1. kmet
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    kmet Member

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    paying for editorial critique

    Discussion in 'The Art of Critique' started by kmet, Mar 9, 2010.

    Ok, this is a pretty general question about getting someone to critique a manuscript.

    I was wondering how many people have done this, the average cost, and how the author makes sure that their stuff doesn't get stolen.

    There's a million other questions i could ask about this, so any feedback would be appreciated.
     
  2. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    Price ranges depending on the complexity and type of edit and, importantly, the condition of the manuscript to begin with (its readability in terms of the writing).

    What I usually recommend is that if it's a novel, let's say, send a short story or novel chapter and give the editor some thoughts about what you're hoping for as an outcome of the professional edit (different people mean different things). Key is whether you're expecting storyline feedback and/or some kind of critique-like suggestions, or whether you're simply looking for corrections to grammar and spelling. This latter is often what writers ask for, but it turns out their manuscripts need much more than that and sometimes enough more that it makes it difficult or impossible to simply correct. (Understanding context and author's style is crucial to good editing).

    Asking (and paying) an editor to edit a small sampling of your work will allow for some specific communication about what kinds of edits the manuscript actually needs and whether or not the editor believes he or she can help you accomplish your objectives. And, depending upon your objectives, a good editor will tell you if she believes your work could benefit more from the kind of feedback you get in writing groups and forums like this one.

    You can decide how much you want to invest (in deciding if a particular editor's going to be useful) and negotiate how long a piece would suit your budget for that purpose. The results will give you a much better picture of whether or not you want to pay for more, and it will give your editor more insight into helping you estimate future costs.

    You needn't worry about anyone stealing your work (it's copyrighted the minute you write it, and and it's dated and stashed in your computer or file cabinet). Plus, you're sending your work with a dated cover letter (or e-mail) as further evidence, should you need it, that the manuscript is and was yours. Besides that, no professional editor in his right mind would jeopardize the opportunity to work with the next best-selling author on the off chance he could publish someone else's manuscript. The unpublished writers I know (who might be editors) are way too focused on making their own writing publishable to believe anyone else's is worth stealing. And a successfully published writer stands to lose far more than he'd gain by stealing someone else's great work.
     
  3. citric acid
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    citric acid New Member

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    Personally I don't think it's a good idea. If what your'e writing is good people will tell you, whether you pay them or not. And do you really want to pay someone a couple of hundred pounds and have them say at the end 'Sorry it's a bit pants'?
     
  4. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    For the most part, I'd have to agree with lemon juice ... er ... citric_acid. Paying someone to critique your work is a pretty risky endeavor and, if you are not extremely careful, you may wind up getting ripped off, too. Not your work, but your money. Some readers are very honest and respectable. They also tend to be very expensive. At the other end of the spectrum, though, you will find pretty pricey readers who are less than above-board. They make their living off of your hard work. They may make a few notes on your ms, send it back telling you it is not publishable, and then offer to help you fix it up (for another breathtaking fee) and then you will still end up with an unpublishable ms - perhaps even less so than when you first started.

    Overall, for most folks, the paid reader is not really a good investment. I could, however, name a few high-profile, multiply published authors who could use the services of someone with a keen eye and strong literary sense and a backbone to allow them to tell the aforementioned high-profile his work sucks rotten eggs.

    In any case, you probably really just need to rely on people you trust personally to give an honest opinion for no bigger price than a good dinner. If nothing else, find and join a writers' guild in your area. Then, if and when you get that agent on the line, he or she will be able to provide a competent editor to help with fine tuning.

    Anything before that point and you should know if you've got a good story or not. Your beta readers will take it to the next step. Your agent will get you to '3d base' and the publisher will point the way to the outfield fence for your grand slam home run.

    You don't need to pay a professional reader for that.
     
  5. kmet
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    kmet Member

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    Thanks for the quick feedback. You guys addressed most of my concerns. Of the people who have read my work, I've gotten great reviews. Of course those people are friends and family and generally biased.

    Besides, one person quoted me at $200 for a 24,500 word novella...
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i would never recommend paying anyone to edit your writing, unless you intend to self-publish it and have a ready-made market for it, such as with a non-fiction book that's aimed at a professional group you know will buy it...

    the unqualified 'never' applies to all fiction, since you've little to no chance of ever making back the cost of an editor's fees...

    also, it's a very chancy thing to choose an editor, as many who advertise are out and out con artists and many more are not capable of delivering good value for what you pay them... many of those won't even give you valid advice and/or will leave your work in even worse shape than it was to begin with...

    good, experienced, honest editors will charge fees beyond your budget and even if one is able to polish your ms to a faretheewell, you still have to query agents and publishers on your own and it's still not likely to end up on a book store shelf, so all that work, time, and money will have been wasted...

    finally, if you want to be a professional writer, you must be able to edit your own work, so paying someone else to do it, won't help you get your skills up to a professional, competitive level...

    sadly, too many new writers do it, thinking that will help them get published...

    the cost can run anywhere from hundreds, to thousands...

    realistically, who's going to be stupid enough to 'steal' a ms that more than likely isn't at all marketable anyway?... and is protected by copyright, to boot!?

    as for that quote you got, do you know what it covers?... just correcting typos and major grammar/technical goofs?... fixing flaws in plot, etc.?... major revisions, where necessary?...

    and if you're in the us, do you know that there's virtually no market for adult novellas?... so, if it's not for the YA market, it's most likely that no agent or publisher will even want to see the ms?

    bottom line?... learn to edit your own work!

    mm...
    i know you meant well, but it's really unhelpful to new writers to tout what's called 'the poor man's copyright' since it's not 'evidence' of anything other than it was in your possession when mailed, proves nothing of the kind, and has absolutely no legal standing in the us... it may have a bit in the uk, but to issue a blanket claim like that will harm much more than help...

    please go to the source and learn what does work and what doesn't: www.copyright.gov

    that's from the site linked above...
     
  7. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    Copyright is nothing more than evidence of the date of authorship the work in question. Registering that evidence is something one does through his publisher usually only upon publication. You are incorrect in assuming that one cannot prove ownership of a copyright without having registered it with the Copyright office, and you would not need a registered copyright to prove authorship of a work your editor has stolen and published under his or her name--especially one you have sent via e-mail.

    *****

    From the Copyright Office:

    "When is my work protected?
    Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.

    Do I have to register with your office to be protected?
    No. In general, registration is voluntary. Copyright exists from the moment the work is created. You will have to register, however, if you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a U.S. work. See Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section “Copyright Registration.”

    *****

    You might note that I was not discussing legal issues, in any case.
     
  8. EileenG
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    EileenG Member

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    Realistically, it's very unlikely that anyone has any interest in stealing your work. Even if you have a cracking idea, the chances are that lots of people have the same idea, but totally different ways of handling it, not to mention totally different ways of writing about it.

    I used to work full time as a journalist, and you'd be amazed how often people would send unsolicited material to papers, then be convinced that the paper had stolen their idea. If they had bothered to check first, they'd have found that the editor had already commissioned a regular to do a feature on that subject.

    I'm not opposed to the idea of paying someone to give you an unbiased critique. I know far too many people who have the potential to be good writers, but because their friends and family tell them they are already good, they won't work at improving what they write. The trick is to find someone who genuinely can tell you what is or isn't working, and how it would suit the market.

    I do know someone who does this commercially, and she only accepts manuscripts that she feels has potential. She says otherwise, it's too depressing for everyone involved.
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Molly,

    The Poor Man's Copyright -- mailing yourself a copy of your manuscript -- has no legal standing, as Maia noted. I didn't believe this when I first saw her state it, but since then I have read enough from the publications of the U. S. Copyright office to realize she is correct. It carries no weight because it is too easy to falsify.

    You do need to register a copyright before you can file an infringement claim in the courts, but you need not register until you intend to file such a claim.

    What the courts will want to see, if both you and the person you are filing against claim ownership of the piece, is earlier drafts of your work. That is much more difficult to falsify in a convincing manner, and generally the people who attemp to pass off someone else's work as their own are talentless, lazy parasites incapable of perpetrating a successful hoax of that sort.

    Copyright exists and attaches to the owner as soon as a completed draft exists in a durable medium. So keep early drafts. The dates aren't as important as the existence of early drafts in your possession.

    So please don't recommend the Poor Man's Copyright to anyone. It has no legal standing, and can give a false sense of security. Just keep your early drafts, notes, research, all the stuff that shows you were the one who put in the work.

    A registered copyright is the primary evidence of ownership. If both parties have registered copyrights, then it goes to proving the legitimacy of the filings. The one who is shown to have filed falsely could theoretically be criminally prosecuted after the fact for the false filing itself, but I have never heard of this actually taking place. The civil damages that would be collected by the legitimate copyright owner would be a far greater penalty.
     
  10. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    For those who visit this thread, here is more information on "The Poor Man's Copyright (sending oneself an envelope via the USPS with the contents of a story/novel etc. for proof), and its lack of value with respect to legal cases:

    Poor Man's Copyright

    Beyond that if I were going to pay someone for an editorial critique (something I would not do, but just saying if I was considering it), there are plenty of recently unemployed editors (from well-established NY publishers) whose expertise and experience in the publishing world would be of real value. They've purchased books/novels/stories and edited them. I would not say that they are unemployed necessarily because they weren't good at their job, but simply the severe contraction of editors and such in the publishing industry over the past year or two has impacted more than a few.

    They'd cost a pretty penny, but you generally get what you pay for. How to find them? Publishing industry periodicals often list such information. Some info could be googled on line. It might be some effort to track such down, but if I were going to go that route, it's one I would consider.

    Really, with a novella, you're going to pay out way way more than you'll likely ever earn back, on that piece, and it is unlikely that a novella's publication will open the door to other opportunities through notice. Of course, one never knows, but certainly not something to bank on.

    Just my three cents.

    Terry
     
  11. kmet
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    kmet Member

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    wow. I have to say I am disappointment by the uselessness of the poor man's copyright...
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Look at it this way: It saves you the postage wasted on mailing yourself manuscripts by Certified Mail.
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    mm...
    you are incorrect in so presumptuously assuming what i may or may not assume... in this case, i assumed nothing of the kind and nothing i wrote indicates in any way that i would even think of assuming such a nonsensical thing...

    the best proof of authorship is what i always advise, that cog has mentioned above: saving your earliest notes and a couple of early drafts, that will show the development of a work from idea to completed ms...
     
  14. fandango
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    fandango Member

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    Some really good advice here, but I'm still unclear on whether it's a good idea to pay for an editorial or not. For my situation, if I ever complete the pieces I'm working on, I'd want at least some sort of grammar check, simply because my grammar is so poor. There's only so much substance and SPaG editing an individual can do before he/she starts getting fatigue and friends, family and internet has limited assistance. For a new writer I would have thought some editorial prior to submission would have some benefit?
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If you are independently wealthy, and don't mind throwing money away, feel free. But you are much better off learning the punctuation and grammar, if you plan to be a writer.

    You will undoubtedly miss a few mistakes. Pick up nearly any published novel, and you'll find mistakes that made it all the way to printing.

    You should do your best to make it presentable on your own, and don't allow yourself to make excuses.
     
  16. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    amen to that!

    and by the way, fandango, an 'editorial' is the statement/opinion piece that you see in newspapers and magazines, under an editor's by line... ;-)
     
  17. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    I recently got a tiny bit of euphoria when I got a neat official document in the mail from the copyright office proving my book is officially copyright protected. I understand what Cogito says, that it isn't necessary to copyright it first, and that a court looks for early drafts, etc. But the happiness I felt, as if somehow it made my book more "real", was well worth the $35 it cost me when I electronically transmitted my book to the copyright office.

    But, back to the OP...

    I recommend joining a writing group instead. You can get valuable feedback from other sources and do your own editing. You can probably find one in your area through google, and if not, you could even start your own group. There are bound to be other writers in your area willing and able to read and critique your work who only ask that you do the same with their work.

    Charlie
     
  18. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i'm glad it made you feel good, charlie, but the fact is that your work was already 'officially copyright protected'... all you did was register the existing copyright...

    and, unless you plan to self-publish, it's not a good idea to register a book's copyright [though it's often done for screenplays and song lyrics], since that dates it and when you try to get an agent, or paying publisher, if they see it's been around for a long while without being published, they're not as likely to take it seriously...
     
  19. fandango
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    fandango Member

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    How much for your services? As you can see I need it :)
     
  20. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    not a penny!... all i do is for free, no strings attached... it's sort of payback for having been gifted with the ability to do it...

    just drop me an email any time, if you're serious about wanting my help...

    love and hugs, maia
    maia3maia@hotmail.com
     
  21. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    Um... yeah, I knew that, that's what I meant. I just used the wrong words to say it.

    ::beats head against wall:: drat, these words!!!

    Sorry. Having a writer's crisis. ;)

    By any chance, can you provide a reference for this claim?

    Because I've read books in the past on the subject of copyright, and I've spent some time (actually lost sleep last night, and spent time this morning) googling and looking for support for your claim, but I have yet to find that claim anywhere but in your posting.

    I have found references that say that a copyright registration is not necessary, and some that recommend registering your copyright, and lots of information on how to register your copyright, but not one reference I can find suggests that getting your copyright registered is actually harmful or may cause an agent or publisher not to take the book seriously.

    I would think that, if getting your book registered could harm its chances of getting published, that new writers would be so warned and that every book and Writer's Digest article on the subject would practically open by saying, "If you have a book and are thinking of registering the copyright yourself, for God's sake, don't do it!! You're hurting your chances of getting taken seriously by a publisher!!" I haven't seen such a disclaimer, although I have read the claim that it's "not necessary" which is a very different thing. "Not necessary" to me says, you don't have to, but if you really want to it's okay and it's not going to do you any harm.

    I would also think that the "how to register your copyright" articles, which are common, would be of little interest, if it's like saying, "how to nail your own feet to the floor and make your book unsalable to a publisher or agent."

    There's something rather counter-intuitive about the claim. I would think that the first thing a publisher or agent would be interested in is, "Is this a good book?" That they'd read, and if there's a good hook that draws them past the first pages, and endearing and memorable characters and an interesting storyline, that if it's a book the reader doesn't want to put down, that they wouldn't toss it aside because, "Good book. Too bad he registered it. Now I can't take it seriously."

    Charlie
     
  22. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    it's just common sense... if you do register your work's copyright [which is not necessary unless you need to defend your authorship in court] and you've been trying unsuccessfully to get an agent or publisher for years, having that copyright notice on it is a sure sign that no one wanted it, so they're not as likely to take it as seriously, or get to it as quickly as all those other submissions that at least seem to be 'fresh'...

    and you want your ms to be on the top of the slush pile, not on the bottom, right?

    fyi, i've been told this by agents... doing that also brands you an amateur/beginner, since the pros and more seasoned writers don't do it...

    if you feel you simply must do it anyway, at least don't mention it in your queries and don't put the notice on your work, so no one you want to submit it to will know...
     
  23. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    I have decided to spin the "registering your copyright" discussion off into a new thread.
     

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