The perennial late developer, I arrived late for the self-publishing party and had to read a lot of the comments on Writers’ forums to understand the industry. Some of the people who have worked in-house for publishing companies say they don’t trust the information on these forums but I take the common denominator as the truth. While it may be true that unqualified people are passing themselves off as editors on these forums, it’s also true that many wannabe authors don’t have the funds for the more experienced and more expensive editors.
In "in-house" work, there are usually many staff members and each is assigned a certain task. For instance, one person does the graphics and book covers, another does the index, another does the structural/development-editing and another does the copy/line editing, proofreading and another does the promotion and marketing.
With regards to self-published authors, these "solopreneurs" have to do as much as possible on their own to make their project cost efficient. They write, self-edit with and without software, get beta readers, rewrite, and get the manuscript pro-edited if they can afford it. They sometimes design their own covers, upload to Amazon by themselves, as well as promote and market their books. These solopreneurs have to be respected for their multi-talents and commitment to their vision and passion. They have suffered much in the trial and error stages and have to be appreciated for sharing their experiences so that those who come after them will be spared the same trials and errors.
When I first got onto the scene, I was wondering what should solopreneurs do if they don’t have the budget for pro-editing? Should they give up on their goals to publish or should they go ahead and publish the self-edited books? The forums were clearly warning newcomers not to engage the cheaper editors on offer as they were “not professional” enough. Even if that is the case, what are we going to do if we can’t afford the “professional” fees of an experienced and qualified editor? Especially for wannabe Asian writers and others from third world countries where the fee of a professional editor in US dollars is equivalent to five months of minimum wage or more. When I was new on the scene, I encountered the sharks in the industry who asked for 9 cents a word for editing. That horrified me as it was the equivalent of the price of a low-cost house in many parts of Asia. In some parts of the world, that kind of money can buy a few low-cost houses — houses that could house the homeless.
Coming from Asia myself, of course, it would be hard for me to justify spending that kind of money on pro editing. So I settled for the other option. I took the view that everyone has to start somewhere and even an inexperienced editor is better than having no editor at all. I knew I had to find an editor who could edit non-fiction/metaphysical/Tai Chi so I took a leap of faith with an ex-newspaper sports editor who offered to edit for a flat fee. More importantly, he would not take any payment upfront. He was happy to be paid after he delivered his work. His charges are like this:
Copy Edit: $150
Line Edit: $200
Any Two Options: $250
Line Edit: $200
Any Two Options: $250
I settled on the first two on the list for USD 250.00. I know it’s not the ideal thing but I did my own proofreading to save some money. I am good at proofreading because I am not a speed reader. I read word for word, line by line and so I am able to spot errors. I proofread both editions of The Dance of the Chi about fifteen times in total and each time, I found myself shortening sentences, adding sentences, tweaking the punctuation, formatting, and spacing.
My second editor offered free editing to go with the fees for some graphic work and indexing. He offered free editing as a sample edit because he was interested in working on my next two books. He offered to charge me half a cent per word with a 20% discount. My first editor contributed to the presentation of the content and prompted me to elaborate certain parts. He set me straight with the commas in and out of the parenthesis. He prompted me to be clear about my choice for the single and double quotation marks, and upper and lower case words and abbreviations. He attended to the nuance of the language and shared his opinion of my material. Overall, he gave very encouraging feedback.
My second editor was on point with the tweaking of the graphics from the first edition and did acceptable work with the indexing for the paperback version and references for the eBook version. His questioning led to the inclusion of an Author’s Note. Some people say editors are a pain to work with. That’s because they question and probe what is not clear to them and that causes a bit of rewriting and finessing but isn’t that what they are paid for? My second editor appeared to be editing the work of the first editor where punctuation and grammar were concerned. He also contributed further to the presentation of the content.
Both editors contributed what they could to the revised edition of The Dance of the Chi. Are they good/professional enough? I have nothing to compare them to, so I can’t say. I don’t know what a cent a word or more cents a word editing is like as I can’t afford them. All I know is, even after both editors had done their work, I still had much to do on my own. I can only assume this is the same with the expensive pro editing. No one will love our creations as much as we do. No one will invest the amount of patience and care that we do. We have to take on the responsibility of dotting every “i” and crossing every “t.” I’ve read comments on the forums to this effect. Even after professional editing, we have our work cut out for us. I can’t complain about my two editors as they stepped up for me with their offers of affordable, positive, encouraging and favorable feedback.
From these two separate experiences, I can say that editors do have their own filters and if they are not familiar with the subject or the genre, writers will find they have a lot of explaining to do. However, I find that could work in our favor as the editors represent the readership out there and if they are confused about some things, we have the opportunity to clarify, elaborate and/or tighten the manuscript. Of course, all these services can be rendered for free by writer friends if you are lucky enough to have such qualified friends for beta reading.