By Casondra Brewster
Creative Word Lab
Recently, I was offered another contract for editing – a novel manuscript – but when I read the first five pages of the work – I had to refuse. Even if I charged my top rate, which is still cheap by going-rate standards, the work would be so intense that it would take longer than it should, making it not worth my time.
This is the first time I’ve refused work. I hated to do it, especially given that I had that on the same day I had another contract decline. I need all the work I can handle and then some, at least until I start getting paid more often for the writing side of my freelance life. My editing rate is lower than the typical standard, because I’m still building my business. So, I work six days a week, sometimes seven. Refusing work seemed to go against my DNA coding. But, this manuscript was not ready for prime-time, folks.
It harkened me back to the fervor that has been happening over in Chuck Wendig’s world with his post regarding improving the reputation of self-publishing by not putting out, well – crap. Herr Wendig is a huge supporter of indie publishing, I believe. He’s a hybrid writer himself, successfully straddling both author-publishing and traditionally publishing chasm. And it is a chasm. Do both worlds put out trash? Yes – I’m always quick to tell you stories about the errors I’ve found in big-name author’s books; however, those instances are story-worthy simply because it happens less frequently. Is the scale heavier on the indie publishing side? It is. When Wendig says there is a self-publishing shit volcano out there and it’s a problem, I can’t disagree. The manuscript I refused to work with until, at least, the writer did another revision is only one such example.
Listen, all you self-publishing people: hire an editor. Every author I’ve worked with (and they are mostly in the author-publishing realm) are just floored when I return a manuscript to them with the errors I find – both mechanical and craft-wise. Some of these are manuscripts that the author has revised multiple times.
Yet, it’s amazing to me that so many writers do not know how to do proper punctuation. Many novelists are so caught up in their own world that they forget the reader doesn’t know what you know as the writer. Then there’s continuity errors, foreshadowing that is never fulfilled…and on and on. Recognize, at bare minimum, that we are human and make mistakes. Editors help ensure your mistake-ratio is harder to calculate.
Therefore, every manuscript needs a seasoned editor’s eye, regardless of frequency of revision. Especially, if the only other people you’ve had read it are your family and friends. The final product after they’ve paid me (or another professional editor) to do editing? A stronger sell in the market that is just inundated – near a million books a year between traditional publishing and self-publishing. You want something strong to stick out from the shit volcano, my darling fellow writers. If you have a good story, it won’t matter how it’s published. People will be drawn to it.
There’s been many other blog posts, outside of Wendig’s, recently by both traditionally published, as well as, indie-published writers who say, self publishing is an option. As creative word smiths we are in an incredible time with heavy opportunity to get our work out there. We should take advantage of it, but do so only after you’ve invested the time into properly vetting your work. It’s simple, the reason why: if you don’t put a good product out there, no one is going to take you seriously. Your best friend might be a good beta reader for you and tell you, “Hey, that’s a great story.” But can you trust them to be objective? Can you trust your entire creative reputation on a best friend or spouse wanting to encourage you? Some folks have the rare relationship, where, yes, you can. But that’s the exception, not the rule.
Photo copyright A Geek Mom
Self publishing does not mean self-editing.That’s a horrendously bad idea. One of the reasons I haven’t self-published yet is because I don’t currently have the dough to shell out for a professional editor. I won’t self publish until I do. You want to add to the argument that self-publishing is less-than? Put out a manuscript that hasn’t been professionally edited. Be an example for the Big 5 (or six or three…whatever) and other indie-publishing naysayers as to why their format of traditional publishing is the only way to go. Personally, my goal is to be a hybrid author: one who is traditionally published and one who does author-publishing, as well. I won’t limit myself. But you bet your bootie I’m going to do it right. I won’t be an example for how to do it unprofessionally.