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Writers Workshop > requesting advice on obtaining a professional editor

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message 1: by Brandon (new)

Brandon | 49 comments I have written a narrative nonfiction manuscript about resilience in Multiple Sclerosis, and I wanted to know your thoughts about whether or not I should get a professional editor at this time.

I have had some help from family and an editor on fiver (for whom I paid only about $300 to go through a 76,000 word manuscript), but I would like it to be as professionally done as possible.

I am in the process of trying to pursue traditional publishing right now. I have sent off quite a few queries and have an agent reviewing a proposal and one university press reviewing a proposal. The others have sent rejections or no response.

Realistically, I figure that since I don't have a major platform or publishing credentials, I won't have much success in the traditional world. I'm not exactly the next Hemingway either. Also, would it really be worth it for me to accept a deal from a tiny University press with no advance and no marketing? Why not just self-publish?

Anyway, I found a professional editor, and I am paying about $130 for them to edit only the first chapter (about 3000 words). it will cost about $3,000 for them to do the entire manuscript.

As crazy as it sounds, this is actually worth it to me if they help me improve and polish my manuscript even though I don't expect to see a return on my investment. However, I still plan to query more agents and await the review of my proposals (likely a fruitless endeavor, but a man can dream). Should I go forth with the editing, or should I hold off just in case I land a book deal and get free editing from the publisher?

Thank you for your time.


message 2: by Jenna (new)

Jenna (stjenna) | 22 comments I'd wait to see how the first chapter turns out. The writer-editor relationship is crucial, and you have to be sure you trust this editor with your work. (As an editor myself, I don't work with a writer if I don't think the chemistry is there.) If you like what the editor does, I'd say go for it and self-publish!


message 3: by Genevieve (new)

Genevieve Montcombroux | 66 comments I worked as an editor for two publishing houses, one of them a scientific publisher, then free-lanced. In my opinion, you should hold off any editing until you have an answer from a publishing house. Publishers have their own house style. They also view a non-fiction manuscript content as more important than the style it is written in.

If you got a contract with a publishing house they would guide you on how to shape your work so it would appeal to a large audience and at the same time copy-edit and proof the ms. From what you say about not having a platform or credentials I expect you're aiming at a general readership.

It might take a while before you get a positive reply from agents/publishers, but keep trying.


message 4: by Heidi (new)

Heidi Angell (heidiangell) | 241 comments As one who has published 5 fiction books before I wrote my sort of fictionalized memojr about a stalker in high school, I can tell you that a developmental editor is so important. They will help organize what is important to the readers, help you trim down the number of people in the story (because in most stories there are three or four main characters at most, with only a handful more secondaries and a few more tertiary, but in our lives we typically have far more influential people.) And they will help you know how to focus on the right pieces to tell the story that needs to be told. We all have too many stories and it gets overwhelming for readers to hear and see them all. The key there is to find a dev editor with experience in A) memoir, B) MS and C) self help/advocacay writing (I am guessing that is the goal of your memoir as it's probably not a celebrity memoir, right?) Dev editors focus and experience is crucial to help craft a cohesive story right for your goals and purpose. Also, $3k is kind of ridiculous price to pay. Most books sell less than 1000 copies. You will never get your money back at that rate.


message 5: by Genevieve (new)

Genevieve Montcombroux | 66 comments Heidi, glad you said $3 K is ridiculous. I thought so too.

Also, I doubt there is one editor who has expertise A) B) and C). However a publishing house not only has a team with many different expertise they also consult outside resources when needed.

Brandon, from Erica Verillo's blog: Nonfiction submissions bear little similarity to fiction submissions. Fiction editors focus on plot, writing, and mass market appeal, which means they will want to see sample chapters and a synopsis. Nonfiction editors require a full proposal, which means you will have to submit detailed chapter descriptions, explain how your book will fit into the market, and establish your expertise. Even if your book is finished, a proposal is mandatory. (The sole exception is memoir, which is similar to fiction.)
Make sure to read the submission requirements of these publishers very carefully, and adhere to them. Don’t give the publisher an excuse to throw out your proposal!


If you end up self-publishing look up Archway Publishing - it is a subsidiary of Simon & Schuster.


message 6: by D. (new)

D. Thrush | 180 comments You might want to look for an agent who can get you the best deal. Writer's Market lists agents and publishers. I'd also read a book or blogs on writing the best query.


message 7: by Brandon (new)

Brandon | 49 comments Thanks for the response everyone.

D: I have contacted >40 agents and have received almost entirely negative replies (one agent is reviewing my proposal supposedly, but I don't have my hopes up). It just seems to be very difficult to obtain a literary agent by submitting an unsolicited query (or perhaps my query is terrible).

To those who thought $3,000 is too much, are there any suggestions on obtaining a quality editor for less money? I will of course see how things go with the first chapter. Again, I expect this to be a money-losing venture, so I don't think of the $3,000 as an investment. If I could spend $1,000 and get mediocre editing vs. $3,000 and get high quality editing, I would be willing to pay the $3,000.

Genevieve: thanks for the info. I had not previously heard of Archway publishing

Does anyone have any advice on the theoretical scenario of self-publishing vs. publishing through a university press with no advance and no marketing. What exactly is the advantage of publishing through a university press? I don't really need the prestige. It would only be worth it if they helped me with distribution or otherwise allowed me to sell more copies or get more speaking engagements.


message 8: by Genevieve (new)

Genevieve Montcombroux | 66 comments Brandon, I sent you a pm.

Without credentials no chance of getting a university press interested. How do you know that this person charging $3,000 for a 76,000 words ms has the qualifications to edit a non-fiction? What expertise has (s)he in the area of health? There is more to non-fiction than typos and grammar. It is all in how the work is presented so it can reach the right readers (i.e. those with special interest in the subject) as well as reach a wider audience of general readers.


message 9: by Lila (new)

Lila Diller $130 for 3,000 words is outrageous, in my opinion. That's $0.23 per word! I only charge $0.05 per word for fiction and $0.03 per word. Of course, I can't claim to be a "professional" editor, either. But what would that even look like? As Genevieve says, what are their qualifications? If you're looking to make any kind of money just to repay your editing costs, you're going to need to think about revenue. Usually traditionally published doesn't really pay much, unless you're a celebrity. I really recommend you self-publish or go with a small press like Author Academy Elite which charges about $3,000 for their entire program but will help you with editing, cover design, and marketing. If you're going to spend that much just for an editor, you might as well get some marketing and promotion out of it, too. Of course, this is all just my humble opinion. :)


message 10: by Jenna (new)

Jenna (stjenna) | 22 comments In the end, it really depends on why you're looking to publish. You said it's not for the prestige, so I'm curious what your reason is. (Any reason is fine — it's your work.) The reason you're publishing can give you an idea whether to self-publish or go the traditional route.

As for the editor's rate, it really depends what sort of editing they're doing — line editing, copyediting, developmental editing. Do you know?


message 11: by Katherine (new)

Katherine Gale-Han (katherinegalehan) | 5 comments Hi Brandon,

As you've probably figured out, $130 for 3,000 words is actually $0.043 per word, not $0.23 as someone wrote above. 4.3 cents per word isn't too ridiculous for developmental editing. I've seen some highly experienced editors charge that high. I'm a relatively new editor (new at book editing, at least) and I'm charging less than 4.3 cents per word for two rounds of developmental review (initial feedback then second review after revisions) plus copyediting after developmental revisions. To someone's point above, publishers do have their own editors. Copyediting is probably most useful if you decide to go the self-publishing route. Self-publishing authors can see a return but it requires self-promotion and marketing. However, most books going through a traditional publishing company receive very little marketing or promotion through the publisher.

It's interesting timing that I came across your post as I have experience with MS. My mother and grandmother both had MS (though my grandmother passed away before I was born), so I know about the trials and tribulations, and how treatment has come a long way since my mother was diagnosed almost 40 years ago. It sounds like you're looking for a professional editor to look over your manuscript and give you constructive feedback on content and flow. As I mentioned above, I'm relatively new to freelance book-length editing after several years of corporate experience; I'll be promoting an intro offer for April/May simply because I'm new to freelancing. I did just finish editing a novel for an author on Goodreads. Please feel free to send me a private message if you'd like to further discuss your project with me and hear more about my qualifications. I would offer you a free sample edit of 1000-1500 words.
If I don't hear from you, best wishes!
Katherine.


message 12: by Brandon (new)

Brandon | 49 comments Genevieve: I do have credentials. It is hard to know if an editor is qualified, though I was impressed by their samples and professionalism. I suppose I will find out after the first chapter.

Lila: Thanks for mentioning Author Academy Elite. I can take a look at that. Is the quality of their work good?
Jenna: It is one of my goals in life to publish a book, and I would like it to be of high quality and to reach at least some people. Of course I would prefer to be a NY times bestseller and make millions of dollars, but this is unlikely given my lack of writing/entrepreneurial talents. If I ended up losing $5,000 but produced something I was proud of, it would be worth it to me. I have likely lost more than $5,000 in opportunity cost while researching and writing this book. Nonetheless, I certainly want to get good value for my hard-earned money, so the criticisms of the cost in this thread are welcome.
Katherine: I appreciate the respone, but I would prefer not to find an editor in this fashion.

L.T: Thanks for the response, though it sounds like you may have a conflict of interest given your screen name.


message 13: by Genevieve (new)

Genevieve Montcombroux | 66 comments Brandon, if you have credentials in the area of your writing, that makes a big difference. Be sure to state them at the beginning of the query letter. Examine carefully the specialty of publishers, select the most likely. Then do the same with agents and when you select one, you tell her/him which publisher is likely to be interested and why. Some agents might find it too big a job if they have to research publishers in an area they are not familiar with. Also, don't look at agents or publishers whose main catalog is fiction.

To me you sound like you are not self-confident this is unlikely given my lack of writing/entrepreneurial talents. It is not talent it is skills and those can be learn in a short time and develop further as you go.

Do you know about Authors Publish Magazine? It is a free weekly list of publishers accepting manuscripts without an agent. They also publish a book of publishers you can download for free in return for a review.

To be ready to lose a few thousands to see the book published is defeatist. Anyone who produces something, be it an intellectual property or a craft item has to receive a reward however small. Otherwise you devalue the time and effort you put into the work. You devalue yourself.


message 14: by Jenna (new)

Jenna (stjenna) | 22 comments Brandon, I self-published my book for a similar reason. I've ghostwritten nearly 20 books, including two NY Times bestsellers, and I just wanted a book with my own darn name on it. I also already had a finished manuscript that was just collecting dust and I wanted all of that hard work to finally see the light of day. I probably spent more than I needed to (including on a lawyer to make sure there weren't any libel issues, since my memoir featured several public figures), but in the end, I'm quite happy. I was a BookLife Prize finalist and my book has received very good reviews. Do I wish sales were better? Definitely. But that wasn't my goal in publishing. I wanted a finished product I could be proud of and I achieved that goal.


message 15: by Lila (new)

Lila Diller Brandon, as to Author Academy Elite, I can't speak by experience to their quality, as I've never had $3,000 to invest. But I have been through several live trainings and their application process, and it seems legit and professional. That's all I can say for certain.


message 16: by Brandon (new)

Brandon | 49 comments Genevieve: It's not necessarily that I have no self confidence. I am just trying to be practical. Besides, I am really too busy with work, family, and kids to go full force into publishing. Also, my book is on a niche topic, so even though I think the information is worthwhile and informative, it would only appeal to a small group of people.

Jenna: Thanks for the comment

Lila: Thanks for the response. I will look into Author Academy elite. I should be getting the first chapter back from my editor, so I will see how good the quality is.


message 17: by Remmy (new)

Remmy Meggs | 1 comments This is from personal experience. No editor or editors will find every error in a book. each one will have a different style. For instance, some use the Oxford comma, others do not. A book by Robert Heinlein I have was in its sixth printing, and I found spelling errors. Another company charged my friend almost $50K to edit, do a cover and print it. He was ripped off. No editing, No formatting, and the cover were like most, mediocre.
So when you are paying someone to edit, make sure you know exactly what their editing entails. My sincere suggestion is to worry about spelling first. Then worry about your commas. One of the things I do is read my chapters aloud to one of my friends. That catches a lot of sentence structure errors. From the books I read, about twenty a month, I find the worst formatting errors ever.
Once you find an editor you love, stick with them, but after the editing is over (and believe me a good editor after all that work will tear your book apart and it will not resemble the original book!) Spend your money on formatting for Kindle and paperback.


message 18: by Brandon (last edited Mar 29, 2018 09:39PM) (new)

Brandon | 49 comments Thanks for the comment Remmy.

What would be a good place to obtain help with formatting?

I know there are some freelancers on FIVER who will do this for very little.

As an update to the thread, I was very satisfied with my editor's work on the first chapter. She did an excellent job with some of the finer points like citations, lists, and captions. I think I will go with her for the rest of the manuscript. I may wait a while to see what response I get from some of my queries though.


message 19: by Genevieve (new)

Genevieve Montcombroux | 66 comments Kindle Direct's Help has a whole lot of advice on how to format your ms and cover. Start there before you pay more money for something relatively simple.


message 20: by Jenna (new)

Jenna (stjenna) | 22 comments So glad to hear you were satisfied with the editor's work! That's huge.

For my book, I used a "book sherpa" (my term for her) who helped with formatting, ISBN number, and a slew of other tasks, all for a very reasonable price. She's now doing this for several other clients of mine. PM me if you'd like her contact info.


message 21: by Brandon (new)

Brandon | 49 comments Genevieve wrote: "Kindle Direct's Help has a whole lot of advice on how to format your ms and cover. Start there before you pay more money for something relatively simple."

Thanks; I will look into this


message 22: by Marie Silk (new)

Marie Silk | 611 comments I think you are wise to wait for responses to your queries before investing too much in editing.

That said, it sounds like you have a developmental editor. The other stages of editing involve line, copy, and proofreading. When I priced out professional editing of all stages for my books, it worked out to be about $5000 per book (of approx 45K words each). So $3000 doesn't seem outrageous as long as the editor is qualified and does a good job.

I don't know the first thing about formatting, so I use Damonza to provide professionally formatted files (mobi, epub, pdf, and Smashwords epub). The total cost of the four files was $320 per novel. With fiverr, it can be hit and miss with the quality of service you get. I've seen a fiverr formatted book before that had many issues with margins and image placement. If you go this route, my advice would be to go with a fiverr vendor who is recommended by an author here on Goodreads (not by fiverr reviews, which I suspect are fake in many cases).

When I dove into the world of self-publishing, I quickly learned there are countless ways for authors to be separated from their money: seminars, memberships, award fees, design, so-called marketing services and more. Precious few are worthwhile, and some are outright scams (like the $50K job mentioned above). It takes time and research to find out what is worthwhile for your book and situation. Keep in mind that if your manuscript is accepted to be published through a legit publisher, the money will flow from publisher to author, not the other way around :). Wishing you all the best on your queries!


message 23: by Brandon (new)

Brandon | 49 comments Marie Silk: Thank you for your post. I will in fact take your advice about waiting for the responses. You never know-I could get lucky with an agent or university press editor who has MS (or a relative with MS) and wants to take it on as a passion project.

The editor I have did two passes for copy-editing and proofreading. She also made some astute comments about the content even though this isn't what I was asking for.

I am very wary of the dubious world of self-publishing, and I am aware that I am the typical target of the vanity publishing industry.


message 24: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Eley | 14 comments Hello Brandon and congratulations on writing your story. I offer no professional editing advice, only my experience as a first-time narrative nonfiction writer. My subject: work-acquired mental illness. I was the victim of a work bully and nearly lost my life to suicide. I never set out to be an author; my book was the result of journal therapy that progressed to a story that my family and friends thought needed to be told. I tried the traditional route with an agent and publisher with no success. I lost count after 70 rejections.

Personally, I was on a mission to save lives and advocate for stigma-free mental illness and bully-free workplaces. After so many rejections, I decided to self publish to get my message out.

I knew nothing about self-publishing, but I can appreciate all that I’ve learned. When you self-publish, you're like a one-person run business. You’re the writer, the manager, the promoter, the organizer, the public speaker (presenter), the designer, the multi-tasker. You do it all! I can appreciate self-publishing because I’ve been able to merge all of these skills together to enhance my personal and professional life.

I never set out to write the perfect book, but for sure I wanted a good product so I invested in a professional editor I found on linkedin. I didn't realize there were many facets of editing. I paid roughly $1600 and still found a few mistakes after the book went to print that I corrected later.

The feedback from the content of my story itself has been amazing. People who could relate to what I'd been through appreciated this book. For others, my story has opened their eyes. That's my reward!

I just had a conversation with the Director of The Center for Workplace Mental Health at the American Psychiatric Foundation in Washington, DC. And I have received community service awards for the work that I'm doing in raising awareness about the devastating effects of bullying and the mental illness that follows.

Who knows? Maybe my story will eventually reach the ears of a publisher and take off in a completely new direction. For now, I'm happy to have had the courage to write my story and earn top dollars in my heart, knowing I've helped so many people.


message 25: by Brandon (new)

Brandon | 49 comments Lisa: Thank you for the post.

I'm glad to hear that I am not the only one receiving rejections from literary agents. :)

I think that what you are doing is tremendous, and you obviously have a passion for it. I hope that your project touches many lives.

-Brandon


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