The first target for most is either to at least try to cover costs, or to accept that for now writing is a possibly expensive hobby. Hobbies almost always cost money, from golf at one extreme to collecting beer mats at the other. Books can cost any amount to produce from absolutely zero, to, well, almost any amount. Most, self-published authors, traditionally published and the growing numbers doing both, need to keep cost down. But, however good you are your book needs editing one way or another.
Employing a good content editor and a copy editor is best if one can afford both, or if one is in the rare position of having highly skilled friends that are charitable. I produced a short story book through charitable help, for nothing- readers have to be their own judges as to whether that succeeded. I have also done everything in between, short of actually being fortunate enough to find a traditional publisher. Few self-publishers have spent as much as I have unsuccessfully.
There are other ways of getting free help, one of the best of which is on the Wattpad platform. Some authors have had considerable success from taking the judicious advice and help of their followers. Others use early ARC reviewers and amateur proof readers in one way or another to great effect.
In my arrogant opinion, which runs very much against the publishing establishment, if you dare then publish whatever. Nowadays we have been freed from the tight, sometimes abusive, and usually biased controls of powerful publishing businesses. That system was adequate and even sometimes good for readers, but dreadful for all but a tiny minority of writers. That system worked and still does, as autocracies can. I’m relieved that publishing is now a democracy in which everyone is free to publish. There is no greater freedom than to see ones word in print.
Writing a novel is very hard work and consumes vast quantities of time. Don’t hide your efforts from the world unless you really did write just for yourself. Even, ‘sacrilegious’ though the sanctimonious would call it, publish an e book and constantly edit it as you get feed-back. This used to be called producing second and subsequent editions. Obviously get your work as perfect as income and time allows from the start. Beyond that, remember to spend only as much as you can afford to lose. Being an unsuccessful author is nothing terrible, ninety nine percent of authors are, and ninety nine point nine nine could have made more money doing something else. Being an unsuccessful author who has taken food off the family table is the only really plausible disaster.
And the self-reveal, I don’t play golf or even collect beer mats any more and thanks to my wife we haven’t starved. And, yes, I’m far more likely to be a success with a full editorial team. Possibly even nought point nine percent more likely. So most of us must chose somewhere between paying a lot to publish and still not being terribly successful, and publishing be damned protected by a suitably thick skin. But whatever we do, we must publish. Not to publish when you have the freedom to do so is usually the only tragic outcome.
Some can write best sellers, not necessarily the most literary of books, without the help of editors. You aren’t one of them.
This was written in reply to the following excellent blog, taken from
RED MARKS DON’T EQUAL FAILURE: HOW TO CHOOSE AN EDITOR AND DEAL WITH THE RESULTS.
April 28, 2015 by Tahlia Newland
Some books require a lot of line editing, and some don’t. The difference is not always due to the author’s experience and knowledge of the craft of writing, sometimes it’s due simply to the fact that a book may have complex ideas and a trail-blazing or different approach. A book can be excellent in concept and story, but need some rearrangement and tightening of the expression of ideas to make them more easily followed and to make the book as readable as possible for the widest range of people. So if you get your book back from the line editor covered with red marks, don’t take it as a failure.
The purpose of copy editing and proofreading is to make sure that the writing is grammatically correct and punctuation and word usage in line with conventions, but the purpose of structural and line editing is to make a book better. And it’s a rare book that can’t be made better.
All books benefit from the eyes of a line editor, but the line editor might do some fairly big changes to your sentence and paragraph structure, so it can be a bit scary to hand your book over. It’s less threatening to your ego to just have your book copy edited, but a copy edit alone will not make your book better. It will only make it free of grammatical and punctuation and spelling errors, and a book free of such errors is not the same as a good book. A line editor can’t make all books great, but they can make all books better.
But what if you get a book back from the editor and you don’t like what they’ve done? What if you think they’ve made it worse, or you simply don’t understand how it’s better? Luckily I have never had this situation either as an author or as an editor. The way to avoid it is to find a line editor you can trust. And the way to do that is to read their information on how they work, read their blog to get a feel for their personality and, most important, get a sample edit. A sample edit should give you explanations for why they’ve done what they’ve done. And if you aren’t sure of anything, you should feel free to ask. You can also check things by doing your own research.
The big question is whether or not the editor understands what you’re trying to do. Do they respect your style? The last thing you want is an editor who will try to turn your contemplative romance into a fast paced thriller. A manuscript appraisal is a good place to start with an editor because their suggestions at the structural and conceptual level, will show whether they’re in tune with your vision or not. It will also show you how well they communicate and respond to your concerns.
I also feel that an editor who has reviewed a lot of books in a wide range of genres will have a better understanding of voice and style and how to stay true to it than someone who hasn’t actively reviewed books. I’m aware of how much I learned from formally evaluating other people’s books in this way.
If you’re happy with the sample edit—and remember that the editor will see things that you don’t, so expect to be surprised and educated—and you feel that you can trust the editor to improve your book, not mulch it, then hand it over. When you get it back. Take a deep breath before looking at it, remind yourself that the edits are to make your book better and tell your ego to take a walk. It’s time to be objective, not defensive.
Look at the edits objectively. Remember that the editor thinks they have improved your book, and since generally they have more knowledge than you and they definitely have a more objective eye than you, they probably have—unless you’ve booked someone who isn’t really qualified; avoid big egos, no actual editing qualification, little experience and few recommendations from other authors. If you can’t see why something is supposedly better, ask, and research their answer to see if others agree with their perspective. A good editor will leave comments to explain why they’ve done anything major, anyway.
What they shouldn’t have done is change your voice. A skilled line editor can cut words, reorganise paragraphs, combine or cut up sentences, and change your sentence structure without changing your voice. So don’t panic when you see that they’ve done a lot of it. It should strengthen your voice, not weaken it. And it doesn’t mean your book was bad, it just means that now it’s a lot better.
Have you ever employed a line editor? What was your experience?