THE PAYING FOR EDITING – SELF-PUBLISHING CONUNDRUM
I was at the racetrack last night and ran across one of our writer’s group members. After talking a bit about the race things inevitably turned to writing. The subject became paying for an editor. He was convinced the way to get ahead was to pay for a good quality editor.
I told him like I’ve told you before on this site that I consider paying for editing, if not in these exact words, amounts to self-publishing. As far as I’m concerned, any publisher worth their salt is going to have their own qualified and highly capable editors. If you have to buy your own up front, that’s self-publishing. On the other hand, if you’re going to pay big bucks to edit your work just to impress a decent publisher, only to turn it in to them and have them re-edit your work all over again, you’ve thrown that money down the toilet. I say that because despite you spending all that money to make the book perfect, the publisher is not buying it for being perfect, they’re buying it because they think they can sell it as a marketable story. What’s the difference? A marketable story can be full of flaws, but have a killer plot, characters and a cooperative author, where a perfectly edited story that sucks from an author that won’t listen won’t sell squat.
To me, many if not most people that look for editors for hire are not patient enough to read at writer’s groups (they may be too shy). I make an exception for those that may not have access to one for physical or logistic reasons. There are many great editors out there and they need to make a living. I know of several attached to our group. However, I also know that with a bit of patience, perseverance and a bit of effort, you can learn your chops, find others of like mind (if you live in a town big enough) and at least make your manuscript presentable enough to submit to agents or publishers.
Here’s another point. I’m a realist. I am thinking of self-publishing (yeah, I said those words) one of my icky bug novels. However, I’m only going for electronic self-publishing. No garage full of books, no overhead, no publishing fees. Very little startup cost. My outlay is going to be the ISBN fee, the epub fee and the artwork. The tricky part is the final line edit. Since I cannot edit my own work (remember forest through the trees?), I need someone else to do it for me. My mentor, Carol suggested a pro editor.
The problem is that the price versus my very likely profit, if any, is not worth the risk. I figure I’d have to lay out approximately $1,200 minimum for editing, publishing and artwork (if I do the artwork myself or hire a very cheap graphic artist). Say, that all works out. I put the book out there for the magic price of $2.99. What are the chances I actually sell that many books, from an unknown author? What are the chances I sell that many books in the icky bug genre, especially from an unknown author with little to no professional marketing, just word of mouth and whatever I can whip up?
You do the math and consider that when you think about hiring an editor. In that $1200 I threw out there, I’m figuring 90% of that cost is editing. I’m going to do my own artwork. However, if you want fancy artwork, you could add as much as $5,000 or more to that cost. $6,200 and still end up with maybe $200 in sales. Now we’re -$6,000. I’ve seen quotes of $800 to $5,000 or more for editing. Are you prepared to spend that kind of money to maybe get $200 in sales? Maybe you’ll do better, maybe not. Are you a mind reader? Can you predict the market? That’s what publishers do all the time. They’re gamblers, They gamble on you. If you fail they absorb all those costs. The difference is that those costs come out of the huge profits they make on their other authors that they make huge profits on. They can afford to take risks once in a while. You or I can’t afford it. At least I can’t. Do the math.
I’m not here to depress you, just to give you a dose of reality. Before you dig deep in your pocketbook for an editor, do what you can through other methods, write the best, most marketable story you can, and let a good publisher do the rest. Don’t try to do it for them!
On the other hand, if your intent is to write a family history, a small-run bio, or other limited-run non-fiction piece, self-publishing is probably the best way to go. If you’re still hell-bent on taking the risks, there are plenty of high-quality editors out there. I know a great publisher and some great editors!