Five years ago, when I decided to self-publish my first novel, I did not hire an editor. I was really trying to cut costs on many things, and I didn't think it was worth my money to pay someone else to find spelling errors. After all, I'm an English major and an English teacher. Didn't that over-qualify me to copy edit my own work?
Uh, the answer to that is a very loud, no.
Over the years, I've saved up some money and realized the value in hiring a trained editor to proof my manuscripts and make style and content suggestions. I'm lucky to have found someone who appreciates my narrative voice and is able to locate global errors in my work.
Today, I begin a periodic chat with my editor, so you can benefit from her insight as well.
Please welcome Jane Mackay.
1. Hi Jane, let’s talk today about your advice to authors seeking an editor. I’ve heard some new writers say they can’t afford an editor until they’re published. What might you say to those new to this very competitive industry?
Hi Ellen, thanks for inviting me! That’s a conundrum, and my sympathy is with writers wanting to self-publish or find an agent but without the funds necessary to hire a good-quality editor.
I’m biased, of course, in considering that good editing is necessary, but I’m also a reader, and as a reader, I have very little patience with books that contain poorly worded sentences; errors of consistency or fact; improbabilities that go beyond acceptable suspension of disbelief; poor structure or plot or character development; long boring passages; spelling, grammar and punctuation errors; or anything else that jars me out of the happy immersion in another world that reading fiction provides.
Several authors I’ve worked with have successfully run crowd-funding (or crowdfunding, depending on your style preference) campaigns to finance the editing, design, and publication of their books. One of my favorite author clients has published three short-story collections this way, and is now publishing a novel, all of which I copy edited.
Another option, which came up today on an editor’s discussion list, is asking your editor if you can make incremental payments – three or four or five payments beginning with the deposit when the editor begins work. That way you’re not having to come up with a lump sum. The important thing is to be completely up-front with your editor about how much you’re able to pay and when. If you find out you’re not going to be able to make a payment on time, let the editor know right away. Editors have bills (and rent) to pay too, and if they’re counting on getting your payment on a certain date, but it doesn’t arrive, that could cause problems. It could also detrimentally affect your relationship with the editor, which is a shame, especially if you’re really happy with the editor’s work.
2. In regards to writing support, what are some of the best free resources for an author just starting out?
Online forums are a great place to get advice, concrete information, and oodles of encouragement. I recommend searching Facebook and also doing a general Internet search to find a group or a few groups that suit your temperament and needs. Twitter is also a great place to connect with other writers, and participating in writing-oriented tweet chats (Twitter chats) that have guest hosts can be a valuable way to have direct contact with an editor, agent, or other publishing professional (#k8chat and #litchat are two good ones).
Love #k8chat. That's where I found you, Jane!
There are also many blogs with good advice, including some by agents. The Writer’s Digest website is an excellent resource for all kinds of information related to writing.
Also, don’t forget your local public library – the reference librarian is trained to help you find information that you need. This is a truly valuable resource that many people forget about now that so much is available on the Internet. But librarians have access to resources – and can verify the accuracy of their information – that aren’t generally available. Another good real-world place is your local coffee shop. Spend a few hours there and you’ll soon figure out who the other writers are. You can also post a notice on the bulletin board saying that you’re looking for writers to connect with.
You can contact Jane directly, visit her website, or find her on Facebook to learn more about the world of an editor.
Jane, thanks for visiting the site. Next time, we’ll talk spelling with Jane. Please feel free to leave comments or questions below.