Write Life: Self publishing does not mean self-editing

Photo copyright Craig Lloyd

Photo copyright Craig Lloyd

 

My write life went through a whole lot of ups and downs this past week.

First thing Monday morning, there was a rejection hiding in my email.

JVandermeerReading

Jeff VanderMeer tells the audience a story about being charged by a Wild Boar, at his Seattle reading, Feb. 3, 2104. Photo by C. Brewster

On the up side, that evening, I got to meet Jeff VanderMeer, one of the writers and editors I greatly admire. I got to hear him read from his new release, Annihilation, which I was cruising through until I hit a dip and upside down part in the aforementioned rollercoaster ride that is my writing life. I should probably finish soon, will re-read, as is my habit, and provide a review. It’s the least I can do to make sure Mr. VanderMeer is supported, as any great author/editor should, especially given that he signed three of his books for me that evening. Plus he did his signing at one of my favorite book stores ever – Elliott Bay Books in Seattle.

Then I got a rejection the next morning.

I countered Wednesday by taking a class with Cat Rambo on submissions. I learned I’m doing things right – at least according to her. She has decades as a successful writer, so I trust she’s leading me down the right path. She also gave me many more ideas to up the ante in my submission algorithm.

Following the class, an email came in with not so good news. I had a contract declined. The declination reason was fully in my blame court due to my lack of clarity in the initial meeting with the client. This sometimes happens when you’re trying to do too much. Even though I proffered some other free work to the prospect, the sting was already felt. My bad, entirely. I’m confident as a writer and editor, but sometimes my business sense is not on point. Lesson learned. Here the roller coaster went way low and I was kicking myself endlessly for this dumb mistake.

The next morning, there was yet another rejection waiting for me. Thursday was very unproductive. I did lots of “business” stuff to support my writing life, but little writing or editing. I ended up watching a lot of television and the movie MELANCHOLIA, which fit my mood perfectly.

Photo copywrite Seth Sawyers

Photo copywrite Seth Sawyers

Then, I was offered another contract for editing – a novel manuscript – but when I read the first five pages of the work – I had to refuse. Even if I charged my top rate, which is still cheap by going-rate standards, the work would be so intense that it would take longer than it should, making it not worth my time.

This is the first time I’ve refused work. I hated to do it, especially given that I had that other contract declined. I need all the work I can handle and then some, at least until I start getting paid more often for the writing side of my freelance life. My editing rate is lower than the typical standard, because I’m still building my business. So, I work six days a week, sometimes seven. Refusing work seemed to go against my DNA coding. But, this manuscript was not ready for prime-time, folks.

It harkened me back to the fervor that has been happening over in Chuck Wendig’s world with his post regarding improving the reputation of self-publishing by not putting out, well – crap. Herr Wendig is a huge supporter of indie publishing, I believe. He’s a hybrid writer himself, successfully straddling both author-publishing and traditionally publishing chasm. And it is a chasm. Do both worlds put out trash? Yes – I’m always quick to tell you stories about the errors I’ve found in big-name author’s books; however, those instances are story-worthy simply because it happens less frequently. Is the scale heavier on the indie publishing side? It is. When Wendig says there is a self-publishing shit volcano out there and it’s a problem, I can’t disagree. The manuscript I refused to work with until, at least, the writer did another revision is only one such example.

Listen, all you self-publishing people: hire an editor. Every author I’ve worked with (and they are mostly in the author-publishing realm) are just floored when I return a manuscript to them with the errors I find – both mechanical and craft-wise. Some of these are manuscripts that the author has revised multiple times.

Yet, it’s amazing to me that so many writers do not know how to do proper punctuation. Many novelists are so caught up in their own world that they forget the reader doesn’t know what you know as the writer. Then there’s continuity errors, foreshadowing that is never fulfilled…and on and on. Recognize, at bare minimum, that we are human and make mistakes. Editors help ensure your mistake-ratio is harder to calculate.

Therefore, every manuscript needs a seasoned editor’s eye, regardless of frequency of revision. Especially, if the only other people you’ve had read it are your family and friends. The final product after they’ve paid me (or another professional editor) to do editing? A stronger sell in the market that is just inundated – near a million books a year between traditional publishing and self-publishing. You want something strong to stick out from the shit volcano, my darling fellow writers. If you have a good story, it won’t matter how it’s published. People will be drawn to it.

There’s been many other blog posts, outside of Wendig’s, recently by both traditionally published, as well as, indie-published writers who say, self publishing is an option. As creative word smiths we are in an incredible time with heavy opportunity to get our work out there. We should take advantage of it, but do so only after you’ve invested the time into properly vetting your work. It’s simple, the reason why:  if you don’t put a good product out there, no one is going to take you seriously. Your best friend might be a good beta reader for you and tell you, “Hey, that’s a great story.” But can you trust them to be objective? Can you trust your entire creative reputation on a best friend or spouse wanting to encourage you? Some folks have the rare relationship, where, yes, you can. But that’s the exception, not the rule.

Photo copyright A Geek Mom

Photo copyright A Geek Mom

Self publishing does not mean self-editing. That’s a horrendously bad idea. One of the reasons I haven’t self-published yet is because I don’t currently have the dough to shell out for a professional editor. I won’t self publish until I do. You want to add to the argument that self-publishing is less-than? Put out a manuscript that hasn’t been professionally edited. Be an example for the Big 5 (or six or three…whatever) and other indie-publishing naysayers as to why their format of traditional publishing is the only way to go. Personally, my goal is to be a hybrid author: one who is traditionally published and one who does author-publishing, as well. I won’t limit myself. But you bet your bootie I’m going to do it right. I won’t be an example for how to do it unprofessionally.

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2 Responses to Write Life: Self publishing does not mean self-editing

  1. Darian Carson says:

    Oh God–do not watch MELANCHOLIA! Nothing like knowing you and your children are about to die a horrible death while you go to your sister’s wedding that she walks away from to “do” some random dude in the sand trap–pretty freakin’ hopeless!

    How much does it cost to hire a professional editor–is it hourly? How do you find them?

    Good job on turning the work down that you knew would not pay you what you are worth–that is so hard to do, but if you don’t develop that skill you end up working for free *and* doing things you don’t want to do which sucks worse than saying “No”! That was a long run-on sentence! I need an editor! ;)

  2. CaszABrew says:

    Like any profession (say, like lawyers), there are those that run less expensive and those that run more expensive. Most editors charge by the word or page, not hour. Although some will do by “project.” Writers and editors associations in your area have listings, craigslist, and of course, word of mouth. What I charge right now is considered very inexpensive, because I’m still building my freelance reputation. This event (turning down someone), however, proved, I’m moving into the next sector. Not too bad for having done it freelance for a dozen years, and full-time just three.

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