Today I'm planning two posts -- one from me and one from a guest blogger. We're going to be talking a lot about the importance of editing your manuscript before you attempt to publish it. When I was getting ready to publish Beyond All Price, I wrote an article about editing. I felt then, and for the most part still do feel, that I could manage to get my book edited without laying out big bucks for someone else to mark it up. Here's a replay of my reasoning.
I heard what all of you published writers had to say about the need for an editor. I knew you thought I would be my own worst critic, although I'm more critical of my work than I am of others. And my 44 years experience in teaching, correcting, nitpicking other folks' writing ought to count for something. Still, I heard you and set out to find an editor. Ha!
1. The publisher I was considering offered to provide an editor for me who would produce exactly the kind of manuscript they wanted. (Note: no question of what I wanted.) Cost $3200-$3400. Uh . . . .no. Can't afford that. I'm a retired teacher, remember?
2. Editor #2 set a flat fee of $2400, without even knowing how long the manuscript was. Her qualifications included six months of experience and a shiny new masters degree in English. I don't think so!
3. Editor #3 read and edited a selection from the manuscript, (bonus points), but found no spelling errors, no grammatical errors, no outright punctuation errors, and no problems with dialog, transitions, or diction. How flattering, but . . . really? This one wanted $2800, more or less based on exact word count, and left me wondering what I would be paying for besides an ego boost.
Each time I rejected one of these, I did another read-through and polished the thing myself -- fourteen times in all. It was starting to look pretty good, but -- still hearing all your warnings -- I knew I at least needed some fresh eyes. Some of you saw my solution in a Facebook post. I sent out a call for volunteer readers -- people who would be willing to read the manuscript and comment. I ended up with a panel of readers:
--someone who knows the setting well,
--a Civil War re-enactor to catch the military flubs,
--an engineer with an eye for detail,
--a wife and mother who was looking for a "good read" at the end of the day, and
--a fellow writer who is aware of the many pitfalls we all slip into.
Their comments were enormously helpful, and the book was better because of their efforts. But were they enough?
The decision, foolhearty though it may have been, did not backfire on me -- at least not yet. No reader, so far, has called me on a factual error, and I still haven't spotted the inevitable typo that will eventually crop up. Still, I feel a bit reluctant to advise others to go the same route.
Later today, I'll be posting a guest post from Michele DeFilippo, showing the other side of the story.