Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Finding an Editor

Once the drought ended and I re-read my book (yet again) I was ready to have this edited by a professional. It was very exciting and terrifying. I had no means to know how to pick an editor and what to look for. Sure, I read my books and they said the good and bad, but really, I know there are tons of people who would do a great job and I would never be able to find them.

My inquiries:
1 - I emailed a slew of people from the recommendations from the 'Self-Publishing' Manual
2 - I emailed people on craigslist
3 - I did google searches and emailed a few people

The response was very minimal. I was hesitant toward anyone for the most part. the self-publishing manual is a great resource, but for recommended editors? As great as they are, they probably only have experience working with editors who worked on non-fiction.

Once I started getting a few responses, the first thing I noticed was the extremely high cost in it! One woman I spoke do not only charged $60 an hour (granted, any professional in any field is going to charge a living wage, so I acknowledge it's not a rip off) but this very woman said she would edit my manuscript by hand (pen/pencil) and ship the manuscript back to me. Seriously? MS Office came out a really long time ago and I am supposed to re-type my own manuscript from your 'notes?' Your and editor, you are supposed to edit it, not mark it up. If you aren't familiar with this, there is a function in Office called "track changes" and when you select this and mark-up a document, it makes the changes to desire, but then markes up the page to show what you did, thus, the digital editor. When the author gets the notes, they look at it and go "yes...I like this" and with a click of a button the mark-ups are finalized.

It was frustrating emailing the few people I did. From the self-publishing manual list, I only had three companies I was looking forward to hearing back from. Of the three, my top pick emailed me back! Unfortunately, this person said she was too busy on projects and would not be able to start a new book for 3 months. Yikes and ouch. But, she said she worked with another editor who was great and also a fan of science fiction. She gave me the name and email of this editor and we quickly had a very positive exchange.

After a few emails back and forth I was excited to give it a test run. The best advice that I read from the books is to hire a potential editor for X amount of pages and determine out it works. Her rate was a good rate - still pricey when it comes to spending money but at a good rate for what the job called for. I emailed her 3 chapters and waited to see what would happen.

A week later I received the three chapters back. Skimming through chapter 1 I was very happy with the notes - lots of simple things and also a number of sentence restructuring, which is what my writing really needed. Then I flipped to the second chapter. NO NOTES. There was a comment that said since my book was about time travel and this story (a mere 2 paragraphs) described a conversation between space alien and school children and not touching on the subject of time travel it should not be included in the book. she also said the meaning of the story isn't clear. WTF? I was a bit irate and really should have taken this as much more of a red flag than I did. Back to that in a second - on to chapter 3. This chapter, like the first, looked good. I was happy with everything... except this omitted chapter. Refusal to edit it?

What was I supposed to do here? My month long quest to find an editor led me to this one person with no other option - not that I should go with the default but everything was lining up except for this ridiculous comment. First off, she only knew what my book was about from my 3 sentence description, so the fact she is telling me that it has no place in my book is a pretty bold, ignorant statement. So there are two concerns here, one that she didn't edit it and assumed it doesn't belong, and two, she didn't understand it at all. Awww damnit. What to do. Not that it was then a work of art and simple, but not understand it at all? Kids are eating lunch and a space alien walks up to them. He is offered their lunch and takes a bit until realizing there is a dead animal in his sandwich. He knocks one of the kids to the ground and steps on him until death. He looks up at the remaining kids and tells them that killing animals is wrong. In a nutshell, that was the story (imagine it expanded into about 15 more sentences). I emailed her and told her that while it doesn't involve time travel, the entire book isn't 100% based on time travel, it's just the reoccurring theme and while this story doesn't instill the nature of traveling through time, the fact that school children had an encounter with a space alien, it was a fitting exception and worthy to be included. She accepted my explanation.

So from here I hired her and divided the book into three editing installments and three editing payments. Overall the editing was great considering the sloppy manuscript that it was. When I received the marked up digital file I printed it out and circled any edits that I did not approve of. This varied from a missed 'invented reference' to basic structure to prove my point. I didn't object to much and was very happy that every page was filled with notes. The entire process was very helpful and improved the manuscript greatly.

I let the manuscript sit a while to finish artwork. When I returned to the manuscript I had friends and family look over some of the chapters I was less confident with. Still lots of errors and problems. Not to put the entire burden on my editor - she truly turned lots of this books around but didn't not pick up every single detail. In don't know whether this is from the fact she didn't take every single word in the manuscript and just re0write the damn thing, or because what I gave her was riddled with errors and sloppy writing. It's hard to say. I had family and friends edit the long stories and I even found a student masters student in NY to cheaply proof-read a few chapters to make sure I didn't do anything stupid.

Overall, I'm happy with my editor and the choice I made. It still needed work once the editing was done but as it was was unacceptable and I am very happy I did this pricey process. Without my resources otherwise and a day-job to cover the editing expenses (plus the additional for my NY proofreader) nothing would have been possible. It's amazing to think back to all the errors I made in writing and all the dumb repeated mistakes that where in there and that are now gone.

A professional editor is a requirement regardless of how well you think your skills are. Be careful of anyone who won't do this process outside of Microsoft Word as it will be a gigantic burden to you. While I should have been more upfront with what I wanted (and possibly strengthened my manuscript more before the final hire) this process was nothing but positive.

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