes, allegory, metaphor, imagery, contingencies of rhetoric.

    Line editing has to do with voice and style, and this is where most fights happen with my editing team. General flow, rhythm, word choice, neologisms, perspective. It just so happens that my dev editor groks my voice, so she's also my line editor.

    After line edits, it goes to a copy editor, who looks for actual writing glitches: continuity, unclear phrases, crutch words, cliches, repetition, mechanics and usage errors, stylistic consistency, and so on. This is fun because I'm a stylist, so I have a little bit of wiggle room here. I use a separate copy editor from my dev/line editor, because at this point my dev/line editor has been reading it for a month or two, and copy blindness is a thing.

    When I've completed the copy edits, my wife formats ARCs in .mobi and paperback. We initially paid for professional typesetting and formatting for the first book in the series, but paid the formatter extra for an export of her finalized .Normal files so that we could replicate the internals ourselves going forward and keep everything consistent from book to book. I had calculated a 2-year release cycle for this first series, so I wasn't about to bank on anyone still being in this industry for the whole run.

    The formatted paperback text goes to a proofreader for initial full pass. I get the proofread copies back marked-up in Word; I never let a proofreader actually change anything. I make the changes working from the paperback master and replicate them in the .mobi master document by hand in Sigil.

    From here out in the process, I use the paperback as my reference master.

    The ARCs go out to beta readers. Anything I change as a result of beta feedback goes all the way back to dev, line and copy.

    Once those last edits are done, and the book is what I want it to be, we do the final typesetting & formatting for each version. A finalized formatted paperback internal file goes out for independent proofreading passes from professional proofreaders.

    This is where it gets sticky. When a proofreading pass comes back, I have to replicate every fix on four other versions: pdf, mobi, epub, and hardcover. Five separate files, fixing fiddly little errors across each one. This is why I use a 30" screen. And yes, I have to do this multiple times, with multiple passes. This is the one part of the editing process that I find isn't worth the money to outsource. (I'd also rather have my hand on this. Final proofing is where I go full-on English Major/Platoon Sergeant/control freak.)

    This is why I don't stress over proofreading my drafts. Four of my first five drafts never even make it to dev editing, much less professional proofreading. I just concentrate on getting draft after draft done until the words are coming out good and I'm sounding like me again.

    When the last professional proofreading pass is done and transcribed across all versions, I take a few weeks away. I don't write. I don't read. I go to work, and I come home and watch TV. I ease back on my alcohol intake.

    At the end of these few weeks of decompression, we're about a month or so out from release. I revisit the book with fresh eyes and go over the paperback master for a week or two. I usually burn some leave and do this last bit on a beach somewhere. Before I change anything at this point, I'll bounce it off my editing team at the appropriate level.

    Any changes--you guessed it--get replicated across all versions.

    I upload finals about a week out from launch.

    Christ. I should have done this as a blog post.
     
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2019
  11. Malik

    Malik Auror

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    [​IMG]

    You DO NOT HAVE TO DO THIS.


    Nobody does.

    I specifically chose to do a full-scale, major-league production using many of the same heavyweights that household-name authors use because a major publisher had held a previous version of the book for over 18 months, at one point asking me for synopses for the entire series.

    Because of this, I knew that this book was already competitive, so after a rewrite, I decided to invest the money and set it up to go head to head with the big kids, taking effectively an "indie-rock" approach.

    I do not, under any circumstances, recommend that anyone do this with their first-ever book. I do not, do not, DO NOT.

    This is a point that you want to aim to get to after you've been writing solidly for ten, twenty years. I'd been writing novels for almost 30 years before I did this.

    I wrote that prior post to illustrate one professional editing process for a fantasy novel aimed for competitive placement in a mainstream market.
     
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  12. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    This looks a little bit like my first run through, except I have some editing and formatting experience, so I cut some corners, LOL.

    The biggest pain in the ass is as you say... those line edits to multiple formats. However, I have it down to two formats, digital and print via Vellum and InDesign. Vellum handles Mobi, epub, apple (although I want to do a special edition on Apple because of the beautiful extras you can do with their iBooks) and I keep the basic formatting of PB and HB at 6x9 so all changes in inDesign covers my butt for the pdfs.

    First novel I recommend the full monty if you’re serious about this stuff. And by that I mean SERIOUS! After that, do what works for you.

     
  13. Malik

    Malik Auror

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    I keep threatening to switch to Apple every laptop.

    If it's your first-ever novel, you will very probably lose your ass. (If it's your first draft of your first-ever novel, for God's sake, don't do this.)

    However, the amount you'll learn--about the process, about the industry, and about yourself as a writer--makes it a worthwhile investment.

    And you will never--NEVER--reach a level where your work is generating mainstream critical acclaim and appearing on lists next to household-name authors in your genre if you don't eventually do this. Self-edited/Grammarly-"edited" books won't get there. It takes a coordinated, top-notch team.

    And not just editing; after all this you still need a publicist, a business development consultant/SEO manager, a web designer, a graphics professional, a lawyer, a CPA, and a kickass agent.

    Nobody is good enough to do it alone.

    Team Crop 500.jpg
     
  14. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    I’m assuming years of work, most folks writing novels would do well with beta readers for a good long time (maybe a decade) before spending the cash on pros. or, some people just hit the right story and wham bam off they go.

    I wasted 4-5k on story edit, to be blunt, and that’s with an editor who’s worked with bigs and I love her, great lady,. Except I didn’t waste it, because it confirmed what I suspected.

    Once story structure is sound, too much is opinion. The line and copy edits are most critical once you have story in the can. And the thing about story is that no one, NO ONE, knows what will sell, which is why H’Wood keeps regurgitating crap, heh heh. All you can really do with story is to make it structurally perfect and pray you get it in front of the rights eyes.

     
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  15. Prince of Spires

    Prince of Spires Inkling

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    Thanks for the description of the professional approach. It's very educational to read about what the process for a professionally published book can look like.

    I do think there is a lot of middle ground between going the full Monty and the approach of a lot of indi-authors. Already a copy edit and a decent cover design can put you ahead of a lot of books.
     
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