The Clams of the Wilderness

Clams of the wilderness
Clams of the wilderness

I’ve regained control of Fictional Work for the moment. Not sure how long I can fend off the constant attacks courtesy of Spencer’s buddies at D3dm4n$ Ch3$t, but I’ll try.

The timing of the attack was pretty perfect, actually. I had just received the edits for Crimson Son and was pouring over the proposed changes and learning that I have no idea how to use a hyphen, dash, or other tiny lines that do magic things with text. Anyway, that sorta timing makes me wonder if my email has been compromised as well.

Of course, those concerns could just be Spencer’s friend, Eric and his paranoia talking. Interviewing characters who are fictional fragments of your own imagination tends to break down some barriers better left in place.

Given the edited manuscript in my inbox, this week has been all business. Fictional business, naturally, but work nonetheless. Many of my fellow writers were very curious about the process involving finding, hiring and working with a freelance editor. I’ve got a better idea about how things go now, so I’ll share a bit of my experience.

First, I decided I needed an editor. If you haven’t seen my previous post, the answer to this question for all writers is YES. (Or yes – only my editor will get that joke.) If you self-publish a book without having a pair of professional eyes on it other than yours and maybe your grandma’s, I will find you. I will find you and open up my skills on you.

Second, I asked other writers for recommendations. Surprisingly, I received very few. Many of my colleagues were skeptical of freelance editors.

I mentioned a bit about pricing in my last post. That is always a consideration. In fact, I’m betting it is the number one reason why many self publishing authors skip this step or why my contacts had little experience with the process. But the bottom line is you need to approach your book like a product. Remember, writing is a business like any other business.

Sure, as starving artists, we don’t have money, that’s a given. However, you need some sort of start-up fund. My initial investment is coming from a stash I set aside pursuing more profitable self employment. Yours might come from a full time job. Perhaps, you even crowd-sourced it or have a patron. Regardless the source, you always need money to make money and need a plan of how to invest (not spend) that start-up fund. If you  aren’t willing to do that, chances are people won’t be willing t0 spend their money on your book.

For a book, editing is not something you skip or skimp on. Bad reviews due to poor grammar or typos can sink your ship before it leaves the harbor. Clams in the wilderness can be embarrassing.

Get familiar with current editor pricing. Let the sticker shock sink in. Editing is a time intensive business. Like a writer, editors want fair compensation for their time. Current pro rates will have you in the ballpark from two thousand and up depending on manuscript length and time required per page. A competent semi-pro can be had for a bit less. But the lesson here is, make sure it is as clean as you can personally make it before wasting an editors time.

I can’t layout your budget, only you can do that. But make sure editing is included. Keeping my own amount in mind, I went shopping. Most of my research was done over the internet since word of mouth wasn’t paying off.

I came up with a list of over a dozen possibilities using plain ‘ol Google searches and searches at the Editorial Freelancers Association. Things I was specifically looking for were – does the price fit my budget? Does the editor read my genre? What books have they edited before? Do they offer a free quote based on pages from your manuscript (be wary if they offer blind rates)? I narrowed my list down to a top three and contacted them.

The first was my dream editor. She had over thirty years experience in the business and had worked at some big-name sci-fi / fantasy publishers as managing editor. She didn’t list prices but offered a quote based on the first ten pages. As expected, she came back with a figure that was way outside my budget. But, it was worth the time to find out given her credentials.

Next, I found a newly established editor with an award winning anthology under his belt. I fired off an inquiry and received a lengthy and detailed response requesting pages. I sent the first chapter and, again, received a very lengthy and detailed response. In the response, he nitpicked a things, gave criticism (as editors are want to do). I replied with some questions and a bit of a joke about one of his nitpicks while graciously accepting his criticism. He in turn replied with a very lengthy and detailed response which indicated he did not understand sarcasm.

He was also recommending a developmental edit, which I didn’t feel was necessary. Developmental edits are essentially high level critiques. It would have set my schedule back possibly by months and required another expensive edit afterward. I’ve already been through my crit group. I had beta readers pick things over. Don’t get me wrong, receiving one from a pro is often a necessary and helpful thing. But, frankly, I disagreed.

This is why it is so important that your freelance editor request pages. You get to review their recommendations and have a bit of back forth with them before you seal the deal. You absolutely have to have someone that gets both your work and your style. For Crimson Son especially, I needed someone that understood sarcasm and, in all honesty, I needed someone looking over my shoulder that is concise and not overly wordy (because my editor needs to help clean up my spills. No, she didn’t review this post…)

My third choice, I was starting to debate. I’d found it by looking at the credits on another self-published superhero comp on Amazon. The price was extremely reasonable, but when I browsed the sample chapters, I was not sold on the editing results.

During all this, my earlier word-of-mouth requests were starting to pay off. Sort of. After asking writers I personally knew, I resorted to a blanket Tweet and got a reply.

That’s how I met Heather. My editor. I like saying that. My editor. Go ahead, write something awesome, decide to self pub, get your work professionally edited, and then say “my editor”. It sounds cool.

She gave a few links for references, we went back and forth over Twitter and email and then I decided to send some pages. Her response was concise and it detailed exactly what I needed. She had also picked up on weaknesses which I know are inherent in my particular style. To top things off, she quoted a reasonable rate. The only sticking point was our inability to nail down a delivery date. However, she was flexible and kept me informed on progress so I could keep my own marketing / release schedule on track.

I’m up to chapter 40 and so far, Heather has been a great help for Crimson Son. She reinforced a few reservations from beta readers which made me delve back into plotting just a bit. She’s helped clarify the prose, uncovered my “it” kryptonite, and assisted in cleaning up some formatting issues which should make the layout process go more smoothly.

Was it worth it? Well, I’m pretty sure. And that’s not a slight to Heather. It’s just, as with any business, there is an element of risk. I won’t know if it was “worth it” until I’ve met my goals. You have to learn to live with that level of uncertainty. But yes, I’m proud to say I have an editor. I’m glad she saved Spencer from taking in the last bit of clam from the wilderness. She’s done her job to improve Crimson Son and I’m looking forward to sharing our work in June 2014.

5 thoughts on “The Clams of the Wilderness

  1. Tom Howard

    This is great feedback for your fellow writers searching for that clam in the wilderness. Great job as always on being the bleeding edge for the rest of us. I myself suffer from “ititis” and have started a list of words I overuse and shouldn’t. I’ll be interested in seeing the finished product. Thanks for sharing your journey with us.

    • Russell Linton

      Well, not only do I overuse ‘it’, my fingers don’t seem to get the apostrophe rules. My brain is on board, but somewhere between, the idea gets lost. Probably in my elbow. Maybe bicep, not sure.

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