Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Editing woe and costs. A few thoughts as I do the deed.

Everyone agrees that poorly edited, or not edited at all, books are a bane upon the reader, and that you, the fledgling self-published author, really ought to have a professional editor give your manuscript the once, twice, and thrice over before you even think about hitting the "for sale" button on your favorite web venue. The bigger problem is that new authors, myself included, simply cannot afford the prices that the good editors charge. I spend my own, valuable, time on a project, sometimes it taking hundreds and perhaps thousands of hours to work on just to get the first draft done--so I can, what, spend $250 or more to have a competent editor look at the prose and tell me what needs fixing. Then, I get to be the one who has to go and fix it. The editor, at this point, is really nothing more than a critic who charges you for their time, and ultimately does little. A real, honest to goodness, old-school editor doesn't just say "Hey, this is not right," but they actually fix it themselves, making sure every last "t" is crossed and every "i" is dotted as appropriate. But those days are, as I am told, long gone.

And if we don't have the money to get one of these super-competent editors, the almost immediate, and predictable, response is "Well, then, you're not serious about being a writer."

To that sentiment, I say: Fuck you.

I am the archetypical starving writer. I have, to date, made approximately $40 on sales. That's total. Since January 1, 2012, a whole, whopping $40--and that's American money, friends (I'm not Canadian, in case you care.) I've done the math, and for "Memories of the Dead," I "spent" approximately $9000 of my own time and money to get it to print. Yet, in all this time, I've gained $40. So, apparently, I'm supposed to kick off yet another round of cash to an editor that could do my work some justice--or they might do incredible harm.

How to fix this? Well, for starters, writers need editors, that's a given, but editors need to understand that they need writers just as much. It's a symbiotic relationship. One cannot exist without the other. Prices have to come down. What I'm suggesting is this: for every one thousand words, the editor charges $1. And. No. More.

For a short 50,000 word novel (and, yes, that's a novel, folks; don't let others try to fool you into calling it a "novella") the editor would get themselves $50. Anyone worth their salt can plow through that amount of text in a day. Not just reading, but making notes as to the corrections that need to be made. How do I know this? Because, my dear readers, my Beta Readers do this already. "Memories of the Dead" was a smidgen over 50,000 words. "MINIMAL" will be about the same, if not just a wee longer. And each one of them managed to read my book in a day.

In a day!

And then they still managed to tell me page numbers and paragraphs where things were wrong and even make suggestions that "worked for them."

This, I think, should be the new paradigm, the new pricing structure. But I know it won't happen. Why? Because editors want to get paid. They rely on the income. For some of them, that's all they do. So I have no illusions as to if this will come into being, I know it won't. And more is the pity because of it. As a result, editing will still be out of the reach of your new author, and more and more potentially great stories will be forced to live with less-then-ideal grammar and prose. And all those authors will still be told that they're not serious.

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