It fills me with terror when I see short turnaround periods offered for manuscripts on some freelance service platforms, where folk offering many different services can utilise to garner business. Often a guaranteed timeline is presented upfront without assessing the writing requiring the work. Is it arrogance or ignorance of editing skills involved?
Editing speeds vary from person to person. Yes! this is a set of skills that requires the human brain, not AI, not an app!
Multiple factors feed into how long a project will take, such as the type of editing, word count, language(s) used and the overall condition of the manuscript. Another critical factor is the editor’s familiarity with the writer’s work. The more familiar, the more we know the nuances and common errors that arise and the slicker one can become in completing a manuscript.
When I see small house publishers or independent writers churning out book after book, I wonder how much time is spent on this essential process and how many passes a book undergoes before publication. I also wonder ‘who’ is editing. It’s a dangerous assumption that any writer or reviewer can also be an effective editor. Editing is far more than reading and spotting the odd typo. Unfortunately, the latter is a common ignorance in particular writing circles and some so-called ‘editors’.
As a serious writer with pride in your work, you should consider these questions too. Consider what an editor and publisher can genuinely do to add value to your process before signing a contract.
From my desk (and I’ve already explained how many factors play in), I average 1k-2k words per hour. I reiterate this is editing, not reading.
As a simple example, a 60k manuscript = 60 hours of work. What would you expect to be paid for working 60 hours?
This little example is worth considering when you are pricing an editor — who will have additional tasks before the edit begins on your piece. The essential set-up stages also cost them time. And as the saying goes, in business, time is money.
When I set up my editing business, Word Refinery, I offered introductory rates. As a passionate freelancer and supporter of creatives, I supported small publishing houses with additional discounts at my own expense. Independent businesses incur more costs than just time — which is one of the most valuable commodities. And, of course, the cost of everything is rising worldwide. With that, Word Refinery fees are under review.
Professional relationships between writer and editor or publisher and editor require a two-way level of respect. Fees are an integral component of that.
I will admit something that, like so many independent writers, can be torn apart. And I also acknowledge there can be pitfalls – some gatekeepers regard this audacious move as career suicide regardless of experience or qualifications.
Not only do I professionally edit works for other writers, businesses and publishers, but I do something else regarded as a grave sin.
I, as a writer, self-edit, and I publish it!
I must be insane, right?
Imagine an artist controlling their art! Ensuring every stroke of the brush is theirs. The absurdity!
Editing is an independent skill in writing. This is a fact. With that, it is true that an editor isn’t necessarily a skilled storyteller and vice-versa. These can be common misconceptions. I have read poorly self-edited work and work edited by so-called editors who were glorified spell-checkers and saw themselves as prescriptive grammarians, thus stripping a piece of style and substance. Editing (in the independent writing and publishing world) is a highly sought-after skill and grossly undervalued.
I have spent much of my life writing and editing across many forms, and when I began publishing books in 2018, I honestly did not consider passing them through an external editor’s desk. Ignorance at the time was perhaps in part to play. I, admittedly, did not consider hiring an editor as part of the process. And now, with a couple of years of publishing experience where I have learnt something new with every title and even when working with others, would I change it? Personally, no.
Why? Well, I’ve worked with editors and writers who take prescriptive approaches, and in such methods, so not hold a place in creative writing. I’ve also been ‘edited’ by terrible communicators who have ignorantly ‘corrected’ spellings of Celtic or Scots words to a form of English, thus destroying critical seeds of the story and publishing their mistakes in my work under my name. An editor’s job is to polish and enhance, to bring out the best in a writer’s work, not diminish their voice and make them look stupid. I’ve learned many lessons from both. In my writing and skilled self-editing, I’d rather make my own mistakes that I can correct than have someone else do it and not take responsibility and rectify their shortcomings.
Rigid, prescriptive processes can have their place when writing for a corporate audience and developing educational materials, in which I have much experience. But artistically, a prescriptive approach to editing has no place; one size does not fit all.
My choice to self-edit is not one I take lightly. As a freelance editor, I am not ignorant about the depth of such a task, and as with any other piece of written material that crosses my desk, I consider, correct and develop: punctuation, spelling, syntax, morphology, overall structure, make cuts of redundancies, tautologies and lines or passages that don’t drive the story forward, and of course, consider developmental opportunities, and the author or publisher’s specified needs and style which I always discuss prior to working with them. I consider the narrative voice and those of the characters to ensure they read authenticity. And another vital component is style — a piece of creative writing should have rhythm and motion, like a great painting or music. If it’s rigid and static, as it would be following a prescriptive approach, it would be stale.
Even with such vigorous attention to my work and my clients, I am not infallible. No editor is, and I don’t trust anyone who portrays themselves as so. Neither should you.
Or what type of editing service would benefit my manuscript?
As a writer, I empathise with this. With so many variances to choose from and the difference in pricing, it can be tricky to decipher if an editor would benefit your project and for what type of editing service you should fork out hard-earned pennies.
To support this decision-making process, at Word Refinery, I offer clients the option of an Editorial Evaluation.
What should a client expect from an Editorial Evaluation?
For £0.01 per word, clients can submit their complete manuscript or a sample for Editorial Evaluation. The prose will be thoroughly analysed, considering: plot, setting, characterisation, voice/style, dialogue, and marketability
The Editorial Evaluation provides a writer (or publisher) with a solid understanding of what work a manuscript requires before publication through a detailed report. The client can utilise this advice and develop the manuscript independently or appoint a dedicated editor to support this work. This exercise helps clients present the best piece possible to the market confidently. Sometimes we need fresh eyes to iron out the kinks, refine the author’s voice and deepen the story.
When considering editing services, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when varying terms, price points, and marketing techniques are at play.
Fiction editing can be funnelled down to two distinct types and the pre-publication quality check of proofreading.
Developmental Editing (Structural Editing or Substantive Editing).
This level of editing historically took place before the writing of the manuscript. Now, it is often the first stage of professional editing once the manuscript is complete. Here your editor will deep dive into the story details and consider various aspects, including structure, pacing, information checking, analysing plot details and execution, the relevance of sub-plots to the entire story, characterisation, setting and delivery.
In most cases, this involves some back and forth between the writer and editor. The editor will offer ‘suggestions’ for the writer to consider to improve the execution — some rewriting may be involved here. Depending on the agreement and relationship, the editor may complete this or support the writer in these changes.
This type of editing requires trust and clear communication between the parties. It is much more involved, therefore denotes more hours of detailed work and a higher fee.
Copy Editing (Line Editing).
This aspect of editing is essential and consists of two key stages. The first is the baseline edit. This aspect focuses on correcting grammar, punctuation usage, spelling corrections, etc. The second stage is the line edit. As the title suggests, this requires the editor to comb and refine the piece line by line, examining specific word choices, sentence structure, clarity, and style. Editors will perform multiple passes on a piece before delivering it back to their client.
Following these two types of editing is the pre-publication quality check. Proofreading is often misinterpreted as editing. It is not. The role involves marking corrections that have slipped through the editing process. Proofreading focuses on spelling, punctuation, spacing, consistency of page style, page numeration, etc. Proofreading is not a substitute for editing.
When hiring an editor, it is essential to understand the differences to make an informed decision and expectations are managed. The process of editing a manuscript is highly involved, time-consuming and vital in supporting writers present a piece that appeals to their target audience. The result should be a fully realised story that connects and engages with its target readers. A product that the writer can be proud of having under their name.
Just a quick share. I was invited to interview over on Masters of Horror U.K. by David Kempf. We chat about writing inspiration, the popularity of horror, publishing and current projects. You can check that out by clicking the link. Apparently, I can be a bit of a blether! Much thanks to David Kempf, and those who take the time to check it out!
The final release from KJK in 2021 is out now and is available in eBook, paperback and hardback editions. It is the perfect read for fans of short horror fiction for the festive season, with a fantastic mix of holiday-themed indie horror from some of the best word weavers on the scene.
The book has been received well by readers and reviewers so far — a huge thanks to each and every one of you who have supported the new release from the indie horror community! If you haven’t picked it up yet — when you do, we hope you love the stories selected to inject a bit of horror into your holidays!
From the back of the book;
There’s no better way to celebrate the end of the year than with a seasonal mixtape with The Best of Indie Horror: Christmas Edition! Whether you love it or loathe it, Christmas brings out the best and worst in many people the world over — thus, lighting a fire in the bellies of storytellers who wish to strike warm fuzzies or tantalising terror in reader’s hearts. You won’t find the warm fuzzy feeling here; that’s not what we do!
This anthology will dance readers through an array of styles and horror sub-genres, including bizzaro through the looking glass of unique Christmas ornaments; such treats always come with a price. Discover the dark secrets between the Claus’ and Krampus that you’ll never forget. There’s a touch of sci-fi when a lone worker discovers a hidden department in a derelict store. There are family horror tales of obsessive tradition, reunion, and mayhem. This edition promises something festive to satisfy a cornucopia of horror pallets.
Self-Publishing and submitting; what I’ve learned so far, which admittedly, may not be much. It is what it is.
I’ve never considered traditional publishing, potentially because I can be a bit of a control freak (I hate waiting) coupled with a (sometimes stubborn) passion for self-learning and autonomy. In my view, it seems that there’s a lot of faff down the traditional route to wade through; from finding an agent and/or finding publishers that align with your style/genre/concepts. Jumping through many hoops for potential (likely) repeat rejection. Not that rejection is a bad thing, that too can be a very useful, if not utterly essential, learning and evolution tool. Then there’s if you’re accepted, you may have to change your writing significantly to fit into someone else’s ideals and target audience — a form of censorship and creative dilution, absolutely. Of course, I’m sure when (if) you get through the hoops, the potential for higher earnings and being considered a reputable writer because you’ve been approved and accepted by a higher power may well be worth the faff and hoops. Personally, all that feels like an elitist, bureaucratic headache for the most part.
Self-publishing has a lot of stigma thanks to the structure and standards set by publishing powerhouses. It’s a reflection of many of the institutions of life; be approved by the institution to be accepted by the masses, or you’re worthless. Music is like that too right. I don’t buy it, do you? I’ve read my fair share of tripe churned out by traditional publishers (sometimes due to who the author knows more than what they write), I’ve worked with highly educated fools who think their PhD gives them superiority even with a gross lack of real-life or business experience. They got approved, though. Better than you off the bat, right? Nope, I’m not buying that either. It filters right down through parenting as well — inescapable — must tick the boxes. All a despicable institutionalised, ritualised validation process, a façade that ignores the real nitty-gritty and that thing again — autonomy, passion, grit and authentic nurturing, in life as indeed art. Like the paper, age does not always bring wisdom, especially when one is stunted in their sole path and idealised view, selectively dismissing poorer choices. Or indeed highly institutionalised, even when it comes straight from the patriarchy (or matriarchy in some instances).
To self-publish, there are more and more platforms arising to help support and facilitate those with the desire to do this. There’s a load of work involved, even with a decent host. One must consider the writing, first and foremost, then, of course, there is editing, cover design (eBook/audio/paperback/hardback), book design, formatting, layout (yes, there are some basic standards for that, in respect of front-matter, back-matter, copyright declaration and numbering), narrator/producer (if producing audio). Sure some make it appear easy, but it’s far more involved than many may expect – it’s seen as the easy route to publication after all, right? Wrong. All of this takes time, dedication, learning and money. Of course, corners can be trimmed, but that will affect the end product. And we cannot forget attracting readers and reviewers to the work once it is out there — marketing really is another beast in itself. No, self-publishing is not easy by any stretch. Accessible — yes, easy — no.
I started self-publishing to get to know the process, and while I do love it, I’ve found much value to be gained in submitting pieces to small press and indie publishers. Gaining contacts, connecting with different audiences and driving creativity by rising to challenges I may not have considered solely. I’m not driven by pressure, and much prefer to go with the proverbial flow. There’s no cut and dry Pro-forma of right and wrong when it comes to art, creating it, and sharing it. It comes down to trying different things, and seeing which one resonates and fits with your flow best. In dealing with other publishers, I have quickly established in mind traits that I like and those which are huge turn-offs for me as a (submitting) writer. It’s fair to say once you begin submitting, you’d be mad not to have a ‘list’. Here are a few things that have landed publishers on mine after submission, which ultimately boils down to etiquette and communication:
Poor communication. Submission guidelines are not only a way for publishers to outline what they want and specify the format, but it’s also a key component for publishers to manage writer’s expectations upfront. What I find massively disrespectful is publishers who don’t respond to a submission – it doesn’t have to be big; a quick ‘thanks but no thanks’ is better than zilch. That’s just rude.
I don’t like arrogance and indie publishers mimicking traditional publishers – if I wanted that, I’d chase traditional.
When a call says ‘No simultaneous submissions’ but a publisher holds a piece too long, only to reject it, thus removing opportunities for the work to be considered elsewhere. If ‘No simultaneous’ is stipulated – considerations and responses should be swift.
Editorial changes and queries – I’ve had pieces published with errors that were not present when I submitted, and the queries ignored. Again, poor communication adds to the uphill battle many indies (writers and publishers alike) face. Sometimes support is as simple as acknowledging and owning mistakes.
While I can’t speak for traditional from any sort of experience, other than a reader, it is clear that one size does not fit all — in writing, publishing and indeed life. Sometimes one has to stop dreaming and just do it. Leaving expectations at the door. Jump in, flail around a bit, get over the panicked shock of ice-cold and learn to swim — however that looks. Jump back out and watch by the edge for a bit if you have to breathe again.
But don’t be afraid to at least try. As a good friend of mine often says — fuck it!