My Journey Into Self Publishing: Editing

Editing is a scary business. Someone taking your manuscript and pointing out everything that’s wrong with it. That’s what I think anyway.

However, editors aren’t there to be mean. They genuinely want to help you produce the best piece of literature you can. And I also want to produce the best piece of literature I can, which is why I have gritted my teeth and approached several professional editors. There are a number of things I have discovered:

1) Prices vary. A LOT.

One company offers a set price depending on word count. Another offers a ‘per hour’ service and you need to contact them for a quote. Another has a tier system depending on what level of editing you require.

All in all, it’s very confusing when you’re trying to compare companies’ services and prices. A lot of companies will give you a complimentary “sample edit” which helps a lot. I’ve sent one chapter of my manuscript to several editors to see what they would do to it, with varying results. More on that below.

2) Editors are not necessarily good website designers.

Unfortunately. A number of the websites my google search coughed up were basic to say the least, and I found three that seemed to have identical website designs, to the point that I suspect they’re actually the same company with several different names. Or a scam. Generally, if the website was not easy to navigate, I gave up and looked somewhere else.

My preferred layout is a clear “about us” section that says what they offer, where they’re located, and whether they specialise in a particular genre. Also, a clear pricing guide that gives you an idea of whether or not you can afford them! There’s no point contacting someone that is way too expensive for you. Also, if they have varying tiers of editing services, it needs to be clear what each service includes. A few websites said something like, “Manuscript Assessment: $xxxx.” That’s all good, but for a newbie like me who didn’t know what “manuscript assessment” meant, it’s not very helpful.

3) Beware the tick-box!

I filled out a form on one of the editing websites I visited to get a quote from them, and I also included a sample that they could edit. They sent me a very reasonable quote, but their sample focused almost solely on spelling and grammar and didn’t really go into content at all. I’m not sure if that meant my content was fine, or if they simply weren’t thorough. They also went and changed all my English/Australian spelling and grammar to American, which was annoying.

I replied and said, “Thanks, if I decide to use your company I’ll be in touch.” After this, I was spammed every single day with emails from them: “Did you get our editing sample?” “You won’t find prices cheaper anywhere else” and so on. After a few angry responses from me, I finally discovered a tick box that I had neglected to uncheck when I sent in the original form, which gave them permission to send me emails.

I don’t think those kind of emails are very nice, and needless to say I’m not using that company.

4) Finding someone local (or even in Australia) is difficult.

Thanks to Google AdWords (which I’m not dissing at all, by the way. I think it’s a great advertising service), whenever I googled “book editors australia” I had to scroll several pages down to get past the companies who have paid to have their websites pop up first to get to companies who are ACTUALLY in Australia. I finally found a company called “The Book Doctor.” Cute name, huh?

Their website had a very clear page on the editing services they provide, including a “what we will do/what we won’t do” section. Their prices page showed prices for manuscript assessments according to word count, and then said “all other editing services $70 per hour.”

What did that mean? How was I supposed to know how long it would take? So I emailed them, and lo and behold….A HUMAN BEING REPLIED TO MY EMAIL! Wow, a real live human! They already had a tick in my book. They said that if I emailed them a sample of my manuscript they would give me a “twenty minute edit” and an estimate of how long it would take them and how much it would cost.

Well, talk about thorough! They picked up on so many more things than the American “tick box” company, and made regular comments on the content and characters and so on. They offered me a flat fee or an edit at $70 per hour and I could pay exactly how long it took them, up to a certain price. I liked the options, and they were so clear about everything. And did I mention that a human emailed me? A real live human? Oh, and they’re based in Australia 🙂

I’m going to use The Book Doctor when my Pozible campaign is over and I’m ready to send Quest for Revenge to them. I’m proofreading QfR at the moment, and I have a couple of grammar Nazi friends who are also reading it and giving it feedback.

So this is what I’ve learned about editing so far! I know some people who have said that they found professional editors a waste of time and money, but I have to say that what I’ve received so far from The Book Doctor has been extremely helpful, and I have already been able to apply the feedback they gave to the rest of the book.

Next Up: Book Covers. DIY or pay someone to do it?

My Journey into Publishing: The Beginning

Ok, I’ve been sitting staring at the “Add New Post” screen for maybe fifteen minutes now, thinking “Where on earth do I start?” Then, finally, the logical answer has come to me. I’m going to start at the beginning. Yeah, I know, that’s a tired old cliche, but where else would you start?

This first post of mine will outline a bit about me and how I started writing, and why I’m launching into the publishing scene. If you’re not interested in my life story, skip down to the “Wattpad” and “Publishing” sections.

Where I Started

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An inspirational spot on the farm

I’ve been completely in love with reading, writing, and storytelling my whole life. My dad used to read storybooks to me (with all the voices), giving me a love of storytelling and fiction. Both my parents read prolifically and my grandma used to have a library in her house (seriously! It was the church’s lending library), so I always had plenty of access of all kinds of books and loads of encouragement to read. I also found that creative writing at school quickly became my favourite subject (other than recess and lunchtime, which were my favourite because it was cool to say that), and I was incredibly disappointed when my piano lesson was scheduled at the same time as that once-a-week class. I loved music too, but I tried to convince my teacher that I should be having my lesson during maths instead of creative writing. For some reason she never changed it…

When I was a teenager I discovered that a family friend of ours also loved creative writing! We instantly went from ‘family friends’ to besties, and started writing a series of ridiculous mystery stories, the first of which was titled, “Jessie Spaghetti and The Girl Named Betty.” We thought we were pretty awesome…

Our relationship really kick-started my novel writing. We wrote several stories together, but pretty soon we both branched off into our own projects and wrote more independently, reading each other’s work and giving feedback. She loved to write about the things she knew: her farm, her friends, and above all, horses. I loved to write about things I hadn’t experienced before: detectives, overseas travel, boyfriends, and fantasy worlds.

This was in the time before I had a computer, so I wrote everything in an exercise book (which I still have). To get inspiration I would go on long walks around my parents’ farm with my notebook and find somewhere to write. A creek bank, a cluster of comfortable-ish rocks, up a tree, in the middle of a paddock of chest-high canola – you name it, I sat there and wrote.

During this time I wrote a couple of short romances, and started a high fantasy called “The Secret of the Sword.” The romances will never see the light of day, and I’m putting them down to “learning experiences” and “developing my style”, but the fantasy – well, you’ll hear a lot more about that later.

In 2004, the introduction of several things into my life – university, living in the city, and a boyfriend – made me put my writing away as a childish hobby. However, I never deleted any of the things I’d written and always kept a backup. This is one thing I recommend to all aspiring writers. Never delete anything you write, no matter how crap you think it is at the time. It’s good to look back on it, if only to remind yourself how far your craft has come. I get a good laugh out of rereading “Jessie Spaghetti and The Girl Named Betty.” You could pull my fingernails out before I’d ever show that manuscript to a living soul but it reminds me where I started and helps me to appreciate where I am now.

The Wonderful World of Wattpad

Sometime in 2008 I rediscovered my manuscript for “The Secret of the Sword” and started rewriting it on a whim. I’d almost forgotten how much I loved writing, and it was fun to get back into it. I never thought I’d actually go anywhere with it. It was just a fun way to pass the time. I wrote off and on for a few years, while hopping from one temporary teaching job to another. Then in 2011 I discovered Wattpad. I actually don’t remember how I came to find it or why I decided I finally wanted to share my work. I think I was researching something for the story and stumbled across it. Anyway, I joined, and it has changed the way I view my writing completely.

For those not in the know, Wattpad is a free website for writers, both amateur and professional, to post their works and to network with other writers. People can comment on each chapter of your story and give you feedback, and can vote for stories that they like that can potentially end up on a “what’s hot” list. There are also discussion forums on all topics to do with writing, and a very strong writers community there. Unfortunately, because it’s all free and anyone can sign up, there are a lot of teenage girls writing dreadful fan-fics about One Direction, Harry Potter, and every other fad, but there are also a good number of good writers who work hard to improve their craft and also seek to help others.

Wattpad has really helped me to gain confidence as a writer and has also taught me a great deal about the craft of writing. It was also a “safe” way to begin to allow others to read my work. I was previously so afraid of rejection that I didn’t let anyone see my writing, not even my husband! Wattpad was a good way to get some feedback from people I’d never met, and a much safer option than showing it to people whose opinion actually mattered to me.

The Next Step: Publishing

This is where I am now. I have two completed novels and another one well on the way. I’ve learned a massive amount about the craft of writing from Wattpad and innumerable blogs and websites (I’ll post links to some of my favourites in future blog posts), and feel like I have something that’s worth sharing with the rest of the world.

Many hours of online research into publishing options taught me several things.

1) There’s a lot more involved in the publishing process than I thought.

2) If you send your manuscript directly to a publisher, expect to be rejected (cold, but true).

3) Traditional publishing is not the only option! Behold the magical world of Self Pubslishing

The third point was a huge relief to me. I didn’t want to go through the emotional roller coaster of sending my manuscript to publisher after publisher. But there’s actually an alternative, one that more and more authors are choosing to take. Self Publishing.

The posts that follow this one will take you through my journey into the land of self publishing and everything that I learn along the way. I hope other aspiring authors launching themselves into this scary place can learn from my experiences.

One more tip for writers? If you really love writing, don’t stop. Write every day. Read everything you can about how to write better. Try to write better. Don’t be scared of the publishing world. Square your shoulders and jump in!