1. Dave Gregory
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    Dave Gregory Member

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    The value of professional editing?

    Discussion in 'Electronic Publishing' started by Dave Gregory, Jun 17, 2015.

    Not sure if this is the right place for this question, but it concerns the route to self-publishing, so....

    Who here actually uses professional editors? Actually shells out the cash for a service? I'm a first-time novelist and whilst I'm reasonably happy that I can at least write well enough for the average punter, am I hamstringing myself if I don't employ an editor.

    I'm fairly certain that self-publishing is the way forward for me, as I don't realistically think that the story is the 'sort of thing' that publishers would find attractive (I have this recurring prescience of standing at this camp, Dickie Attenborough type's desk whilst he tells me "it's quite awful, actually, dear boy - I won't be taking it on and I'll advise everyone I can not to either"). But do I absolutely need to employ an editor, or do you reckon my sales as a first-timer won't be that massively affected?

    The stuff I write reads well enough as it is - I've had an English teacher and author friend state that it needs 'hardly any editing', and I trust his opinion. But also, would the cost of an editor for a 300 page book end up eating the majority of my potential earnings (IF..... ANY.....)?

    I'm cautious about any sort of writing these days - my previous incarnations have included a songwriter/musician, and the roaring indifference to our band has left me thinking, 'nah - I'm not what people like, not a soul will read this'.

    So: who amongst you pays for editing? And is it really all that useful for a small-time hobbyist author? And what does it cost vs potential earnings?
     
  2. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I am not self-published. Rather my works have been released through my current publisher (a small-medium size press, depending on how you measure), or other publishers (of magazines/anthologies) for my short stories when they were first published, and even as reprints. In each instance they were edited by someone hired/paid for by the publisher.

    Why do I say this? I am an English teacher, and an author, and I need an editor. Are my works perfect, even after having been edited? No. But in every instance, the editors found concerns that I missed and my novels and stories were better as a result.

    Do you want to present the best face of your works? Do you want it (them) to look professional? Are you going to hire a cover artist to design and create the cover?

    No, you don't have to get an editor, and there are some successful self-published books out there that are in severe need of an edit. But for the most part, the successful self-published authors I know, those that sell 50 to 1000+ books/stories a month, have employed editors.

    In my opinion, presenting a work as professionally prepared as possible to the reading public will garner the best possible results in attracting readers, and retaining those readers who will be open to reading what you publish next, and will tell their friends and offer positive reviews.

    Will you earn back enough to cover your expenses (editors/cover artists/layout assistance--if you need it)? Maybe not. From what I've read, quite likely not, at least not with the first novel released.

    Good luck which ever route you take.
     
  3. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    My opinion:

    Your book may need a professional editor in order to sell any non-trivial number of copies.

    The cost of an editor will probably be more than the income on your book, even if the editor gets you more sales.

    It's entirely possible that the cost of rights to a cover image will be more than the income on your book. Almost any non-zero cost could be more than the income on your book. Self-published books tend not to make a lot of income.

    Yes, that sounds like a no-win situation, and I think that it sounds that way because it is, at least in terms of income. As I see it, right now self-publishing is a way to give your work a chance of being read. The odds of significant income are very low, and they're very low even if you're a pretty good writer.

    I think that self-publishing is best considered to be a hobby that has a cost, rather than a business that has a profit. Plenty of people exercise their creativity with hobbies that have a cost. Those quilts that win at the state fair, those glorious cookies that everyone clamors over, that beautiful garden, they're all personal artistic creations. They're worthwhile. But they don't make a profit.

    (Edited because until the last sentence I don't mean "profit" I mean "income". Gross income.)
     
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  4. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    How much of a "hobbyist author" do you want to be? Do you hope to turn this into a business? Do you care if you get good reviews? Do you think anyone but friends and family will read your book?

    I don't self-publish much, but when I do, I pay an editor, and she catches things. But I do feel as if, b/c I'm treating this as a business, I need to look after my business reputation by making sure everything I put out is reasonable quality.

    If you're just playing around, you probably don't need to worry about that so much.
     
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  5. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    What sort of editing are you looking into? Whilst your grammar and chronology might be just fine, editing can go further than that into structure of the overall novel, pacing, characterisation etc. These "big picture" things are not things the average reader normally catches. The average reader may have some vague feeling of dissatisfaction or confusion or sense there's a slump in the novel, but they can't tell you why or how to fix it. An editor - a good one anyway - can and should.

    A good editor that's worth her money can be invaluable, though that's just an opinion as I've never hired such an editor.

    However, I have hired an editor before who was utterly unqualified to do the work he promised to and I can safely say this, from personal experience: it's better to have no editor than a bad editor. If you're gonna hire one, for goodness' sake, don't save on it - hire a good one. A bad one can severely mess up your work and cheap though a bad editor might be, it'll still cost a couple hundred pounds that would be a complete and total waste. You might as well have spent that amount on a nice holiday deal!

    Editing is, unfortunately, one of those jobs that everyone who writes and can string up a sentence thinks they can do. That's simply not the case. Editing by someone else is also necessary in that the author is often simply too close to the work to be able to edit properly.

    At the same time, however, unless you have an existing readership, I would not bet on your self-published novels earning you much at all. Very few are able to make a real profit from self-publishing and to make enough profit to have covered the editing fee that you paid, which should be in the range of four-digit figures, I'd say that's pretty rare.

    That said, everything is an investment. You get back how much you put in. It all depends on how much you're willing to put in, but if you're gonna put in that kinda money as a business investment for your book, then you should also invest time to properly market your book and garner a real following. Then perhaps as your following grows, your future books may make the profit that you hope for and eventually exceed the cost of editing. You cannot hope for this kinda success if you do not edit your book properly to begin with.

    So, basically, it's a business and as with any business, it comes with financial risks. How much effort, time, and money are you really willing to invest? What do you wanna get out of publishing your book? Is it for personal satisfaction of saying, "I have a book!" or do you hope for something more, some sort of profit, perhaps one day to live off it? How much you should reasonably and wisely invest should probably be in correlation with exactly what it is you wanna get out of publishing.

    Of course, also be realistic about how much you can actually afford. If you have money to burn, then by all means go for it - I can see the experience as rather insightful and enriching. But it's a bit of an expensive "lesson" unless you're rather wealthy, which most writers are not lol.
     
  6. Dave Gregory
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    Dave Gregory Member

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    Thanks all.... That's all been very useful in shaping my plans for the book. Thinking of this more as a paid-for hobby as @ChickenFreak described it, I can see kind of where I'd end up and I'm not entirely sure that I want to go down that route.
    Whilst I worry about the potential market for the book, the quality of the story, the pacing, the originality - if I self publish, it's almost certain to end up costing me as much as I make, even without an editor (fortunately another of my 'previous incarnations' was as a graphic designer, so I'm content to produce my own cover artwork - hey, maybe that's what I ought to be doing for money instead of writing?!).
    Honestly, though? I harbour this little fantasy that people will love my first story and it'll sell by the thousands through word-of-mouth. Perhaps, then, I should man-up and tout it around publishers? That at least costs nothing but the pain of rejection, right?
    .....Right?
     
  7. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yep. I think that it's best to start with a serious, full-on effort to get traditionally published, and if you hit rejection, consider all the possibilities, including the possibility that either your writing or the book needs lots more work--because if so, that will be true in the case of self-publishing, too.
     
  8. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    No reason not to go the self-publishing route at the outset if that's what you prefer, but if you want the work to be taken seriously as a professional-quality work, then you need a professional editor and a professional cover.
     
  9. Krishan
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    Krishan Active Member

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    The editing I've received in the past has been absolutely invaluable. If I was to self-publish something I would hire an editor no matter how confident I was in my writing.

    It occurs to me that no harm can come from seeking a publisher - self-publishing will always remain an option that's open to you. It sounds as though having a publisher might help you achieve the goals you've set out here.
     
  10. Inks
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    Inks Contributing Member

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    Professional editing is like a class, pay attention and learn where your mistakes are and learn how to identify them. Word to the wise, always make sure you have a business contract in which makes clear the scope and nature of the editing. Seek help and consult other persons in your area of interest so that you can avoid the pitfalls and know the actual cost of said work.

    This applies to fiction and non-fiction work alike, I am well-aware of my own pitfalls in my non-fiction writing and have learned to become vastly better in the span of a single year through a professional editor. Also, you will smack yourself in the head the first time you mess up something as simple as "their / there" if you self-publish something. A skilled human beats all the computer software "grammar/spell checkers" by leagues. It is also why high-quality professional editors are always in demand.
     
  11. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    Yes you need an editor. Period. And it should be someone who knows their stuff. That'll cost.

    However some of us are luckier than others. I use the services of my sister who is a lawyer by training and writes and edits government publications for her work. She's not perfect, and has a very different voice to mine, often trying to put in highbrow / formal language where it simply isn't me, but she does a good job. I also use beta readers and all the editing software that's out there before the drafts go down to her.

    Even so things get through and sometimes they get picked up. My latest review mentioned a dearth of colons and semi-colons (I much prefer the humble em dash) and blasted my lack of employing an editor. I can't tell you how livid my sister was.

    (It was actually kind of funny! Normally I hate negative reviews, but after the grief my sister gives me for my mistakes I actually enjoyed this one! Of course I still had to stop my sister from responding - she actually edited the review! - and then explain to her that it wasn't an attack on her - between fits of laughter!!!).

    But if I'm getting that while being more or less professionally reviewed / edited, imagine what else is out there.

    Oh and don't listen to the crud about most self publishers / indies not making any money. It's true, they usually don't. But most also don't give a damn about the quality of their work. They just write it, slap on a cover, and expect the accolades to roll in. However if you want to go indie properly, that should not apply to you. And some of us do make money at this game.

    For me - and I'm only the indie equivalent of a mid-lister - my last book hit the 600's on the kindle list (out of two million books that's not bad). This month and just in America it's sold twelve hundred copies and had one point two million pages read. That's a nice chunk of change for just one book in August - five figures. And while the Arcanist did well, many others do a lot better.

    On the other hand to do indie publishing well, is hard. Probably harder than to go trade. It takes commitment. It takes a lot of time and effort. And as I always say, the writing game is a marathon not a sprint. The Arcanist is now on its way down the sales charts, and my next book has to be out in a month and the one after that off to be edited.

    Cheers, Greg.
     

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