The Writer, The Professor, The Worker

Good morning. I know, it’s another Monday, and for some of you that meant commute and re-shackling yourself to a cubicle, something something TPS reports.

For me, I have made the commute from the bedroom to the office, so its now time to rock and roll some blog goodness.

Today I want to do something a little different and show you three different ways editors work. I’m going to do this with three different editors: me, The ProofProfessor, and Old School Editor X, who just wrote me an email saying I couldn’t use their name, because they are too busy being not-an-editor in their very professional career where they have to wear dress clothes all the time.

Here’s the disclosure – no one paid me jack to talk about these methods or their businesses. I am not under any obligation to say people are awesome and that they’re perfect, nor are their methods perfect and flawless. But these two people were nice enough to answer some email questions, so that’s why they’re here. Cool?

Now you be you, and let’s say you want an editor to look at your manuscript. Let’s assume your MS is 75,000 words. Let’s give it a genre … it’s historical fiction. So now we’re going to look at what would happen next, if you picked one of these editors to give you a hand.

Old School Editor X
It starts with an email. You’d hash out a price (.09 a word because it’s the low-end of the old school rates) and a schedule for how the work happens (a chunk of chapters a week at a time or 15000 word sections over 5 emails or one giant email when it’s all done, etc.)

Then the editing happens. The manuscript gets triple-spaced and marked with various editorial marks and lengthy notes in margins, but no in-line editing.

The Pros: There’s no doubt that editing your manuscript has happened, because you get novella-length notes in the margins and a pile of hieroglyphs that you’ll end up googling to decipher.

The Cons: This can be pricey. (.09/word for our sample 75000 would be $6750)  And the length the comments can be incredibly overwhelming, because maybe a comment ends up longer than the sentence or paragraph it references. The lack of in-line edits can seem cold, with a sort of sterile work-at-an-Apple-Store atmosphere. Lastly, the tone of this relationship can be adversarial, where the editor knows best and the writer needs to be led out of darkness and ignorance. (I can speak from personal experience that this sucks. I drank this Kool-Aid, and oof. My bad, you guys.)

The Proof Professor
Let me tell you about Matt. He’s a cool guy. We’ve exchanged a few emails, and I totally get the sense he’d be pretty pleasant to have at a dinner party. He’s the Proof Professor, a UK-based editor with a really unique twist – he’s got software to work through the manuscript and compile a list of edits.

Seriously, dude’s got software. I’ve seen it. I’ve had it run through a manuscript of mine and see the output list of problems and reasons-the-problem-is-a-problem (like this: further || farther when talking distance)  This software doesn’t do the editing for him, it’s a compliment to the rest of his editorial toolbox.

You’ll pay in blocks of words, so for our 75000 word MS, you’re paying £348. (The whole breakdown is on the website here.) and you’ll get your MS edited in-line, software’d, and commented on.

UPDATED INFO: Matt also offers a “pay per error” option, which is the first I’ve seen of its kind. You pay for a set number of errors, in groups of 10, at a flat rate. If they find fewer than than amount (say you pay for 20 and they find 9), they refund you for the 11 you didn’t use. It’s an amazing system, great for those eleventh-hour publishing needs, and really dovetails nicely with the software. (chances are I will figure out my own version of this and shamelessly use it)

The Pros: The software adds a unique touch to this, to the point where I want my own copy of this proprietary material (Matt totally doesn’t have to share, it’s all you dude). Also Matt gives a shit. He care about his clients, he cares about their success, and he’s a genuinely nice person, judging on our correspondence. Editor X also gives a shit, but they’ll never admit to it.

The Cons: I’m not a fan of the per-block editing payment system, it’s always felt square peg-round hole to me, but it works for other people. Also, if you’re in the US, don’t forget there’s not only the financial conversion but also the time delay between here and there. I know those sound like minor points, but they’re worth highlighting if you’re racing a deadline of some kind or have a tight budget.

The Writer Next Door
We’re wrapping this part of the blogpost up by talking about me, because it’s my blog, and because I felt like putting myself first was way too obnoxious.

Just like the other editors mentioned, we toss some emails back and forth to establish a price (let’s go with .03/word) and a schedule (you want this done in 60 days), then put all the relevant info into a contract and I get down to business.

Editing is both in-line and marginal comments, along with emails detailing points when they’re egregious or I think I wasn’t clear enough within the orange-salmon comment box in Word.

The Pros: I care about your success. I am not out to rub your nose in your mistakes like the puppy encountering a carpet that needs to know who’s boss. I do my best to be clear about flagging the problems as well as why they’re problems, because  I think the knowing the “why” helps prevent the problem from perpetuating itself, and people feel better with a reason instead of just “because someone else says so.” I’ll also help spread your marketing goodness, show you how to do it (or do it better), and walk you through any part of the process you have questions on.

The Cons: Even at 3 cents a word, it can be considered expensive, which can make people think that editing is luxury, to which I counter that a plumber is expensive, and do you consider a not-leaking sink a luxury? Also, sometimes, I come in like a ball of fire, and that can off putting for some people, but that’s just because I want to see you be your most awesome creative self doing your most awesome creative work.

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So, writer, what should you do? Which editor is best for you? I can’t say. I so badly want to say I’m the best, but I know I’m not. I’m human. I make mistakes. (Even Matt’s software isn’t perfect, but nothing’s going to be).

I believe you should use an editor, even if you’re going to traditionally publish and they’ll have an editor in their process too. I think getting your manuscript into the best shape possible, and getting better at the craft of writing will only benefit you in the long game of your career, even if that career ends up being one or two books ever. Being better at something never hurt anyone (if you can prove that false, someone will give you invisible internet dollars).

Shop around. I DO NOT MEAN send 2 pages of your manuscript to 40 editors as a “test drive” so that you don’t have to pay for a whole edit, because that’s completely reprehensible. I mean talk to the editors and see if you can get along with them. I’m not a fan of “test pages” because while a few edited pages can give you a technical awareness of the problems the MS has, it doesn’t say much about the person you’re going to work with, and that relationship is critical, so find a good fit.

My great thanks to [EDITOR NAME REDACTED] and Proof Professor for letting me talk to them and mention them on the blog, I hope I’ve done them justice where appropriate.

See you guys Wednesday for a swim through the inbox … I think we’ll do a social media question.

Happy writing.

0 thoughts on “The Writer, The Professor, The Worker

  1. Just a fun comment about schedules. I work four days a week- 2 days from home and 2 days in our modern, state-of-the-art offices in Hoboken with sweeping views of the New York City Skyline. I drive 20 minutes to the train station with no or very little traffic at all and sit in a smooth-running modern train (sometimes double-decker) for 30 minutes. I have a two-short blocks walk along the Hudson to my office. There I have different coffees, green teas, two types of hot chocolate, all free, all in unlimited quantities.They spread out lots of free lunches or events catered by some pretty good local restaurants. When I work from home, I have set a new rule that I must be out of my bathrobe by 10:00 — that’s as a motivating tool.This late spring, summer, and early fall my office can be on my deck or on my dock/gazebo on a beautiful, pristine lake. I watch the herons, cormorants and mallards. Fridays I am off from “work.” But it need not be a Friday. I can slide my day off to any day of the week. When I switch my day off to Thursday, I work that Friday from home. When I am in the office, I have a high-walled work cubicle that only faces open to the New York Skyline. The cube farm is on the other side of my work station and they work so silently and in hush tones, that I sometimes have to stand up and peer over the wall to make sure anyone is there. I worked many years to achieve these sort of wonderful working conditions. Now approaching 65, I am praying to be layed off because the severance package is a year’s salary. I have been blessed and all this has allowed me to work and stay sane. In my job I send files to printers and determine how many copies of manuscripts we print. I also handle reprints to replenish inventories. We stopped manufacturing CDs and DVDs but now develop and publish eBooks, print tree books and provide online content. It’s a shame that the subject matter of what I publish is boring; other than that, As part of Thomson Reuters, I sometimes get face time with Reuters journalists and photographers and live vicariously through their exciting professions. it’s all good. I was out of my bathrobe by 8:30 today, a new personal record.

  2. The old school first guy sounds harsh. The killer would be is if his comments come back in red. Sounds like taking a creative writing course for masochistic reasons.. Having personally used you, John, (folks this is no plant) I’d recommend you to anyone. And having to search around for what could be hit and miss, the advantage is that you’re a known quantity [sorry to objectify your skills]. So I am happy to recommend you and will to talk to anyone about what you do. I also repeat that John had nothing to do with my post.

  3. I have an editor. My genre is romantic fiction and she freelances for Harlequin Mills & Boon. But she has mainly done line edits for me, with the exception of my opening scene which she told me to go away and totally rewrite. For storyline edits I have relied on my beta readers. I also try to be my own editor in that I study story line, follow blogs on building characters and writing dialogue. Hopefully one gets better and better and there is less for one’s editor to do… hopefully….

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