Editorial Guidance

My Uncle Burl Barer is an Edgar-award-winning author of a dozen books but that doesn't make the job of writing any easier…in fact, he's having some trouble with is current project.

There is something not right about my current book in progress, and it is driving me crazy. […] So far, at the request of my editor, I've done a complete restructuring of the book, and still it doesn't "sing."
Tomorrow I'm calling "headquarters" – the executive editor — and consulting on what I need to do to make this baby at least hum.

Thankfully, Burl has something most self-published authors do not… an experienced editor provided by the publisher at no charge to him.

Editors are the inspired clergy of the literature religion. They comfort, admonish and encourage. They bring out the diamond potential in our prolix lumps of coal. I am blessed with the editors at Kensington Publishing, headed by the resilient and insightful Michaela Hamilton. Mike Shol is currently editing the manuscript of Fatal Beauty, and it is all coming together. Whew. I pity authors who don't have the blessing of a world-class editor. I've been very lucky. My first book, THE SAINT: A Complete History was edited by Steve Wilson at McFarland & Co. I doubt I would have snagged the Edgar were it not for his guidance. One of the tragedies of self-published (ie self-printed) books is often the lack of editorial guidance, not to mention the lack of sales.

Sadly, many "self-published" authors have gone the vanity press route because they believe their work is perfect "as-is" and reject any suggestion that their book may be flawed in some way (which is one reason why the self-publishing companies are known as "vanity presses"). These aspiring authors don't recognize the importance of editing and rewriting, of having an experienced, and objective, outside perspective on their work. All they are interested in is seeing their book "in print" as quickly as possible without having to "jump through all those hoops" or letting anyone meddle with their "artistic vision." And that's why so much of what is self-published out there is unreadable slop.

5 thoughts on “Editorial Guidance”

  1. Being edited by someone who knows what he is doing has been one of the great unforeseen joys of the process for me. I’ve gone through it twice now, and each time I’ve learned something that has made me a better writer.
    A good editor can see what you were trying to do and help you accomplish it. Ignoring the editor’s role in the process can, I think, only be bad for the final product.
    Hell, even when I’ve disagreed with editorial notes, I’ve appreciated them, as they’ve made be think about what might have been instinctual decisions. And if I consider why I did something, I might be able to do it better.

  2. Lee,
    Last week I changed my email signature, it was overdue:
    “Except for writers who don’t understand all facets in editing, and editors who have the same problem;
    I have nothing against self publishing.” 😉
    Dory’s Law
    As a developmental / substantive editor,
    I thank you from the bottom of my editorial heart!

  3. I just had the experience of cutting several thousand words and rewriting parts of my novel according to the feedback from two agents, who ultimately passed. It made it a much better novel nonetheless. The vanity crowd doesn’t want to be told what to do. As a result they open with talking heads dialogue, slather the first page with adverbs and passive voice and declare themselves published. Not.

  4. As a struggling soon-to-be, self-published author, I am aware of the power of a professional edit, so here are 5 tips for anyone considering the self-publishing or POD (print on demand) publishing process:
    1. Search for the Society of Editors or Association of Editors in your city. The Society of Editors in Queensland has a website – http://www.editorsqld.com – listing professional freelance editors. The list includes their credentials, experience, contact details and a blurb about their areas of interest.
    2. Ask for a deal! Most editors I interviewed charge per page, or assign a fee based on a certain number of pages read per hour. This can get quite expensive even for a 35,000 word manuscript, so ask if they will consider a flat fee, or a payment plan. Many editors are also authors, so they understand the challenges with getting your first book out cleanly.
    3. Send a set of sample chapters for them to peruse. I used my blog to steer potential editors to view my sample chapters. This shows you are serious and if you’re blog is any good, should gain some buy-in from the editors.
    4. Offer to give them credit in the book for a reduced rate. Editors are often self-employed business people and they need leads and referrals as well. If you’re book does make it ‘big’, that one little line of referral could mean quite a bit of future business for them.
    5. Self edit as much as possible! Then do it again and again and again… One thing that really helped me was to take three months off from the writing project. That may sound ludicrous, but I used those three months to initiate my blog and start to build awareness of me and my work. I’ve now had over 1000 people visit my blog!
    When I finally did sit down, to run through my final critical edit (before submitting it to a professional editor), I was amazed at some of what I had written and disgusted with other parts, so it was easy to then slash and burn the bits which were precious to me only 3 months prior, but now obviously had no place in the manuscript.
    I have negotiated a flat fee of $250 to get a professional editor’s review of 185 pages, because the editor I found was passionate about the subject matter, and was pleased with the level of editing I was able to do on my own, but I’m an editor at heart.
    Don’t be afraid to negotiate!
    Write On!


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