EDITORS – GOOD AND BAD
There has to be a reason for the phenomenal growth in self-publishing. One of many is that within the world of published novels, the publishing house is doing less and the writer is doing more. Yet, publishers think handing most marketing over to the writer still justifies taking 80% to 85% of the royalty share, plus 60% to 75% of the eBook cut.
Writers have come up with a better idea.
The stigma of early bad self-published books was well-deserved. Those of us who went the high-priced print mill route using I-Universe and Xlibris and these days Tate and Outskirts and the crooks at Author House, and far too many more to mention, can look back and see one reason for poor sales – bad books due to little or no editing, or worse, through self-editing. I retired as Senior Editor of Technical Publications from Boeing so I figured I could easily handle the editing chores for my five self-published books through Xlibris and I-Universe. I learned even a legitimate editor cannot objectively edit his/her own work. You need somebody from the outside. I also did the covers for those books, another big mistake.
Publishers today expect an edited manuscript. Whether they’re entitled to the product of an outside editor while their editors do less, is open to argument. A writer is probably okay doing the editing if he/she goes through it line-by-line three or four times, or has a teacher-friend go over it. Not so if you self-publish. Then an outside editing source must be brought into play and the cover contracted out.
Editors these days expect around $2 a page; times that by 330 pages and editing becomes expensive. Cover illustrator prices are all over the wall; some get two or three thousand dollars. I had an excellent cover made for one of my books on a bid by a starving Argentine artist. It cost $65 and I was happy with it. I intended to self-publish so knew I had to have a good cover. Turned out I found a publisher who insisted on doing their own cover so that was another block of cash diving for the sewer. Since I had the book outside edited, the publisher’s editor had little to correct. We were done in less than two weeks.
A good editor can not only improve a book but can elevate a writer. Maxwell Perkins was a genius. He turned a good writer, Ernest Hemingway, into a Pulitzer, Nobel Prize winning great writer. Hemingway spent a lifetime showing his gratitude. There is no Maxwell Perkins today. If there is, he is way too expensive for regular writers and it is doubtful he works for a publisher.
No question a bad editor can ruin a book. It has happened to many; it happened to me. The novel was eBook only, no print. One of those deals where the novel had to sell umpteen copies before it was allowed to go print. Never mind that the time in months or even years between eBook and print, readers would have long ago lost interest. Most books have a lifespan of interest. Some say it’s 30days, but for a minuscule number of books, the lifespan never ends. Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” published in 1953 has never been out of print. Same with Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” published in 1957. In 2012 it sold half-a-million copies. But most of us regular writers might get 30 days or less of interest to peddle our product.
The publisher was in Canada, I was in California and the editor lived in London. Starting out, the cuts came frequent and deep. I kicked up a fuss but was down-voted by the publisher who always went with her editor. Six months it went back and forth, blazing emails from one to another. From an 89,000 word novel, 6,000 words were cut. The writing toned down to tear drops and toilet paper pabulum. Fans who knew my writing told me they couldn’t believe the book was mine, it didn’t read like I wrote it. I gave in with final approval under the condition that after a year all rights revert back to me. They said two years. So, as of December 2013, the book and its rights once again belong to me. I will add much of what was cut, self-publish as a New-Revised-Edition with Kindle Select for the eBook and Create Space for the print.
How does a writer know if he/she has a good editor or a bad one. By reputation, but most likely, by guess and by golly. There are software programs that do line-by-line editing. It has been said they lack the human element. Well, the human element brings subjective opinion, so that might not be a bad thing.
A good editor at reasonable cost can be priceless. Hope you find one.