Like the impulsive idiot that I am, I dove head-first into a discussion about a particular self-publishing company. Someone had asked everyone else their opinions of this service, and though I’ve had only one experience with it, my opinion was for her to “run.” I’ve never self-published anything through the site–never self-pubbed anything but my public speaking pamphlet–but I’d edited the proof version of one of their books, and was . . . underwhelmed, to put it nicely.
The dissenters had valid arguments, and I was out-voted in no time flat, but one person took that opportunity to slap me down as an editor. Editors, according to him, have no value:
anyone with a decent reading ability and a decent understanding of the language can weed out 90% of the typo’s [sic] and mistakes of a book. Editing isn’t rocket science, it’s just meticulous work for someone with patience . . . most editors just load the file into Word (or whatever) and just skim the red underlined words anyway.
Professional editors–freelance and publisher-employed–are more than glorified proofreaders. I can’t speak for all of us, so I’ll limit myself to my own experience and services.
I have a degree in English. I’ve been writing for the bulk of my life, but picked it up seriously again in 1997. I belong to a professional association of editors, study the crafts of writing and editing, and constantly work to hone my skills. Authors who hire me get more than just a proofread of their manuscript. They get a comprehensive assessment of:
- The strength of the opening scene and hook
- Characterization and all pertaining to it
- POV strength and consistency
- Conflict and its sustainability
- Chapter and scene openers and closers
- Sentence structure and word choice
- The overall strengths and weaknesses of the book
Aside from doing this assessment, I try to help authors understand how to strengthen their skills; so to a certain extent, I also teach.
The young man who’d made the claim that editorial services are useless also lamented the cost of them — “a king’s ransom” he said. And perhaps it is high for some.
But I’m not embarrassed about charging for my service. I work hard and put in several hours per manuscript, often to the detriment of my own WIP. Since I haven’t been at it as long as some of my colleagues, I don’t charge as much, and even what I do charge can mount up. In the long run, however, a professional edit can give the serious author a head start and can make him a better writer.
A good way to keep editorial costs down is to submit your work to an experienced critique partner. I’m not alone in determining my fee based upon how much work I believe a manuscript will take. Those who get charged the least are those who have polished their manuscripts the most. The perfect pre-publication scenario is for an author to submit his completed work to a critique partner or group, make the corrections, then submit to a professional editor. After this edit, the author can either resubmit to the professional to polish his corrections, or he can head down the road to publication and let the publisher’s staff editors have the final say.
But some folks believe they know all there is to know about the editorial process and services, probably believe they know all there is to know about writing. Well, more power to ’em. They’d probably get charged the highest price on my range anyway–which would prove them right in one aspect. I charge a king’s ransom.